The SNP’s Weak Cultural Case for Independence


9:59 am - June 10th 2012

by Robert Sharp    


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Following Ed Miliband’s speech on national identity Thursday, we were given a good look at the SNP’s communications strategy for their Independence campaign. 

Responding to Miliband’s speech in a BBC interview, Humza Yousaf MSP likened ‘Britishness’ to ‘Scandanavian’ and asserted that an independent Scotland would still be British, by virtue of pure geography. 

Later in the day, Alex Neil MSP made the same point on BBC Question Time. This is obviously disingenuous. 

Ideas of Britishness and Scottishness and Englishness are all nebulous concepts, but that is precisely because we take them to mean more than a geographical descriptor.  If it means anything, Britishness is a class of citizenship that the residents of an Independent Scotland would not automatically be granted. 

My instinct is that few of the referendum voters will be taken in by this semantic smokescreen, but nevertheless such weak thinking needs to be highlighted by those of us who support a continued Union.

The SNP ruse that ‘Britishness’ is analogous to ‘Scandanavian’ implies that the campaign for Independence is motivated by primarily economic and practical concerns, with no cultural element whatsoever.  But this does not capture the reasons that drive people to support Independence. 

Whenever I have asked people in Scotland why they support Independence, they always, always cited cultural reasons.  This was usually articulated in terms of TV sports and news reports – Scottish sportsmen and artists claimed as British, or worse, misidentified as English. 

These examples were cited as symptomatic of a wider dismay at the cultural marginalisation at the hands of our London-based media.

This is not to say that there are no economic or straight political arguments for splitting from Westminster (an independent Scotland could have avoided Thatcherism, for example), but the cultural element is crucial.  The SNP are avoiding talking about it because it is the most difficult aspect in which to distinguish the Scots from the British (and indeed, the English and Welsh).

Ed Miliband and other unionists spend their time making thoughful speeches, in which they wrestle with the problem of multiple identities. 

What they should remember is that its a philosophical problem for Nationalists too!  The entropy of the situation always increases – more cultural and ethnic overlap, more internal and external migration. 

Distilling Scottishness from Britishness is essential to the SNP case for Independence… but their recent talking points suggest they are avoiding this issue.

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About the author
Robert Sharp designed the Liberal Conspiracy site. He is Head of Campaigns at English PEN, a blogger, and a founder of digital design company Fifty Nine Productions. For more of this sort of thing, visit Rob's eponymous blog or follow him on Twitter @robertsharp59. All posts here are written in a personal capacity, obviously.
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Reader comments


…and obviously there are no political or democratic reasons why Scotland would want to run her own affairs, none at all…

2. Limiting Factor

As it happens, I have relatives and friends all across the British Isles – half my family comes from England, and there’s Irish on my mother’s side as well. Just at the level of ordinary human decency, how could I justify to my relatives and friends severing the broader cultural-socioeconomic-political connections that joins my life to theirs? Independence essentially means leaving the English, the Welsh and the Northern Irish in the lurch – Scotland carries considerable weight, culturally, socially, and politically, but without it the Tories and the greedocracy would gain near-crushing dominance. Democracy is under attack and I cannot abandon those nearest and dearest to me.

I understand what you’re saying, but there are at least three meanings of British – geographical, cultural, and political. If Scotland left the UK, political Britishness would no longer exist, unless you think the rump UK could get away with using the term “British” to exclude a large part of Britain. Up until now, geographical and political notions of British have been near enough coterminous that it didn’t matter – but if Scotland left the union then the notion of political Britishness as equal to the UK would lose its legitimacy.

“an independent Scotland could have avoided Thatcherism, for example”

In that case, it would have been good for Scotland to have become independent in the ’70s. Now, however, I don’t believe for a minute that the SNP will undo the Thatcherite status quo (this would involve renationalising public services and restoring income tax to pre-Thatcher rates as well as abolishing the anti-union laws). The best way for socialists to achieve these goals are by preserving the union.

Besides, in the wake of the tragic disintegration of Yugoslavia (a great country), we really need to stop the nationalist tide somewhere and say “enough is enough, people of different cultures really can live together in the same country”.

Bratstvo i jedinstvo!

@4 Chris

“The best way for socialists to achieve these goals are by preserving the union.”

