Thoughts on Scottish Independence


Thoughts on Scottish independence
By Sean Gabb

On the 18th September 2014, which is now just over a week away, the Scottish people will be asked if they wish to end the union of their country with England, and therefore to break up the United Kingdom. Though, as an Englishman, I have no vote in this matter, I have the obvious right to an opinion, and I will try briefly here to express it.

On the whole, I wish the matter had not been raised. The past hundred years in Britain have been a time of great political and institutional change. I have no doubt that good intentions lay behind many of these changes, and that some looked a good idea at the time. But I do not think more than a few of them had beneficial effects. Now the dissolution of the country itself is on the agenda, it is worth asking why, things being as bad as they are, anyone in his right might could want more change.

The question is easily answered. The Union is already finished. If next week’s vote goes catastrophically against the separatists – say, by more than 90 per cent on a high turnout – that will be the end of the matter. But, while the Scottish seem likely to vote for the Union, it will be by a close margin. If as few as a third, again on a high turnout, vote for dissolution, there will be demands for another vote within five or ten years. In the meantime, the game of unreasonable demands and unwise concessions will continue to play between London and Edinburgh. We might as well hope for a clean break now, rather than wait for a messier coming of the inevitable. And, since it may be inevitable – and since it is not we who have put it on the agenda – it strikes me as reasonable to consider what benefits may flow to the English in the event of dissolution. Of these, there are three most worth considering.

First, the Scottish political class, through their weight in the Labour Party, has, at least since the 1990s, been a hostile elite among the English. I do not blame these people for all that has been done. England has its own forces of radical change. But it was they, in the Blair and Brown Governments, who did most to abolish the forms of the Ancient Constitution. They were of critical importance in destroying that sense of organic continuity with the past which, in the absence of a written constitution – and perhaps better than a written constitution – kept England reasonably free. Without the sense that things had always been so, and therefore should always be so, the procedural safeguards of the criminal law, and the general belief in government restraint, became so much rubble from the past – rubble that could then be cleared away by tidy-minded and highly authoritarian radicals.

Dissolving the United Kingdom cannot bring back the Ancient Constitution. But it would end the power of the Scottish political class in England. Set these people on the high road home, and there is some chance that the conservative liberalism that, in every change of the past century, has remained the default prejudice of the English might reassert itself.

Second, and following from the first benefit, dissolution might end the hegemony of the Conservative Party in England. It is hard to say when this party was last meaningfully conservative. In the 1980s and 90s, it did much to prepare the way for the triumph of the Scottish political class. Since 2010, it has left the fruits of that triumph untouched. Nevertheless, conservative Englishmen feel no choice but to vote Conservative if they want to avoid the greater evil of a Labour Government with much of its moral and electoral base in Scotland. We vote for the party we despise to try keeping out the party we fear.

Take Scotland out of our electoral politics, and Labour would become largely the party of the ethnic minorities and the public sector. These interest groups are unlikely yet to secure it victory in a general election. We could, then, for the first time, think seriously about voting for a party we actually liked. I repeat that England has its own authoritarian radicals. But I also repeat that, without the Scottish political class and its client vote in the Scottish cities, the native enemies of our ways would lose much of their hold.

Third, dissolution would, of necessity, end the pernicious delusion of Britain as a great power in the world. We lost our hegemonic position in the 1940s. But our rulers have never lost their belief that, if we only suck up hard enough to the Americans, and keep up our membership dues to the right international bodies, we can somehow “punch above our weight.” A rational policy after 1945 would have focussed all effort on the defence of our home islands and the maintenance of our commercial and industrial position. No longer what we became after 1760, we needed to relearn how we had conducted ourselves before then. Instead, our ruling class chose three generations of self-deception. The results can still be seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, and all those other faraway places where we try – with a lack of success that would be risible but for the corresponding bloodshed – to impose our will as if Lord Curzon were still Viceroy of India and the line of our battle fleets still vanished into the mist off Spithead.

