Search topics on this blog

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The UK Establishment - why they don’t want Scotland to leave the Union

In their more macho moments before the watershed Scottish National Party victory on May 5th 2011, prominent members of the British Establishment, who appear in many guises -  political, academic, military, media pundits, celebrities, etc. - said they would be happy if Scotland decided to leave the Union. This took many forms, from “It’s your decision - we won’t stand in your way …” to “We’ll be glad when you go - drain on our resources, subsidised ..” etc.

But as the polls began to move decisively in favour of the SNP during the campaign, the tone began to shift, and a note of panic increasingly began to sound. Dire warnings to the Scottish electorate were delivered of the horrors that awaited them if Alex Salmond got an overall majority and consequentially the ability to pass a referendum bill.

The prospects of Independence and Separation were rattled in the voters’ faces, like bogeymen on a stick, but instead of provoking terror, this resulted in a collective yawn, then a derisive laugh from the sophisticated Scottish electorate, followed by a swift two fingers as they entered the polling booth.

The election result threw the Establishment into a blue funk. Having thrown their heavyweight champions, political and media, into the arena in Scotland during the campaign, they had the humiliating experience of seeing them thrown back contemptuously through the ropes on to their arses at the ringside.

The note changed rapidly yet again, this time to demands for an instant referendum, followed by a second referendum on the negotiated terms, just in case the first one didn’t deliver the expected rejection, and some even suggested a referendum of the entire UK electorate.

Of course, this farrago of nonsenses didn’t emanate from the English people, who showed a disturbing tendency to either express admiration for the Scots and their concern for their people, or to say bluntly “If you’re going, get on with it. F*** off and good riddance - get off our backs so we can get our own independence for the nation of England, the sooner the better!”, sentiments that most Scots could understand and even applaud as being at least honest and direct.

And the English people were beginning to take a long, hard look at what the corrupted politics of Westminster, the insatiable greed of the financial establishment, the global posturing in foreign wars and the benighted Coalition government were actually doing for them. Ominous noise were being made by the trades unions …

That most contemptible of groups, the Scottish Unionist Establishment - a client group wholly dependent on the UK for their status, the descendants, literally or figuratively of those powerful chiefs and landowners who had betrayed their own people in 1707 and thereafter in their greed for English gold - were running round in circles, as the implications of their long, expedient, quisling subservience became increasingly evident. Their very identity was threatened by Scotland’s independence.

So the real question that must be addressed is - 

Why don’t the English Establishment (and their client Scottish counterparts) want Scotland to leave the Union?

Yesterday’s Telegraph (the Union and the Establishment in print) epitomised both the fear and the insidious nature of the remedies that might be sought against that fear. Vernon Bogdanor - The Telegraph

Salmond ‘could split the UK against the wishes of majority’

Who is being quoted in this scare story? “One of the world’s most respected constitutional experts” according to Simon Johnson, Scottish political editor of the Telegraph - one Vernon Bogdanor, emeritus professor of politics and government at Oxford University, the beating heart - together with Eton College - of the British Establishment and its grip on power delivered through birth, money and privilege.

Vernon Bogdanor? The name - and the sentiments - rang a bell with me. April 2010 and Dinner with Portillo, a programme on the subject of Scottish independence. I dug it out, and I’ve done an edit (edits signalled by fades)on the half hour programme, partly to get it to fit into the YouTube 15 minute slot, and partly to cut out a lot of the drivel emanating from Ron Liddle and Hardeep Singh, two of the dinner guests.

And although it’s over a year old, and preceded the May 2010 general election, and the May 2011 Scottish election, it’s still relevant, and the answers are all there …

What becomes progressively evident from this discussion is that the fear in the minds of the English Establishment that the UK will not exist in any meaningful sense after Scotland leaves. UK Minus - a union of England, Wales and Northern Ireland will have no relevance, no point, and will rapidly break up. This can either be viewed as realpolitik, or as contempt for the two nations of Wales and Northern Ireland, seen post-Scottish independence as two vestigial appendages of England - relics perceived as about as relevant as earlobes or the veriform appendix.

This view is now echoed daily in the media, who talk of the break-up of the UK, or the end of the UK when Scotland goes, with a pointed disregard for the ancient and proud nation of Wales, and the more recent, but equally proud nation of Northern Ireland, a nation that has transformed itself in very recent times as it emerges from a long, dark night of violence and internal strife.

This is emphatically not how Scotland sees Wales and Northern Ireland, as the meeting of the First Ministers of the devolved nations meeting this very day in Bute House, Edinburgh clearly demonstrates.

The answer to the question of why the UK doesn’t want to lose Scotland - in spite of  UK Establishment claims that Scotland could not survive outside of the UK, that Scotland is a dependent subsidy junkie, that it is a burden to England and so forth, or its pious nonsense about fracturing ancient ties of blood and and tradition  - is fourfold.

The first reason is that Scotland autonomy in foreign policy and defence would threaten UK defence policy, and crucially its nuclear deterrence policy, and therefore it pretensions to be a world power, albeit one totally subservient to American foreign policy. A closely linked sub-agenda is the private profit to be reaped from war and defence expenditure as the operating principle of the UK State.

The second reason is the awful prospect that Scotland would be economically successful, demonstrating that a state can serve all of its people, especially the the most vulnerable, while being economically viable, becoming, in the words of a great English poet “the cynosure of neighbouring eyes”.

The third reason is that Scotland, far from being a drain on UK resources, is in fact a net contributor to them, and subsidises the UK.