On the contrary, the best way for socialists to achieve these goals would be for the Union to be dissolved; Scotland would benefit as it would certainly be no worse off as an independent nation, and in all likelihood a good deal better off. England and/or rump UK would also be better off because it would give our crumbling political system the kick up the arse it so obviously needs. The stark fact is that the Union is no longer fit for purpose; it no longer seen by the majority of the Scottish people as the correct vehicle to promote the kind of society they want to live in.

“Besides, in the wake of the tragic disintegration of Yugoslavia (a great country),…”

Really? You actually think so? I know plenty of former Yugoslavs who would like to educate you about how “great” living in that socialist utopia was. Your comments betray a crass ignorance of Yugoslav history.

“Now, however, I don’t believe for a minute that the SNP will undo the Thatcherite status quo”

No, of course they won’t, because it would be madness to do so, because they aren’t that kind of party, and because the scottish people wouldn’t (and don’t) support the alternative you posit, any more than they support the Tories whether Thatcherite or not. If independence is achieved post 2014, there is no guarantee that the SNP will survive, or even if they do whether they will be the dominant force they are in contemporary Scottish politics.

One of the reasons (of the many) that Scots opinion has turned so decisively towards calls for devo-max, and increasingly for independence, is the desire to avoid being subjected to Tory rule in Westminster that we didn’t vote for. It is worth bearing in mind that the Scots DIDN’T vote for independence in the 70’s in spite of the possibility of turning Scotland into another Norway because they still saw the value of the Union as outweighing the perceived risks of going it alone, as well as for historical reasons, shared values of the “empire” generation, and the success of Unionist scare stories that Scotland was “too wee, too poor and too stupid” to go it alone.

The terms of the debate have changed. Most Scots now see the best way of promoting social democracy, of becoming a “progressive beacon” a la Scandinavia, as promoting the maximum possible amount of devolution or independence. The danger for Unionism is that if they can’t square the former within the current political structure, many more Scots will opt for the latter.

6. Shatterface

I hadn’t previously been aware Ed Millipede was struggling with multiple identities – but it explains much.

Independence essentially means leaving the English, the Welsh and the Northern Irish in the lurch

Quite breathtaking in your condescension. ‘We’ aren’t being asked to ditch Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, they are being asked if they would like democratic control over their own lives.

Really? You actually think so? I know plenty of former Yugoslavs who would like to educate you about how “great” living in that socialist utopia was. Your comments betray a crass ignorance of Yugoslav history.

Can’t speak for the OP, but I’m well aware of Yugoslav history from 1950-1980 as “the least unpleasant place in the Eastern Bloc”, mostly due to Tito’s willingness to stand up to the USSR. If your former-Yugoslav mates think that 1990-2000 was a better period for people in the region to live through than 1950-1980, then they are fucking idiots.

@7 john b

Try engaging with what I actually said, rather than what you “wished” I had said, or what you think I meant through the red haze of dismissing people you don’t know on no evidence whatsoever as “fucking idiots”.

People like Tito in Yugoslavia and Ceausescu in Romania “standing up to Russia” usually came at a price to their own people. The fact that Yugoslavia may have been less bad than North Korea or Russia doesn’t mean it was to quote our misguided friend above “a great country” except for the chosen few and those who didn’t stick their heads above the parapet.

I doubt anyone has much to learn from your analysis given your inability to see that the tragic events following the break-up of Yugoslavia aren’t some trump card you and your mate Chris can wave around to claim that because it was the “least unpleasant” communist dictatorship, it therefore has huge relevance to the matter at hand.

@ Robert Sharp

Why is the claim that an independent Scotland would still be British by virtue of geography so disingenuous? Stricly speaking Scandinavia as a geographical term only refers to the penninsula containing Norway and Sweden. The term is used as a catch all to include Denmark for obvious linguistic, historical, cultural and geographic reasons. The term Nordic is also often used and broadened to include Iceland. Finalnd is also sometimes included, altho’ it is linguistically and culturally fairly distinct, by dint of historic, cultural and geographic links.

A Scot post independence in 2014 laying claim to a British identity is no more odd than a Dane, Swede, Norwegian or Icelander saying they were Scandinavian, altho’ I’m unsure how many of my fellow countrymen would make the claim. (You don’t find many citizens of the Irish republic claiming a Britsh identity after all… tho’ the reasons are somewhat different in their case given the history of Irish-British relations).

