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By Jason Michael
FROM A CERTAIN PERSPECTIVE, these polls are fantastic. They are ‘record breaking.’ More people in Scotland support independence today than ever before – well, at least since these things have been polled and reported. The Sunday National described our independence sentiment as soaring, in a piece which said ‘support for independence has jumped to a record 54 per cent.’ From a certain perspective – our perspective, this is wonderful news. At last we are on the threshold of a final push, and these numbers really ought to put a wee fire under the bums of those we have elected to end the union we have with England. But there are other perspectives. There are those in our nation who do well from the conditions of the union, the status quo keeps them fed and watered and puts fine clothes on the backs of their wains. There’s them whose brains are so irrecoverably soaked in the bloody memory of the Boyne and prancing Billy they can’t imagine a Scotland without a foreign crown, and then of course there is the perspective of our neighbours – who always seem to think that their opinion is the only opinion that really matters.
It was interesting to say the least to read Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative MP for the Kentish constituency of Tonbridge and Malling, on the subject of our independence:
The end of the Union would destabilise our whole nation and – because of our size – many others. It would leave families in trouble as our economy faltered and undermine our ability to help others. Our allies would be weaker and our enemies stronger.
Now, this tommy is an interesting chap. The nephew of Baron Tugendhat, Thomas ‘Georg’ (the proper Hanoverian for George) holds a masters degree in Islamic Studies and learned Arabic in Yemen, is an officer in the British Army, and is the current Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee – a CV that positively screams MI6. So, his take on Scottish politics is worth noting.
The end of the Union would destabilise our whole nation and - because of our size - many others. It would leave fam… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…—
Tom Tugendhat (@TomTugendhat) June 21, 2020
When Scottish unionist politicians and other such blowhards suggest that the end of the union will negatively impact the lives of Scottish people, we can engage with them. They are talking rubbish, of course, but they are talking about Scotland and we can dialogue with them and confront them with the facts on the ground. But we can’t do that with Agent Tugendhat, can we? He’s not talking about the effect of independence on Scotland or even on the whole union; as an Englishman, he’s talking about what Scottish independence will mean for his ‘whole nation’ – England. It’s quite a set of admissions from a Brit, an honesty that is exceedingly rare in these degraded days of political spin and media bias and manipulation. Scotland leaving the union will destabilise England and – because of its size – many others. It will leave English families in trouble as the English economy falters. It will undermine England’s ability to ‘help’ others. And England’s allies will be weaker, and England’s enemies will be stronger. Take a moment to let all that sink in.
None of this is true for Scotland. As a resource rich small independent economy, Scotland will quickly follow the same trajectory of other small north-western European nation states. Without the crippling burden of a nuclear arsenal and dues to international and interventionalist neo-colonial military alliances, Scotland’s release from its union with England will be like the snapping back of a compressed spring. Sure, recovery and readjustment will take time, but ultimately the course of an independent Scotland will profit Scotland, Scottish families and businesses, and Scotland’s friends.
What is most striking about Tom Tugendhat’s tweet is its use of the language of ownership. Deep in the English psyche there abides this strange notion that Scotland, Wales, and six counties of the Irish nation belong to England – that England possesses them and ‘controls’ them. Our nation, like Wales and Ireland, is thought of by the English as the chattel of England – to be used and plundered as England sees fit, for the benefit of England, English families, and England’s foreign policy objectives. Our oil and gas, our tax money, and our human capital are understood by the English as the assets of England. We are not ends in ourselves, we are nothing but means to England’s enrichment and security. Certainly, if the arithmetic of Westminster – England’s parliament – is anything to go by, we are not equal partners in this so-called union of Great Britain qua Greater England.
Why generalise this though, why make this about ‘the English’ when this slip was made by one man right at the top of the Saxon feeding trough? Well, this attitude of national ownership is the only thing in the British economy that trickles down. This imperialism is mother’s milk in how the English think about their country, it’s what they have been taught for generations, and it comes from the same place in the English national psyche that many English attitudes towards Britain’s former subjects come. It is the seat of England’s imperial notions of race and racial hierarchy.
"Don't we control Wales," asks English tourist who had never heard of devolution. https://t.co/E8Aj2d6JVd—
Jason Michael (@Jeggit) May 19, 2020
Take Ben Mitchell, for example. No one knows who Ben Mitchell is – other than his family and friends, naturally. He’s just an English guy who went for a drive into Wales when Boris Johnson lifted travel restrictions in England. As it was still an offence to be aimlessly cutting about Wales during the COVID-19 pandemic, officers from the Dyfed–Powys Police pulled him over and issued him a fine. A news crew from ITV Wales was also on the scene to capture people’s reactions.
Ben was confused as to why he was being stopped, and when the police officer informed him of the reality of Welsh devolution, his question was telling:
But don’t we control Wales as well?
Who’s this ‘we?’ It’s England. And Wales, like Scotland and the occupied counties of Ireland, is the shared property of the English nation – they own it, they control it, at least as far as they have been led to believe. This is the same ‘we’ we see in ‘we won the war’ and ‘we won the `66 World Cup.’ This is the English ‘we,’ the imperial ‘we,’ the ‘we’ that has assumed the ownership of nations, races, and peoples since the mid-eighteenth century. It is a ‘we’ that is so deeply imbedded in how England thinks of itself and sees the world around it that it is almost no longer capable of seeing it, let alone appreciating the effect this has had on Britain’s former and present possessions.
Regardless of this, however, Scotland is not England’s possession. Scotland and the Scottish nation – its culture, identity, and resources – are the shared heritage and possession of the Scots. The incorporating union of 1707 has always been exactly that to Scotland; the fusion of two distinct kingdoms. But, and from the very beginning, in England the union – which was secured with the bribery of Scots nobles and the threat of invasion – has always been understood as the annexation or absorption of Scotland by England. So, when we hear English people opine about Scottish independence – as they believe it is their sovereign right to do – we must never forget that these opinions come from the apex of imperial privilege, from a place of assumed ownership. Scotland is always the object of the English subject in these opinions, and, as their imagined possession, we Scots are things and not free human agents – as people cannot be possessions. Their assumption of ownership objectifies us, as it did the Zulus and the Indians, and dehumanises us. And this is why they can speak of Scottish independence without a care for the Scottish people, because we do not factor into their thinking. Scottish independence remains an English subject and concern because, as England has to see it, our future can only ever be about England.
Who owns Scotland?