The question really isn’t if, it’s simply when, as the recent London Olympics so forcibly showed us. Instead of a “feel-good bounce” polling demonstrated some 8% of Scots as registering more antipathy towards the Union.
The discussion most mainstream media doesn’t want to enter is that the demise of the Union is inbuilt; it has been since its inception, mainly because it’s not been guided in similar form to that of Europe in our present day. If the Union of Britain had followed a similar path to the Union of Europe it might have had a chance.
In the Union of Europe the Greeks, Portuguese, Irish, Spanish, Italians and others are willing to undergo austerity, near decimation and yet still remain loyal to that Union – essentially, en mass, the peoples don’t want to leave.
In the UK it’s a different story. Unlike the European Union, our people never had a choice. There was little of democracy and much of subterfuge, betrayal and shady dealing that brought about the 1707 Union.
In Europe there was a Union engineered by popular acclimation and democratic consent, in Scotland it was thrust upon the constituent peoples through threat of force, of war and in the wake of planned economic devastation by our larger partner.
In Europe each nation is celebrated in small ways, ways that are meaningful to the individual franchises at large. This celebration takes many forms from the country of origin with nationality being principle on passports to national differentiation on number plates. It allows each nation to compete, to excel and to express under a pan European banner. This is potentially its biggest asset.
Europe tells its people “remember who you are, be proud of where you came from, yet celebrate your extended family”. The nations of Europe maintain sovereignty with Unity, statehood within Union.
Consider how the UK at the London Olympics could have flown the Union flag on a central pole flanked both sides by the English, Scots, Northern Irish and Welsh flags and celebrate the diversity of its constituents. However, it chose to display only the Union flag; a flag which no parliament has ever officially adopted. The United Kingdom chose to display the flag which is more commonly known to many as “the Butcher’s apron”.
The United Kingdom, formerly Great Britain has been, for a Union, almost unique in its efforts to erase individuality, national origin and national statehood within the image it presents to the community of nations of our world.
Unlike the other Union, in Europe, where difference appears a mark of celebration, the one in the British archipelago uses the jackboot of censorship to stamp out dissent – it demands, Westminster insists that we present to the global community as that which we are not, one nation. This is why London retains control of broadcasting; it can largely control what is both seen within and without these islands.
Consider how often in the national media there was a national flag of the Home nations flown, or shown. It wasn’t. Yet these were not “Britain’s Olympics” they were “London’s Olympics”.
Many foreign athletes, including Usain Bolt, decried the level of micromanagement at these Olympics, not realizing that such authoritarianism is, must be, inbuilt to the psyche of such an administration as exists perennially within Westminster and thereby propagates through society in these many sceptered isles. The isles are many sceptered because they are individual nations.
Consider how many other athletes could have competed, and even medaled, had the nations been individually represented, for instead of four athletes often chasing one place, each could have attended. With a cooperative arrangement for team events think of how such a spectacle could have enhanced the Union in these Isles. Individual for nations, teams for “Gee-Bee” – it works for the Lions.
The “Union” could have had something to cheer about, with retention of “Team Gee-Bee” for team events; each nation could have truly celebrated its own. Proposed to organisations like the Olympics there’s no reason it would not get accepted, after all nations like Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands compete independently though they are effective subsidiaries or protectorates of the United States, their nationals are US citizens and largely follow their laws, yet their immigration policies and currency is the same as used by the 50 states.
Wales, Scotland and N. Ireland all have their own governments, they are in like situation, the only apparent obstacle, the primary one at least appears to be an imperial hegemony that is placed far above domestic harmony on the prioritisation schedule within the UK.
Instead of cooperation and mutual rejoicing we saw a media circus when Scots and Welsh chose to refrain from the “national refrain”, and an intrinsic highlighting of the fractures so self evident amongst the community of nations making up our island world. For many, in athletics and beyond, the refusal to participate in an “anthem” which celebrates the destruction of their ancestors would be seen as an entirely appropriate action.
In Europe each member is free to pursue its own national and international policy, its own rights, and its own laws. Each signs up voluntarily to issues that are perceived to be in the common weal, but each is acknowledged as having the right to leave that Union should it so decide or should economic necessity require it. In Europe’s union no nation is isolated, removed or deprived of a voice with its fellows. Perhaps this is why Westminster harbours so many skeptics to the European project.
