For more than three hundred years Scotland has been poisoned by a toxic political union. On Saturday 21 November at midday I’ll be live on Facebook from the Scottish Independence Movement National Cavalcade talking about the dire effects on Scotland of This Poisonous Union.
A full transcript will be published here following the broadcast.
Check text against delivery.
This Poisonous Union
It’s likely that everybody watching this is already a Yes activist or supporter of Scotland’s independence movement.
I’d like to think there might be one or two genuinely undecided people looking in and maybe even the odd open-minded Unionist. But I’m realistic enough to know that’s unlikely.
I will be told that I’m preaching to the choir. That I’m shouting into the echo-chamber of independence supporters’ social media. I’ll be told I’m wasting my time.
But there’s nothing wrong with us talking to each other. There’s nothing wrong with us exchanging ideas. An exercise such as this is not a wasted effort if by prompting people to think a little differently about the constitutional issue it helps to make better campaigners and a more effective campaign.
You probably all think of yourselves as independence campaigners. Or at least independence supporters. I don’t intend to talk about independence. I don’t want to talk about independence. I especially don’t want to talk about some vision of what independent Scotland will be like – mine or anybody else’s.
Being independent won’t be any more problematic for Scotland than it is for the other 200 or so independent nations in the world. I am perfectly relaxed about Scotland being an independent nation once again.
Becoming independent is our immediate concern. Restoring Scotland’s independence is important enough and urgent enough to demand all of our attention; all of our resources; all of our effort. The best efforts of all of us!
Becoming independent is proving particularly problematic for Scotland. Not due to any defect or deficiency in the nation or its people. Independence is normal. Scotland is normal in every regard bar one. And it is that one exception that I want to talk about today – the Union.
I hope to persuade you to think of yourselves less as campaigners for independence and more as activists in a democratic fight against the Union.
I want us to approach the constitutional issue with a fresh mindset. A mindset still founded on the aspiration to restore our nation’s independence. But a mindset which augments the hopefulness of that aspiration with anger at the gross injustice of the Union.
The Union is a grotesque constitutional anomaly. It is not normal. It is a gruesome distortion of normality. It is an artifice intended to prevent Scotland functioning as a normal nation. As such, it intrudes into every aspect of life in Scotland. It touches and taints everything with its poison.
The Union is wrong. It is an injustice visited on everyone one of us every day of our lives. This Union is toxic. This Union is poisonous.
From Roman times until well into the 20th century water was piped into people’s homes through plumbing made of lead. Lead is poisonous. It leaches into the water that people then drink making them ill. Killing them slowly and horribly.
Having water piped into your home is a great convenience. But is it worth the harm caused by pipes made of toxic material? I’m guessing most of you will reckon it isn’t.
Eventually, enough people reckoned the harm caused by lead water pipes was unacceptable and they were phased out in favour of less toxic materials. Phased out. Not ripped out. Not immediately and completely replaced.
Lead water pipes were still in use decades after their harmful effects were known. Why?
There are probably lots of complicated explanations for lead water pipes continuing in use even when it was known that they were making people seriously ill. But two words suffice as a simple explanation.
Ignorance and avarice.
Most people weren’t aware that they were being poisoned by the water so conveniently piped to their doors or into their homes. They didn’t know partly because they were uneducated and didn’t have access to information the way we do today; partly because the information was kept from them by vested interests; partly because they had no use for the knowledge.
They had no use for the knowledge because they had no power to do anything with it. They had more pressing concerns. When hunger threatens then the long-term effects of lead in drinking water, however dire, cannot be a preoccupation.
Ignorance may not be bliss. But it can sometimes be the only comfort available.
Avarice is the other explanation of why people continued to be poisoned by lead water pipes long after the effects were known to science – and to the authorities. The well-being and lives of people had to be balanced against the imperatives of acquisitive capitalism. As we know, it takes a lot of suffering and a great many lives to tip those scales.
If you were a property-owner then replacing the plumbing in all your properties was going to be expensive. If you were a manufacturer of lead piping the switch to another material might also be quite costly for your business.
