Monday 15 April 2013

Reasons for voting YES - 1

Those who follow me on Twitter may be aware of my tweets stating reasons why I will be voting YES in Scotland's independence referendum on 18 September 2014. In this series of short articles I aim to explain and expand upon those short statements. The numbering of the articles should not be taken to suggest any order of preference or importance.

I'll vote YES, not because I am inspired by a great past,
but because I aspire to a better future.

People who campaign for Scotland's independence are often accused of harking back to the past. Accusations that are invariably accompanied by some reference to a certain romantic action adventure movie starring Mel Gibson. There is more than a little irony in the fact that such accusations invariably come from those who constantly make (highly selective) references to the history of the British state in their attempts to present something that might be mistaken for a positive case for the union. But the accusations are, of course, complete nonsense.

This is not to say that history is unimportant. By which I mean actual history and not the pish and piffle served up by Hollywood - however entertaining that pish and piffle may be. A nation is, in part at least, defined by its history. And since the right to self determination rests on Scotland's status as a nation we cannot do other than have some regard for the past events which brought about the existence of this nation called Scotland.

But a nation is not only defined by its history. It is also, and arguably more importantly, defined by its people - their values, their priorities and their aspirations. The nation is only to a very limited extent defined by what we were then. To a much greater extent it is defined by what we are now and what we want to be in the future. As Ernest Renan put it in his 1882 lecture on civic nationalism, What is a Nation?,
The existence of a nation (you will pardon me this metaphor) is a daily referendum, just as the continuing existence of an individual is a perpetual affirmation of life.
What this concept of an ongoing redefining of the nation helps to illustrate is the fact that the nation is not something fixed and immutable as it would be if it was solely or even principally defined by an unchangeable past. The nation is what its people choose it to be. We are not trapped in the present any more that we are stuck in the past. We can choose a different future.

The question then becomes one of how best we may be empowered to shape that future. Those intent on preserving the union would have us believe that we can do so within the context of the UK. But at the very core of the British state lies the concept of parliamentary sovereignty. A concept which is the antithesis of popular sovereignty. Parliamentary sovereignty denies the ultimate authority of the people and puts it instead in the hands of a political clique which needs no mandate from the people of Scotland and only rarely can be claimed to have one.

Only with independence can the people of Scotland fully exercise the sovereignty that is ours by right. Only with independence can we hope to build that future to which we aspire.

Scotland does have a great past. For such a small nation we have contributed much to the world. One can acknowledge this without dwelling on it or presenting it as an argument for any kind of Scottish exceptionalism.  The past is where we have come from. What is important is where we are going.
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  1. Beautifully expressed Peter. :)

  2. An excellent post Peter. A combination of actual political history with current political fact that is forward looking.

  3. Well said, Peter. The history of Scotland`s future is in our hands.