Neither you, nor indeed anyone else in the “UK of GB and NI” have the right to ownership of the term British, whatever the rump UK decides to call itself in the event of a “yes” vote in Scotland in 2014. A British identity does not automatically equate to citizenship of the UK because you have randomly and unilaterally decided it does.

Your claim that the cultural element of independence is crucial is specious. It is undoubtedly AN element of course, but by no means the most important or even something that is anything more than background. Scots who support independence or increased devolution (who together make up the vast majority of the population), and others who do not, take a distinctive Scottish cultural identity as a given; the SNP are not avoiding talking about it…. they simply don’t need to.

Two years out from the referendum, the crucial one third of voters who will decide the outcome (since currently around one third are against, and one third in favour) the issues which will sway the swing voters are NOT cultural, they are economic, political and social.

You state that: “the SNP are avoiding talking about [the cultural element] because it is the most difficult aspect in which to distinguish the Scots from the British (and indeed, the English and Welsh)”, but I’ve seen little evidence of what seems to me a wild assertion on your part. A great deal of discussion has gone on about how Scotland could be in a better position if it were independent, and how the only way to protect and promote the kind of social democratic values most Scots hold dear is to ensure we can make important decisions ourselves.

If the people you have been talking to in Scotland always cite cultural reasons, you’ve either been talking to the wrong people, or asking the wrong questions (probably both from the tenor of the post). People I talk to cite many reasons, among them preserving the NHS, avoiding tuition fees and prescription charges, and promoting a more equal, progressive society. What engages them and motivates them, is not the largely Unionist imposed narrative of supposed narrow cultural nationalism, but a fairly nuanced combination of factors, the most critical of which is whether desired outcomes are best served by remaining in the Union, or reclaiming independence.

The failure of the Unionists is to develop a coherent and positive case for the Union is obvious for anyone to see. They are disunited within Scotland, and have abjectly failed to show how they will accommodate the desire for greater autonomy (whether devo-plus, devo-max, full fisal autonomy etc.) within the current UK political system.

The issue of course is that they cannot square that circle, because they will never be able to convince Westminster that they can solve the West Lothian question. Unionists are therefore reduced to lame promises that we shall have jam tomorrow, but only if we are good little voters and vote “no” to independence in 2014. The same was said in 1979, and we are unlikely to fall for it again.

@2 Limiting Factor

“Independence essentially means leaving the English, the Welsh and the Northern Irish in the lurch – Scotland carries considerable weight, culturally, socially, and politically, but without it the Tories and the greedocracy would gain near-crushing dominance. Democracy is under attack and I cannot abandon those nearest and dearest to me.”

I hear this line quite a lot, and don’t really understand how people have the gall to come out with it. Firstly, as Shatterface notes @6 above, it is monstrously condescending (not that it should necessarily surprise us given the general quality of Unionist and/or British nationalist critiques of Scottish independence or devolution).

Secondly, the concern is misplaced. If Scotland does decide to go its own way, the sky will not fall down; there will still be taxes to pay, and life to be lived. “Most” English people will notice little if any difference, as they are just not that engaged with the issues, and could frankly care less about what goes on in Scotland.

Appeals to the better nature of Scots not to reclaim their independence because it leaves poor benighted Geordies and other English provincials to the tender mercies of the Tories are misplaced.

Muck your own stable out. You don’t need Scottish Labour MP’s to deliver a non-tory majority in rump UK, but you might find the dissolution of the Union an ideal time to give the antiquated governance of the country a good kick up the arse.

People like Tito in Yugoslavia and Ceausescu in Romania “standing up to Russia” usually came at a price to their own people

Bracketing the two together suggests that you don’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about. In both cases, standing up to Russia was *in the interests of* their own people – they did what craven leaders like Honecker didn’t. And indeed, Ceausescu delivered pretty decent results in the 1960s, as Tito did throughout the period. The difference is, Tito never went down the self-enriching fraudulent tyrant route.

Objectively, according to international measures of well-being, Yugoslavia was not a particularly bad place to be in the postwar period, unless you subscribe to the narrative that “anywhere that isn’t a nominal democracy is inherently worse than somewhere that claims to be one, even though the people in the former are well-educated, well-fed and enjoy moderate levels of political freedom whilst people in the latter die of hunger and ‘non-state’ death squads”.

