When we take all the present and voting members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together – a total of 110 – we see that they make up but a fraction over 17 per cent of the entire chamber. In the course of any debate it requires only 322 English MPs – that just over 60 per cent of England’s members – to defeat the combined will of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. When the will of Scotland – making up a mere 9 per cent of the Commons – is at odds with 6 out of 10 English voters, as it frequently is, Scotland is subjected to the will of England.
After April 1998, with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and at the height of Tony Blair’s New Labour experiment, a window of opportunity opened for the old imperial flag. With “peace” in Ireland and a refreshing post-Conservative era flourishing over Blair’s New Britain, it was felt that the union jack too could be rebranded and sold at home and abroad as the hallmark of brand UK – a neoliberal whitewashed advertising strategy that has been developed through a number of more recent permutations including “Team GB” and “UK OK.”
Brexit is merely the latest development of this ugly racist British nationalism. In the past two decades ethno-nationalism and racism have played a growing part in British politics, forcing both the Conservatives and Labour to lurch to the nationalist right to win support from an entire section of the British public that has had its mind and soul poisoned by a really horrible and bitter angry nationalism. We might even be correct in seeing in Brexit a completion of what was begun in 1982 with the limiting of British citizenship to those “born here.”
Scottishness is not about the blood in my veins. There is nothing genetic about being Scottish. No matter how soggy the turf, no matter how refreshing the water, or glorious the scenery, there is nothing in Scotland’s fields and brooks that makes us Scots. Scotland is a beautiful relationship; a long and intimate conversation with the people we love most and count as our own. It is a friendship that continues to be new and alive no matter how long the parting or wide the distance between us. My Scotland is home – where I started and where I am going.
States simply do not survive this level of internal division, and – as we can see from the headlines on every newspaper – Britain is no exception. The very forces that held the United Kingdom together in the past; a strong English state, a sense of shared hostility towards everything on the other side of the English Channel, and England’s willingness to exert brute force on its possessions, are now wholly evaporated. The dominant opinion both here and around the world is that England is in a tailspin, the centrifugal force of which is pushing Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales out.
We are in the middle of another phase, it would seem, of British unionisation – cultural colonialism – in Scotland right now, and it is impossible not to notice. What’s more, we all know why this is happening. Independence has refused to go away. Almost weekly there are fresh calls from the unionists in Holyrood and Westminster for the Scottish National Party to take another referendum off the table once and for all. They appear to imagine that it is Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP fuelling the drive to self-determination.
Making this fraudulent argument and propagating it with the help of vast sums of dark money and media and social media manipulation was always about giving life to the real Brexit; a plan for the economic remodelling of the UK the public would never have supported. We do not know the details of this plan, but we know that it is so important to those in the hidden spheres of power in London that it trumps even the personal misgivings of the Prime Minister.
Britishness has no meaning without the arrogance of the presumption to possess which is everywhere Britain’s hallmark and calling card. It is for this reason people of colour – no matter how long their families have been established on these islands – find it impossible to construct a sense of their own British identities, thus compounding the crisis. By its degrees and categories of imperial domination Britain has become both the mother and the father of modern racism.