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Showing posts with label Timothy Garton-Ash. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Timothy Garton-Ash. Show all posts

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.