SPEAKERS CORNER…by Sue Varley
The term “Divorce” is being used, and we can anticipate that it will be used more frequently in the months leading up to the Scottish Government elections in 2011, by opponents of the process of Scotland seeking to gain independence from the United Kingdom.
Divorce is an emotionally laden term which is intended to prejudice undecided voters against the independence supporting parties at the election in particular, and against the whole independence movement in general.
In comments on a previous article by Alex Porter (1) entitled “Scotland versus Britain: Part 2”, the advisability of describing the Union as a “forced marriage” receives some discussion. I believe that the description is appropriate in this context.
Please note that I do not advocate promoting the use of the term “Forced Marriage” to describe the Union between Scotland and England in general discussion. I use it here only to redress the divorce narrative used by those who wish to keep Scotland in the Union but who do not, cannot or will not put forward a viable case for maintaining it.
Forced in 1707
The description is apt because the Act of Union was forced on the people of Scotland in 1707, most of whom did not want it, most of whom did not have the vote and so had no power to stop it. This opposition is well documented and discussed in many articles on this and other news sites and blogs, and needs no further comment here.
Forced in 2010
But the description is still apt today since the people of Scotland are being denied an opportunity to change the status of the “marriage”.
Although we now all have a vote, we are being denied the opportunity to exercise that vote on the constitutional question. Opinion polls on support for independence itself give widely varying results, but opinion polls on the question of whether Scots want a referendum consistently show a majority in favour. With a refusal on the part of all the pro-union MSPs to support any referendum on the constitutional future of Scotland, the “marriage” continues to be forced on us. Instead we are told by said politicians that we do not actually want a referendum at all.
Forced marriage in its effects on the people
In an Expert Paper for the United Nations, Cheryl Thomas describes forced marriage as “a marriage that takes place without the free or valid consent of one or both of the partners and involves either physical or emotional duress.”
The phrase “Forced Marriage” in connection with “physical or emotional duress” is very strong, and I do not wish to cause distress to anyone suffering from such an abusive marriage. But the effects on the Scots of this 300 year emotional duress are very real. The “Scottish Cringe” is something that is very hard for me to understand, being an English national and having lived in various parts of England for most of my life. But it is very real: what causes Scottish “comedians” to ridicule Scotland in the name of humour? What causes Scottish commentators to keep making their slighting references to shortbread and tartan? What has caused Scots to deny the existence of their very country, instead using North Britain to describe their own homeland? What causes Scottish people to believe that they are not capable of running their own affairs and should not even try to do so?
Cheryl Thomas’ paper quotes from a January 2007 report, where Sigma Huda, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Aspects of the Victims of Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, states that, “[a] marriage imposed on a woman not by explicit force, but by subjecting her to relentless pressure and/or manipulation, often by telling her that her refusal of a suitor will harm her family’s standing in the community, can also be understood as forced.”
So years of relentless pressure and manipulation of Scottish public opinion designed to keep Scots in their forced marriage have brought about a nation of people who find it difficult to believe in themselves, a people whose own history has been kept from them, and whose own national languages have been systematically suppressed. Scots are now also being told that their standing in the world will be harmed by rejection of the Union. Scotland will be a tiny nation with no voice in world affairs, no power within the EU, no way of forming defence alliances of our own once we throw off the protective care of the British State. Even the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and hence currently Prime Minister of Scotland, tells us that we would have no military aircraft if we were an independent nation. Further, he seeks to belittle us on the world stage by informing the American President that a decision taken by the Scottish Government was wrong, and will not be allowed to occur again.
Economic control can be thought of as physical duress. Wholesale removal of people from their lands, destruction of industry, current asset stripping such as the Dunfermline Building Society, closure of military bases, senseless withholding of the Fossil Fuel Levy which doubly disadvantages Scotland, future attacks on the economic viability of Scotland through the ill-conceived Calman proposals, future cuts to our “pocket money” so we can no longer make the English unhappy by having better public services, the sad list goes on.
So yes, if seeking to dissolve a treaty, or to repeal an act of parliament can be described as seeking divorce, then I do believe that we can truly describe the marriage as forced, and the effects of that marriage as physical and emotional abuse.