There may be no legal mechanism in place for Europe’s fragmentation at the present time, but it’s not viewed as a requirement either constitutionally or democratically. Fundamentally there are rules for joining; no one really cares a lot about who might leave. Unlike the Scots, denied a voice for centuries, Europe’s nations need only a declaration of intent and will to act.
The UK was a forced Union, not an acclaimed one. It didn’t work for the Irish and we are in similar circumstances, for we do know this above all else, that as long as it endures there will be dissent in Scotland. That dissent may or may not boil over into open rebellion, it has in the past, and it should never be discounted in the future.
That is also why if the referendum fails in 2014, it will rise again. It will rise again and again until it does pass. Unionists scathingly refer to this situation as a “Neverendum”, yet such sarcasm should be used sparingly by those who have for centuries engineered the system that has created this situation.
Potentially, Westminster has an opportunity in 2014, but it is a situation that it will not exploit. When examined, it seems obvious the psyche that developed within the belly of the beast, that created the policy processes to guide its actions cannot adapt in decades or centuries, it will not do so in two short years. It could alter this if it has the will; it could dramatically reduce the calls for “Independence”, or perhaps even eliminate them altogether in time, should it choose.
In order to do so, Westminster would have to offer to partner Holyrood in the 2014 referendum, to add to the debate, but it must do so under Holyrood’s rules, not its own. London could achieve this by adopting the third question; it can do so by offering it also to Wales, Northern Ireland, and especially England. In so doing, it would eliminate many if not most of its anomalies and foibles.
It could insert the third option with the cooperation of Holyrood to agree to cease stifling statehood in these Islands. It could agree to put itself forward as a Union parliament for which, like Europe, there would be separate elections.
This could allow Westminster to facilitate growth within the individual nations of the UK, growth without strife or friction, and Westminster could mature in the process. However, there is an outstanding issue that may well defeat such a course. For many, it will mean having to overcome a potentially impossible hurdle in the eyes of individual national franchises – Westminster would have to achieve this while removing any perception of an ongoing yoke, whilst proving honesty of intent and motive.
If this could be achieved, there is a chance that each individual nation could again stand tall; that each might be more comfortable in a Union within a Union, i.e. a true federation of the nation states with an effective voice in both their home parliaments and “New” Westminster. Potentially, we could move quickly and peaceably towards a loosely federal UK, the markets would be receptive, Europe would be comfortable, and democracy would be satisfied.
In truth Westminster can not countenance such a move however, because of fear. London fears that the power it now wields will be diminished, and that federalism is simply a stepping stone towards full independence. The thought of any additional substantial devolution leaves London paralysed by fear and able to act only in a stance of self preservation.
It is this fear induced paralysis that creates the false promises of “Jam tomorrow”, for if they were not false promises, innuendoes or simply outright lies to the electorate, the politicians in Whitehall would incorporate them into a bill that sets in stone the reward Scotland would receive for voting “No”.
The issue again, the powers would need to be substantial, they would need to be guaranteed, they would need to shake Westminster control to its foundations, or they will be derided. The UK government has proven itself incapable of substantive reform, it argued against AV and rebelled and gridlocked the Lords. And these issues are trivial by comparison.
What could be a simple solution will not happen because, at day’s end, the current UK Parliament would require to be constructed similarly the US Senate, with equal number of representatives from each nation. Without it, the domination of a single nation will continue. Without it, the whip will continue to see use and the foot will remain in the jackboot until the time of the “Neverendum” draws to a close in either these reformations or a solid “Yes”.
Ultimately, it is the very palpable fear of any loss of hegemony, of any lessening of stature, of any reduction of influence, no matter how small or insignificant that will bring about statehood once again within these islands.
London’s fear will promote disintegration, for after Scotland, it could be anticipated that Berwick may wish to remove herself from England’s over-lordship and exercise her right to formally rejoin the nation to which she belongs.
That door when opened will simply lead the way; Scotland’s success will breed discontent within the remainder, and the r-UK can anticipate terminal fragmentation. The r-UK will find itself with more in common with the modern EU than it possesses on the surface. For London, like Brussels is terrified of a nation suffering within and succeeding without.
Then the exodus would truly begin, and there is no telling where it will end for either entity.