Had I the time; were I better at creating graphs; were I not quite so lazy, I might find it entertaining to chart the fluctuating mood, over time, of British Nationalists, as indicated by the public pronouncements of their leaders and/or the shrillness of their ranting on social media. I might choose to chart changes in mood against the size and vigour of the Yes movement. I might find some interesting, and possibly even informative, correlations.
There is no doubting what that mood is now. If one of the axes on our imagined chart represented shrillness, the line would be trending almost vertically and threatening to dissappear into whatever statistical limbo awaits lines which escape the scale. A massed choir of banshees, sirens and harpies could scarce compete in shrillness with a mere duet of angry and embittered BritNats.
But is it possible to discern a message in all this noise? What is it they actually want? What do these British Nationalists expect of those at whom the cacophony of their incessant outrage is directed?
The glib answer, of course, is that they want to preserve the Union at any cost. They regard as sacrosanct the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state. It is no exaggeration to say that British Nationalists regard Scotland’s cause as heresy. And we’re not only talking here about the extreme fringes of British Nationalism. This reverence for the Union is a defining characteristic of British Nationalist ideology. Anyone who lacks the requisite ardour is a mere Unionist and not a committed believer in the myth of ‘Great Britain’, not as the largest island in a North Atlantic archipelago, but as a divinely-ordained golden realm populated by a chosen people who embody every enviable trait to be found in a species better known for its flaws, failings and folly.
The difference between a Unionist and a British Nationalist is that, while the former has yet to question the Union, the latter insists that the Union must never be questioned.
Which – at least until the next digression – brings us back to the point and our question about what British Nationalists expect of the independence movement. It’s all very well to know that their ultimate aim is to lock Scotland irrevocably into a polical union with ‘England-as-Britain’ on terms which accord with British Nationalist ideology. But what do they want the rest of of us to do? What do they imagine is going to happen to Scotland’s independence movement should these British Nationalists achieve their goal?
As an aside (See what I meant about digression?), we might do well to note the similarities between what we shall call the ‘Union Project’ and the now all too painfully familiar ‘Brexit Project’. In neither case are the fanatics leading these projects able to provide the three things which must be regarded as essential for any project which seeks to institute dramatic change.
- A sufficient reason
- A viable plan
- A credible alternative
Firstly, we must be clear that the Union Project is every bit as much about change as the Brexit Project. The Union itself is a departure from normality. It is constitutionally anomalous. It changes Scotland’s status from what it would be absent corrupt political interference. In that sense alone, the Union Project is a project for change such as should be required to satisfy those three essentials.
But the Union Project is a project for change in an arguably more significant, and certainly more contemporary sense. Because British Nationalists today want to roll back even the relatively minor concessions to Scotland (and democracy) that have been squeezed out of jealous Britannia over recent decades – principally, devolution. The Union Project has evolved out of the ‘Great Britain Project’ which, in turn, was the successor to the ‘Greater England Project’ after this failed to eradicate – or even sufficiently suppress – Scotland’s identity as a nation. The Union Project is a reversion to the Greater England Project/Great Britain Project but with a much harder edge
Given that the Union Project demands change, what is the sufficient reason? Why should Scotland accept a ludicrously archaic, grotesquely asymmetric and jarringly anomalous political union? Why should we accept being bound to a Union which is.in essence, a constitutional device which denies the people of Scotland the full and effective exercise of the sovereignty which is theirs by right?
Why should we embrace a Union which guarantees that the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people will always be subordinate to the whims of an English electorate whose needs, priorities and aspirations are so obviously and dramatically different?
What is the sufficient reason for accepting that the democratic will of Scotland’s people shall be treated by the British political elite with the same sneering contempt that they exhibit towards Scotland’s democratic institutions?
British Nationalists have never provided Scotland with a sufficient reason for the Union Project. But, to be fair, Scotland has not really pursued them for one until recently.
Nor do British Nationalists have a viablde plan for instituting the ‘One Nation’ Britain that is their ambition. They don’t explain how they hope to succeed in suppressing or eradicating Scotland’s national identity where earlier projects have failed. They don’t explain the process by which they intend to disable or dismantle Scotland’s democratic institutions. They don’t tell us how they plan to overcome democratic dissent. They don’t have a viable plan any more than the Mad Brexiteers did.
