Schrödinger’s Scotland and Restoration England

A few weeks ago we noted the new consensus emerging from our senior scribes: “Scotland’s commentariat have decided: independence is over. It’s because of the war, and also because we’re too poor. Sorry about that.”

The phenomenon has intensified. As the event horizon looms for the referendum that no-one (apparently) believes will happen the Corporal Jones-levels of panic seem to have jumped-up a few levels. It’s difficult to know entirely why the Top Writers & Editors are so exercised. Certainly watching the British government descend into venal chaos and unprecedented disgrace is alarming. Certainly the sight of the First Minister being welcomed in Washington by Nancy Pelosi triggered many into spasms of ink-spilling. Sure the unwillingness of the present UK govt to lift a finger for those spiralling into poverty is an embarrassment for the grand narrative that the Union provides unique economic security and stability. The ‘broad shoulders’ argument of economic security is in need of a deep-tissue massage. For a wee snapshot of British values and economic security, here’s government minister Kit Malthouse telling police officers not to let shoplifters off if they are stealing food out of desperation due to the cost of living crisis.

It doesn’t exactly ooze Stronger Together does it?

Comprehensive Constitutional Reforms

In lieu of Gordon Brown’s much-promised (and strangely absent) plans for ‘comprehensive constitutional reform’? the nation’s guardians are reaching for other sticks to beat the Scottish Government and prop up the depleted case for the Union. Iain Martin joined the oleaginous cult with a stirring column declaring apocalyptically that ‘Scottish independence is a threat to the West’. 

Not since Theresa May announced in 2017 that those who argue for self-determination for Scotland are comparable with ISIS, or Philip Hammond’s claim in 2014 that an independent Scotland would be more vulnerable to alien attack – have these levels of hysteria been witnessed.

Iain Martin’s analysis is a manifestation of Schrödinger’s Scotland; a nation that haunts the commentariat – an entity simultaneously too wee and poor to be independent at all – and yet so geo-politically pivotal as to be absolutely crucial, not just to Britain’s global status, but to the ENTIRE WESTERN WORLD!

Martin’s logic goes like this: “If the first minister gets what she wants on Scottish independence, Britain would face years of diversion and disruption before ending up weaker, thus undermining the West. The SNP taking Scotland out of the UK would mean Scotland leaving the British Army, the RAF and the Royal Navy, thereby damaging a key contributor to the Nato alliance at a time when Vladimir Putin presents potentially its gravest threat. Scottish separatism in such a climate would be geopolitical vandalism.”

Now you can understand Martin and his colleagues feeling deeply uncomfortable about the state and status of Beloved Britannia, but to keep things real, the vandals aren’t really the future democrats of Scotland (and Ireland) they are the current occupants of No 10 and the faithful scribes who support them. Martin’s Times column is like a ransom note written by someone who has locked himself in a jail and thrown away the key only to start screaming wildly at the other inmates.

Martin & Co quite rightly delight in celebrating Ukrainian sovereignty, but the concept seems to have strange invisible parameters. It would not be “the SNP” taking Scotland out of the UK, it would be the Scottish people, but yes this would mean “Scotland leaving the British Army, the RAF and the Royal Navy”, a prospect Martin seems to find so alien that it causes some kind of existential shock. Self-determination is a thing, and countries vote to change their constitutional status. It’s happened quite a lot. Now we know that statistically Scots have traditionally contributed far more than their proportionate fair-share to the armed forces (for reasons that aren’t exactly great), but the idea that Scottish independence would mean the fatal undermining of the British armed forces is a strange one: Hearts of Oak and all.

That idea from Martin stems from some extraordinary exceptionalism: Britain only has its standing in the world because it ‘has’ Scotland and because we host WMD. That’s it.

Others are more upbeat.

A Golden Future

Over at the Daily Mail, Peter Hitchens is looking forward to a Golden Future (‘Why England should leave the UK instead of persuading the others to stay and embrace a golden future’).

This is like Global Britannia except much much better. Instead of the modest Brexitty ‘Sunlit Uplands’ we have visions of a shimmering English Reich-Utopia, freed of any bothersome residual Empire-guilt and having finally shed its draining Celtic appendages.

