Last week I learned of Westminster’s plans to save the United Kingdom after they finally twigged that twenty-one successive polls for Yes weren’t just a blip but something dangerously close to the settled will of the Scottish people. When you throw a fairly recent Ashcroft poll into the mix – the one that had seventy-six percent of Brexit voters happy to wave Scotland goodbye and seventy-four percent see a reunited Ireland if it meant reaching the Brexit sunlit uplands, it becomes clear that it will take a lot more than Union Jack festooned number plates and the relocating of a C-list royal to Edinburgh (ideas considered apparently in all seriousness) to shore up support. Then further add to this unholy brew the devolution wrecking Internal Market Bill and the Shared Prosperity Fund – even the names are euphemistic half-truths – and it’s clear that they are in big trouble. And to think only a few short years ago the propaganda no more sinister than tatties from Auchtermuchty finding out that they were in fact Brits, not Fifers. Now they’re throwing the kitchen sink at it. To borrow from the title of a popular football fanzine from back in the day, It’s Half Past Four and they’re Two Goals Down.
Part of the strategy – if it can even be called that – is to have a much bigger presence in their North British colonies than they did previously. Much of that presence takes the form of a seven storey UK Government hub in Edinburgh, with another soon to be built, at great expense, in Glasgow. The buildings will be staffed by thousands of civil servants who will relocate from England and who will, along with growing number of staff in the Scotland Office, tell us what a great thing the union is; that we are utterly dependent of the largesse and munificence of our benevolent neighbours; that we’d never been able to deal with Covid, far less find a vaccine or find the money to mitigate against the pandemic, without their broad shoulders to stand on. And then, having weakened devolution through the Trojan horse of the Internal Market Bill and starved us of funds they will then tell us to be grateful for the many projects they will pay for on our behalf, whether we want them or not, like the tunnel from Portpatrick to Donaghadee. Given Boris Johnson’s world renowned reputation for delivering on big capital projects like the new runway on the Thames, I have no doubt I’ll be driving to Northern Ireland by this time next week – if my journey is deemed essential, of course.
Historians have a theory that what will be the biggest factor in the end of the United Kingdom will be that the three strands that held Britain together – religion, war and empire – are largely or completely irrelevant in the twenty-first century, so its raisons d’etre have gone forever. But the British ruling classes were always very good at getting the colonialists to do the heavy lifting – and this is what is happening here. What really gars me greet is that my own taxes are being used to build a case against the kind of self-governance that everyone else in the world don’t see as unusual but as mundane normality. My own money is being used to peddle the narrative that we are too poor, too wee, too stupid to go it alone. In short, we are being forced to fund our own belittlement.
There’s an old adage among political campaigners. “If you’re explaining, you’re losing”. It seems to be that there’s a hell of a lot of explaining going on. Good.
Firstly, the very existence of a union unit, or whatever they’re calling it now, is proof positive that the game is up. It’s over.
Secondly, there’s no other way to dress this up: the Internal Market Bill & shared prosperity fund – are clearly incompatible with a devolution settlement that they all wish had never happened. Direct rule is their endgame.
And the third thing is just how tone deaf they are. The natives are a bit restless? Send Boris. Send a minor royal to live in Edinburgh. Put a Union Jack on number plates.
I find it uniquely odious. Below Boris Johnson’s carefully choreographed buffoonery lies the leader of a deeply reactionary, amoral group of charlatans – who you strongly suspect actually hate us on the rare occasions they even think of us at all.
A final thought – it must have surely crossed their minds – losing Scotland (not that it belongs to them) would actually see the Tories in power pretty much permanently. His support base, as we’ve seen, would happily see us go: after all, they’ve got their Brexit sunlit uplands. Why bother with all this rough wooing?
The answer is the same as with every other country they have ever colonised.
Money. Just as Thatcher couldn’t have afforded foreign adventures like The Falklands and the post-industrial redesign of Britain without oil revenues, so the neoliberal, post-Brexit, rule Britannia Empire 2.0 Little England project can’t happen without Scotland’s actual and potential wealth. That, I think, is what is driving this unprecedented propaganda campaign.
And I’ll leave you with this.
What will end the UK in its present form won’t be Scottish nationalism, but English nationalism. Scotland hasn’t voted for the Conservatives in sixty-six years. In the last forty years, they have been in power for twenty-nine of them. Jeremy Corbyn offered some kind of sane alternative, so they destroyed him and brought in a less threatening alternative. The Tories moved to the right and shored up the Brexit Party.
England has made its choice. Scotland either has to suck it up – or make a different one.
In the end, it’s up to us.
We just need to keep the heid.
Stay safe good people. I’ll meet you further on up the road.