And the last, and perhaps  most poignant reason is that somehow England would lose its soul as Scotland regained its own identity, something elegantly expressed by one of Portillo’s dinner guests.

It’s not true of course - the British Establishment would lose its tarnished soul, but the people of England would regain their soul, and their pride as a nation again - a nation unafraid to speak its name.


  1. It gives one the uncomfortablr feeling of being talked about as though one is a worthless peasant in a greater conversation.

    I disagree that some neo-English league will begin marching with a new found sense of underlying fascism.

    The good folk of England are far more likely to see Westminster for the lie that it is, the lie that the SNP is highlighting in its economic policies aimed at improving society for all. The English will start to demand a government that actually tries to help people.

    A government of the people, for the people and by the people. It seems the decent thing to ask for and reasonable to expect.

  2. Sorry for the comment on twitter, Peter. I take your point but try to leave the arguments to those who have a dog in this fight andretweet posts that may extend understanding of what is going on beyond the borders of Scotland.

  3. To utilise a phrase I heard my teenage daughter use the other day - "They are so up themselves!"
    I have to agree with Natha re feeling like a peasant eavesdropping on the aristos. Blatantly and criminally out of touch with reality. Michael Fry was the only one there with any sense of the real issues. I lived in London for 11 years and it's true: the English have absolutely no sense of being British. I did not hear one person in eleven years call themselves "British." English, English, always English. Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland are just extra bits of England populated by Comic Cuts characters whose only purpose is to make the English feel superior and give them an alternative to Torremolinos for the holidays. "Jock", "Paddy" and "Taffy" we are to all those who can't be bothered remembering our real names.
    If we went our own way, I doubt if the average English citizen would feel in the slightest, most microscopically small way diminished. After a while, there might be a degree of economic discomfort, but that would be explained away as part of "something global" unrelated to the departure of oil and the whisky revenues - no English Government is going to admit they were lying all along about us being subsidy-junkies.

  4. I have never lived in London or the South East, so cannot comment generally on attitudes there. I have lived in the North West and the North East of England for many years, and the attitudes were very different from those you describe - friendly, interested, courteous, good neighbours. I would be more than happy to live there again.

    Of course, there were the bigoted headbangers, but we have our fair share of them in Scotland, and they can be dismissed for the idiots they are. I don't like stereotyping any race, regional or national group, or religious group - it's the road to misunderstanding, discrimination and ultimately violence.

    I have experienced patronising attitudes from certain types of people all over the UK, usually based on class, education and background and sometimes religion. I have a certain Glaswegian way of dealing with it, but best not to go into that ...

  5. Hi Peter,

    "Having thrown their heavyweight champions, political and media, into the arena in Scotland during the campaign, they had the humiliating experience of seeing them thrown back contemptuously through the ropes on their arses at the ringside." Love it. You're a master of the use of language.

    Have you tried poetry, Peter?


  6. Yes, but not very successfuly, Rab.

    See my poem to 10 Ardenlea street -

    The spirit of Ardenlea Street

    Mungo came to a dear, green place

    where Fergus chose to die

    He built a church near a sylvan stream

    where Fergus chose to lie

    The Molendinar ran beneath

    the hard grey rock above

    And a great cathedral - stone by stone -

    was built by men, with love

    And from this place, a city grew

    from the grove of the Lady Well

    Some say that Wallace was betrayed

    by men in this leafy dell

    A child of the East, I knew this place

    I played in light and dark

    in the waters foul that the stream became

    below the old fir park

    The City now - a giant place

    A second war has come

    with death and devastation, yet

    a spark of hope for some

    In the East end of the City

    In tenements dark and grey

    lived a great, resilient people

    And they live there to this day

    But the wealth and power shifted

    to the centre, west and south

    and the great betrayal started

    from the People's Party's mouth

    So these ordinary people

    must be broken on the wheel

    And the things that they most value

    must be ground beneath the heel

    Of politicians venal

    and the men that fund their greed

    And while the riches flow to some

    The Glesca people bleed

    Among this devastation

    A woman held her ground

    She tried to fight for all she loved

    in the wasteland all around

    The brutal heart of power

    to its eternal shame

    has used the force that it commands

    to play its dirty game

    The men who fund their party

    are on the inside track

    and they become obscenely rich because

    the poor are on the rack

    And all the rich Glaswegians

    believe the Council's claims

    They're dazzled by the PR spin

    and the promise of great Games

    But back in Ardenlea Street

    the doors are battered in

    Unequal force has forced them out

    The Party has to win

    Now, for the Jaconellis,

    a life begins anew

    They're out, but not defeated

    Although a great wind blew

    And there are those among us

    Who'll never let this rest

    A great injustice has been done

    and now begins a quest ...

    To find the truth for Glasgow

    and bring a cleansing rain

    Then Mungo's spirit may return

    to Glaschu once again

  7. Great article and fascinating clip Peter! I was particularly impressed by Michael Fry who has only recently come across to the cause of Independence! Saor Alba!

  8. Good poem.

    I've lived in both the North of England and London.

    I really liked the North of England folk (just like us but not quite yet they'd be more than welcome to join an independent Scotland but they consider themselves English first).

    I lived in London (horrible overcrowded, dirty, noisy, expensive place) and the people in London, as far as I could see didn't really give Scotland a passing thought, though when they did it was usually to moan about the moaning Scots and to say the spongers bugger off but we're keeping the oil. Still, the over-riding reality is that people who live in London don't think about much except the fishbowl of London.

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. I have deleted your last comment, natha.

    Repeating such scurrilous allegations makes things worse.