British Nationalism is an anti-democratic ideology. In what George Kerevan has christened the ‘Hunt Doctrine’, Jeremy Hunt expresses the anti-democratic nature of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism more explicitly than most. Or more explicitly than has been common until lately. Because even the most casual observer of Scottish politics cannot fail to have noticed that British Nationalist rhetoric has been ramping up of late. Mere opposition to a new referendum at this time has turned into insistence that the people of should Scotland never be allowed to exercise their democratic right of self determination. Recently, we have witnessed the unedifying spectacle of British Nationalist outrage at the prospect of independence being discussed in a Citizens’ Assembly; surely the epitome of a democratic forum.
Now we have the British Foreign Secretary and prospective British Prime Minister telling us that there is no expression of Scotland’s democratic will sufficient to outweigh the authority of the British government. Elsewhere, I have referred to this as ‘sovereignty of the executive‘; the dangerous idea that legitimate political authority derives, not from the people or even the monarch, but from those who wield power.
In reality, the Hunt Doctrine is no more than a restatement of the Union, which has always served as a constitutional device by which the superiority of England-as-Britain is maintained by denying the people of Scotland full and effective exercise of the sovereignty which is their absolute democratic right. This was particularly evident in the way Scotland’s Remain vote in the EU referendum was summarily and contemptuously dismissed by the British state. And in the way that Scotland’s democratically elected government was prohibited from having any role in Brexit negotiations; while being accused of ‘failing to cooperate’ with those negotiations and even of ‘undermining’ the UK’s position.
But it is important to remember that the way Scotland has been treated in the context of Brexit is exceptional only in the brazenness of the British state’s disdain for Scotland and for democracy. The Union has always been anti-democratic. After all, it predates what we now consider to be democracy. Unionists will claim that the Union has adapted to democracy, citing devolution as the most telling example of how it has changed. But none of the changes implemented over the years has altered the fundamental premise and purpose of the Union – that Scotland’s resources should evermore be at the disposal of England-as-Britain; that the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people should at all times be subordinate to the desires, preferences and ambitions of the British state. Devolution was only permitted on condition that it did not compromise the Union.
Scotland’s cause – the fight to restore constitutional normality – will not progress until there is a general realisation that the problem is, not Brexit or the Tories and certainly not the people of England, but the Union.
That cause cannot progress unless we first assert and defend our right of self-determination. A ‘positive campaign for independence’ simply isn’t enough. The Hunt Doctrine makes it clear that the British political elite will resort to any means in order to preserve their ‘precious’ Union. When Hunt declares that he will never allow a new independence referendum, this is more than just the Jock-bashing which has been such a prominent feature of the Tory leadership contest. Of course, there’s macho posturing involved. But the willy Hunt is waving is the Union. He speaks for British Nationalism.
The people of Scotland must respond appropriately to the Hunt Doctrine and the threat of ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism. And we must do so while our democratic institutions are still intact. Make no mistake! The British state has the power to suspend or even abolish the Scottish Parliament. And they will use that power in defence of their ‘precious’ Union. Democratic principles be damned! They are to be tolerated only so long as they don’t jeopardise the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state.
When you hear Theresa May warn her successor that Scotland’s First Minister cannot be trusted and Jeremy Hunt talking about how the Scottish Government is uncooperative, what you are hearing is the British establishment preparing the grounds for action against the Scottish Parliament. The threat to Scotland’s democracy is real and imminent.
George Kerevan states it well,
Jeremy Hunt’s constitutional innovations represent a declaration of war on Scottish sovereignty and established right to self-determination. Out of such arrogance, revolutions are born.Hunt declared war on our sovereignty … here are ways we could respond
One thing that neither Jeremy Hunt nor any other British Nationalist explains is how they hope to contend with the tide of democratic dissent that will be unleashed should they succeed in their mission to close the democratic route to independence. They genuinely seem to suppose that the independence movement will evaporate at their command. We have to make it abundantly clear that we will not sit idly by while anti-democratic British Nationalists deny our right of self-determination and destroy our democratic institutions. The Yes movement must prepare for a campaign of mass protest and civil disobedience.
The target of this campaign must be the Union. We are no longer campaigning for independence, but against the constitutional anomaly which underpins the anti-democratic British Nationalism expressed in the Hunt Doctrine. We are no longer asking for powers to be handed to us. We are demanding the restoration of powers being withheld from us by the British state.
The people of Scotland are sovereign. But that is nothing more than an empty slogan unless we are prepared to forcefully assert that sovereignty and everything that it implies. We must fight in defence of our democratic right of self-determination.
We must fight in defence of our Parliament and its rightful authority to speak for the people of Scotland.
We must fight in defence of the right to elect our own government and that government’s rightful authority to act for the people of Scotland.
We must fight in defence of a political culture which respects democratic principles rather than trampling them underfoot.
We must fight to end the Union and to thwart the anti-democratic ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist project.
We must offer no violence other than that which may be commensurate with any violence inflicted upon us. Violence is the resort of oppressive, anti-democratic forces. We must fight, not with the weapons of established power, but with the weapons of the people – mass protest, civil disobedience, withdrawal of cooperation and judicious deployment of our economic power.
We must fight to defend all that Scotland is and all that our nation might be.
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