Ending the United Kingdom will end this. England by itself will remain both rich and powerful. But there will be no more playing the ghost of the British Empire sitting enthroned on the grave thereof. It will be an end welcome to us and to those elsewhere in the world we remain able to hurt without being able to rule.

But I have not mentioned the effect on Scotland. How will its people fare under Alex Salmond? Who will pay their welfare benefits? How will they feed themselves? And how, in their own small state, will they balance internal tensions that English power after 1745 flattened without ending, and that have been added to by Irish and non-white immigration?

My answer is that, so far as they do not require us to militarise the border, these are not questions an Englishman should presume to ask. While the Scottish people are also our people, their welfare is bound up with our welfare. Let them vote – as they eventually will – to become their own people, and our whole duty lies in giving them a pat on the back and our best wishes for a future in which they will stand or fall by their own efforts. If they stand, so much the better. If they fall, so much the worse. In either case, it will no longer be our concern. As before 1707, it will be our destiny alone that must be our concern.

Sean Gabb is Director of the Libertarian Alliance and, writing as Richard Blake, the author of six historical novels published by Hodder & Stoughton. His latest novel, The Break, has been nominated for the 2015 Prometheus Award.

 

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17 comments

  • The panic among the elite is a joy to watch, if nothing else. The interesting thing is that they have no real arguments in favour of the Union beyond a vague appeal to tradition- an argument which appears hollow and ludicrous since our Imperial past has been routinely condemned for decades now, and since an increasing proportion of our population are not descended from those who took part in that past anyway. Once you stop thinking of a “people”, but instead of a nation defined by nothing but a passport, you cannot appeal to such folk memories or pride any more.

    I think it’ll be a Yes vote. I hope it is. I think the Scots will do fine on their own. I worry much more regarding what is to become of England in the coming decades, frankly.

  • Across the pond and far removed from my ancestors, I remain conflicted on the issue. I favor independence in principle, regardless of parties involved. Empires cannot flourish under active dissimilation. On the other hand, I am quite concerned about Scotland’s future if socialism dominates its society.

    Thank you for the article. I’ve been waiting to read your thoughts.

  • jctaylor-

    I think the reality is that socialism dominates Scotland and has done for a long time. Perhaps on their own, without England and the Tories to blame, they may come to realise its shortcomings.

  • I have a dream this afternoon…

    I hope the vote is for independence. I hope the winning margin is 3 votes. That would be exactly right to trash, finally, the idea of majority rule, without contradicting my view that no individual’s vote ever made a difference.

    But that isn’t going to happen. Because if it did, they’d rig the votes.

    If an independence vote did happen, one that couldn’t be rigged, I expect that the brutish political classes would do to the Scots what the EU did to the Irish over the Lisbon treaty. And don’t forget that, however the referendum turns out, the political class are always out to screw us all.

    Whatever happens, I hope it will help people to take on board the futility and evil of nation states, their politics and all the political parties therewithin.

    Disclaimer: Genetically, I am three-eighths Scottish.

    • I don’t share your dislike of the nation state. I also don’t agree that the Scotch will be forced to vote again if the No side wins. They will be forced to vote again if the No side isn’t buried.

      • Sean,

        On what will happen after the referendum, I think we must both defer to the future. Probably we’re both right – whichever side “loses” will take it with bad grace, and they’ll make life worse for all of us as a result. Let’s see what happens.

        On nation states, I think the best I can say here is “read my book.” (Of which you already have a copy).

      • P.S. – a technical matter. What happened to my avatar from the old site? The black and white one, which looked as if it was about to rotate at about 6000rpm?

        • Re your avatar:
          Erm, not sure…It ought to have ported across with all the gear. I will look into it.

  • Just as a further thought; if there is a Yes vote, I gurantee that this will be used as proof that people can’t be trusted to vote on anything and thus to knobble the EU Referendum (if we ever actually get it) with supermajorities, rigged questions, etc etc.