And objectively, according to “are you being murdered by your neighbours or not” criteria, now-former Yugoslavia was a very bad place indeed to be during the 1990-2000 period.

@11 john b

Actually, I do have a clue about what I’m talking about having studied Yugoslav history as a large part of my first degree, taken a keen interest in the area since, and having studied International Relations as a further degree.

Romania may have been worse than Yugoslavia, but if you honestly think that it was some social democratic paradise, you patently know next to nothing about the area or the issues. Any decent biography of Tito will give you the low down on his lifestyle, the private islands and the yachts, so come back when you have actually done some you know…research. you might find it refreshing, and it would at least spare us all from your ill-thought out hagiography of a nasty and repressive regime.

Again, your reference to the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s aren’t the issue that was originally raised. Nobody was or is saying that they were other than catastrophic; however, they were far from inevitable, nor indeed are the germane to this thread, still less do they support the argument you have…. assuming you can actually construct one which is doubtful from your posts so far.

13. Dick the Prick

@9 – yeah, that point skipped past me too. Geographically speaking, Eire’s in the British Isles and to gloss over cultural differences there is a bit perilous!!. Isn’t British just what the Romans called us – although they weren’t really Romans but an amalgam of conquered and domiciled tribes…err…

This OP seems a bit navel gazy and struggles to attempt to place a wedge in a miniscule amount of space. Scots are British and always will be unless after a few wars or invasions by the English, Welsh or Irish make it politic to specifically state from the ‘British Isles’. How can anyone be unsure as to what Britain is – it’s that clump of rock at the edge of the Atlantic with crap weather.Nobody calls Britain anything other than Britain when showing an atlas to a kid and being British, by and large, is a function of living on that splodge.

The Scots can’t distinguish themselves from the British but they certainly can make a claim to be culturally different from the countries that make up the union.

14. Richard W

I think Robert is a good example of people on the left who just do not get the rise of the SNP and why they have been so successful. It seems to me a large part of that success is because the SNP specifically do not define their nationalism along ethnic or cultural lines. Everyone who lives in Scotland is Scottish is about inclusive as one can be. Citizens of the Irish Republic are self-evidently inhabitants of the geographical British Isles, no matter what they choose to call themselves. Until WW2, the majority in New Zealand and Australia called themselves British despite independence. Scotland in the absence of an unlikely geological event will remain part of the British Isles no matter what goverance arrangements are in place. So clearly British.

To understand the rise of the SNP one must understand that they are specifically an anti-Labour Party. They and their activists really do dislike the Labour Party above all the other main parties. That is what large parts of the Enlish left just do not get. They oppose the Labour Party because they identify them as centralisers, which means London control= bad for Scotland. Constituencies and demograhics who used to vote for the old Unionist Party, which softened when they became the Conservative party began to vote SNP to oppose the London centralisation tendencies of the Labour Party. The same demographic who were opposed to the nationalisation of the Scottish heavy industries after WW2 by Labour, also opposed the Thatcherism of the 1980s. They knew nationlisation would see control move to London and London control would be bad for Scotland. So it proved as most of those indutries have all but gone.

The central message of the nationalism of the SNP is not left, right, cultural or ethnic divisions. They specifically eschew those things and speak about self-determination. That clearly is a message that resonates hence their success in winning prosperous areas and territory that Scottish Labour consider their electoral fodder. I don’t see how ‘ distilling Scottishness from Britishness ‘ should be a problem for them because they do not try and do it. A more pressing problem is how the left are going to articulate an argument against people having the right to self-determination. There are plenty of the SNP arguments which are vague and wooly without concentrating on the non-issue of multiple identities.

You see this article sums up what is wrong with Westminster politics and those who advocate that we is Scotland remain welded to a fundamentally corrupt system.

If the British Left had trained it’s fire on the Right instead of saving its vitriol for others within the progressive movement, then perhaps we would not be in such disarray.

It may shock some of you but George Galloway, Ken Livingstone and Alex Salmond are not the enemy, but Cameron and Clegg are systematically destroying everything we have achieved since the War. Yet here we are, attacking the Scots Nationalists who have reversed tuition fees and scrapped prescription charges and we poo poo the ‘cultural’ case for Scottish Independence!

Last week a fellow Scot who has suffered fourteen heart attacks and several fail transplants has been found ‘fit for work’.

