With all due respect to Michael Heaney, he is talking a load of pish. He may be an expert on protest movements but he clearly lacks any understanding of Scotland’s independence movement. Or of Scotland’s present predicament. Which is odd. Because he seems to have a good enough grasp of the fundamental issue of a grotesquely asymmetric political union. He just doesn’t seem to understand the dynamic of the power relationships involved. He doesn’t get the politics.
The following seems to sum up Mr Heaney’s argument,
The Scottish independence movement does these big beautiful demonstrations and it is really gorgeous to see a mile or more of people marching in the streets of Edinburgh with blue flags. OK, great, but who is it trying to pressure, who is the decision-maker here? The absolute key is increasing the political cost faced by Boris Johnson and the Conservative Government in Westminster.
What this fails to acknowledge is that there is no political cost to any British Prime Minister in opposing the ‘separatists’. There is no way that cost could ever even approach the political cost of putting the Union in jeopardy. No march by independence supporters in London, however big an event, could possibly have the effect that Mr Heaney supposes. In fact, the bigger the march the more it would play into Boris Johnson’s portrayal of himself as the defender of the Union. Demonstrating massive support for a new referendum and/or independence just means the threat to the Union is greater and that there is need of even more effort to protect and preserve the Union.
Supposing such a march were ever to be permitted, and supposing the logistics could be managed so as to get 100,000 people to London, the immediate reaction of the British political elite would be to send in the riot police. Lots of them. Going in hard.
The people who elect Boris Johnson and his ilk aren’t going to be appalled by the sight of Met clubs cracking Jock skulls. They are going to cheer and demand ever harsher action to put down this violent uprising coming to the streets of England’s capital city. The British media will do what it does best – whip up mindless hatred against the out-group of the day. Commentators and British politicians will vie with one another in a contest to see who can demand the most draconian measures such that Boris Johnson will be regarded as weak if he proposes to do no more than outlaw the SNP, shut down the Scottish Parliament and impose direct rule through the ‘UK Government in Scotland.
Michael Heaney doesn’t seem to comprehend just how essential the Union is to the very idea of ‘Britain’. He doesn’t appreciate the extent to which the Union underpins the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state. He fails to realise that the British establishment cannot contemplate the restoration of Scotland’s independence as anything other than an existential threat. There simply is no political cost-benefit calculation in which acceding to Scotland’s demands outweighs the imperative to preserve the Union.
Demonstrations demanding that the British government ‘allow’ the exercise of Scotland’s right of self-determination are massively counter-productive because they acknowledge the very authority which must be rejected if Scotland’s right of self-determination is to be exercised in a free and fair manner. Boris Johnson is not the decision-maker in the matter of how democracy proceeds in Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon is!
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