Time is marching on but it appears truth is having a hard job keeping up – truth being a synonym in this case of reality.
I refer to the political and cultural landcape here in post-Referendum Scotland. Despite being handed open goals aplenty. it would appear that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her large band of MPs and MSPs are not the Barcelona of politics. The astounding swing by the Labour Party to somewhere left of Trotsky has given Sturgeon’s (Salmond’s?) SNP the opportunity to be the serious opposition to the Tories on a NATIONAL basis but it is a void yet to be credibly filled.
I use the word “national” in a very specific way and therein lies the problem.
By national I mean the United Kingdom and it is the inherent bias – some would call it bigotry – against all things UK, Union and British that is hampering the SNP’s rise to real power. The refusal by nationalists to recognise the present real nation in favour of their fanciful and mythical independent nation is leading to silly politics and also an aversion by them to engage in real stuff that is going on. When Labour has voted to go through the Looking Glass and live in La La land, it is a golden opportunity for nationalists to capture ground forever and at the same time deliver change to our ailing political structures. Sadly, it is a chance they are presently squandering on an epic level. As can be seen by the First Minister’s cat-and-mouse games with Indy 2 rather than being a statesmanlike leader.
The bleak reality is that Scotland voted NO to independence. An inconvenient fact for many in the nat camp. Yet it could reasonably be argued that the collapse of Labour has led to something far more exciting and a whole lot less risky than the faux independence a YES vote would have brought. That is the ability of the victorious SNP at the last election to be a spearhead for real change at Westminster and to give Scotland a far more powerful voice than arguably independence would have afforded.
In short, Scotland has been given a chance to lead and punch way above our weight. The rump of SNP MPs has brought about a unique situation whereby Scottish interests can be promoted but, as serious contenders for the mantle of real opposition, this rump could be a formidable mass around which others could congeal.
Many voted for indy and for the SNP because they wanted change, not necessarily independence and all it entails. The Westminster model is failing due to, among other things,its maintenance of a London-centric mindset. There is an argument that it is this mindset that attracts the ire of Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalists more than a dislike of England or the English. Even some English nationalists share the distaste for the top-down nature in which we are governed by London.
The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader is a mass political suicide. It is an abrogation of responsibility, leaving the country without an effective opposition and at the mercy of a Conservative government which even died-in-the-wool Tories of my acquaintance find abhorrent. Yet the election of Corbyn is an indication that people want more than just politics. Ironically, the only way that many feel they can express their distaste of our political system and their desire for something beyond it, is through politics. Hence the bizarre voting patterns of recent times. Parties and politicians offering extreme change are attracting support.
The problem is that, beyond the rhetoric and Harry Potter spin wizardry in casting visions, these parties and politicians are only really offering an entrenchment in the confrontational politics people are sick of. And very often the extremism they espouse is not liberating but something that is rooted in hatred and grievance.
The SNP has a chance to rise above this stereoptype and be something far more than it has a right to be. As someone who is fiercely Scottish and proudly British, I have no problem with the concept of Scotland having a prominent – even dominant – role in the Union. It is, for me, the natural order of things. It is very much the vision of Unionism that original thinkers had and by this I mean Scottish visionaries of Union.
Such thinking places the border of Scotland at the white cliffs of Dover, not Gretna. It sees the whole of the UK as Scottish because it is naturally so and because Scottish blood flows in the veins of virtually all indigenous inhabitants of these isles. It sees London as it is anyway – a home from home for many Scots. The Union only serves to ratify this reality, a public sealing of things private, mystical and spiritual.
Seeing this bigger vision of Scotland is what is required by narrow-minded nationalists. A Scotland fulfilling its destiny as chief of the nations, not ithe hinder end. Unionists can rightly claim that Scotland has already enjoyed this to a great extent through the British Empire. Historians like Fry and Devine have done a great job in highlighting that this Empire could easily be dubbed the Scottish Empire, so great a role did Scotland play in it.
I have said previouisly that nationalists attacking the British Empire are thus indulging in self-loathing by doing so. In seeking to separate from Britain, nationalists are actually asking us to separate from ourselves – a dangerous thing to do pyschologically! You could also look at it this way: the nations of pre-Union Britain were the cocoon stage; the Union is the butterfly. You can never force a butterfly to become a cocoon again.
The reality is that Scotland is no longer capable of being an independent nation again – not without enormous self-destruction. Imagine the impact it would have if Nicola Sturgeon admitted this to herself and if the SNP realised that Scottish nationalism was a petty ambition, befitting neither the party nor Scotland itself. Tragically, modern-day Unionists have failed to help cast the vision of Scotland in Union as was seen by its original proponents. Using inaccurate terms such as “partner” and adopting federal thinking has only weakened Unionism.
In essence, the Union makes room for a bigger Scotland – room for the true lion of Scotland to roar, not the mangy, pitiful captive beast of nationalism with its squeaky whine.We Scots must accept the responsibility of leadership which is thrust upon us and not abandon it for capricious and petty notions which would see us withdraw into selfish, indepenedent isolation. And oblivion.
You cannot create a nation from hate and grievance. This is why Scotland must abandon nationalism for something much more worthy of our people and homeland. By this I mean the vision of a bigger Scottish nation. The one that already exists through Union.
Of course, many nats reading this will vehemently disagree, repeating the mantra that only a separate Scotland will suffice. That’s life. And politics. What is sad, though, is that we live in a Scotland so polarised that it is often very difficult to disagree over these things yet retain friendship and respect.
Perhaps agreeing we all want a better Scotland is the way forward. My own view is that politics is the last place we should look for it. Until we learn this lesson, we might just go on in our futile circles.