The set-to over Sturgeon and Salmond is not only about Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond, this is a proxy for two very different visions of an independent Scotland. We’re divided down other lines too, wrangling between factions with distinct visions of their own. And this idea of vision is, we can be sure, the key to understanding why we are in this maul. Perhaps without realising it, we have moved to the next stage of the independence campaign; the stage at which we have accepted the defeat of the union and have begun thinking about politics beyond independence.
Frustratingly, the Scottish independence movement has no shortage of crypto-unionists – many of whom are in positions of power and influence in the Scottish National Party and throughout the wider movement. In my previous article we looked at the attitude of Cameron Archibald, James Kelly, and Ross Greer towards Ireland and the Irish struggle for independence. Their assumption is that Ireland’s armed resistance to British occupation and aggression is deviant in nature
Yet, the SNP campaign of 2012-14 was itself the product of change. On the eve of devolution, in the 1997 general election, Salmond’s SNP won a paltry six seats. It made no impact on the major population centres of the central belt, had no appeal to the socialist heart of Scotland, and failed to attract meaningful numbers from the country’s minority populations. At that election the SNP felt the full force of a New Labour landslide that swept across the whole of the United Kingdom and brought us the painful disappointment that was Tony Blair.
Our greatest weakness, it seems, is exposed in the solipsistic nature of class in Scotland and in the independence movement. The professional caste of the independence movement imagines itself as having more in common with the bourgeois sensibilities of the unionist establishment currently occupying the nation’s civil society – its business and banking institutions, professions, and universities – than it does with the organic, working class or grassroots mass movement supporting it...
We left school with this now ingrained assumption: That we were at the bottom of the hierarchy, that by our nature we were inferior, and that we could never escape our predestined and natural place in a world that was owned and managed by our superiors. Looking back, it troubles me the most that this was done to us by our fellow Scots; by men and women who daily made it their business to correct our Scots language – or, as they called it, our ‘bad English’ – and whose greatest ambition was to be thought of as British.
In 1914 they began leaving the slums, taking the King’s shilling, to escape the dirt and the disease, to send some worthless pennies home to feed the wives and children they had left behind in buildings swarming with humanity and rotting with piss, shit, and vomit. You may think I’m being crass, but if we could revisit those dwellings, these rude words would be the least of our worries. The government that sent them to war had caged them like animals in these hell holes to work and to die for the good of the empire and the ruling class.
Modern austerity – entirely designed by the British government – does not have the workhouse, but in many other respects it is the same. Austerity was implemented to exploit the effects of an economic collapse – again, entirely caused by the British state – to make the poorest pay for the excesses of the wealthy, to further reduce the working class, and to hammer a once mighty population into docility and fear. Austerity, like the workhouse in Ireland and the measures of the London government in Scotland during and after the Clearances, typifies the vindictive...
In Britain, the architects of ‘Global Britain’ – the hardline Brexiteers – have envisioned a new future and new direction for the British state post-EU. ‘Empire 2.0’ is a neoliberal project built on a sinister neo-imperialist nostalgia which seeks to restore the former greatness of the United Kingdom. They want to construct an anarcho-capitalist wonderland for the powerful, wealthy, and privileged ruling class – the English Übermensch, veiled by the trappings of classical Britishness; the signs of soft nationalism – the London bus, the red letterbox, and the now ubiquitous Union Jack.