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By Jason Michael
Apparently independence has to be the answer to some question posed by Gerry Hassan or Bella Caledonia. They are asking that we make Scotland a pawn in a game where it always comes last.
“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” Thus opens the Unanimous Declaration of the original thirteen United States of America, made in Congress on 4 July 1776.
Yesterday Gerry Hassan published an article on the Bella Caledonia blog asking the question: “What is independence the answer to?” In this piece he forces a distinction between those he dismisses as “Nationalist Scotland” and those who we are to assume are its intellectual betters, “non-Nationalist Scotland” – that is “the majority of Scots” who do not see “independence [as] an end in itself.” The world can be divided, as the old joke goes, into two types of people; those who divide the world into two types of people and those who don’t.
Is that right, aye? https://t.co/omgHhkf0VA—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) January 23, 2018
His major thrust in the article is that the Scottish National Party, assuming the mantle of leadership of the independence movement, has squandered all of its opportunities to advance the cause of independence, leaving the wider – non-SNP – movement to wither on the vine. He paints a gloomy picture of post-2014 Scotland as a failed attempt to become “a different kind of state,” something which can now only be delivered by the messianic “advent of the Corbyn Labour Party.” It stands to reason, then, that his chief criticism of the SNP is that it has stifled “such independent initiatives as RISE and Common Weal.”
Hassan is entirely wrong. As is the case with all political messiahs, Jeremy Corbyn is no saviour. He is a broken reed. Just as the 2008 election of Barack Obama was heralded as an age of hope and change, but maintained and even extended enough of the ancien régime of neoliberalism and US expansionism to feed the fires of Trumpism, so too are the empty promises of Mr Corbyn. How can Corbyn ride into Edinburgh on a donkey, bearing the glad tidings of Brexit and Trident renewal, when Scotland has already rejected his gospel?
“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary…”
As far as any nation’s foundational documents go, at least in the modern world – while they seldom if ever live up to their high ideals – our American cousins have certainly produced the best. Whether we are Hassan’s nationalist or his non-nationalist or even a unionist, we are, to quote this outstanding declaration again, “one people” for whom it has become necessary “to dissolve the political bands” which have heretofore ensured the domination of our country by “another.”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator wi… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…—
Robbie Perkins (@JRobbiePerkins) January 12, 2018
Gerry Hassan demands, following an editorial trend in much of Scotland’s supposedly pro-independence new media, that independence must be the answer to an as yet unknown question. This is not an episode of Jeopardy! The progress of a nation through time need answer no questions. It moves by its own accord, under the steam of its own initiative, following the complex calculus written out by the thousands of expressed and unexpressed desires of its people.
For theorists like Hassan the vast complexity of what the United States understands by the term “manifest destiny” is reduced to an essentially statist project of forging “a different kind of state;” a top-down utopian vision of state perfection. Such pipedreams lack any awareness of the organic development of the nation and its natural movement through history, powered as it is by the people of the nation.
Worse than this, his blasting of the SNP betrays an almost Fukuyamian anxiety. Utopia – his “different kind of state” – must be brought about in the here and now, even if this means a political accommodation with Britain – if Saint Jeremy can make it happen. In this schema Scotland is not an end in itself, nor is it a means to an end. It is merely a pawn in a contingent political ideology in the same way Slovakia was in the former Czechoslovakia, as Croatia was in Yugoslavia. Time and again history and the dynamics of peoplehood have cast off the provisional state settlements imposed on them in anticipation of some radical Marxist internationalist perfection.
To develop a sense of black consciousness and peoplehood does not require that we scorn the white race as a whole.… twitter.com/i/web/status/9…—
Martin Luther King (@DrMLKJrWisdom) January 12, 2018
Scotland, as “one people,” is not an ethnic or racial designation or even an expression of national exceptionalism. The people of the nation are simply that – the rich tapestry of the sum of all the people who make up the nation, regardless of all other floating signifiers. All peoples exist in place and time; their collective destinies are in constant flux. Scotland is no different.
Our destination as a people – as “one people” – is not dependent on the actions of the SNP or the independence movement as Hassan would have us believe. Political parties and social movements are indeed expressions of the many desires of the people, but they are always merely effects of the deeper transformations of the people and of the nation. Where Gerry Hassan imagines “listlessness, inertia, and anxiety” – stasis – the reality is quite different. We are a people on the move.
In one election after another we demonstrate that we are not the same as England. We are a different people with different national priorities and aspirations. With or without the SNP at the helm, Scotland consistently expresses the truth of its distinct peoplehood and indeed the divergent path it is taking – over time – as a nation. Scottish independence will not be the result of a magical date when, as Jim Sillars once said, we hold our sovereignty in our hands. It won’t be the result of the SNP’s actions or inactions. Our independence will only ever be the fruit of a process that has been turning and turning since 1707 – the movement of “one people.” This is so because the conditions of the union make it necessary if we are to continue to be Scotland.
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