Hitch explains: “What are we waiting for? All the other nations of the UK are set on tearing themselves away from England. I have given up trying to persuade them to stay. Let us leave them instead.”

“You could not call this ‘independence’ since England has never depended on the other countries in these islands. I would call it the Restoration of England, in recollection of that other great moment in our history when Oliver Cromwell’s nightmare republican junta crumbled in 1660 and we returned with relief to our ancient laws and liberties.”

Ah, ancient liberties, yes.

He thunders: “It would be surprisingly easy, since so much of our government and law is already English, borrowed by others from us. No more will we have to speak of our country abroad as ‘the Ukay’, a weary set of initials that denies a thousand years of illustrious history and reduces them to a bureaucratic nothingness.

We have the laws of England. Our great founding documents, the Great Charter and the Bill of Rights, are English. We have the literature of England, a possession beyond price (did you ever hear anyone speak of ‘British’ literature?)

We have a Queen of England. We have the Church of England. Many of our government ministries nowadays only operate in England. The break-up of the BBC and the creating of a new English Broadcasting Corporation would be a superb opportunity for desperately needed reform.

In fact, this would be part of the point. We have no need to set up an ‘English Parliament’ … The Parliament at Westminster is English already, since the days of Simon de Montfort, and has simply given hospitality to others during the long adventure of the Union. By becoming wholly English again, it could recover much of its force and its purpose.”

There’s so much to take in here.

First the idea that all of the British institutions are – kinda – English, is fun, especially for the Civic Unionist Brigade and those seriously arguing that Britain is some kind of reformable entity or that this union is one of equals. Secondly, the idea that “England has never depended on the other countries in these islands” is great, but why didn’t you mention this before?

Hitchens sounds unhinged, but maybe he’s not? You gotta love the bravado (and hypocrisy) of the fella: “Have a referendum if you must, but I reckon that any party that puts an English secession from the UK in its general election manifesto will win a smashing majority.”

I mean who knew it was so easy. Just get a majority you say?

He might be right. Maybe the strange beast that we were always told was a manifestation of British nationalism could morph further into a full-blooded English nationalism. Is that the end-game?

Having chundered on about how the (British?) Empire was far better than all other bad ones he declares: “we are still unconquered for almost a thousand years.”

Now this is all very Accidental Partridge and good to laugh at, but maybe not? Who knows anything anymore? It now looks like we have a war between British Nationalists (increasingly unsure as they survey the carnage of their own creation) and English Nationalists (increasingly bellicose and confident as they wallow in their own revisionism).

These two competing visions (one of The Glorious Past and one of A Glorious Future) are incompatible and ridiculous, but also kind of fun.

Help to support independent Scottish journalism by subscribing or donating today.


Comments (17)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Iain Macphail says:

    I am reminded of a throwaway line (always the Trump way of introducing the ‘real’ next mountain on his climb) when then-President Trump threw journalists off guard by saying (over and over) “England. England. Eng-land. You know, I kind of like that word. We haven’t heard the word England enough. Maybe we should use it more”.

    It felt then (and in the memory of it, still now, in light of Hitchen’s article) as if this was part of the global right masterplan. Brexit never was UK, in the sense that it gave no thought to the UK’s land border (on Ireland) or to the people, the society, or the land and economy that would have to deal with the Brexit Border issue.

    The other thought, which I don’t mind harbouring, is that the Russian elite looked at Indyref 2014, and concluded the demographics have the UK on limited borrowed time, kind of like Glasnost-era Russia, so it provoked and hijacked the Brexit cabal to basically ream the UK apparatus of wealth and resources (£34bn via Dido Harding etc) on the basis that the papertrail gets lost as soon as the UK ends and England (and Scotland) begin afresh.

    Maybe, just maybe, we see in Hitchen’s article the feeling that the venal robbery has happened, but the Cambridge Analytica / Oligarch cabal are getting worried that Scotland is taking longer than they expected to get our indy act together (and there’s a papertrail needing shredded, by a state dissolving). SO English Nationalism is required, tout suite?

