The disintegrating Union

Delyth Jewell may be overstating things somewhat when he describes Mark Drakeford’s statement as marking a “monumental day in the history of the Welsh nation“. First Minister Drakeford has done no more than state the obvious when he says,

If you believe the UK is a voluntary association of four nations you have to face the possibility that some component parts of the UK may no longer choose to be part of it.

The problem lies in that opening conditional phrase. If British Nationalists believed that the UK was a “voluntary association” they wouldn’t be British Nationalists. They are British Nationalists because they maintain that, even if the UK ever was a voluntary association, it is not that now. British Nationalist ideology holds that the three smaller nations are subsumed into ‘One Nation’.

In dealing with these issues I tend to refer specifically Scotland. Not because I regard Scotland as more important, but simply because the historical backgrounds are different in each case and it would be impossible to deal with all adequately in a short article.

The Union between Scotland and England was always the Greater England project. The intention and purpose of the Union was, from its inception, to suppress and eventually eradicate Scottish identity and replace it with English identity. That project failed. Scottish identity proved too stubborn. So the focus moved to creating a new common identity for England and Scotland. We would all be British. The Greater England project became the Great Britain project.

But Britain, Great or otherwise, was never a nation. It was an invention contrived by – or on behalf of – the political, economic and social elites which combine as established power. It was, and remains, a system designed for the preservation and continuation of established power. Britain is not a nation. It is a ‘brand name’ applied to the structures of power, privilege and patronage which serve the few at whatever cost to the many.

British interests were, in the early days of the Great Britain project just as throughout the Greater England project, England’s interests. To a considerable extent, they still are. But only because and to the extent that England’s interests coincide with those of the British ruling elites. The Union, like the British state that it created, does not necessarily serve the interests of the people of England. Scotland’s interests are not now, nor were they ever, a consideration.

The aim of Union was to take Scotland out of the equation – economically, politically, constitutionally and culturally. Scotland was to be extinguished in order that established power might better prevail.

The Great Britain project was rather more successful than the Greater England project. The manufactured British identity took hold aided by the rewards of imperialist expansion, rousing military jingoism and tantalising aristocratic pomp. The seeds of the ‘One Nation’ cult were sown.

But, successful as the Great Britain project had been, Scottish identity was not eradicated. The idea of Scotland as a nation persisted. As the status of the British state declined along with the profits of colonial exploitation, the fragile cohesiveness based on notions of British exceptionalism diminished. Scotland began to tentatively reassert its identity. The British state resorted to trying to buy us off with trinkets such as the Scottish Office and devolution. But to no avail.

And so we come to the present day. Scotland has found its voice and that voice is challenging the established power of the British state as never before. All efforts at eradicating Scotland’s identity having failed, the British political elite is now resorting to a crude and increasingly aggressive form of anti-democratic ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism which threatens to do by political coercion what could not be achieved by political cunning. We are now being told that Scotland will be subsumed into an increasingly alien British state regardless of the wishes of Scotland’s people.

The Union was always doomed to fail. The asymmetry of power and denial of Scottish popular sovereignty could not possibly survive alongside the kind of political engagement and democratic participation which has developed in Scotland over recent years. One would have to give way to the other. The British political elite is determined that preservation of the Union must take precedence over respect for democratic principles.

For Scotland, the choice is clear. Either we #DissolveTheUnion, or the Union destroys our democracy. For the other “component parts of the UK” – including England – the choice is similar. Either they insist that the UK is a “voluntary association” which they can choose not to be part of, or the British political elite will ensure that it is an involuntary one which they may never leave; and in which their interests will be all the more readily subordinated by the new constitutional status imposed on them.

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4 thoughts on “The disintegrating Union

  1. “We are the Borg. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.”


  2. The bottom line here is a naked power relation based not on principle or any other kind of abstract ideal, but on force, the violence of which is exerted at many levels; from centuries long psychological terrorism, sectarian division, deference to the Laird and so forth, to actual exclusions, prejudices and the continuing economic theft and muscle flexing of Westminster. This is as asymmetrical a relation as anywhere to be found.

    We have to continue to play the game of nice though because we feel that we must act according to principle and conduct ourselves with integrity and compassion towards others. And yet we know that the Britnats are playing a very nasty game indeed, goading us with their fascism, deploying the powers at their disposal to trip us up at every opportunity or to ensure we continue to be divided against each other, bribing us with positions in their establishment. The bitterest asymmetry here is that we have nothing more at our disposal than principle, our determination and the mass of our people. In a square go, they would knock lumps out of us.

    This has been the way of things for 900 years or more; as a result of the Norman conquest and the introduction of feudal law, the lands of Scotland, attached as they are to the lands of England, are attached to the English Crown. (The same principle employed when those Europeans who set foot first on the east coast of America claimed for the Crown all lands that extended from here until there was again ocean.) Scotland has enjoyed periods of independence of this dominance only when the English Crown was otherwise occupied and could not properly enforce its claim. This is what makes me believe that we are heading now for independence, for it is the English/British part of this benighted kingdom that is in crisis right now.

    The solution is very easy; dissolve the Union while retaining EU membership and building a grown up nation. But given that the bottom line here is an asymmetrical power relation, under which there broils many centuries of pent up fury and memory of actual atrocity, and the same period of entitlement, are we ready now to encounter the moment when our civil disobedience becomes their insurrection? For how long can we expect our principles to overcome their power?

    These are questions I struggle with. Just putting them out there. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. They say it’s 300 years old!

    The truth is that Scots spent the first 100 years in abject poverty, and fighting to dissolve the union. Then came the Napoleonic wars and the invention of Britishness, the thin red line of Scots in kilts getting slaughtered for mother England.

    Between 1810 and the late 1940s, Scotland’s identity was subdued, and we became North Britons. Then gradually in the 1950’s Scotland woke from it’s slumber and realised that they still were Scots ,even if held captive under England’s identity.

    From the late 60’s onwards Scotland’s identity has replaced the invented British identity. Most Scots now see themselves as very much Scottish and not British.

    So only for a brief period in Scotland’s 1000 year history has it’s identity been British. Maybe as few as 100 years out of a 1000. Certainly I never grew up knowing any British identity in my household. I was a child of the 70’s and a teenager in the 80’s. My ancestry is mostly Irish and some Scottish, but no British or English. I am a Celt. Anglo Saxon identity plays no part in my life. I find it culturally and emotionally alien.

    The fake Britannia is dead ,long live Ecosse.

    Liked by 1 person

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