Our growing hope of national self-determination is no longer grounded, as it was in centuries past, in a sense of our subjection to foreign domination. Scottish political union with England in the colonial and mercantile ventures of Great Britain, albeit a clever legal fiction, has had benefits for Scotland and some of Scotland’s people. Unlike a nation which has been overrun by another, more powerful, neighbour bent on destruction and the ethnic cleansing of its population, Scotland has been part of a political union where there has been a level of coöperation and mutual participation in commerce, empire building and statecraft. It has never been a union of equals, however. The English state and its establishment have dominated the agenda and have always enjoyed the lion’s share of the benefits. At Westminster decisions are made which have always been driven by an Anglocentric understanding of the British project. From the earliest days of the union the assumption of the larger partner has been that Scotland, as a distinct nation and state, was simply absorbed by England. Scots do not, by and large, feel enslaved, oppressed or conquered by England, and nor should they. Our present political and economic realities, the status quo, are of a different nature of oppression. It is a relationship of national rather than personal dependence.
Reduced to pound and pence value, all of the creativity of Scotland, each penny harvested by taxation, every single item of production and the totality of its natural resources; a vast sum of wealth, is delivered up to a government in London. Nothing, not a farthing, is left unaccounted. From all that is given a portion, a ration, is handed back to Scotland by means of the mechanisms of the Barnett Formula to ensure the effective governance of our country. Conveniently this gift is treated as a ‘hand-out’ to the dependent party, be it Scotland, Wales or the north of Ireland. Implicit in the acceptance of this reality is the Westminster British ownership of the wealth of other nations including our own. This is the status quo and the root of Scotland’s dependent status and oppression. It may not be the oppression of the very poorest people in the world, or their cruel victimisation by others, but it is the oppression of a people who have no control over their own wealth. Other people in other nations, as autonomous states, do not require the consent of others to use their own wealth. This is dependency, and such a state of affairs ensures that Scotland is limited in the care that it can give to the people of Scotland – the very people who create the wealth of the nation.
Our hope is in the mathematical certainty that nothing remains unchanged forever. Over the past three centuries the memory of Scotland’s statehood, distinct from any other nation, has been kept alive in the culture and history of the people. It has been preserved as a future hope by nationalists and romanticists, these being sometimes one and the same. In recent years there has been an awakening over Scotland that has, in other ways, reminded us of the pressing need to sever this dependent relationship with Westminster. It is an awakening that has been infused by a growing sense of our unique national identity, but which has never been limited by it. This is the awareness of the changing reality within Great Britain – the ‘big state.’ Scottish requirements and needs have been overlooked, neglected even, by the concerns of a state that has placed brand reputation on an international scale before the people and nations who fund it. Social and healthcare needs, along with education and inward investment, have taken second place in a grander strategy of international military and commercial domination. These are changes which have had a profound and detrimental effect on millions of people in Scotland, as well as England, Wales and the north of Ireland. Lives have been lost as the big state has drained funds from the weak to fund the dangerous ambitions of a powerful establishment over which the weak have no control.
Stirrings of discontent have been met by a systematic and ruthless programme of punitive cuts, tighter security measures and the privatisation of the public sphere by state and commercial interests. The very instruments of popular resistance have been targeted and demolished. Now there are more surveillance cameras in Scotland, England, Wales and the north of Ireland than in any other state in the modern world. What has been built up around us is a watchtower that would have been the envy of the Soviet Union. We are told that these measures are for our security and safety, yet few in this cage will admit to feeling any safer. All such big states become less democratic. Democracy does not suit the ambitions of the powerful few. Increasing levels of poverty and social hardship alienate those on the peripheries from political engagement, from having their say in how their land operates, and effectively gives increasingly fewer people an increasingly greater say in how things are done.
More and more people across the so-called United Kingdom have railed against these changes and so the butterfly effect has come into action. A different type of political engagement has emerged as people have found different ways of communicating ideas of democracy and freedom. In Scotland this has resulted in the greater realisation that the status quo leaves the Scottish people powerless to affect meaningful change in a parliament over which they have never had a decisive say. Oats, haggis and tartan have been put aside in an attempt to alleviate the worsening social conditions of Scotland as it becomes clear that this inner transformation is impossible within a big state which exists only to enrich its architects. The most powerful dynamism at work in this national awakening is not one of national isolationism and simple separatism, but a prophetic consciousness that has ingested the idea that the salvation of the many is not conceivable unless the awakened nation saves first itself. In every part of Scotland’s independence movement this dialogue is present either openly or as a directing undercurrent; a sign that the cat is out of the bag. Over the next number of years, as this notion is more fully worked out, the more explicit it will become in the character and actions of the nation. Miniscule alterations, rising from a common intuition, are already making waves powerful enough to break big states.
Jason Michael, Ayrshire