The United Kingdom: A Union of Unequals

by Charlie_East_West on March 17, 2017


I will always consider myself both British and Scottish. I have spent years wrestling with my own opinion on Scottish independence. I hoped that it would never come to this, but, from 2014 onwards, I made my progression from being a unionist to a supporter of Scottish self determination for the following reasons:-

Independence is not about a silly Braveheart hatred of the English. It’s not about a desire for passports, hard borders and anthems. It’s about self determination and a move away from a set of political values at Westminster that are alien in a more progressive left of centre Scotland.

What’s driving so many Scots to consider independence is not about about anti English sentiments, but instead, what they believe has happened to Britain. Led by an overdominant south-east, driven out of Westminster, The City of London and the right-wing media, British politics has gone progressively rightward. The path of the past 37 years has been one of inward looking xenophobia, rampant privatisation and diminished public services all framed by blaming ‘others’ – whether it be immigrants, the EU or even Scotland. And Scotland wants no part of this mentality. Yes supporters in Scotland have a desire to “take back control” and get civic nationalism based on self determination and inclusivity rather than being attached to a completely different ideology in the South of England.

2 out of 3 Scottish voters voted to stay in the EU – the UK government should be recognising that fact. Scotland is supposed to be one of four “equal partners” within constitutional rights in a union – as such, they should be treated as an equal. The will of the Scottish voters must be taken into account over the EU rather than being ignored. As such, another independence referendum gives Scottish voters the right to reply over self determination triggered by an undemocratic and unconstitutional framework within the Act of Union over the EU referendum.

The rather haughty tone from Theresa May hardly helps matters. For her to say ‘now is not the time’ for Scotland to decide its future, is exactly why it is now time for Scotland to decide its future. Her positioning is breathtakingly hypocritical. In terms of a second referendum on Scottish independence, she stated that, “it would be unfair to ask people to make a crucial decision without the information they need to make that decision”. So, based on her double standard comments, if Theresa May has been Prime Minister instead of David Cameron between 2010-2016, the EU referendum would never have happened.

If Brexit was a vote for independence from Brussels. As such, Theresa May can’t complain when Scotland wants the same. She acts as the ‘do as I say, but not as a do’ custodian of democracy over Scotland. Just imagine if Brussels had told the UK that they are not allowed to have a referendum.

A United Kingdom that survives only because Scotland is not allowed to vote on its own future within the United Kingdom – is not a United Kingdom. If a partner is constantly being told what they can and cannot do, they should always be able to end the relationship at any time. For Theresa May to try and prevent that right, is an affont to democracy and it is a form of infantilisation within a relationship that is supposedly a ‘partnership of equals’.

This then, is what’s driving so many Scots to consider making the break: a sense of unease and a lingering fear that, given the way Middle England can decide UK elections, the Tories (with only 1 MP in Scotland) unfathomably claiming to have a mandate in Scotland, being dragged out of the EU against its will, has only increased the fear for many Scottish citizens that Britain will never again return to the kind of progressive values that still find a ready consensus in Scotland.

So, what happends next?
(1) Tories rule out a Scottish referendum prior to Brexit – that takes us to the Spring of 2019…
(2) Rafification of Brexit in Spring 2019
(3) Scottish Referendum process is agreed in Summer 2019
(4) General Election in May 2020
(5) Scottish Referendum in Autumn 2020
(6) Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2021
(7) If the yes vote prevails, Scottish independence ratified by 2022
(8) If independent, Scotland joins the EFTA in 2023

The timings for a huge set of profound changes within the composition of the United Kingdom are brutal. It is one major step after another. I suspect that by announcing her block on a Scottish Referendum until after Brexit, Theresa May is intent on kicking indyref into the long grass until after the Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2021, where she will cross her fingers and hope that the SNP fall short of being able to form a majority to actually push through another Scottish independence referendum.

As for the SNP, as and when another referendum does occur, I suspect they will align a new approach to the EU. It seems increasingly likely (and sensible) for an independent Scotland to just join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in the short term. This ensures that Scotland will stay in the single market and answer that tricky question of a Spanish veto over EU membership. It also removes the need for Scotland to join Shengen or the Eurozone. It also creates an opportunity for Scotland to entice UK businesses to Scotland to gain access to the single market. This is a sensible solution to navigate through a lot of Unionist questions surrounding Scotland and the EU.

It’s not the ship so much as the ability to navigate skillfully to ensure a successful voyage. At present, I trust the navigational skills of Nicola Sturgeon more than Theresa May to ensure successful arrival at their own desired destinations. But one thing seems pretty certain in all of this. The United Kingdom is a partnership of unequals. This inequality between the nations will ultimately be its downfall.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

John Stone March 19, 2017 at 9:18 am

Brexit and the behaviour of May since the referendum have shifted my position on this too. At the first sindyref my view leant, albeit not strongly, to no. But I would now be well into yes.

Unfortunately, living in England now, I won’t get a vote.


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