“The rottenest bits of these islands of ours
We’ve left in the hands of three unfriendly powers
Examine the Irishman, Welshman or Scot
You’ll find he’s a stinker as likely as not
The English the English the English are best
I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest”
(Flanders and Swann)
This charmless little ditty, fondly treasured in England and dating from several decades ago (when the sun set on the empire on which the sun was not supposed to set), was only ever intended to be a bit of music-hall fun, was it not? Surely nothing more than the lyrical equivalent of ye olde English public-house banter, under the cover of which all manner of what would now be regarded as political incorrectness is still ventured upon? Many a true word is spoken in jest, alas, as we know, and there could be, of course, no humour in the lyrics if they did not convey at least a grain of truth about the bizarrely inflated self-esteem of the numerically and constitutionally dominant nation in these offshore islands, not to mention its insistently persistent condescension towards what remains of the indigenous subject peoples after centuries of anglo-supremacist ascendancy. They did not really mean it, I hear you protest. Really? Well, they seem to mean it now.
Who would disagree that the dear quaint denizens of the Land of Hope and Glory are notorious around the world for not burdening themselves with political scruples, even though this degree of expediency is hardly what one could call cricket, old chap? It would be perverse to deny that they were and still are experts in the art of concealing political misdeeds, not to mention administrative blunders, behind a facade of virtue, as the former Labour Party Wastemonster MP who days ago began to serve an 18-month prison sentence for fraud might now be prepared to testify. They have been at it for centuries, and it has become such a part of their nature that they hardly notice it any more. They carry on with such a pious expression and deadly seriousness that they even convince themselves that they are the exemplars of political virtue. Needless to say, there is no question of admitting their rank hypocrisy either to themselves or to one another. In fact, they not only behave as if it were universally accepted that they could not be other than the very model of piety and virtue but actually seem to believe that that is what they really are, periodic revelations indicating the contrary notwithstanding. The spectacle which they thus present is at one and the same time intensely amusing, indeed side-splittingly amusing, but also dangerous.
The English managed to spread their power over much of the world in so far as and for as long as they did not encounter an adversary who was able to stand in their way for long. There are, of course, others who have been of comparable strength in Europe, but they have usually been less effective when it came to exploiting national and international opportunities. The English, on the other hand, never knowingly humble, were unshakably confident in their intriguingly risible conviction that England’s global power and influence constituted a sign of divine providence. The American writer Duncan Spaeth mischievously speculates, however, arguably less implausibly, that the reason why the sun never set on their empire, for as long as that could be said to be the case, was probably that God knew better than to trust an Englishman in the dark. Those who attempted to resist or defend themselves against the English power bloc were ruthlessly suppressed, with the occasional egregiously dirty trick thrown in when such was deemed necessary. Although English imperialists were forever chuntering on about their vain conception of their self-proclaimed innate nobility and sense of fair play, they were in fact anything but noble or fair when circumstances suggested to them that a purely pragmatic approach was required, pragmatism being in actuality their enduringly defining characteristic. Ask the former inhabitants of the island of Diego Garcia (part of the British Indian Ocean Territory, currently administered from a desk in the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office), if you can find any. Even if you were permitted to travel to that far-distant isle, an improbable eventuality particularly if you should happen to be without the relevant security clearance, you certainly would not find any of those people there now, as they have all been expelled for strategic military purposes in which their community had not the slightest interest.