    Maybe far-fetched, but I wouldn’t lose sight of that weird Trump “England” episode, or the potential that the UK is undergoing a Glasnost-to-Oligarchy-inspired ‘greed grab’ in real time, right now.

  2. Mark Bevis says:

    I think I said it before, the quickest way to Scottish independence is to persuade the English that Scotland (and the other subjegated nations for that matter) cost the English taxpayers money and are a burden to be shed in a Brexit style shedding of responsibility. I’m sure Scots could provide some statistics that prove it, slap it on the side of a bus (even if it isn’t true) and before you know it Boris-shire is here and and the three nations have got independence whether you want it or not.

    Maybe Hitchens’ article is the first step into that idea. I don’t think the Scots are too bothered if you have to resort to stoking English nationalism to get your independence? Abhorent though it is, it may be a means to an end. Rump England can stew in its own racist and nationalist juices after that, and Scotland can gain population from the subsequent refugees with an enlightened immigration policy.

    As an aside, history shows that empires can collapse suddenly. In our life time, the Berlin Wall coming down and the end of the Soviet Union happened in a mere 5 years (1989-1994).
    So all those relying on the SNP 20+ more years strategy of apparently waiting for independence, I suspect it won’t happen that way. There will be a crunch moment, probably the winter of discontent 2022-23 when the middling classes are dumping their frozen or starved children and elderly relatives on the streets en masse due to the “cost of living crisis” {it’s actually a cost of energy crisis, see }; or some such similar crises where Boris refuses to help. Because he hates everybody and doesn’t actually want to be bothered doing any work, that would be your moment, not so much to seize independence by violent force, but to adopt it by default.

    1. Alan says:

      It’s all about England. It’s no surprise that Tom Nairn spent such an enormous amount of time time writing about England because England, its suppressed identity, is the problem.

      The quickest route to the independence of the ‘Celtic fringe’ nations is getting the great English electorate to tell the Celtic fringe to fuck off. Keep telling them we’re all on English welfare! I think it’s much more likely that English nationalists will deliver Scottish Indy than Scottish nationalists. The faster they are fed up with us the better.

  3. gavinochiltree says:

    I suspect Hitchens is only saying in public, what Boris and his classmates (AKA the government, editors of the Telegraph, Times etc) say in private, only they think that “England” can carry on syphoning off the assets of the “Territories” (as they refer to us now) while our indigenous media are firmly in their pockets.

    At some point we may wake up, with our renewables electricy + gas supplying North East England industry, while Scots languish in fuel poverty.
    Will the Herald/Scotsman/BBC Scotland notice?

    1. Derek Thomson says:

      I’ll notice. The land at the bottom of my road is due for some 5 years of industrial noise, pollution and land despoilation to lay cables to supply wind power supplied by North Sea turbines to, guess where? Not Scotland. And the elephant in the room (how soon will it be before that metaphor is of no meaning?) is water. We have lots. England doesn’t. This will matter. I await prosecution (thanks to Alexander De Pfeffel, editor of the Spectator.)

  4. Craig Fraser says:

    In quantum mechanics, Schrödingers Johnson is a thought experiment that illustrates a paradox in quantum superposition in the thought experiment a hypothetical Johnson may be considered simultaneously to have lied & told the truth at the same time. Liz & Nadine passed out

  5. SleepingDog says:

    My recollection is that Oliver Cromwell destroyed the chance of an English republic by electing himself Lord Protector for Life and naming his son as successor, thus establishing another royal dynasty. The real republicans in the winning side of the English Revolution were purged by the corrupt Parliamentarians. Wasn’t that the real inspiration for Animal Farm? Anyway.

    As for the literature of England, I seem to remember the conservative authorities and above-named institutions being exceptionally keen on censoring it. Tongue-tied by authority, and all that, with a few burnings at the stake. And burning other people’s literature is just cheating. Scotland was also pretty keen on suppression.

    Perhaps it is no coincidence that the theatrical works of England’s national bard are a forensic critique of the appalling English political system of hereditary monarchy in the lead-up to the (betrayed) English Revolution aforementioned.

  6. john burrows says:

    The “British” are suffering a profound nervous breakdown.

