The Nationhood Bypass


By Derek Bateman

I detect a change of language…I’m sure I heard Johann refer to independence as ‘an honourable position’ or somesuch. It was certainly a long way from her previous efforts, suggesting almost linguistic schizophrenia. Imagine her in the morning pondering what thought mode she should adopt… ‘Independence – it’s either honourable or it’s a mutating virus that kills you slowly – which will it be today?’

Then there is Douglas Alexander’s latest epistle in the Scotsman. Does anybody else think Douglas may be morphing into his dad and turning into a Kirk meenister? His repetitive, preachy sermons on goodness and hand-holding conventions only need a tambourine accompaniment. Did his saintly humanity just desert him when he voted for war in Iraq?

Douglas has started to express his – and I have no doubt this is true – love of Scotland. ‘I love Scotland’, he wrote. Good for him. It’s about time some of these doom-mongers whose case is based on belittling their own people got in touch with their inner Scot.

In fact, I could have written some of his article, except not as well, obviously. It is an admission of the impact his country has on him and how it is – careful here, Douglas – part of his identity. Yes, he actually does the identity bit and may, I hear, be applying for SNP membership soon. He refers to the land and emotion, pride and dignity.

It is a fair and emotional exposition of his love for this native land and I’m with him all the way. There is a problem of course and it arrives in the form of the BUT word…

Scotland is about more than flags and manifestoes. Yes, but…?

He just doesn’t think separating from the rest of Britain is good for Scotland because it’s about the future and solidarity and sharing and his piece falls away into that self-justifying morass of saying obliquely that Scottish independence just isn’t worth it, it’s not important enough when there are other things to get on with and anyway, it doesn’t help the hopeless and vulnerable in England and Wales. So we should wait for another Labour government to come along for 10 years or so to solve our problems (presumably because they’ve solved them before).

This reveals the empty core to the Unionist case which I’ll get to in a minute. You can see it today in the Herald where Catherine Macleod is repeating the same line, that breaking up is just silly when there ‘is nothing to be gained’. Why divorce when you’re happy? Yes, she did actually use the 1970’s Divorce word, although in her case she says ‘divorce from your friend’, not quite understanding the concept.

Catherine is important because she is part of the Alistair Darling, Brian Wilson Highland nexus and while writing her own material – obviously – is so close to the Darling mindset that she reveals his thinking. She worked for him in Downing Street.

And indeed, when you look back at Darling’s interviews, he says, for example, a currency union makes sense but you’ve got one now, so why bother going through the

independence rigmarole just to get what you already have?

All three of these Labour Unionists miss the point entirely. It is this: We regain our independence, we take back our nationhood, reclaim national self-respect and take our rightful place in the world, shaping policies around our own ideals and standing tall in our own right beside the other nations as equals.

They are utterly blind to what every other nation and people on earth take as an automatic right. It is enshrined in the United Nations charter – self-determination. How the hell can any Scot – proud or otherwise – fail to grasp the importance of their own country’s sovereignty? How?

They suffer from a nationhood bypass. They simply can’t intellectually link their love of, and pride in, country with that country’s statehood. It is constitutional blindness. They only equate statehood with Britain and would deny it to Scotland because somehow it doesn’t matter to their native land.

Isn’t this the very definition of British Unionism? That is, that Britain is their country, their state, the legal entity to which they pledge allegiance and Scotland – lovely though it is – is merely the place they come from. This to me is a state of wilful denial and is totally contradictory.

The truly honest position for Johann, Douglas and Catherine is to say Scotland is a region of the country they adhere to – Britain. Within that country they have a regional identity like a Yorkshireman or a Cumbrian. They love their home area but that’s all it is, a badge of belonging. When it comes to it, they are British and proud and they accept Scotland is subsumed, officially, into the British state. Scotland should not, they believe, be ranked beside other nations.

When you add in the propaganda assault their campaign promotes in which Scotland’s assets are at London’s disposal and they tell us our ambitions will founder on our inability to make independence work, you’re left wondering just what this love of Scotland amounts to.

I suppose it means the real truth does lie in what’s in your heart not you head. You may be worried about the economics of independence but I still can’t imagine not voting for my country’s right to self-government. I regard it as self-evidently the natural thing – if you love your country – and comes with the unshakable belief that we can make it work, that we can overcome.

For too long the onus has been in Yes supporters to justify independence. How about the Unionists justifying ‘love of Scotland’ with voting against, for a change?

Courtesy of Derek Bateman