That England-as-Britain “pays so little attention, has so little interest and care really for Scotland, other than as a useful appendage” was as true in 2014 as it is now. That didn’t deter Professor AC Grayling from participating in the woeful celebrity photo-op that was the ‘let’s stay together’ campaign. England-as-Britain’s disdain for Scotland had been fully in evidence for many centuries before the good professor saw fit to lend his name and his reputation to the saccharine inanity of the ‘love bomb’ letter (see below) which addressed the people of Scotland in such an obscenely condescending manner. That the British state held Scotland in cold, casual contempt was firmly established fact by the time Professor Grayling chose to associate himself with one of the most intellectually barren episodes in the propaganda campaign which comprised the British ruling elite’s illegitimate interference in Scotland’s exercise of our right of self-determination.
Had he given the matter any thought at all, surely Professor Grayling – and maybe even some the air-head TV celebrities he joined with – would have recognised that Scotland’s status as “useful appendage” to England-as-Britain did not begin or first become apparent with Brexit. Perhaps if his concern for Scotland had been more than shallow and expedient he would realised much earlier that this status is the very essence of the Union.
No doubt Professor AC Grayling’s epiphanous conversion to Scotland’s cause will be hailed as a hugely significant development by that part of the Yes movement which sees in the formations of clouds and the dregs of beverages portents confirming their belief that Scotland ‘has never been closer to independence’. Less credulous folk might wonder why it took so long for this respected academic to reach a conclusion that had been so face-slappingly obvious for so long. Those with a tendency to cynicism might see in his change of heart more expediency than is in keeping with a true understanding of Scotland’s predicament and genuine empathy for Scotland’s cause. Those inclined to a scepticism which bids them submit even the most handsome gift horse to rigorous dental scrutiny might ask whether Professor Grayling’s remarks suggest outraged acknowledgment of the unconscionable asymmetry inherent in the Union, or realisation of the potential usefulness of Scotland as an appendage to the Pro Europa campaign to reverse Brexit.
My reading of those remarks is that Professor Grayling supposes the anti-democratic asymmetry of the Union can be corrected by reform of the voting system within the UK as presently constituted. He appears to be persuaded that the gross democratic deficit of the constitutional settlement imposed on Scotland by the Union can be rectified by changing the way the Westminster parliament is elected so as to make it more possible that “English Conservatives” can be relieved of their grip on power. He seems to imagine the problem is not the Union but the manner in which it is administered by those “English Conservatives”. That a bit of tinkering with the Westminster parliamentary arithmetic is all that’s required. This ‘thinking’ is appallingly shallow and quite unworthy of a respected philosopher.
But perhaps Professor Grayling might be forgiven his apparent assumption that the Union has become intolerable to the politically aware and solidly democratic part of Scotland’s populace only since the UK government fell prey to the hard-line British Nationalism increasingly epitomised by the British Tory regime under Boris Johnson. After all, doesn’t the SNP/Scottish Government spend massively more time and effort railing against Boris and the Tories than the Union which gives them such power over Scotland? Doesn’t the larger part of the Yes movement give the impression of an anti-Tory campaign than a campaign to restore Scotland’s independence? Doesn’t all of this legitimise Professor Grayling’s apparent conviction that breaking the power of “English Conservatives” will rectify the constitutional anomaly of the Union?
If addressing Scotland’s constitutional predicament was a significant part of Professor Grayling’s purpose then surely such a great thinker would have come up with a better idea than a corrective for a voting system which regardless of how it is reformed must inevitably result in Scotland only ever getting government by a British party it voted for if that choice gets the agreement of enough voters in England. It seems to me, however, that Professor Grayling’s sole preoccupation is Brexit and reversal thereof. His only interest in Scotland’s voting power is its potential usefulness towards this end.
It is too easy for [English Conservatives] to get power under the current arrangements, they can run everything, they can deny Scotland and Northern Ireland and Wales a bigger voice and more independence.
“More independence”? Really? Isn’t that just devolution? Hasn’t that been tried? Isn’t its inadequacy proved by the fact that the British government is currently engaged in a project to dismantle the devolution settlement; regarding it as a failed experiment? If language is a clue to attitude then what this language indicates is a mindset not significantly different from that of the British Nationalists who dominate England’s politics. It is indicative of that imperialist/colonialist mindset that assumes the ‘natural’ superiority of the British ruling elite which renders the constitutional status of annexed territories subject to British approval. A matter not for the people of those ‘territories’ (nations) alone, but affording the British state influence up to and including a veto over their right of self-determination.
It is not the “English Conservatives” that “deny Scotland and Northern Ireland and Wales a bigger voice and more independence”. It is the entire British establishment. Including anything which might come to replace “English Conservatives” as a consequence of electoral reform. It is not the voting system but the Union which empowers them. It is the fundamental nature of the British state (England-as-Britain) which makes the subordination and marginalisation of Scotland (and other annexed territories) an imperative for the British ruling elite and the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state.
To the British ruling elite Scotland is a “useful appendage” in that we are essential to their conceit of themselves. To Professor Grayling it seems that Scotland is a “useful appendage” to the extent that we might help leverage reversal of Brexit. In both instances Scotland is perceived as a tool serving British interests. That those British interests might occasionally coincide with Scotland’s – as in the case of our relationship with the EU(?) – is entirely incidental. Under the oppression of the Union the interests of the British state are always paramount regardless of any cost to the people of Scotland.
I aspire to better for Scotland than that we should be a pawn in the game of British politics. Until we #DissolveTheUnion that is all Scotland can be.
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