Yes, well, I want independence from Westminster not because I fear that Andy Murray be called ‘British’ (which he is) or claimed by the English, should he fluke a major tournament, but because thousands of decent people are being hounded by a system that is forced to pander to the likes of the Daily Mail readership. We have our share of halfwits in Scotland too, but we do not design our political ideology around them.

So, as a Scot, I am supposed to act as a backstop so that ‘Right on’ Lefties can act self indulgently to vote for Tories/semi Tories in order to ‘send a message’ to the Labour, safe in the knowledge that if it backfires on them, the Scottish contingent will have block voted for the sensible option and we can muster enough votes to keep the vermin out.

Well the problem with that is when it all goes tits up, we have to suffer for the ‘Westminster elite’s’ misjudgements. You wanted to send a ‘message’ to Brown regarding ID cards, tuition fees and Iraq. You believed that the Tories had changed their spots and the weak were safe? Some of knew all along that they were lying, then and we were proved right.

Tens of thousands of progressive people voted Liberal Democrat in the hope that we would end up with a hung parliament, well they got their wish and as a DIRECT result of those votes we have seriously ill people stacking shelves for free in the most profitable companies in the Country.

Well, I cannot speak for the entire Country, but I, for one, want out. I want my Country to pull out of the UK because too many people are suffering under a system that punishes the weak.

We cannot fix our problems until we are given full control of the levers of power.

16. Dick the Prick

Our generations have done well under our Monarchy – we are drenched in blood and have had our wars. To be British, to speak of Britain is simply a reference to ancient territorial disputes limited by sea. It’s a family matter but no one’s burning down the house. There may be a few executions or ‘random accidents’ but it’s done, Verdun, blood is still warm. To be British is to know the cost of things and to be scared. Britain is not perfect yet it has war in its soul but by challenge not by ambition alone. The British in their garden have been at rest for over 60 years, tis but 3 generations. Loss and hope, that is what is British; we got fucking killed in the trenches for nothing except for here and now. It amuses me that Europe is fucked and folks downplay Blighty, as if geography could be changed. If borders are mountains, deserts, plains, rivers, forests or chasms or just some knob with a marker pen then i’d be religious too – can’t fuck with the Atlantic.

I find Japan analogous to Blighty. Any comparison does slightly favour Blighty but reference can certainly be made to inglorious actions. I’m certainly more in favour of people just simply removing their governments; i’m no cultural historain but it seems like a continental reckoning and if everyone focusses on Barosso being a knob then war ain’t likely.

17. douglas clark

I don’t think Robert has spelt out his case for cultural homogeneity adequately.

Is this it?

The entropy of the situation always increases – more cultural and ethnic overlap, more internal and external migration.

The economic, the political and yes, the cultural elements overlap. It is extremely difficult to untangle them and Ed Milliband made, IMHO, a dogs breakfast of a speech on the subject.

To the limited extent that it is able the Scottish Parliament has followed a road less travelled than the Westminster consensus of neo-liberalism that all three unionist parties present to us at elections. It is not as if we haven’t tried to add steel to the resolve of the Labour Party. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, this has never worked.

Most people in Scotland, according to opinion polls, are unsurprisingly against Trident and it’s replacement. The Labour Party has never listened to that voice when in office. We are generally in favour of an NHS that is provided by the State rather than part privatised. When has there been a rush to the barricades by any Unionist political party to protect one of our crown jewels? Not recently. And so it goes. Labour fights the Tories and it almost doesn’t matter which one wins. For the only thing that matters to them are the swing voters in SE England and the management of the decline in the rest of this fair and pleasant land of ours. Well, enough is enough.

Robert may say that these are actually political choices rather than cultural choices, but they do represent a fundamentally different direction of travel. Where does politics end and culture begin?

This is a poem by Allan Bisset, so I suppose it’s cultural:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Z-znkbMzi4A

or is it ‘just’ political?

For me, at least, and I suspect it is true of many Scots, and we appear to have a far wider definition of Scottishness than the English do of Englishness – our usual definition being someone who lives here – that Britishness in the terms Milliband tries to talk about it doesn’t really apply to us any more.

Jimmy Reid said that he hadn’t left the Labour Party, the Labour Party had left him. It is equally the case that we didn’t leave Britain, Britain left us. In the sense that there had been a consensus which disintegrated in a chase for political power at Westminster. The Blair years and after, if you will. Well, we have a chance, no more than that, to break with what is becoming almost arguements on a pin-head between the three parties at Westminster. They would be the three cheeks of the same arse, if an arse had three cheeks…..

