I am, by nature, a unionist.
While I recognise there are undoubtedly flaws in multinational mega unions, I believe that in an increasingly internationalised world, isolationism – especially when bred from nationalism – is often counterproductive.
Certainly, all facts point toward the negative impacts that Brexit will have on the British economy (notably affecting the lives of the poor), but still the movement trudges on as if its fulfillment were an immutable law, a locomotive which has forgotten somebody is running the engine.
A few years ago, during the first #indyref, I assumed that some of Scotland’s sentiments toward independence were based on nationalism, nudged on by a historical grudge against the English. The fact that many Scots would rather be a member of the EU than the UK is telling, and if any reasons behind #indyref2 are nationalistic (I now understand that Holyrood and Westminster hold vastly different ideologies), they are certainly not based on fictional dreams of liberating an imprisoned Scotland from an oppressive England.
The sheer lack of foresight or planning pre-Brexit referendum, especially in terms of the Irish Backstop, coupled with Westminster’s lack of consideration for Scottish voices in the matter, seems to prove a long-held assumption: that after England, every other nation in the UK is treated by the London assembly as a second-class country.
Of course, Scottish calls for independence from the UK use some of the same rhetoric as the UK’s own pro-Leave campaign, most notably in terms of the right to self determination. A notable absence is the lack of racially-charged anti-immigration sentiment which coloured the Brexit movement.
Self determination is a vital concept inherent to many independence movements, though it can be argued that with the seemingly exponential rise of the free market economy, people’s everyday lives will be governed by the demands of the market (and businesses) more than their country’s own political agenda. Indeed, the autonomy Britain will gain after leaving the EU is negligible compared to the negative impacts a lack of free trade with the Bloc will have on the British economy.
” It seems now that the SNP can see the British ship sinking all the way from Edinburgh, and are determined to jump ship before it crashes. “
This presents a further difference between the #indyref and Brexit campaigns: while the Leave movement was based on a flurry of false and altogether unfounded ‘facts’, the #indyref centres around more legitimate concerns. Scots’ voting outcomes continuously fall out of step with the rest of the country’s, represented deep-seated ideological differences. It seems now that the SNP can see the British ship sinking all the way from Edinburgh, and are determined to jump ship before it crashes.
The Scottish Independence Movement may seem from afar isolationalistic and nationalistic, but in reality Edinburgh seems to be looking to join a more beneficial union, which will treat Scotland more as an equal state, and less like a beefed-up colony. Brexit, it seems, has not only catapulted the English economy back decades while igniting racial tensions, it may well prove to be the final nail in the coffin of a rapidly dissolving union.
Is the world becoming more united?
Recent European history has been a parade of occupied countries leaving their oppressors and opting into a democratic Union, and it seems that Scotland is following suit. Indeed, even much has been made of Britain’s (essentially fictitious) ‘special relationship’ with the USA in the wake of economic uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the subtext being that Little Britain will be protected by a trade union wit Uncle Sam. In the modern world, increased unity seems to be the trend, but what shape this unity might take is fluid.
Not that history is a series of events leading toward an inevitably conclusion of absolute unity, though the rise of the internet and international markets may increasingly act to undermine the importance of the nation state, as individuals and corporations can choose to make connections with individuals and corporations based on share interests or shared opportunities for profit.
It is easy to forget that the idea of a nation state is very young in world history, its genesis lying in 18th century Romanticism. Furthermore, nation states as they are today reflect borders which only solidified after the Second World War with the collapse of Europe’s empires, cities and fronteirs often trading hands innumerable times within decades. Europe (similar to Africa, if not on the same scale) was carved in a way which to a certain degree ignored the heritage of certain populations.
Even this is an idealistic simplification; the world’s ‘youngest country’, South Sudan, only gained independence this decade, while the Soviet Union’s breakup in 1991 shaped the world even more than the stabilization of Western Europe.
The break-up of Empires seems to be an argument against the idea that the world is moving towards absolute union, but independence movements are often exceptions in a world which is becoming increasingly tightly connected – technologically and through the market, if not entirely politically.
An ‘independent nation’ today can hardly claim to be truly independent, though the borders of supranational organisations may not be marked on the world map as the frontiers of Empires once were. A glance at a map of how the UK voted in the Brexit referendum is enough to know that an independent Scotland will apply for EU membership; there can be no doubt that it will become a member state of the UN.
Scotland, if it gains independence from the UK and joins the EU, will prove to be more the rule than the exception, putting the needs of the people and economic consideration above any flawed perception of nationalism and self-determination.
The Final Say
Maybe my own European sense of British nationalism makes me personally resistant to Scotland’s departure from the UK – but even then I have drawn this logic partially from a market-centric mindset. Scottish culture and scenery, being as beautiful as they are, can do wonders for the British tourist industry; meanwhile, Scotland’s socialist policies (cough free tuition fees ahem) should serve as a model for the rest of Britain.
But if Westminster begins to dissolve Scotland’s NHS, and if Scottish people begin to lose jobs because of a future they didn’t vote for, it is the right of every Scot to seek independence from the United Kingdom.
Whether or not Scotland is part of the UK makes much less difference to me than whether Scotland is part of the EU would make to a Scot. For better or for worse, Westminster will continue to drag Scotland into any future it determines for the country, until Holyrood declares the nation’s independence. With uncertainty around Brexit seeming more damning than ever, now is the time for Scotland to take control of their own destiny. And if Europe welcomes and independent Scotland into the Union – Edinburgh, I’m sure I’ll see you soon.