Thursday 17 April 2014

Dear George

George Robertson
George Robertson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 A wee note to Lord George Robertson in response to his piece in Scottish Review.

Calm down, George! Nobody is trying to shout you down. People are criticising your overblown rhetoric. People are mocking your "Prepare To Meet Thy Doom" shtick. But nobody is trying to shout you down. You yourself claim that many have offered support for your "cataclysmic" prognostications. (Although, somewhat conveniently, these supporters and sympathisers decline to come out from under the cloak of anonymity due, we're told, to fear of the bogeyman.) And it is certain that independence campaigners have no desire to silence you. On the contrary, it suits us just fine when some British nationalist  shoots his silly mouth off. It is always helpful to the independence campaign when British politicians demonstrate their complete detachment from the referendum debate and comprehensive failure to grasp the issues.

You complain that Yes supporters have failed to address what you like to think of as your "material point". I'll take a stab at that. Although I expect you'll wish that I hadn't.

Your "material point", as I understand it, is that the restoration of Scotland's rightful constitutional status will have implications beyond Scotland. You appear to flatter yourself with the notion that you are the first to stumble upon this glaringly obvious reality, and seem convinced that others' acceptance of it as something quite unremarkable is somehow an attempt at concealment.

The truth is that anybody who has thought about the issue for more than a few minutes will surely have realised that the constitutional question is very much more than the little bit of nonsense that unionists tried to portray it as in the early days of the referendum campaign. Very much more than the political project of one party. Very much more than one man's "vanity project". It is unionists who have sought to play down the significance of Scotland and its place in the world. It is unionists who continue to sneer at Scotland's "pretensions" to be a nation like any other with its own voice in the world.

It is unionists who have hosed with disdain any talk of Scotland having a role in international affairs outside the UK. It is unionists who have always insisted that the UK is the major player and that it would continue to be so. The argument has always been that Scotland would sacrifice influence because all of that influence belongs to the British state and the British state would keep it all, leaving independent Scotland bereft.

Had you actually been listening to life-long independence campaigners such as myself, George, you would have heard us insist, repeatedly and as forcefully as we might, that changing the British state was one of the more important secondary objectives of independence. Far from denying that Scotland leaving the UK would alter the British state and its standing in the world, we proclaim this as a worthy aim in itself. Not all of us share your absolute conviction that the British state is an unalloyed force for good in the world. Not all of us see challenging the British state as some form of heresy.

This is because not all of us see the instability and insecurity in the world as something we should be seeking to preserve. The British state, as much if not more than any other actor, has created this world of instability and insecurity. Your plea that the British state serves as a stabilising force, dubious at best, has the ring of the arsonist seeking plaudits for trying to control the fire he started.

You refer to various "hotspots" in the world. What you fail to acknowledge is that the tensions involved are invariably the discordant echoes of past imperialism of the sort that the British state pursued with particular ruthlessness, and to which it still has more than a modicum of pretension.

You, George, are anxious to preserve the very global order that is responsible for all the instability and insecurity in the world. Not least, one suspects, because this global order provides you with a role and status that you find very gratifying.

Here's a thing, George! Why should Scotland be diminished in order to preserve what you imagine to be the righteous power of the British state? Why would anybody who truly has Scotland's interests at heart make such an argument?

You demonstrate your ignorance of Scotland's aspirations when you petulantly assert that "nationalists' entire reason for being is to undermine the United Kingdom". I would suggest that this silly statement tells us more about your own attitude than it does about the perspective of those who seek to restore Scotland to the normal constitutional status of a nation. It is a comment which appears to hold up a mirror to the grinding negativity of the anti-independence campaign.

You demonstrate your detachment from Scotland's politics when you claim that the referendum campaign has "moved the political focus away from poverty, education and health". The reality to which you seem totally blind is that political discourse in Scotland has been enlivened and invigorated by the referendum and is now more rich and diverse that it has been in decades. You make an embarrassingly big issue of your "Scottishness", but you show no signs whatever of being in the slightest way connected to Scotland's politics. You clearly know nothing of a political culture in which progressive, radical thinking is part of the normal, everyday language. A political culture which is increasingly distinct from and at odds with the British political culture that you represent and seek to preserve in the face of pressure for change.

And there we have the nub of it, George. What you fear and hate is not the idea of Scotland as an independent nation. It is change itself which holds only terror for you. The prospect of change terrifies you - as it must always terrify the comfortably complacent - because the odds are that change will affect the comfortably complacent adversely. Driven by your base instincts you seek to defend your cosy status quo by projecting all your fears for that condition onto the world at large. When you say that Scotland's independence will have unfortunate consequences for the world, you're really acknowledging your fears for how it will affect you.

Sorry to have to say this, George, but the status and rewards that you enjoy as part of the British establishment are not the overriding concern that you suppose they must be. To be perfectly blunt, I can very easily live with the prospect of you, and others like you, being diminished as an incidental by-product of independence.

I know full well that Scotland leaving the UK will have certain geopolitical implications. Unlike you, however, I do not quake in fear at the thought. Being more concerned with rational analysis of the situation than with feeding the Project Fear propaganda machine, I see absolutely no reason why Scotland restoring its independence should by catastrophic - or "cataclysmic". Frankly, if international relations are as fragile as you suggest, George, then we can only conclude that you and your kind have done a pish-poor job and it's high time things were shaken-up a bit.

Not that I expect there to be much in the way of the global tremors that you have been trying to scare us with. If every diplomat from every nation was as self-absorbed and fearful as yourself, I'd think there might be cause for concern. But they're not. After a Yes vote, hysterical types such as yourself will be side-lined and more sensible heads will prevail. Scotland will change a lot. The world will change a little. And you, George? You will be left behind.
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