Sunday, 17 August 2014

It's not complicated

It really isn't. In fact, it's magnificently simple.

I seek for Scotland no more than that status and those powers which other nations assume to be theirs by right.

That's it! That's all this referendum is about. I could say that it's about restoring Scotland's rightful constitutional status. But it's really just about getting back to normal. Independence is normal. It is the default status of nations. The condition to which the people of all nations aspire.

Depending on how you count them, there are approximately 200 independent nations in the world. Most, if not all, of those nations have endured bitter political struggle and even bloody conflict in order to secure or defend their independence. All of the independent nations of the world agree that threatening the independence of another nation is one of the worst crimes that any nation can commit. None of those nations is currently seeking an alternative constitutional arrangement which involves relinquishing their independence.

Is it not strange, therefore, that British nationalists cannot find a single positive thing to say about independence?

Independence is normal. It's the contrivance of inequitable devolution within an asymmetric union which is anomalous. The political union between Scotland and England was never satisfactory. It was contrived in a time long past by powerful elites for purposes that had nothing whatever to do with the good governance of Scotland or the welfare of the people of either Scotland or England.

The inadequacy of this union has been acknowledged in the increasing amount and rate of constitutional tinkering that has been required in order to keep it together. But, like the original union, that constitutional tinkering has never been for the benefit of the people of these islands or for the purpose of improving government and society. Its sole purpose has been the preservation of the structures of power and privilege which define the British state.

Devolution, as it is understood and implemented by the British state, does nothing to address the fundamental flaws in a political union which explicitly denies the sovereignty of the people of Scotland and not only tolerates but actually requires an unacceptable democratic deficit.

I seek for Scotland no more than that status and those powers which other nations assume to be theirs by right.

I have always maintained that it was up to those who defend the political union to convince me that it was worth the sacrifice of Scotland's status as a nation. It is for unionists to persuade me that the constitutional arrangement which they favour has such extraordinary merit as to transcend the essential principle that the people of Scotland are sovereign. It is for them to make the case that the democratic deficit which the political union imposes on Scotland is a price worth paying.

They haven't exactly excelled in their efforts to win me over. Most of what I've heard from the unionist side has been a series of clunky variations on the old theme of "Too wee! Too poor! Too stupid!". Of course, only the more mindlessly rabid British nationalists actually say this outright. The rest consider it politic to put some effort into pretending that they are saying something else. Thus, we are not "Too wee!". We are just not big enough. We need to be an appendage of something bigger because, as everybody knows, bigger is inevitably and invariably better.

Exactly what "better" means in this regard is, like so much else, never explained. We are simply expected to accept that this is the way things are. Bigger is better. No further thinking required.

We are not "Too poor!". Ask the direct question of any politician from the British parties or any spokesperson from the anti-independence campaign and they will be at great pains to state categorically that of course Scotland would be economically viable as an independent nation. They will then go on to tell you that we will not be able to afford welfare or pensions or healthcare or defence or pretty much anything else. But of course we would be economically viable.

They have a strange notion of what constitutes economic viability these British nationalists.

We are not "Too stupid!". Perish the thought! It's just that we need Nanny Britannia's hand to hold onto just in case we do something stupid. (Like allow the banks to crash or get mired in catastrophic foreign military adventures, perhaps?)

I ask unionists to sell the political union to me on its merits, and they insult me.

And when it's not insults, it's threats. In all of the propaganda coming out of Better Together and its highly dubious affiliates (Orange Order, Ukip, BNP, Britain First etc.) there is a constant undercurrent of threatened reprisals should the people of Scotland dare to exercise their democratic right of self-determination in order to normalise Scotland's constitutional status.

There is the threat of low-level economic warfare with the erection of trade barriers and even border posts. Never mind that all of this would surely be illegal under European law, the implied threat is there anyway.

There is the threat of isolation. The insistence that, as an independent nation, Scotland would be cut off from the world and shunned by the international community. Scotland, it seems,  can only have relationships with other nations if these relationships are mediated by the British state. Nobody, we are assured, wants to deal with Scotland directly. Without the British state to speak on our behalf, we will have no voice at all. Never mind that, on many, many issues (e.g. Palestine), Scotland has something quite distinctive to say. That voice must not be heard.

There is the threat to abolish the currency union. Never mind the fact that this is a mutually beneficial arrangement the ending of which would have serious implications for the economy of the rest of the UK, the British nationalists see in the currency union nothing more than a big stick to wave in Scotland's face.

As I write, it seem that the British nationalists are going with the "currency threat" as their main gambit. Yet another committee of British nationalist politicians at Westminster has just issued yet another "report" that consists of nothing more than vacuous anti-independence propaganda. This lot have distinguished themselves only by the ludicrous claim that Scotland could be left with no currency at all and be forced to resort to barter. Some might consider this no bad thing at all, but the claim is, nonetheless, ignorant to the point of being laughable.

Every note issued by the Scottish banks is backed by the equivalent in Bank of England notes held by the Bank of England. The only way that Scottish notes could become worthless is if sterling itself became worthless. Or if the Bank of England reneged on its legal obligation to accept Scottish notes in exchange for Bank of England notes. Is this what is being threatened? What would this do to the Bank of England's credibility?

It's all nonsense, of course. But it is telling that the British state feels it must resort to threats and coercion in order to keep Scotland in the union. It clearly indicates that they have no positive arguments beyond fatuous slogans such as "best of both worlds".

To the extent that a case had to be made for independence rather than the political union, that has been done.

The economic case has been made. Scotland can be more prosperous as an independent nation. In fact, Scotland would inevitably be more prosperous as we shed the financial burden of supporting the British state's profligacy and posturing post-imperialist pretensions.

The social case has been made. Independence offers the opportunity to build a fairer society. A society in which are reflected the values of justice, compassion and egalitarianism which, while by no means unique to Scotland, cannot find effective expression whilst we remain in the suffocating, stultifying embrace of the corrupt and dysfunctional political system of the British state.

The democratic case has been made. We can have governments that we actually elect and which are answerable to the people of Scotland. We can have a written constitution that will be the foundation of a more inclusive and participative politics built on the new engagement and activism that the referendum campaign has inspired.

No alternative case has been made. In fact, it has not even been attempted. Nobody has tried to persuade me that the union is the best option for Scotland. British nationalists have sought to preserve the union, not with reasoned argument, but with scaremongering and bullying. If this is the basis of the political union they want to preserve then I want no part of it.

I seek for Scotland no more than that status and those powers which other nations assume to be theirs by right.

Unionists have had ample opportunity to persuade me to abandon my aspirations for Scotland. Unsurprisingly, given the methods they chose to adopt, they have failed. It's simple. I'll be voting Yes.

This article first appeared in Aye Magazine issue no:17 - August 2014.