If you were a politician then there were ways you could be persuaded that there were more pressing calls on your authority and the finances you control. Ways you could be persuaded that what might appear to the ill-informed to be personal greed was actually service to the community.
People continued to ‘enjoy the convenience’ of water brought to them in pipes made of poison because the many were ignorant and ripe for exploitation and the few were greedy enough to rationalise poisoning people as ‘just business’. Was it not ever thus?
What does this have to do with the constitutional issue and Scotland present dire predicament?
Well, I think the story of poisonous lead water pipes is quite a good analogy for the Union. Even if the Union is as ‘convenient’ as some claim, it is nonetheless toxic. Whatever benefits or dividends might be claimed for the Union, it is still poisoning Scotland.
And who are the people making these claims about the supposed benefits of the Union? Are they not all but exclusively analogous to the vested interests which knowingly let people go on being poisoned by lead water pipes?
If people are ignorant of the toxicity of the Union; if they are unaware of how it poisons our nation and our communities and our institutions and our lives, should they not be told?
We have had a campaign for independence. We continue to have a campaign for independence. What we now need is a campaign against the Union. A campaign to inform people about the true toxic nature of the Union. A campaign to make people aware of the self-serving dishonesty of those who would persuade them that the Union does no harm or that the ‘convenience’ of the Union outweighs any harm that it does.
I don’t have time to give a comprehensive account of the ways in which the Union harms Scotland. My hope is that you will be prompted by what I say to think of your own examples. Once you start thinking of the Union as poisonous then you start to see the effects of that poison everywhere.
You will see how the Union poisons Scotland’s economy. If the Union benefited Scotland’s economy then surely the Union’s defenders and apologists would be shouting it from the rooftops. Surely they’d be falling over one another to present irrefutable evidence of the Union’s economic benefits.
Instead, they stopped producing an accurate account of Scotland’s economy over a century ago, eventually to replace it with the ludicrously contrived GERS whose architects admit its purpose as anti-Scottish propaganda.
Let’s consider GERS for a moment before we leave matters economic to concentrate on the constitutional issue.
Either GERS is an accurate account of the state of Scotland’s economy – in which case it ‘proves’ only that three centuries of the Union has made of Scotland the economic basket-case Unionists are at pains to portray even as they insist that the Union benefits us.
Or GERS is a deceit – in which case our supposed partners in the Union are lying to us.
Whichever way you look at it the Union has been and remains economically poisonous. Unionists have tried to make an economic case against independence and failed.
We don’t need an ‘economic case for independence’ because there is no case to answer. What those who dabble in the dismal science should be doing is building an economic case against the Union.
A constitutional question cannot be answered with a calculator. But if people want to talk economics then let’s present them with a dossier of damage done to Scotland’s economy by this poisonous Union.
As I said earlier, I am perfectly relaxed about Scotland being an independent nation once again. Which is not to say I imagine everything will be sunshine and lollipops. Why would I? I want Scotland to be a normal nation. Normal nations don’t get endless sunshine and an infinite supply of lollipops. Why would anyone expect that Scotland might?
Restoring Scotland’s independence will not cure the problems we have as a nation. Neither will it prevent us encountering problems. But the problems we encounter will be those such as are encountered and dealt with by all nations. There is absolutely no reason to suppose that Scotland is less capable of dealing with those problems than other independent nations.
What restoring Scotland’s independence does is remove the poison which renders us unable to address those problems effectively. Rather than talking about what we can do with independence, we need to talk more about the ways we are prevented from dealing with our problems by this poisonous Union.
What we can do with independence is largely a matter for future generations. The immediate concern – our concern – is what this poisonous Union is doing to us that makes us so weak.
People need to know that their nation is being poisoned. People need to be aware that the weakness is not inherent. They need to be advised that the weakness is the effect of poisoning.
They need to realise that one of the effects of this toxic Union is that the poison makes them believe the weakness is theirs. Only once they realise this can they start to see the need to purge Scotland of this poisonous Union.
