I agree with everything Craig Dalzell says in his interview with The National, with two very important exceptions. The first regards his views on campaigning for a referendum on independence, rather than campaigning for independence itself. The second concerns his insistence that we should be campaigning for independence.
We always had two battles to fight over the past five years. Obviously, we had the fight to restore Scotland’s rightful constitutional status. But before we could hope to properly engage in that battle we had first to affirm, secure and defend our right of self-determination. This was always where our opponents were going to attack. Because the British political elite continues to think as an imperial power.
To preserve the integrity of the homeland, the imperialist mindset is to always fight wars on someone else’s territory. That is why empires expand. Their borders are regarded as their weak points. The point at which the homeland comes into contact with the other and so is at the greatest risk of contamination. The impeccable logic of self-preservation demands that a ‘buffer zone’ be created to protect the sacred homeland. So, new territory is acquired by treaty or conquest or both. Or simply by disregarding the other’s sovereignty and daring them to object. Bullying, in other words.
To the British ruling elites, the Union represents the homeland. They would prefer not to engage in battle on that ground because to lose would be catastrophic. They are especially reluctant as an earlier skirmish which they thought they’d win easily almost cost them dearly. The innate defensiveness of the imperialist mindset means that they will seek to fend off any potential threat to the Union before it reaches their doorstep. Specifically, they will seek to deny and nullify Scotland’s right of self-determination – simultaneously undermining our sovereignty, this being inextricably entwined with the right to choose our constitutional status and form of government.
The mistake – and such it surely was – was to mount a campaign to get something we didn’t have (a referendum) rather than a campaign to protect something that was already ours (the right of self-determination).
For similar reasons, we should not have been campaigning for independence but against the Union. Such a campaign would have dovetailed nicely with the fight to protect our most essential sovereign rights as both the threat to the latter and the injustice of Scotland’s treatment at the hands of the British state both trace back to the same source – the Union.
By engaging in a campaign for independence we made independence the disputed concept which our opponents wanted it to be. Independence is normal. It is the Union which is anomalous. It is the Union which should be the disputed concept.
In every way, the defenders of the Union and established power have chosen the ground on which to engage with Scotland’s independence movement. Most particularly, they lured us into the valley of death for any campaign, economic argumentation. Those who insist we should continue to fight on this ground tend to do so because it is their turf. It’s where they feel comfortable. It’s the only place their weapons work. They are distinctly uncomfortable with the hand-to-hand combat of political campaigning on a constitutional issue.
Craig Dalzell seems like a decent chap. He has interesting things to say about the hypothetical economic policies in a hypothetical independent Scotland. But he is sadly lacking in his appreciation of what it will take to get us there. Any threat to the Union is, for the British political elite and potentially for established power, an existential threat. Their response is to either absorb the source of that threat – Scotland – or to crush it. Their existential threat becomes our existential threat. The battle is a constitutional fight for life. Perhaps, for Scotland at least, a fight to the death.
When asked why we lost the 2014 referendum, the short answer I usually give is that we took a pillow to a sword fight. I read and hear all this urging to continue doing what we’ve always done in the hope of a different – and better – outcome, and I despair. In the 2014 referendum campaign, we took a pillow to a sword fight. In the interim, we have allowed our opponents to rearm with guns. Meanwhile, we look set to go into battle with no more than a laundered, stitched and re-stuffed pillow to flap at the muzzles of British Nationalist artillery.
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