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.
I’m not against the SNP. Far from it. I am critical sometimes of the SNP – and so should I be. So too must we all be. Being critical is nothing other than “expressing an analysis of something’s merits and faults,” and like every other political party and human institution the SNP has its merits and faults. I support the SNP because, even after subjecting its merits and faults to rigorous critique in my own mind, on balance, I believe it to be the best option. But, as a free person, I reserve the right to change my mind in the future after further consideration.
With both a pro-independence majority in Edinburgh and an SNP majority in London, we have come to see that British democracy is calibrated in such a way as to stifle the democratic will of Scotland. The same is true for Wales and Northern Ireland. In fact, the constitution of the United Kingdom – while unwritten – makes it impossible for us to assert our will without the fundamentally undemocratic permission of the English state-dominated British government.
As Britain hastily cobbles together a black history of Britain the coming of the Windrush generation is being framed as an invitation. It was nothing of the sort. The British Empire was imploding. In order to offer a lifeline to its predominantly white imperial ruling caste in the colonies it granted citizenship to former subjects, not thinking that the native populations and the decedents of former African slaves would take up the freedom this citizenship offered with such relish.
So long as “our language” – as the BBC in Scotland was once proud to describe it – was seen as a quaint fossil of a defeated nation; a Scotland wholly absorbed into Great Britain qua Greater England, it was ignored or treated with a benign touristic or voyeuristic passing interest. Now that Scotland is well on its way to independence, that patronising benevolence has been replaced by an open hostility fast approaching that displayed by the British nationalists in the north of Ireland towards Gaeilge.
After decades of British government instigated sectarian conflict in the north of Ireland, the British media simply cannot plead ignorance on the subject of flags in the contentious politics of the nations of the United Kingdom. In fact it is safe to say the British establishment media knows better than most the power the deployment of a flags dispute has in the disrupting of otherwise civil political conversations.
By emphasising the dissimilarities between Catalunya and Scotland, those who fixate on this idea of their unrelatability are failing to see altogether what is perhaps the single most important point of connection – the absolute sameness and predictability of the response of power to challenge. Right now Spain is behaving towards Catalunya in a manner which has sent shockwaves around the liberal democratic world. It is doing this because the Catalans have forced it into a position wherein it has no options left in which it can both win and maintain its pretence of enlightened civility.
When British unionists in Scotland talk about “all we have achieved together” they are asking us to ignore the gore on the butcher’s apron.