    The Conservative and Unionist Party has yet again metastasized into the terminal stage of corruption and incompetence which always signals its fall. This is why the champions of the Union have been reduced to hysteria.

    They colaborated in placing the rule of Britain in the hands of a criminally inept clown who tarnishes everything he touches. He is exactly the right person to select to lead, if you are determined to destroy that which you seek to save.

    The death of the pensioner with the shiny hat will probably tip them all over the edge, into full scale derangement, when it comes. We don’t have long to wait.

  7. Robbie says:

    Hutchins unhinged yes he talks a lot of bullshit could be John Bull or most likely Red Bull ,anyway he seems to be “winging “ it. There is no one like them in the whole world. no other country can compare to them and their history on and on and on they praise themselves England Please take your rightful place in the world and go it Alone. PLEASE.

  8. James Morton says:

    One thing we can be sure of when it comes to British Nationalists in Scotland. They will always come round to seeing things Englands way. Then try to convince us that we too can be part of this English utopia. But only if we accept that we don’t need a functioning economy. Integrity & decency in public life. An independent judiciary. A National Health Service. Education for our children. High energy bills. Perpetual recession.

    Give the Brit Nats time – they’ll find a way to live with the above before they ever accept that Scotland should manage its own affairs.

  9. SleepingDog says:

    The Guardian mentioned some choice Anglo-British literature the other day:
    Secret British ‘black propaganda’ campaign targeted cold war enemies
    Ah, the IRD’s poets of Empire, spreading massacre-inducing hatred across the globe for decades from their fake-news-and-forgery factory in Westminster.

  10. don says:

    I gave up on Iain Martin’s musings by the last column.

    But what struck out in the penultimate is the false narrative that an independent Scotland is one just for the vision of the SNP or independence supporting parties.

    The future policy decisions, whether NATO membership or otherwise, of an independent Scotland are for ALL of Scotland to make.

    While they may be shell shocked when it comes, the currently unionist parties, their politicians and supporters will have their parts to play in building a new Scotland together.

    1. 220521 says:

      This is true. But those decisions will still be mediated by the decision-making structures and processes that the Scottish government is currently developing in anticipation of its independence, which are no more democratic than the structures and processes through which we, as citizens, are currently disempowered.

      This independence malarkey is nothing but a political stitch-up to ensure that nothing essential changes in the governance of our public affairs. All we’ll have is our own wee independent Westminster at Holyrood and our own wee independent Whitehall at St Andrew’s House, which is substantially f*ck all.

    2. Craig Fraser says:

      In the new Scotland we should have dialogue with all parties on what this new Scotland will look like. As a member of the SNP for many years an independent Scotland will not be the sole preserve of the SNP. I am a member of Scottish CND and before the invasion of Ukraine I would have been against joining NATO. That said we are in changed times & more thought and pragmatism needs to be included. Yes I definitely want nuclear weapons removed from Scottish waters, but as a temporary berthing position, emphasis on the temporary may need to be considered considering our geographical position.

      1. 220521 says:

        This new Scotland should indeed be an ongoing dialogue that includes all of its citizens equally.

        That dialogue won’t be realised, however, through the bureaucratic structures and processes that the Scottish government is readying in anticipation of its independence.

  11. Ottomanboi says:

    Speak for England, Arthur! (Green) 1939, reply to Chamberlain on Polish crisis.
    For England, James! (Bond)
    Whether in fact or fiction it is always by default about England. Regardless of subject, it is England first Scotland if at all. As for Wales…
    Historically, England has been rather good at dishing it out. It has also been good at whinging when on the receiving end, everybody hates us coz we’re the best, Ingerland, Ingerland, sort of stuff.
    Scots seem to, at best, shrug like the French, oh les foutus Anglais! Or, too often, assume the position and let them have their wicked way. Oh, those public school habits!
    Scots ought to be angry, angry at the perversity of the those who get off on having their people and country treated like some easy catamite.

  12. Ottomanboi says:

    The renovation of the London based Unionist legislature is likely to cost > £10 billion. Imperialism on the latest on trend psychotic…God shave the queen!

Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.