My father used to buy the Sunday Express in it’s glory days. The editorials were often about not abandoning our ‘kith and kin’ – a favourite expression of theirs – in Rhodesia, or South Africa. How utterly quaint that seems nowadays. They were the ones emphasising cultural ties. A right wing racist rag.

Just saying.

There doesn’t need to be a cultural case. Defining ‘culture’ is all PR nonsense anyway. The SNP’s fiscal and democratic arguments are stong enough to stand alone.

19. Limiting Factor

@Galen – fyi, I happen to live in Scotland, how about that, eh? Oh, and just to clarify your general point, as far as you’re concerned it’s okay to leave our friends and relatives in the lurch, as long as they live south of the line on the map, did I get that right? Nothing to do with us, let them sort it out for themselves, because they’re totally separate from us with no bonds of any consequence to bother our elevated Scottish consciousness with, yes?

@19 Limiting Factor

It doesn’t really matter where you live; I’m sure there are some Scots who share your views. I happen to live in England, but I’ll never be anything but Scottish. I have family on both sides of the border and further afield. I’m totally sanguine about not having a vote in the referendum, because (at present) I don’t live in Scotland, although I would qualify for a Scottish passport, as would ny daughter who was born there but left when she was an infant. My English brother in law in Scotland will get a vote, although I doubt he’d take Scottish citizenship… tho’ his Scottish wife and Scottish born children may feel differently.

It isn’t about whether we are leaving people in the lurch or not; anyone who feels particularly strongly about being left out can presumably move back to Scotland, or have Scottish citizenship if they qualify.

For years we’ve been subjected to Unionist and Brit Nat propaganda that Scotland was too wee, too poor and too stupid to survive alone. More recently, more thoughtful commentators have accepted that in fact Scotland could survive perfectly well as an independent country, and perhaps provide better conditions for her people than if they remained in the UK.

Strangely, they have now back tracked to appeal to emotional, hsitorical and cultural ties; “stronger together than apart” and all that…. in fact the kind of rose tinted Brigadoonery that the OP more or less accuses the SNP of concentrating on. Strange that.

Of course there are bonds, and they will remian; but they don’t somehow trump the case for independence – what do you actually think is going to change or happen post a “yes” vote in 2014? Have you fallen hook line and sinker for the scare stories about passport control at the border, pensions not being paid, the Queen being overthrown etc., etc. [insert ridiculous Unionist myth of choice here]?

If the Welsh, Northern Irish and English provincials find a post Scottisj independence rump UK unpalateable, they have it in their power to bring about change…. that’s democracy, no?

Why should you or anyone else expect the Scottish people to accept sub-optimal outcomes for their future development for essentially emotional reasons?

21. Limiting Factor

There’s hardly any point in batting that one back, since neither of us is going to change the others mind. But for the sake of anyone still reading (its a possibility), I gotta say this; you’ve make your stance perfectly clear, there’s ‘us’ and ‘them’, and the former deserve all the good things that political struggle can achieve while the latter will just have to get on with it themselves. Thank you for being candid about the limits of your morality, which seems to be determined by a line on the map.

Now for me, I consider myself a social democrat and therefore am wedded heart and soul to concepts of collective responsibility and social justice; the sufferings of the disadvantaged in Durham are just as deserving of my attention and committment as those from Dundee. I may live in Ayrshire, but wherever my friends and family bonds lie, the heritage that touches my cultural and social sensibilities spreads to all the corners of the British isles. And why shouldn’t it? Surely, the aim of living in a democratic society is that we become democratic citizens, and an integral part of that is a widening of our compassion and our intellectual grasp, rather than a narrowing.

That is really just a highlight of the argument I would make if I had a soapbox with a national audience. For now, that’ll have to do.

22. Limiting Factor

There hardly seems any point in batting that one back, since neither of us is going to change the others mind. But for the sake of anyone still reading (its a possibility), I gotta say this; you’ve make your stance perfectly clear, there’s ‘us’ and ‘them’, and the former deserve all the good things that political struggle can achieve while the latter will just have to get on with it themselves. Thank you for being candid about the limits of your morality, which seems to be determined by a line on the map.

