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Showing posts with label Scottish Parliament election 2011. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scottish Parliament election 2011. Show all posts

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The new Scotland - where to from here?

There’s a concept among jazz musicians - woodshedding - that expresses where I need to be at the moment. Going to the woodshed is what a jazz musician does when he or she needs to come to grips with something fundamental - technique, conception, tone, etc. Legendary jazz woodshedders included Charlie Parker who entered the woodshed as a primitive young musician and emerged as a fully-fledged genius, with a formidable technique and with a new musical language, and Sonny Rollins, already an established musician, who famously woodshedded on a public road bridge and re-invented himself and his music.

The woodshed is a metaphor, but I’ve got a real one - the Hut, as we call it, our little summerhouse at the back of the garden, an invaluable retreat from the distractions of the house.

I urgently need to woodshed on the big questions that face Scotland and all Scots, old and new, now that the election is over, and we are basking briefly in the new Scottish Spring - independence and the referendum that might lead us there.

But before I disappear, I have a couple of things I want to say -

I have been struck over the last week by the virtual absence of any discussion over foreign policy in the media and in the press - the Trident in the room, rather than the elephant in the room.

For me, independence means Scotland having control of its own foreign policy, of its own defence - of deciding in what circumstances and for what cause Scottish young servicemen and women must be placed in harm’s way by the state and give their lives if necessary, depriving Scottish families of their children, their partners, their spouses, their fathers, their mothers, their brother, their sisters, their friends - and Scottish servicemen and women of their comrades.

Fundamental to that control of foreign policy is the rejection of nuclear weapons and the concept of the nuclear deterrent.

Why is this topic being quietly sidelined by all parties, both those opposed to independence and those in favour? Why is all the talk confined to economic control, social policy, various options all the way through to devolution max, to constitutional monarchy, to somehow retaining the concept of the UK while freeing Scotland of the dead hand of Westminster and the Treasury?

Well, I have a view on why.

It is because control of foreign policy is the truly fundamental issue that no one wants to speak its name, lest they frighten the horses.

It is because it is believed that it was not a particularly important or defining issue in the election campaign,  other than in the context of the cost of Trident, and the job creation scheme argument that is often used to justify military expenditure.

It is because it impacts directly on the ancient link between monarchy, the military and organised religion - all three potential minefields for politicians, whatever their core beliefs and allegiances.

It is because it is believed by politicians, with some justification, that the voting public don’t really care about it, don’t understand it, and are made uncomfortable by it.

Nationalist politicians are wary of putting it centre stage because it might not play well with the voting public when they enter the independence referendum polling booths.

Unionist politicians must play canny with it, because it is in fact their fundamental reason for opposing full independence, and is linked inextricably with the the idea of British identity - an imperial identity - the United Kingdom’s perceived role in world affairs, the whole rotten edifice of undemocratic, unelected privilege that is the British Establishment and the Peerage and the House of Lords, the unionist’s latent or overt anti-Europeanism, and the subservient, client nature of the UK’s relationship with US foreign policy.

So now the nationalist politician may be entering an unspoken consensus with the unionist politician in the two years or so before the Independence referendum bill that, together, we won’t frighten the military horses, the monarchy, the Church, the Establishment or the electorate, and will concentrate on the economic and social arguments, and that something that falls just short of full independence that includes control of Scotland’s foreign policy may be a happy outcome all around.

On my way to the woodshed, let me say that while I will make my contribution to the economic and social argument, and to the principle of gradualism and softly, softly catchee independence monkey, nothing short of full control of Scotland’s foreign policy will ultimately satisfy me.