by Pete Wishart MP
If there is one word that is going to dominate the referendum debate, then it is the word ‘separation’. If you think you’ve already heard it ad nauseum, then prepare for ‘separation’ the sequel, then parts three, four and five.
‘Separation’ is the Howitzer in the Unionist lexicon and the term that is the de facto motto of the Unionists’ campaign. It is to be used in all and every debate about our constitutional future and it has to be spat out in that curious, contorted, indignant way just to create that perfect effect.
If ‘separatism’ isn’t enough, then there’s our good friend ‘wrenched out’ followed closely by ‘tear off’, just in case we still haven’t quite yet got the point! This ‘separation’ is, of course, the work of the wicked ‘separatists’ who would cast Scotland adrift in a sea of splendid isolation somewhere in the middle of the North Atlantic.
And fair play to the Unionists, their campaign to elevate the ‘separatist’ theme is perhaps one part of their negative agenda that has actually worked for them. They’ve even managed to get a lot of the media to now refer to ‘separation’ as opposed to ‘independence’ thanks to their consistent and incessant use of the term.
But in the long term, will all this help the Unionists, and are they on steady ground with investing so much in the theme of ‘separation’? We saw that in the heat of the Scottish election campaign that the public didn’t warm to the negative and the ‘separatism’ theme is just about as negative as it gets. It also panders to fear and uncertainty, and I think that they are on dangerous territory if they want to continue to mine that particular seam. And remember ‘divorce is an expensive business’- the last but one scare campaign? This was quickly dropped when more and more people recognised that sometimes divorce was preferable to a failed marriage.
And where ‘separatism’ is a secure comfort zone for the Unionists, they know it will not be enough. They are now desperately trawling around for a positive message, and contrary to all base instincts, are trying to work up a positive agenda for the Union. The question for them is, will trying to scare people out of independence with ‘separatism’ work in tandem with being positive about the Union?
And will ‘separatism’ survive scrutiny? Already we are putting in place the new positive type of relationships we want with independence. We want fit-for-purpose 21st century relationships based on equality and mutual respect. We want to be properly included and have our political relationships recalibrated to meet our ambitions. I have already talked about an improved cultural relationship and enhanced social union and a new idea of Britishness.
It is also the Union that ‘separates’ Scotland from a proper and equal role in Europe, as it is the Union that ‘separates’ Scotland from any number of international institutions. Far from being ‘separatists’ we are the new ‘inclusivists’ or ‘togetherists’, if you can excuse such clumsy terms.
In the battle of themes and ideas maybe it’s time to pitch a new ‘inclusion’ against tired old ‘separation’ and see which message prevails.
Courtesy of the Scots Independent