From my perspective it is the toxic effect of this poisonous Union on people that really matters. If the people are healthy, the nation is healthy. By the same token, if the nation is being poisoned then so are the people. And, being poisoned, they are in no condition to make the nation healthy.
It’s a vicious cycle. One that has been eating away at the fabric and the spirit of Scotland for centuries. If we are to have any hope of repairing the fabric we must first restore the spirit.
Inspiration can be an effective restorative. Many people have been inspired to join Scotland’s cause. They have regained something of their spirit.
But inspiration does not always work. Not everybody is amenable to being inspired. Even those who are inspired may not be sufficiently inspired. Inspiration may not be enough to counter the effects of this poisonous Union. Something more is required.
Anger is an excellent restorative of the spirit. Not rage. Cold, reasoned anger that is directed at the appropriate target. People should be angry about this poisonous Union. They are entitled to be angry. Righteous, rightful anger must be expressed or it turns inwards and becomes corrosive, ineffectual bitterness.
People have been deprived of their anger. They have been denied their anger. The independence campaign has been undermined by the insidious idea that people are not entitled to be angry. The notion has been inculcated that it is the anger that is unhealthy; which leaves the cause of the anger to do its damage.
Let’s give people back their anger. Not to inflame their passions but to restore their spirit. The spirit to throw off this poisonous Union.
The Union is toxic. It is poisonous. The poison insinuates into our institutions, our politics, our culture, our very identity as a nation.
This poisonous Union weakens us. It debilitates. It saps our resources and our spirit. It stultifies and suffocates. It makes Scotland less than normal.
This Union is a blight on our nation. It makes Scotland so much less than it might be. It makes Scotland’s people less than we might be.
The Union was born in perfidy. It is a product of bribery, bullying and betrayal. It’s birth was attended by grasping avarice and vaunting ambition. It is the ugly offspring of a mighty power struggle between two nations – the origins of which are lost in the mists of ancient history.
Three hundred and some years ago the Union was seen by the ruling elites of England – and to an extent Scotland – as a way of permanently settling this power struggle. The Union was devised as the final solution to ‘The Scottish Problem’.
The Union resolved the unstable power relationship between the two countries by the simple expedient of affording England a massive and permanent advantage in all its dealings with Scotland. It did this by weakening Scotland relative to England.
The Union was made to poison Scotland.
The Union continues to poison Scotland. Why should we not be angry about this?
In recent years Scotland has begun to fight the poisonous effects of the Union. Too many people remain unaware of the poison for this fight to succeed. Only when they are aware and angry will the wave of democratic dissent risen in Scotland grow strong enough to flush the poison from our nation.
The response of the British state will be to inject more poison. They are doing it now. In countless ways some obvious and obviously serious some less obvious and seemingly trivial, those who regard this poisonous Union as ‘precious’ are redoubling their efforts to undermine anything which might give effect to democratic dissent. Anything which might give a voice to anger. Anything that might empower Scotland’s people. Anything that might be or become an antidote to the poison.
They regard this poisonous Union as ‘precious’ because it underpins the structures of power, privilege and patronage which advantage the few by disadvantaging the many.
They will not stop until they have restored this poisonous Union to what it was originally intended to be – a means of keeping Scotland at a permanent disadvantage.
Let us be under no illusion. This poisonous Union represent a real and imminent threat to Scotland’s democracy. The purpose of this poisonous Union is to render Scotland incapable of developing a political culture informed by the needs, priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people. A political culture that contrasts starkly with that developing in England-as-Britain and characterised by the Boris Johnson regime.
If allowed to do its malign work, the poison of this Union will eradicate Scotland’s distinctiveness; dismantle our democratic institutions; dilute our national identity; cripple our economy and weaken us so much as a nation as to be unable to resist the imposition not only of policies that are inimical to us but an entire political culture that is alien to us.
People need to know that this Union is poisonous. It is our responsibility to tell them. It is our responsibility as democrats and citizens of Scotland to fight the poison of this Union. To do that effectively, we must unite. We must speak with one voice. We must be the means by which to realise the potential power of the Yes movement.
Only that power can save Scotland from this poisonous Union.