Andrew Tickell appears to have embraced the consensus of the cognoscenti which holds that Scotland is about to become an independent nation again not because of our capacity to rise but on account of the Unionists’ propensity for serial cocking-up. Scotland’s independence is on the verge of being restored not due to a surge in awareness of and reaction against the inherent injustice of the Union, but because the Brits have lately made a particular hash of things. We will shortly walk out of the UK not as determined reformers righting a historic wrong but as disgruntled customers fed up with bad service. No triumph for us. Just failure for the British political elite. One and a bit cheers for us!
Some will maintain that it doesn’t matter. That they’ll take independence whatever way it comes. And I’m not about to reject it just because the final act is played with pathos rather than joy. But aren’t nations to some extent at least defined by the mix of history and myth that is the story of their origin? How many nations celebrate the anniversary of their gained or restored independence by giving thanks for the ineptitude of those who had denied them that independence. How many nations memorialise their former colonial masters – cruel or clownish – rather than the heroes of the independence struggle.
What manner of nation will Scotland be if our independence is not something that we have taken but something which has fallen into our lap as the Brits tripped over their own exceptionalism?
How real is this Unionist crumbling in any case? It seems to me that I’ve been reading accounts of the British state’s imminent collapse almost daily for longer than I can pinpoint. It’s always just around the next scandal. Just beyond the next debacle. Immediately following the next fiasco. But never quite happening. The thing about stumbling from crisis to crisis is that if you do it long enough you can get quite good at it. Stumbling becomes your ‘style’. The system and the infrastructure adapt and adjust – placing cushions here; providing crutches there – so that you never quite hit the floor and never suffer any fatal injury.
Things that once would have brought down governments don’t even count as scandals any more. Established power has grown callouses over its weak spots. It is no longer vulnerable to ‘normal’ countervailing power. It is immune to the consequences of its own folly.
What is the process? This is the question. The challenge for those who look at the shambolic state of Borissia and see the cocoon from which will emerge the butterfly of independence is to map the metamorphosis. Describe the process. Identify and then join the points on a journey taking us from where we are to where we wish to be. I see no such process. No such process ‘exists in nature’, so to speak. On the basis of available evidence, if we are waiting for independence to be the only thing left after the British state has crumbled to dust then we could be waiting a very long time. The limits of the British political elite’s capacity to survive its own idiocy have yet to be tested.
It is the nature of the British state that its crumbling does not presage its collapse. Today’s apparently terminal crumbling entails only tomorrow’s apparently terminal crumbling. Always decline. Never demise.
That process has to be made. We have to make it. The British state – at its core and in its conceit of itself an unreformed imperialist power – does not have an off-the-shelf process by which it can be divested of its annexed territories. Why would it? There is no point at which Britannia becomes so weakened as to inadvertently loosen her jealous grasp on Scotland. It won’t just happen. It just won’t happen.
Scotland’s sovereignty is not to be discovered rooting around in the rubble of British imperial pretensions. It is to be found in the hearts and minds of Scotland’s people.
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