When I read of Mhairi Black’s letter to Alister “Union” Jack suggesting – nay insisting – that he devote himself to Scotland and Scotland’s interests rather than the British state and the interests of the British ruling elite, my first thought was that it is a very foolish demand. A bit like ordering the leopard to change its stripes. But, I hear you say, the leopard doesn’t have stripes. Well, neither does Alister Jack have any capacity for prioritising Scotland over the structures of power, privilege and patronage which constitute the British state. The very concept of Scottish distinctiveness is alien and anathema to this “muscular Unionist” – a euphemism for fanatical British Nationalist.
On reflection, however, I concede that Mhairi Black’s letter may have a purpose in that it is hoped it will elicit from its recipient a response which will damn them in the eyes of the Scottish people. Or, at least, the handful who are paying the slightest attention. This is not an attempt to persuade the leopard to change its stripes but an exercise intended to demonstrate to those too thick to have realised it already just how incapable Alister Jack is of fulfilling his official/nominal remit to represent Scottish opinion and interests in the British cabinet. Which may seem a bit condescending given how blindingly obvious it is that anybody authentically and honestly speaking for Scotland wouldn’t be allowed within 500 miles of the British cabinet.
There is a mildly satisfying irony in the fact that while attempting to lure Alister Jack into giving away his true attitude to Scotland, Mhairi Black inadvertently reveals a mindset that she would surely have preferred remain concealed behind her radical Scottish nationalist façade. As tends to happen when politicians are not quite the clever communicators they imagine themselves to be, a superficially unremarkable phrase tells us something quite significant about the politician’s thinking on this or that matter. In this instance, their thinking on the matter of Scotland’s status. The phrase “return powers from Scotland to Westminster” leapt off the page at me. Consider the implication of those words.
To speak of “returning” powers to Westminster implies a perspective which regards Westminster as the place where these powers rightfully belong. It suggests acceptance of the proposition that these powers are merely loaned to a subordinate by a superior. The phrase strikes a horribly discordant note with anyone who maintains that the Scottish people being sovereign and the Scottish Parliament having the benefit of unimpeachable democratic legitimacy, those powers – whatever they may be – must belong to Scotland. Powers are not “returned” from Scotland to Westminster. Powers can only be seized from Scotland by Westminster. Assuming they are not already withheld from Scotland by Westminster.
To speak of “returning” powers to Westminster betrays a colonised mind. The colonised mind has internalised an attitude of cultural inferiority – a belief that the values, attitudes and priorities of the coloniser are inherently superior. The colonised mind comes to rationalise its colonisation, to accept that the reality imposed or inculcated by the coloniser is normality. To embrace it as the reality that must be subscribed to. To adopt it as the standard to which everything must conform. The colonised mind is persuaded that however unsatisfactory its condition may be that condition is a fact of life with which it must cope – or be deemed to have failed.
If this mindset is characteristic of SNP politicians such as Mhairi Black, how much better served might Scotland be by them than by the likes of Alister “Union” Jack?
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