What about a credible alternative? We gather from their rhetoric what the British Nationalist alternative is to the normality of independence. We know what they hope to impose on Scotland instead of our normal constitutional status. But is their alternative to independence credible? Can it be sustained? Can Scotland actually become part of a ‘One Nation’ British state? Is it credible that this might ever be regarded in Scotland as the norm; as the best that we can expect; as the most we might ever hope for?
Imagine how different things might be now if those campaigning to take the UK out of the EU had been required to provided a sufficient reason; a viable plan; and a credible alternative. Does it not make sense that we should demand these from the British Nationalists who want to permanently bind Scotland to the sort of political system in which Brexit could happen? Wouldn’t we be mad not to demand answers from those driving the Union project?
Wouldn’t it be a dereliction of our duty to future generations if we failed to force answers and explanations out of British Nationalists?
Are British Nationalist in any mood to provide these answers and explanations? It would seem that they are not. We can informally trace the mood of British Nationalists from the point at which British Nationalism really started to diverge from Unionism and become a more significant, even if not a larger, force in the constitutional ‘debate’.
Before the era of devolution, British Nationalism couldn’t really be regarded as a political ideology at all. It manifested principally as football hooliganism. But the spores of political British Nationalism were there. Those spores grew in the fetid sludge of English right-wing politics and the always demented anti-EU frenzy fronted by elements of the British media. Again,.mainly in England.
Prior to the campaign for devolution, British Nationalists pretty much ignored Scotland. They became more visible, and audible, once the Scottish Parliament was reconvened; mainly because they then had a target. It’s around this time that we see the ‘subsidy junky’ myth changing from being a mere taunt to being a political slogan.
But it was the electoral success of the SNP and the first independence referendum campaign that really brought British Nationalists out of the cracks and crevices in the edifice of the British state. During the course of the 2014 campaign there was a strong correlation between growing support for Yes and the mood of British Nationalists changing from scorn to surprise, to alarm, to anger.
That anger has never gone away. Despite the fact that No won, British Nationalist anger has continued to seeth and fester. It continues to seeth and fester to this day. It has grown in indignant outrage – but not in coherence or intelligibility – as the Yes movement has matured. They are coming to the boil.
A rough timeline of the British Nationalist mood starting from the mid to late 1970s would go from opposition to devolution through opposition to further devolution to opposition to a referendum to opposition to Yes to opposition to a new referendum. They went from insisting that Scotland must never be a normal nation to insisting that Scotland should not be allowed to exercise its right of self-determination to where we are now – which is British Nationalists insisting that we shouldn’t even talk about either a new referendum or independence.
If you thought that BritNats had reached peak shrill with their anti-democratic denunciations of a referendum, you’ll have had an unpleasant surprise hearing their screeching reaction to Citizens’ Assemblies discussing constitutional matters. Tops have been blown. Blood vessels have ruptured. Toys have been cast from prams at something approaching escape velocity. Dummies have been spat like bullets and footsies have been stamped to the endangerment of bottom lips so petulantly pouty as to lie in moist folds upon the floor.
Safe to say, they’re not pleased by the idea of the plebeian citizenry discussing the dominant political issue of our time. They are not happy about it being an issue at all. They are decidedly displeased that Scotland’s constitutional status is still a matter of debate and they are damned well not going to be part of that debate. They shall, instead, stand outside throwing stones. For the moment, they are content with stones. One dares to wonder how long that will remain so.
It seems that British Nationalists – and Unionists – genuinely thought the constitutional issue would go away after the 2014 referendum. They are massively indignant that it did not. They continue to demand that it cease to be an issue. They now seem to want us all to stop talking about it altogether,
Think about that for a moment. This is an issue that is of at least some concern to at least half of Scotland’s people. At least half the electorate want a new referendum sooner rather than later, with an even larger proportion wanting one later rather than sooner and a few more resigned to the fact that there will have to be another referendum. But British Nationalists insist that this is not, and must not be, a live issue.
At least half the electorate want Scotland’s independence to be restored with an even larger proportion wanting some kind of constitutional reform. British Nationalists’ response is that we should all just shut up about it and content ourselves with what we have. And, to make it worse, they won’t even tell us why we should do this, other than that it’s what they want.
What is wrong with these people? What kind of dumb, perverted, fanatical arrogance does it take for this relatively tiny minority to so contemptuously dismiss half of Scotland’s people?
Perhaps we should ask them?
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