Our own worst enemy?

That the Union has always been a bad deal for Scotland is not in doubt. Even in those periods of history in which a case can be made for saying Scotland has benefited from being in this purposefully grossly asymmetric political union – such as the age of the British Empire – any claimed benefits have always been incidental to the interests of England-as-Britain being served first and best. Invariably, those alleged benefits have been obtained at a cost disproportionately borne by Scotland. The dubious blessing of industrialisation, for example, must be balanced against the massive and ongoing impact of rapid and reckless de-industrialisation. There is always, too, the relatively heavier cost in blood paid by Scotland while expanding and defending the British Empire.

No doubt the above will be dismissed as an overly simplistic and superficial analysis of more than three centuries of history. I would not disagree. But it is no more simplistic and superficial than the interpretation of that history as an unalloyed boon for Scotland customarily offered by apologists for a constitutional arrangement which, however the balance sheet of benefits may be drawn up, undeniably leaves Scotland severely short-changed in terms of democracy. Whatever else the Union may be, it is clearly anti-democratic. It may be possible to identify brief spells when Scotland has prospered under the Union. The fundamental injustice of the Union bears down upon Scotland every minute of every day and has done since the its inception.

If the price of those industries of which the only remaining trace is the print of their pollution, and the vanished Empire in which we were employees at best; slaves at worst; but never full partners, is forfeiture of our sovereignty and national identity, who will say that this is a great bargain? Who will say that an excellent deal was struck on Scotland’s behalf when our nation’s entire future was traded for the tawdry trappings and risible pretensions of the British state. Who will assert that the ability to choose the form of government which best serves our needs, priorities and aspirations is a price worth paying for the questionable privilege of being British.

We insist that the people of Scotland are sovereign. The Union makes this a hollow claim. The principle of popular sovereignty is held to be the very essence of Scotland. The Union demands that this principle be constantly compromised as tribute to England-as-Britain. Are we not entitled to feel cheated?

But it is not my purpose here to ‘prove’ that Scotland fares badly being lashed to the British state by the Union. That much should be clearly evident to all by this time. It is unlikely that any argument I may make or evidence I might present will open the eyes of those who refuse to see that which is daily being thrust in their faces by a British political elite stripped of all subtlety and circumspection. The contempt for Scotland is neither concealed nor disguised. Our inferior status within the Union is explicitly acknowledged in all our nation’s dealings with the British state. Anyone who remains oblivious to this isn’t going to be made suddenly aware by this short essay. I’m not looking to spark an epiphany among Scotland’s Unionists. I fear there is little combustible material there.

The question I’m asking today does not concern the matter of whether and to what degree the Union is deleterious to Scotland. I ask, rather, how this abominable constitutional arrangement can have survived for more than three hundred years when it is so obviously bad for Scotland? I think I may have found the beginnings of an explanation. Or at least a better understanding of the phenomenon of what appears to be extraordinary forbearance on the part of the Scottish people who have tolerated this onerous burden for generations. Are we saintly? Or are we stupid?

Reaction to yesterday’s article and associated postings on social media strongly suggests the latter. I would seem from this reaction that it is not the sufferance of saints which has stopped the people of Scotland throwing off the stifling weight of the Union, but the stupidity of a stick. If that reaction is any guide, it is not the endurance of the strong that keeps Scotland shackled to the corrupt carcass of the British state but the dumb inertia of the mindless.

You may recall that in an attempt to apply a corrective to the silly, media-driven hysteria which greeted a new poll indicating support for independence at 55% (excluding undecided), I pointed out that the average of the first ten polls after Nicola Sturgeon became SNP leader and First Minister was 45.6% while the average of the ten most recent polls is 44.9%. This indicates that support for independence has not risen at all in the seven years of Sturgeon’s ‘leadership’ totally contradicting the claim that she has made significant progress towards the restoration of Scotland’s independence.

Had I anticipated that Sturgeon’s supporters would respond with a stout defence of the de facto leader of Scotland’s independence movement formed from an attempt to refute my evidence with facts and reasoned argument then I would have been sorely disappointed. Fortunately, long and arduous experience has taught me to expect nothing better than the torrent of puerile abuse hurled at me from behind an unyielding wall of absolute denial. Nobody, it seemed, was able to dispute either my calculation or the conclusion to which it pointed with a firm and steady hand. The lack of any rebuttal justifies the assumption that the conclusion is warranted and correct. It is for all relevant purposes a fact that no progress has been made towards the restoration of Scotland’s independence the entire time that project has been in the hands of Nicola Sturgeon – seven years and counting.

At the marginally more rational end of the spectrum of responses to my observation, some dismissed that observation on the grounds that it involved statistics and ‘as everybody knows’ statistics can be used to prove anything. This may be true to a considerable extent. But if my statistics were being used to mislead why was it not possible to identify what was misleading about them? Why could nobody suggest an alternative conclusion more favourable to claims regarding Ms Sturgeon’s outstanding performance as leader of Scotland’s cause? And if a single poll showing a statistical blip towards Yes could be presented as solid proof that the Sturgeon approach to the constitutional issue was effective, how can two averages of ten polls at either end of a specified period be dismissed as at least casting doubt on claims of significant progress over that period? Favourable evidence good even if weak. Unfavourable evidence bad no matter how strong? That certainly seems to be how the minds of Sturgeon’s apologists work.

Might this attitude go some way to explaining why a deplorable disadvantageous political union has been allowed to persist for so long – even into the age of democracy when it is possible to restore constitutional normality without pulling claymores from the thatch? Might it be that devotion to cause too readily and too frequently becomes perverted to devotion to a party or leader? Might it be that this devotion to party and/or leader then becomes so powerful as to take on the characteristics of religious faith?

Is it not reasonable to suppose that development of an effective strategy for extricating Scotland from the Union might be impossible when impeded by intolerance of scrutiny of the approach adopted and approved by the prophets of this pseudo-religion?

How might a perfected plan for progressing Scotland’s cause be formulated when any who dare think outside the settled doctrine are burned at the virtual stake?

Are we our own worst enemy?



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