In a difficult day manhandling broken fences blown down by gale force winds – there’s a profound metaphor in today’s chore that will become obvious shortly – I had occasion to answer a poster on a social network site. He was, bless him, doing his best to discipline anarchic contributors to the site over their propensity to express dislike of the English.
“We do not hate the English!” he scolded, adding we, the Scottish nation, should stop saying so in different ways, and not hand our political opponents ammunition to fire back at us. Well, his remark is somewhat misleading.
The reality is, we deplore the way English disregard Scotland.
They ignored Scotland for generations until Margaret Thatcher arrived on the scene. The Grim Reaper on horseback surveyed what she assumed was hers, and she did not like what she saw. She took notice only long enough to remove Scotland’s industrial base, its great ship building and its steel works, and mused awhile as she destroyed its unions who helped distribute its wealth. She took away its pride, or so she thought.
England prefers to ignore Scotland still.
That might be all very well for the common man and woman hard at work bringing home the bread, busy building a life, feeding their children, but for the ‘British’ and ‘Royal’ institutions I have to deal with supposedly founded to serve all of Great Britain, ignoring Scotland is completely unacceptable.
The only regard Westminster feels obliged to have for this nation is in the wealth that it takes from us, in taxes, natural resources, and our youth for English wars.
This has been the relationship in epitome all my life, and arguable since 1707. Not until Scotland gets ‘uppity’ or ‘chippy,’ a people’s justifiable democratic protestations made public, do they take notice, but only in ways that suppress dissidence.
If you are English you can be forgiven for being surprised that the Scots have a problem with Westminster rule. After all, it is only natural, for if you have never taken notice of something you will not know it exists.
For the same reason English journalists betray their ignorance continually by expressing incredulity at Scotland’s demands. Surely Scotland is happy in the Union, they ask, oblivious themselves until then, told by their editor to cover Scotland’s political awakening with a hasty ephemeral article.
By the same token, if you know nothing of Scotland’s political outlook and cultural diversity, everything it demands to create a fairer more just society will seem to upset a laden apple cart, particularly when you have been led to believe England subsidises Scotland in everything including its television programmes.
The truth was made clear over the course of an intense two-year Referendum debate. It must come as a shock to many English and just as many Scots: England takes the money Scotland makes and gives it an allowance.
To dampen political ardour Westminster tosses a few scraps of power to Scotland, and then insults it by tying the scraps to a fishing line. We bite, (55% of those who voted bit) and are reeled back in again. A cynical, crass Cameron strolls out of Number 10 Downing Street the morning after the Referendum, balls high, to announce any new powers granted must give way to English votes for England.
Scotland, implored to stay in an unhealthy union with a country that has little regard for its future, is told it will be what it has always been, a second-class participator. Once subservient always subservient. The price for a few paltry new powers is complete passivity. This is what Westminster calls love and affection.
Westminster politicians came out of the closet.
The Conservative party began its General Election campaign today by issuing an enormous billboard poster of former Scottish First Minister, Alec Salmond, looking at a miniature Ed Miliband, Labour leader, in his breast pocket.
The poster will backfire on the Tories. The image has Salmond the respected statesman, a man of political weight, gravitas, and wisdom, almost handsome in a serge blue suit – he is all of those things – the antithesis of how he was depicted during the great democratic debate. Back then he was anything ugly a quick manipulation of Photoshop could conjure.
Miliband is depicted as many see him including some in his own party, a man stunted of growth, a sort of plastic toy politician, small enough to fit into a pocket.
By that image they admit the great issue is one of England versus Scotland.
Foolish English journalists see the new attitude as suiting the Scottish National Party’s goals. They see rebellion not as democracy swinging into action, but as SNP organised mischief. That is arrant nonsense.
The SNP is a political party that arose from a grass-roots movement.