Now for me, I consider myself a social democrat and therefore am wedded heart and soul to concepts of collective responsibility and social justice; the sufferings of the disadvantaged in Durham are just as deserving of my attention and committment as those from Dundee. I may live in Ayrshire, but wherever my friends and family bonds lie, the heritage that touches my cultural and social sensibilities spreads to all the corners of the British isles. And why shouldn’t it? Surely, the aim of living in a democratic society is that we become democratic citizens, and an integral part of that is a widening of our compassion and our intellectual grasp, rather than a narrowing.

That is really just a highlight of the argument I would make if I had a soapbox with a national audience. For now, that’ll have to do.

23. Limiting Factor

groan – double posted

@21 Limiting Factor

I would agree that we are unlikely to change each other’s mind. You obviously feel it is wrong of me to have the attitude I do with respect to what you see as effectively “abandoning” prople in the rest of the UK post independence.

What kind of sticks in my throat is your holier than thou attitude, and assumption or moral superiority. I won’t be taking any condescending ad hominems from you thanks very much. I regard myself as every bit as much a social democrat as you, but in the event of Scottish independence why should I feel more obliged towards the poor of Durham, than those of Dublin, or Dunedin NZ, of Dieppe or Dar es Salaam? By the same token, why should it be wrong for a Scot without your connections in other parts of the UK (or indeed an English person in the same position) to feel thet their obligations didn’t extend beyond their “new” borders in the same way?

Your morality seems somewhat wedded to prioritising people who are geographically closer, or with whom you have some kinship: I’d suggest that what is sauce for the goose etc…?

I would further suggest that fewer and fewer Scots share your standpoint, in as much as the ties of the Union are seen as less important and less central than they were in the past. I doubt many would welcome or indeed accept your frankly insulting suggestion that they have limited morality, still less that we need to “widen our compassion or intellectual grasp”.

I am not a Scottish Nationalist because believe we ‘deserve’ better than the English, I am a Nationalist because I believe that we should have self determination.

The sad truth is it is not the Scots that have abandoned the disadvantaged and the disabled of Durham, it has been the English. And not just the Tory parts of England, either. The Social Democrats in England are no longer interested defending those at the bottom of the pile. Some of the most outrageous slanders are reproduced daily and the Left’s response has been a bit shallow or even muted.

Let us be brutally honest here, The Scots have consistently voted for Left Wing Parties and the English have consistently voted for a Right Wing ideology. That is fine in my book because cultural difference exist and there is nothing wrong in that. However, I am being ruled by people that most Scots have never voted for and disabled Scottish people are being persecuted by an ideology alien to many of us us. The Tories and their Lib Dem lackies were rejected here, yet the disabled are to be pulled onto the streets and subjected to ‘two minutes hate’. That is due to English votes, not mine.

The final straw for me was two Scottish Parliamentary elections ago when the Scots voted in favour of a Party whose main plank was replacing a regressive tax measure (council tax) with a more progressive one (income tax). However, because of the electoral system was actually designed to make outright majority difficult, such a move would have required all party support. Of course none of the ‘progressive’ Westminster Parties could face having to defend an income tax rise to middle England, the proposal was defeated.

That is when I knew that devolution was a busted flush, because we in Scotland could have any policy we want, as long as it follows a neo liberal agenda. As long we don’t scare the free market, Right Wing horses, we can vote for what we want. As long as British Labour approves, Scottish Labour can have it. So when the SNP introduced free prescriptions there was outrage from English people. It never occurred to them to campaign and vote for such a policy, it was more important for them to whine how the evil Scots were spending ‘English’ money. Incidentally, it appears that when Scots pay into the treasury , it is merely tribute, because when that money comes out, it suddenly because English taxes.

26. Churm Rincewind

On this issue, I commend Michael Ignatieff’s comment piece here:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2bf2f2ec-40fc-11e1-b521-00144feab49a.html#axzz1xlj8DEYm

27. Chaise Guevara

@ 25 Jim

“The sad truth is it is not the Scots that have abandoned the disadvantaged and the disabled of Durham, it has been the English. ”

The accusation on the table isn’t that Scots HAVE abandoned vulnerable British people, it’s that a large number of them are planning to abandon them in the near future.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a fan of independence but I don’t think you should be guilt-tripped out of it. Nevertheless, the idea that you only need to take responsibility for disadvantaged people on your side of the English/Scottish border is distinctly dodgy.


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