Scots, on the other hand, since the indefinite adjournment of the Scottish Parliament in 1707 following ultimately irresistible pressure from England, have been a political force on their own account only in the past few years. England abhors this development, to which its population typically paid little attention when the Scotland Act of 1998 was being debated and passed at the behest of a UK political party (Labour) paying its dues to Scottish interests which are generally considered by Middle England to have come to hold disproportionate and indeed unacceptable sway over it. Things were entirely different before the events which led to the restoration of the Scottish Parliament. England previously could get away with doing on the whole pretty much what it wanted to Scotland (as the grim record of the infamous administrations of the Iron Lady of the Sermon on the Mound incontrovertibly attests), and was, not surprisingly, content with that state of affairs, while the northern kingdom, understandably, had become unmistakably dissatisfied and, as a result of its searingly traumatic experience of the alienatingly right-wing Thatcher regime, which had very little support there, resolved that radical constitutional change must come. While it is true to say that the Scots have now, at long last, managed to make some headway against English dominance, they were and, I venture to suggest, still are somewhat out of their depth by virtue of still being, if the Megrahi-release controversy is anything to go by, a comparatively principled people, going about their business, giving the world their poets, scientists and philosophers, hardly realizing, most of them, that their rapacious casino-capitalist southern neighbours were and still are ruthlessly exploiting them for their own overarching strategic purposes, as is their way . . . as the Diego Garcians might tell you, if you could find any.
Vested English and other anglo-unionist interests are at the root of the present deterioration in anglo-Scottish relations. They have found the occasion and the method that have produced the results that we see before us. The gathering wave of post-devolution denigration of the newly assertive Scots and the comprehensive belittling of their country took them more or less entirely by surprise. Then anglo-unionists really got moving. Their relentless and well funded propaganda has now succeeded in turning so many ill-informed people against Scotland that it is staggering to find that the status of Scots within the anglo-union has become so palpably diminished in such a remarkably short space of time. Scottish citizens of the UK had been lulled over the years into so false a sense of security (based in part upon a conception of the UK state that has never been shared by the English) that hardly any of them seem to have suspected that anything of this nature might possibly occur. While the insidiously pernicious propaganda may be said to be limited in scope, it has been spread systematically throughout the UK and insinuated into the minds of millions. Scots, who, while they were passively compliant, had previously been lauded as essentially industrious, sober and valued citizens, are now overwhelmingly portrayed, sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly, as indolent, drug-dependent and alcoholic ‘subsidy junkies’, whose enviably beautiful country, instead of being acknowledged to be a land blessed with valuable resources and a source of wealth, which it is, is now routinely dismissed in the English-dominated UK media as a mere liability inherently incapable of supporting itself. The purpose of this abhorrently grotesque caricature is self-evidently to prevent a renascent self-governing and politically left-of-centre Scottish polity from potentially jeopardizing English casino-capitalist interests by developing the confidence to advance further in the direction of independence after causing some degree of alarm and apparently unforgivable offence by electing a pro-independence devolved government in 2007.
Scots appear on the whole not to have come to terms yet with the rude shock which the aggrieved retaliation of the dominant power has dealt them. They have watched the anglo-unionist campaign with honest bewilderment. Scottish citizens of the UK who are paying close attention to what is happening shake their heads and genuinely wonder how anyone can lie like that. England is attempting to hammer into the minds of Scottish electors the notion that the Scottish National Party and all talk of Scottish independence have to go so that the English and whatever may eventually remain of the Scottish nation after the current wave of asset stripping has run its course can live together in anglo-harmony on anglo-terms in a further revised version of the anglo-state.
What is the position at this moment? Anglo-unionist propaganda has not only had the effect of dissuading a majority of Scottish electors from claiming sovereign independence thus far (although they appear to be defying anglo-unionist political parties by favouring a referendum on the question) but has apparently inadvertently succeeded in persuading a substantial proportion of the population of England that it would be better off without them. Thus, far from reviving the moribund institutions of the decadent anglo-state, anglo-unionist misinformation, disinformation and denigration of the Scots have, ironically, further undermined its pitiably eroded foundations, one crucial element of which had been in the past a certain degree of at least superficial mutual respect between Scotland and England, without which the union between them cannot realistically be expected to endure, although the man on the Clapham omnibus, as one used to say, evidently does not appreciate this fact and appears incapable of doing so, preferring increasingly to assert, with customary anglo-arrogance, that he could not care less. The die is cast.