The Guardian spends half its time complaining about the archaic, corrupt Westminster system and the other half campaigning to stop anyone from doing anything about it. The latest installment in the Guardian’s campaign to tell us that if it’s Anglo-British nationalism, it can’t be nationalist is a clueless article from Martin Kettle which even by the Guardian’s low standards whenever it comes to Scotland drips arrogance and condescension.
The piece employs the usual Anglo-British nationalist trope of personalising and trivialising the issue of Scottish independence by talking about “Sturgeon” and “her” referendum. We saw the exact same tired and lazy deflection last time round when it was “Salmond” and “his” referendum. Give it a rest for god’s sake. If Londoncentric commentators like Kettle want to make a useful contribution to this debate and start to engage meaningfully with those of us who want Scottish independence, which they must do if they are to achieve their fervent wish of making this whole issue go away, they could start by recognising that around half the Scottish population want independence and that a substantial majority want at the very minimum a substantially reformed UK, a reformed UK which the Conservatives are dead set against and which Labour has no real interest in delivering.
Can we get this clear once and for all? This is not Sturgeon’s referendum. It is Scotland’s referendum. It is the referendum that all of Scotland clearly understood that it was voting for or against at the Holyrood election last year, the election which returned a Scottish Parliament with its biggest ever pro-independence majority.
We do not have government by opinion poll in this, or any other country, but Anglo-British nationalists like Kettle like to talk about opinion polls on the referendum because they don’t want to acknowledge that the only democratic way to assess Scotland’s wishes on an independence referendum is via the Scottish Parliament- where there is a majority for a referendum to take place before 2026. There was an election and by the rules of that election proponents of another referendum won fair and square. The winners of an election are determined by the number of seats won, not by the percentage of votes cast. The voting system used in Scottish Parliament elections is broadly proportional but not exactly so. It’s a voting system which was chosen by the Labour an Lib Dem parties. A pro-independence, pro-referendum majority was won by the British nationalist parties’ own rules. Opponents of independence don’t get to retroactively rewrite the rules now because the result was not to their liking. It’s nothing more than a transparent attempt to delegitimise the outcome of a Scottish election.
The vital starting point in this debate is to acknowledge that Westminster and the main UK parties are deeply resistant to meaningful reform. Despite previous landslide Labour victories, we still have the undemocratic first past the post system, we still have an unelected House of Lords,and we still have few effective checks on the power of a Prime Minister with a majority in the Commons, a majority which can be won with a minority of the popular vote. We see Westminster lurch from one scandal to the next, nothing ever changes and the powerful are never held to account.
This, together with the abject failure of the Westminster parties to deliver on the promises and commitments which they made to secure a No vote in 2014, is why we are having this independence debate now. Scotland has castigated both Labour and the Conservatives at the polls and it has made bugger all difference. Despite vowing that the devolution settlement would be safe from Westminster meddling, the Conservatives have used Brexit – which Scotland didn’t vote for – as an excuse to take a wrecking ball to devolution. Just this week the Conservatives announced their intention to overturn the Welsh Government’s 2017 Trade Union Act, which bans agency staff from being used if public sector workers go on strike. The law conflicts with the Tories’ union busting crusade. None of this appears to trouble Martin Kettle and those of his ilk. If Scotland is not allowed to give its verdict on the promises made to it in 2014 in order to secure a No vote then democracy is meaningless.
Meanwhile we learn that the message that Keir Starmer wants to send to Scotland is that Labour doesn’t care if Scotland keeps voting for and electing pro-independence MPs and MSPs. Labour doesn’t care if Scotland votes for a Scottish Parliament with a clear mandate for another independence referendum. Martin Kettle thinks this is just grand. For Labour it is far more important to pander to Brexit supporting voters in English constituencies. That’s some message. This is what happens when you let your Scotland policy be determined by Ian Murray and the tribal unionists of the Scottish branch office.
For the likes of Martin Kettle the elephant in the room is Anglo-British nationalism. Like Gordon Brown before him Kettle bewails that the United Kingdom is threatened by nationalism, but it’s Scottish, Irish, and Welsh nationalism that he has in mind, there is not a mention of the English nationalism that finds its expression in the right wing centralising Anglo-British nationalism which is the dominant ideology of the modern British state, an ideology that even Starmer’s Brexit supporting Labour party has fully subscribed to. All Kettle mentions, and that in passing, is “anglocentric unionism.” He complains that Brexit exacerbates nationalism, by which he means the desire for Scottish independence or Irish reunification, but like the Anglo-British nationalist he is, he fails to recognise that Brexit is nationalism. As has been noted on this blog more often than I care to remember, the defining feature of Anglo-British nationalism is its refusal to recognise that is just another variety of nationalism.
The first step to solving a problem is to identify what the problem is, if commentators like Kettle are unwilling or unable to see Anglo-British nationalism for what it is, there can be no chance of any constructive dialogue within the political framework of the Westminster state. It is quite likely that Kettle – like that other colonialist British nationalist in denial Michael White before him – genuinely believes in the consensual Union he remembers and believes exists, it is really rather sad that he hasn’t noticed, and indeed is actively cheering on, that it is being turned into into a coercive unitary Anglo-British nationalist state. It is beyond pathetic that he clings to the belief that this can somehow save the voluntary union whose demise he himself is urging on.
I had an assessment for disability benefit yesterday. It will be five to eight weeks before a decision is made. I think it went well but they don’t give much away. However it was exhausting to get into Glasgow for it and the process was emotionally draining. I’m on a bit of a downer today because during the assessment you have to focus on all the things you can’t do and the things that you used to do but can no longer do, many of which you’ll never be able to do again. Stroke takes a severe toll on your mental health as well as your physical abilities. I had originally intended to wait until Monday before blogging, but needed to do something to get out of this funk and make myself feel like a productive human being again.
Many thanks to everyone who kindly supported the annual fundraiser. It’s always a nerve wracking time, I’m literally asking people to put their money where my mouth is. I’m delighted to say that the target of £5000 wasn’t just reached it was smashed. From all sources, the Gofundme page, PayPal donations, and direct donations by cheque or into my bank account, the grand total raised was an incredible £11,094. In my wildest dreams I could not have expected it to go so well and my deepest thanks to everyone who contributed. It is heartening to know that so many people value my writing and that there is still an appreciative audience for a positive pro-independence message that concentrates on making the case for independence and debunking the arguments of the real enemies of Scottish independence, the Conservatives and their little helpers. That’s what I will keep doing thanks to you.
My Gaelic maps of Scotland are still available, a perfect gift for any Gaelic learner or just for anyone who likes maps. The maps cost £15 each plus £7 P&P within the UK. You can order by sending a PayPal payment of £22 to email@example.com (Please remember to include the postal address where you want the map sent to).
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