I love Scotland and Britain, but I’m no nationalist, believing Scotland is more prosperous and peaceful when part of a union of nations, be that on our one island of Britain or a wider union.
With all its shortcomings Britain is still a liberal society and a prosperous, stable union of nations. What has failed and brought us to our present difficulties has been trying to combine our parliamentary democracy with a plebiscitary democracy. A binary choice creates two factions. After both referendums we’ve witnessed one faction blaming the other for manipulating democracy to thwart their will, and neither compromising, forgiving or forgetting. I look back to the years before 2013 with nostalgia, for the time when there was no Constitutional or European Elephant in the room at social gatherings.
If the separatists had won in 2014, we’d have left the EU too, and would now still be jumping through the hoops of the Copenhagen Criteria to get back in. “Greece surrounded by cold water” with no clout in the UN, NATO, the Commonwealth, G7, G8, G20 etc.
Meanwhile, in leaving the UK, Scotland would have lost the benefits of union with our closest and biggest trading partner; economic growth in a bigger economic bloc, currency backed by the Bank of England’s reserves in case of another recession, one island systems for transport and energy infrastructures, shared institutions across science, culture and the arts, and other organisations that are difficult to divide up efficiently, effectively or economically such as the National Lottery, Ordinance Survey, Research Councils, NHS centres of excellence that serve the whole UK, the Royal Mail, BBC, DVLA and so on. The disputes in all areas from leaving a 40-year economic union would be trivial in comparison to those from leaving a 312-year-old one that is not just economic, but also social, political, cultural, historical and personal for many of us.
We’re all descended from the first people who migrated across Doggerland at the end of the last ice age before the seas rose to create the British Isles, and those who’ve been migrating here ever since. Scotland has been sold as a brand in the past few years, possibly too successfully with our tourist infrastructure now creaking under the strain. Scottishness as an identity is part of that message, and independence its sub-text. We look with dubiety on identity politics elsewhere, be it in England, Turkey or the USA, but reassure ourselves that, being Scottish, we are ‘civic’ and ‘progressive’ and that our nationalism is much a nicer, “the kettle’s on” variety. We’ve been oversold and deluded. Social attitudes here are no more progressive than elsewhere in the British Isles.
Despite everything, and I include the general feeling of dismay at the thought of who might be the next Prime Minister, we have more in common with each other than divides us, and we are still better together than separated and arguing amongst ourselves.
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