The following is from an article published on my blog nearly six months ago in response to Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh’s column in The National (In the art of politics, being effective is all that matters – this is Scotland’s chance, 4th August 2021). Emphasis added.
Johnson is much more effective than Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh supposes. He is effective not in the sense of getting things right but in the sense of getting things wrong and getting away with it. Just stop for a moment and consider everything that he’s got away with in his public and in his private life. Take Brexit as an example. He’s getting away with what should be a career-ending catastrophe. As I predicted, the British state is working hard to mitigate the impact of Brexit and to minimise the perception of this impact. This is combined with the blame-shifting tactic that portrays everything that can’t be mitigated or minimised out of the public consciousness as somebody else’s fault. Principally the EU. Increasingly, the devolved administrations.
For all this, Boris Johnson is still not the enemy. Remove him and he will be replaced with someone just as determined to preserve the Union and almost certainly just as committed to ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism. Because that is the only type of person who can rise through the British political system. I have often noted that Boris Johnson is not the aberration many think him. He is not just a blip. He is the inevitable product of the British political system. We might say he is that system taken to its logical conclusion but for the fact that there’s more to come. It doesn’t end with the end of Johnson’s period as British Prime Minister. The British political system will only ever produce a political elite which is devoted to the prevailing concept of the British state. The British Nationalist genie is out of the bottle and calling the shots. Scotland will be no less threatened by Johnson’s successor than it is now. That threat can only increase. It would be politically impossible for a new British Prime Minister to put the British Nationalist juggernaut into reverse. That juggernaut will continue to dismantle our democracy; erase our national identity; and eradicate all distinctiveness.
Boris Johnson is not the enemy even if he is an enemy. So long as Scotland remains bound by the Union, every British Prime Minister will be just as much an enemy as Johnson. The Union is Scotland’s great enemy. We should know that enemy in every detail of how it is sorely detrimental to our nation and people. But first we must know that it is the enemy.Know thy enemy
I reproduce this here not in an attempt to flaunt my own perspicacity, but to lend support to the suggestion that there has been a shift of emphasis by Gerry Hassan and other commentators. I am not for a moment saying Gerry has had a change of heart. I’m sure he is being perfectly consistent as he points out much the same truths as I was highlighting in that article. What I think I detect is a new willingness to present the restoration of Scotland’s independence as a worthwhile end in itself. Not the end. Not the only end. But an end which in and of itself is worth striving for. An end which, when achieved, will make Scotland a different and better place even before we start to deploy the capacities independence will restore to us.
In the past, the very strong tendency – particularly for the left – was to maintain that independence was merely a means to the end of creating a fairer, greener and more prosperous nation. Unless I’m imagining it, there has been over the last few months a discernible if not pronounced movement away from that position. No! That’s not right! It implies an abandoning of the view that independence is a means to a wider and greater end. That is not the case. What I perceive is no more than a new willingness to identify the British state and the Union as the problem which must be addressed rather than just Boris Johnson and the Tories. A shift of emphasis.
If I am correct then this is a very significant and welcome development. I have long maintained that the Yes movement can only unite as it must if it is to be an effective force for Scotland’s cause, if and when the constitutional issue is distilled down to its most essential elements and stripped of all the partisan accoutrements and policy ornamentation which provide the fuel for dispute and division. That essence cannot be independence for the simple reason that there neither is nor can be a single universally agreed definition of what independence is. That essence must be the Union, and the imperative to bring it to an end.
If ‘influencers’ of Gerry Hassan’s standing are now ready to make Scotland’s cause a fight for Scotland’s survival against the Union more than a campaign for independence then there is hope yet for Scotland’s cause.
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