Sectarianism is a reflection of the historical, social, and political tensions of Scotland, dating back – of course – to the Reformation. Even then however, from the mid-sixteenth century, the struggle between Catholicism and the various Protestantisms of the Reformation period was always, in essence – as it was in England and on the continent, a power struggle. With the Peace of Westphalia – ending the Wars of Religion in 1648 – where states recognised the principle of cuius regio eius religio, which granted the monarch the right to determine the religion of the state.
In may respects, Brexit and all the turmoil and chaos that has brought Britain to this point has brought us full circle, right back to the revolutionary potential of the late 20s and 30s. The political left has disengaged from the politics of the street and the centre has completely come apart. The only real political strength in England today is the right and the racist far-right. Given this, the yellow vests movement – with its overt “neon-Nazi” leanings – should be a cause for serious concern.
Scotland has not quite learned this yet. Of course, there are many of us in the Scottish independence movement who are well aware of the lies, the deceptions, and manipulations of England, but still the Scottish government, the SNP, and various other well-meaning independentistas are operating like innocents – believing, in spite of the now overwhelming evidence, that British politicians can be trusted, that the BBC will provide a fair and balanced platform, and that in the end Britain will honour the democratic decisions of the Scottish people.
How does a community function when it is ghettoised and bricked off? It doesn’t. The limited supply of essentials means that prices will rise, black markets will sprout out of the woodwork, and the normal operation of society rapidly deteriorates. The British government has already drawn up plans for emergency policing and the use of the armed forces to distribute food. The army doesn’t come on to the street to manage soup kitchens and hand out tins of Spam. The army hits the street to maintain or re-establish order, and this is exactly why the army will be manning the breadlines.
As David Cameron stood in Westminster pretending to apologise for the actions of British soldiers in Derry in 1972 he kept his lips tightly sealed about Ballymurphy. Few, even in Ireland, outside the Republican movement have ever heard of what happened from 9-11 August 1971 in the Belfast housing estate of Ballymurphy. I’ve been to Ballymurphy. My friend, Fr. Paddy McCafferty, is the parish priest at Corpus Christi parish on the estate, and I had never heard of what the British Army did there. The Channel 4 documentary the other night was an eye-opener.
Britain is not a nation. It is a vicious imperial political construct that has been imposed upon us, but it has power over us only for as long as we accept that it has a valid claim on us. We of course have to accommodate ourselves to some extent to this imposition by having a foreign royal and imperial insignia on our passports, by being UK citizens, and such like – we can’t function in the world without these things – but nothing of this means even in the slightest that we are British.
Every confidence trick has its mark, and every mark has to be reeled in with a story – this is the prose or the narrative of union. Over time the prose of the union has changed but the purpose has always been the same, to keep us in the game. It was once about benefiting from England’s other colonies. Yes, we benefitted alright. We got progress: The Clearances, emigration, industrialised poverty, a metropolis in London that soaked up our best and brightest. If being bled dry was our objective, we did alright out of the union.
Britain can’t die like this! For all we – Scottish independentistas – may dislike being “British,” with that identity stamped all over our passports – quite literally for the whole world to see, Britain has been, for the most part, a worthy adversary. Sure, if this is how it ends I’ll take it, but I think it deserves better. The romantic in me wants to defeat Britain in a final bloodless Bannockburn, where we get to see the last heroic charge of the redcoats mown down under the mighty artillery of Scotland’s democratic spirit. We know how much the Brits love their glorious failures.