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By Jason Michael
WE ARE TERRIBLY CAREFUL in Scotland not to offend English people when we talk about Scottish independence. Coming across as anti-English or Anglophobic has come to be seen as the deadliest sin in every area of our national constitutional discussion, and this has grown out of a political environment in which the British media and our unionist opponents in Scotland have thrown the accusation of prejudice and anti-Englishness at us at every turn. During the 2014 independence referendum campaign the BBC and much of the rest of the British media was at pains to frame the discussion in Scotland as coming simply from Scottish people’s dislike for England and the people of England – as an ancient hatred, when in fact the conversation about independence in Scotland has nothing whatsoever to do with England. This is Scottish people talking about the future of Scotland, and we can do this without reference to any other country.
The care we have taken to keep England and the English people out of this discussion has not served us well, and neither has it served England well. This self-imposed limitation on our discussion has compelled us to remain silent on a number of pertinent issues which affect both the cause for independence in Scotland and England’s better understanding of itself and of what is actually happening over its northern border. Until this past week I have been content to endure this pressure to self-censor. Until recently, the question of England – as it relates to our discussion in Scotland – could wait. It was more important to win Scots to the cause than it was to run the risk of upsetting people and potential allies south of our border. But today, what has happened in England – what has been brewing and happening for quite some time – has brought me to the point where I feel morally compelled to bring England into this discussion and say exactly what needs to be said.
At his trial in Dublin in 1798, following the defeat of the rebellion of the United Irishmen, while dressed in the uniform of a French officer, Theobald Wolfe Tone, the Irish Protestant lawyer who led the rebellion, said this of Great Britain:
From my earliest youth I have regarded the connection between Great Britain and Ireland as the curse of the Irish nation, and felt convinced that, whilst it lasted, this country could never be free nor happy.
Britain’s domination of Ireland was truly the curse of the Irish nation; leading to the utter destruction of its economy, the horrors of famine, and ultimately to the decades of bloodshed we know as the Troubles. At the end of the eighteenth century, the consequences of this imperial domination were as clear to Wolfe Tone as they were to the leaders of the American and the French revolutions and as they are to us today in the early twenty-first century. In 1916, when the Irish people rose up to expel Britain from Ireland, the problem was not that the Irish people were violent. The world over, the Irish are known as a measured and peace-loving people – no doubt a characteristic which has given little independent Ireland a place on the United Nation’s Security Council. The problem was England.
Likewise, in Scotland, the problem is England. Now, what I could do for the next half hour is explain that ‘not all English people are bad…’ but that goes without saying. We are not talking about all English people. We are talking about England and the effect England as a national state entity has on Scotland and the Scottish people. Until recently, we have obfuscated this reality behind a wall of carefully guarded language, saying that our problem is not with the English, but with ‘Westminster,’ ‘the British state,’ and ‘the wealthy conservative establishment.’ Yet, to a greater or lesser extent these are all synonyms for England. Our problem is England.
Westminster is not the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as it pretends. The massive democratic deficit in the House of Commons – in which English seats more than double the combined seats allocated to Scotland, Wales, and the occupied counties in Ireland – ensures that Scotland is not represented in what is mathematically and for all other intents and purposes the English parliament. Westminster is where the democratic will of the Scottish people – an entire nation – is dominated and so silenced by the will of England and its people. The same its true of the British state. All of the various dicasteries of the British civil service, the military, and what have you are overwhelmingly dominated by English people trained into a British imperial mindset by a very English public school system. The ‘establishment’ – or whatever that means in reality – is served by these English instruments of government and state and perfectly reflect the ambitions and designs of this establishment.
Westminster, as the English parliament, cannot function – cannot operate and legislate – without the support and consent of the English people. Britain is a democracy for England. It is not so for Scotland. Scotland, Wales, and the occupied six counties can vote for whichever representatives they choose, but England always decides which party will form the British government; meaning that the British government always represents England over and against the democratic will of Scotland, Wales, and the occupied six counties. To argue that England is not the problem is to deny the undeniable, that this is exactly how Westminster works and how it has always been intended to work. Westminster is the instrument by which England continues to dominate Scotland, and this – and only this – is the cause of all our political woes.
England’s present political leadership has brought us in Scotland to a point at which we can no longer censor ourselves. England and the pro-British faction of unionists in Scotland promised the people of Scotland that a vote to remain part of the United Kingdom would safeguard our place in the European Union. This has proven to be a lie. Scotland and the Scottish government, which rejected Brexit, are now entirely powerless to stop this process. Now, against the democratic will of the whole of the Scottish nation, England is forcing Brexit – and all the evils Brexit has unleashed – upon us. In order to affect this conservative revolution in England, the British qua English Prime Minister and his advisors have deliberately stoked up, emboldened, and encouraged racist and even neo-Nazi sentiments which are right now being played out on the streets of England and so spilling into Scotland where unionists are taking to the streets with union flags and violently attacking Scots they deem to be the wrong race or colour.
This development threatens the very fabric of English and Scottish society, but while Westminster reflects the democratic will of England and not Scotland, we must conclude that this is indeed what England and a large proportion of English people want. This is not Scotland and not the country we aspire to be. Remaining shackled to Westminster makes it impossible for us to close the door on this ghastly foreign influence, and so we must continue to seek the end of our union with England – because England is the problem. It is well understood that not all English people want this for their country and we can only be sympathetic to their plight. But this is their fight, and it is up to them to struggle to make their country a better place – and we wish them well. But Scotland has no say over English politics. Because of our union, we have precious little say over Scottish politics. Our chief and only concern, in light of what is happening in England, is to go our own way.
Far-right protesters clash with police in London