A Brief Argument for English Independence
by Sean Gabb
The normal English response to Scottish nationalism is to ignore it, or to see it as an irritation, or to try shouting it down with reminders of all that shared history, or to point out the value of English subsidies and to wait for common sense to win the argument. None of these, I suggest, is an appropriate response. None takes into account that England and Scotland are different nations, and that the loudest and most energetic part of the Scottish nation has decided that the current union of the nations is not in Scottish interests. This does not make it inevitable that the union will be dissolved. It does, however, make this desirable. Scotland may or may not have suffered from the union. But the union has done much to bring England to the point of collapse, and it strikes me as reasonable to say that England can never be safe while there are Scottish members in the Westminster Parliament.
Let us take the New Labour revolution as evidence for this. Since 1997, England has been largely remodelled. There are few institutions, or administrative and legal forms, or even assumptions, from before 1997 that now make sense to anyone who has grown up since then. The gutting of the House of Lords, the altered functions of the judges, the laws to regulate political parties, and that allow unelected officials to supervise and even unseat elected representatives, the new criminal laws and new modes of criminal and civil procedure, the appointment of commissar units in every government agencies and most private corporations to impose the totalitarian ideologies of political correctness – these and many others combine to make present life in England very different from anything known before. There is also our continued and even accelerated integration into the European Union. And there has been the state-sponsored settlement of England by millions who are alien in their appearance and their ways. Every thread of continuity between the English present and past that could easily be snapped has been snapped.
Of course, this creeping revolution did not begin in 1997 – it became undeniably evident when Margaret Thatcher was in office. Nor has it been confined to England – every other civilised country has fallen into the hands of a totalitarian elite. There is an attack on bourgeois civilisation in every place where it exists, and the attack is led by those who were young in the 1970s, and has the support of a mass of economic and other interest groups. But, this being said, just think how many of the Labour ministers were Scottish. There was Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, Robin Cook, John Reid, George Robertson, Wendy Alexander, Yvette Cooper, Doug Henderson, and so on and so forth. Below the leadership, an astonishing number of Labour members of parliament or Labour Party officials had Scottish accents. The Labour Party that emerged from its troubles of the 1980s was disproportionately Scottish – and assertively Scottish. Their political ambitions lay in the Labour Party, and not in the Scottish National Party. This did not give them other than a very weak sense of British identity, and gave them no observable understanding of or liking for the English.
Now, the central fact of Scottish history has been English domination. Since the eleventh century, England has been a rich and powerful and unified nation, loyal to a government that, broadly speaking, has been accountable to it. For most of the past thousand years, Scotland has been sparsely populated and without trade. Its people have been divided by language and culture, and by political allegiance, and sometimes by religion. It would be a miracle had Scotland ever managed real independence in these circumstances. It almost never has. The 1707 political union put Scotland under an almost purely English Parliament. The 1603 union of the crowns gave Scotland, after one reign, an English King. Even before then, the most important commoner in Edinburgh had almost always been the English ambassador. Even when there was no English army stationed there, Scotland was subject to varying degrees of rule from London.
In no meaningful sense, therefore, can Scotland be independent so long as it has England as its neighbour. And this is the main significance of the New Labour Revolution, and of the disproportionate Scottish contribution to New Labour. Undeniably, this was part of an overall project to destroy bourgeois civilisation, and understanding it requires a reading of Karl Marx and Antonio Gramsci and Louis Althusser and Michel Foucault, and all the others. At the same time, it was an attempt to make Scottish independence possible by destroying England. Divide England into half a dozen Euro-regions; set these in competition with each other for money and privilege from Brussels; fill the country with ten or twenty million aliens; make it illegal, or at least in poor taste, to refer to an English identity – and the way is cleared for Scotland to be as independent as any other small nation can be.
This would explain the rising levels of Scottish hatred seen by many English visitors. When I visited Glasgow in 1994, there was much good-natured mockery of the English. When I was there again in 1997, I was driven from a coffee bar by the hostility even of the staff. In 2000, a taxi driver had the nerve to claim he was unable to understand my accent. In 2002, when I replied to hatred with hatred, another taxi driver tried to get me arrested for unspecified drug offences. Scottish politicians and administrators cooperate in discriminating against the English. The Scottish lower classes are best avoided.
The reason is simple. If you hate someone, you may want to destroy him. But, if you want to destroy someone, it is nearly always necessary to hate him. The Scottish claim to hate us for what we have done to them. In truth, they hate us for what they want to do to us. Bearing in mind that the Labour Party remains a Scottish front, and that the Conservatives might lose the next election, the 1707 union is actually more dangerous for England than membership of the European Union.
I will ask in passing why so many English Conservatives disagree with this analysis. One reason is a sentimental attachment to facts that have ceased to exist. This leads to what I find the most bizarre claims from Conservative supporters– for example, that the European Union wants to dissolve the United Kingdom in order to absorb England, whereas the European Union is simply part of the Scottish attack on England. A less creditable motive is that many of the Conservative leaders are themselves Scottish, and an ending of the union would reveal them as foreigners in England, and confirm them as unelectable in Scotland.
Most importantly, there are the electoral considerations. In the short term, removal of the Scottish members would bring about a Conservative domination of Parliament. In the longer term, however, removal of the Labour threat would mean that English conservatives were no longer locked into voting Conservative. I do not believe that many of those who voted Conservative in 2010 felt the slightest enthusiasm for David Cameron and William Hague and George Osborne. These got into office only because a majority of the English people feared and hated the Labour Party. Take away the Labour threat, and there would be the freedom to vote other than Conservative in general as well as in European elections. Obviously, union with Scotland benefits the Labour Party. But it also benefits the Conservatives by keeping alive the Labour bogeyman.
I say, then, that the union between England and Scotland should be wholly severed. I say that there should be no customs union or common currency, no rights of movement or of settlement, no shared head of state, no coordination of foreign policy or defence. Scotland and its citizens should become as alien, under English law, as Uruguay now is. This might not suit the interests of the Scottish people, as reasonably considered. But that is not my concern. It should certainly be English policy to prevent the sort of instability north of the border that might encourage foreign – and therefore hostile – intervention, or that might cause mobs of starving refugees to press against the electrified border fences. But, once the union has been severed, I shall be inflexibly opposed to any structure of shared institutions between England and Scotland.
England requires no less. Perhaps, all things considered, Scotland deserves no less.