During the 2014 Scottish independence campaign the British media framed the debate as Scotland leaving the rest of the United Kingdom, implying that the UK would carry on without the Scots. Of course none of this was true.
One of the more annoying products of the Americanisation of British politics has been Westminster’s new-found love of the brand – think “Team GB” and “EVEL.” Yet, predating all this nonsense the British establishment has invested so much in the idea and the ideology that is the “United Kingdom.” This fusion of kingdoms was the very core of empire and power. In the early eighteenth century insipient Britishness romantically infused this union with biblical meaning, where England – as overlord – took up the mantle of the United Kingdom of Israel. Armed with the King James Bible and the Church of England, this sceptred isle was to be God’s instrument on Earth – to subdue the heathen and redeem the world through slavery and conversion.
Nothing of this fantasy has died away in England; not where it really matters – at Eton, Harrow, and Wycombe Abbey. At the cradle of British establishment and privilege the United Kingdom is more than a brand. It is an identity and a birthright. Scottish independence, the work of those “rebellious Scots,” would not be allowed to rob them of everything they have robbed from others. Even with the departure of Scotland the UK would live on, albeit with an “r” – not an “R” like the “U” and the “K,” but a silly little “r” that could soon be made to disappear. So at every step we were reminded – not that we gave a crap – that the (r)UK would live on without us. But wasn’t all this a fiction?
…the UK is a Union between England (and Wales) and Scotland created in 1707. The withdrawal of one party to that union dissolves the state that was thereby created.
– Issues Around Scottish Independence (1999), The Constitution Unit.
This United Kingdom exists only because Scotland and England are kingdoms united. Scotland’s secession from the union ends the union, thus dissolving the entity that was legality forged by treaty in 1707. Bringing this up and taking the time to hammer it home is rather petty, I confess, but looking back on the treatment we received from the defenders of this union in 2014 – and ever since – this little nit-pick has become quite fascinating. Britain’s true believers define themselves by empire. To them this was the golden age. As imperialists they derive meaning from owning things – that is, after all, what empire is. India and Africa live on for them now only in old postcards and in the sadistic pleasure they get from knowing they have taken even the future from these brown and black people.
All that they own now is Scotland. Wales and Northern Ireland don’t really count. These people think in terms of crowns, and neither Wales nor Northern Ireland have one of those to offer. They’re just possessions, but Scotland’s a kingdom, and we have threatened to take it from them. It gives me pleasure to know this thought hurts their feelings. It helps me sleep. When we go – when we are finally out of this mess – we better make sure we leave them with nothing; no flag, no United Kingdom, and definitely none of our oil.