  • Very enlightening, especially for us Scottish-derived rednecks on the next continent over. Reprinted with gratitude here:
    http://ex-army.blogspot.com/2014/09/sean-gabb-on-scottish-independence.html

  • Dear Dr Gabb

    The dissolution of the union is in full accord with the wishes of the EU, namely to carve up countries into bite sized regions. Hiving off Scotland to become an ‘independent’ nation, soon to be re-absorbed into the EU under heavily unfavourable terms, is a relatively easy first step. Wales and Northern Ireland may follow after a discreet interval.

    Carving up England into its ordained regions and stripping Westminster of all remaining power may be enhanced by lavishing the Scottish region with EU funds, mostly derived from the English rebate gifted to the EU by Mr Blair 2005, a couple of years before the whole independence debate started its current course. This may be enough to start a clamour for more of the same by each English region with largess promised to the first.

    Once one English region has gone for ‘independence’, the rest will follow by default.

    Whether the first region will be bought off with our own money, or whether it will be driven by one of the third world colonies which have been seeded in this country only time will tell, but if the EU survives long enough, and England remains subservient to it, their intention is the regionalisation of England and the destruction of a nation big enough to be a threat.

    I hope the vote is ‘no’. If the Scots do vote for ‘independence’, they won’t get it and though they may have a short-lived boom fuelled by free English money laundered through the EU, they will eventually discover the reality of being just another region in an EU stuffed full of them.

    Forget ‘Scottish’ oil: that will all belong to the EU, along with all the fish.

    DP

    • Scottish nationalism is only possible because they are still, for now, a race and a culture. Once “independent” of Great Britain they will then find that they have escaped a family home for the cold comfort of the open road- where a far sterner master in Brussels or Washington will scoop them up like the cosmetically attractive minnow they are.

      For far too long Englishmen have ignored the palpable hostility towards them in israel, America, and the Continent- unforgiving enemies not just of long past English military superiority but also of the (to them) alien English concepts of equality before the law, cultural enlightenment, personal freedom and the Rule of Law.

      The Scots are well and truly played in this ridiculous “independence” debate- where fellow members of the same power elite club are merely manipulating common folk via the lapdog media, as usual. Theatre of the absurd with the radio blaring, and a choice of ramps each of which leads to a different abbatoir.

      The long marxist attack on England and its culture- which is the true high culture often appropriated by others under the weasel words term “Western Civilisation” is under its final orders.

      This is a moment like that when the Saxons came- and stayed.

  • It is all so very sad – three centuries of history seeming to count for nothing, with the debate being reduced to “you will not be able to use our [collapsing] fiat currency” versus “yes we will – or we will repudiate our share of the national debt”. A squalid end to such much valour – for the Scottish regiments brought honour to this whole island (repeatedly) and so much intellectual achievement – the Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century (and Scots literature Sir Walter Scott, RLS…..) and the achievements of Scots scientists and Scots engineering – astonishing for such a small population, also brought honour to this whole island.

    There are false notes in Dr Gabb’s piece (there normally are in recent years) – but, sadly, the basic thesis is sound, Even if the Scots vote “no” – the Nationalists will simply come back in a few years (they only have to win once – Unionists have to win every time).

    Perhaps the most false note in Dr Gabb’s piece (apart from talking about “Irish immigration” as if the Scots were not an Irish tribe, thus trying to transform a religious conflict, Catholic versus Protestant, into some sort of racial conflict – in order to please the Black Flaggers) is his insistence in talking about “England” as if Wales and Ulster did not exist (which is offensive as well as wrong).

    The United Kingdom will continue to exist (so no joy for the ethnic nationalists with their beloved swastikas) – but, sadly, it looks like (eventually) Scotland will not be part of it.

    I hope that Dr Gabb is mistaken about that – but I feat he is correct.

    As for “nonwhites” – that is much more a feature of England than other parts of the United Kingdom.

    Powerful we certainly are not – which is sad for those people (of whom I am one) who regard the history of Britain in the world is (on balance) a positive one.

    “Rich” – for the present, but (of course) we are heading for both fiscal and monetary bankruptcy. Unless there is some fundamental reform – which I think unlikely.

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