The SNP is doing what it was elected to do, look after the interests of its electorate irrespective of their political persuasion. Its momentum issues from Scotland reacting to what it sees and dislikes in England’s contemporary affairs: the crushing of the Welfare State, the privatisation of schools to a Victorian template, the demonization of the poor and the vulnerable, food banks as a normal way of existence, the largest portion of wealth held in the Swiss bank accounts of the elite, the permanent implementation of neoliberal orthodoxy, the rejection of Europe, evil wars and wars and more wars, the incessant, continuous rattling of sabres, trillions spent creating weapons of mass destruction to kill people who have done us no harm other than resist British and American imperialism.
Aggression abroad, aggression at home.
Bloody England is perpetually at war.
Journalists scream blue murder at Scotland’s assertive character. “If Scotland rules England I can foresee the Thames foaming with much blood,” says one, sounding like a Hollywood honky playing a ‘red Indian’ in a cheap cowboy film, echoing the death throes of a former discredited Tory politician, Enoch Powell. At last, they admit they are racists.
“The seeds of tyranny being sown in Scotland” exclaims a newspaper headline. Boy, are they scared witless. Do they realise they are looking at their own reflection in a mirror?
“The terrifying prospect of Scots ruling England is now all too real,” bewail frightened Englishmen. “A doomsday alliance,” screams another. “What price democracy now?” Scotland is accused of stoking the fires of English nationalism as if hatred of foreigners and the racism of Ukip, and the odious BNP and EDL never existed. Somehow or other it is Scotland’s fault life in England sucks.
If Scotland returns more SNP seats than is palatable to England, so goes the current English drum beat, England will urge its almost indistinguishable opposing political parties, Labour and Conservative, to unite to keep the SNP behind the Antonine Wall, and protect the crumbling United Kingdom.
To hell with the Scottish vote, keep it out. Moral and political dissent is to be crushed.
The truth is the reverse. Scotland saw what England was becoming and did not like it one bit. We wanted a different society, a different politics. The last things Scots want to do is run Westminster. English alarmists are crying wolf for their own malicious purpose. Reject the European Union, reject the Irish, the Welsh, the Rumanians, the Poles, the Scots.
Is there anybody on this planet English feel comfortable to live among them?
The end of the Union – a new Treaty agreed. Don’t panic, Mr Mainwaring. Posh Jocks and career Scots intent on the House of Commons, civil servants educated at elitist schools, Gothic Fettes, rural Glenalmond, each hoping for a dry existence in diplomacy, can still look south for a career. As faux-Englishmen they will be happy with English votes for English laws. Anyhow, an interchange of medical men and scientists and engineers can continue to be the basis of any exchange of mutual expertise and knowledge.
Scots do not give a toss about power over England.
A marriage of equals, what marriage? Upstairs downstairs? Scots staff must enter the Earl’s mansion by the tradesman’s door. England inhabits the palatial pile, its architecture and objet d’art an attraction to tourists. Scotland has the tied cottages, barn, stables and outhouses. We trim the arboretum, plant flower beds, spray roses against disease, see to the greenhouse and vegetables, and cut the lawn. England keeps ownership of the estate and all in it. That is the order of things. That is the English class system.
England ruling Scotland for over 300 hundred years for the greater good of England’s coffers is fine and dandy, as natural as water flows downhill. We were all educated to believe it was part and parcel of a shared union, a shared responsibility. Scots ruling England as part of an economic union of equals is thoroughly repugnant and abnormal. That is what that poster represents. Remember the British sponsored advertisement driven through the streets of London, “Are you an alien – then go home”? It was meant for Scots too. No one should be in any doubt; had English been given their own referendum they would have voted for separation en masse.
On the evidence before them I trust our English friends see the light.
I for one, utterly reject English intolerance of things they brand ‘un-English.’ We want our children to inhabit a better society, to nurture it well because all the political structures not there now will be there for them to exploit and develop under self-determination. And if we can win the right to shape our own civilisation again perhaps the English will learn a thing of two of how to behave.
Now is the time to prove that traditional Scottish ideals are more than rhetoric, and that Scottish society is too healthy to permit the stifling of dissent to continue. The only way to protect our democracy is to elect as many SNP MPs to Westminster as we can.
Do not lament the loss of false affection. Be pragmatic. Welcome a better relationship.