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By Jason Michael
ENGLAND IS AN EXTREME EXAMPLE of a narcissistic nation. In the independence movement in Scotland we are well accustomed to the whining. If Scotland decides to leave the union, so we are told, we will be abandoning England to an eternity of Tory rule. After independence, they inform us, we will not be able to use their currency. How many times have we heard it said that independence is nothing other than the political expression of our backward anti-Englishness? England, it would appear, is incapable of imagining a world in which other countries go about their business, perfectly happy not to give England and its self-created miseries a second thought. Our neighbours south of the border haven’t quite gotten used to the idea that their brutal global empire is a thing of the past and that the rest of the world is a brighter, happier place for its passing. Its attention seeking behaviour on the European stage betrays its profound anxiety at being ignored.
In the last elections I will confess England did come to mind, but only briefly. As I collected my ballot paper from the invigilators’ desk in the polling station it occurred to me that I was surrounded by a crowd of voters who really just weren’t thinking about England. Most likely they hadn’t given England a thought all day, and would go back to their lives after voting and still not think about it. My most pressing concern at the ballot box was keeping Sinn Féin’s Lynn Boylan in Europe and Gemma O’Doherty – Ireland’s wannabe answer to Steve Bannon – out. Failed in the former and thankfully succeeded in the latter. Ireland has been shot of England for longer than most voters have been alive, and other than when the “Tan’s are at it again” – undermining the Good Friday Agreement and threatening the island with a hard border – most of us couldn’t give a rat’s ass about England’s backward and pathetic temper tantrums.
The Tans are at it again. https://t.co/39dh0guRpr—
Fintan O'Toolbox (@FintanOToolbox) March 06, 2019
It’s a different story in Scotland. Sometimes I worry that the first time most independentistas will think about independence and what it really means to be citizens of an independent state will be on the morning after Independence Day. Independence supporters are generally well-informed of the news and of the issues surrounding the independence campaign, but there’s something missing. Scots are bombarded night and day with a skewed version of the news from the BBC and other London establishment-aligned media outlets – which is pretty much every newspaper and news source except for perhaps one or two. Everything Scots get from the media and a great deal they get from their own pro-independence political leadership is framed by the London-unionist perspective. Even now, after the political bias of the unionist press and broadcast media has been laid bare by so many media savvy activists in the movement, key figures, including the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, either treat the BBC with kids gloves or as though it is the default for reliable information.
Clearly, something is missing. We can suggest that more and better funded pro-independence media will correct this – which is true, but there remains something more essential lacking. It is one thing for independentistas to be informed and politically active, but so long as the greater part of the movement lacks a cohesive and well-articulated ideology – a basic political theory of their reality, they will always be stuck to the conscious and subconscious deference to the truth as it is presented by the ruling establishment of the state from which they hope to liberate themselves. In a sense this predicament reminds us of the born-again atheist who asks for a priest at the last moment; our national psyche has – over generations – been hard-wired to accept our subaltern rôle – our child-to-adult relation – in this so-called “union of equals.” Case in point: Compare the Scottish government’s sabre-rattling over a rock in the middle of the Atlantic with its more hedged diplomatic language over being side-lined during the Article 50 negotiations. Compare also the forthright and uncompromising language of Leo Varadkar and Mary-Lou McDonald over Brexit and the firm yet ultimately yielding statements on the same topic from Nicola Sturgeon and Michael Russell.
Of course, there is a difference. Varadkar and McDonald are speaking as representatives of an independent state, where Sturgeon and Russell are not. Scotland is a nascent state, but this places it in a similar category to that of the north of Ireland – for which McDonald speaks, and still there’s a real difference in style. Mary-Lou McDonald, the President of Sinn Féin, and Michelle O’Neill, leader of Sinn Féin in the all but defunct Northern Assembly, simply do not accept the British narrative of British control of the six counties. Their Republic is an all-Ireland entity awaiting political realisation. Scotland’s approach is weaker by a mile. The movement for Scottish independence is mentally situated inside the United Kingdom trying to get out. In a word, the Scottish position lacks a concrete ideology of independence. Ours is not a sovereign and independent nation hammering away at the chains holding it to Westminster. Scotland has accommodated itself to the ideology of union from which it is trying to negotiate a future independence, and this is what we are hitting on when we equate Scotland’s social and political behaviour with a Stockholm syndrome.
By far the most important point made about the SNP's current strategy on another independence referendum. https://t.co/OwGy4mQhnV—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) June 25, 2019
Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland came remarkably close to saying this in his recent interview on the Alex Salmond Show when he said “we will all grow old and die before we have a second referendum” if we continue on with this policy of asking and asking ad nauseam permission from a British government which we have effectively handed the power to always say: “Now is not the time.” Ultimately, what this means is that the independence movement in Scotland and its political leadership are pinned down in their constant reference to England – to the will of Westminster and the English state. We have, with this failure to transform independence into a state-political ideology, manufactured an endless cycle of request and denial that will only ever ensure independence never happens.
The way out of this merry-go-round is to accept that what we need is not more political education, information, and strategies – as important as these things are, but an ideology of Scottish nationhood. As is the case in Ireland, this begins with the national consciousness digesting the non-negotiable reality not merely of Scotland’s nationhood and its right to be independent, but its actual statehood and freedom still dominated by another nation. This ideological position revolutionises the campaign, making it for the first time a true struggle. Ireland ditched the ideology of its coloniser, declared itself a Republic, and then made that assertion a reality. It won. Not yet having done this, we have put ourselves in an ever-repeating spin in a dance to someone else’s tune. Right now, this is the waltz we are locked into, and the only way out – the only way to break the deadlock – is to put the horse before the cart, assert Scotland without reference to any other power, and make it a reality.
It’s Not Just Angels Who Have Wings