Independence is no longer a nice idea, it’s a necessity

The Herald, by Kevin McKenna

26.01.19

Perhaps there comes a time when, for some pale Scottish nationalists like me, independence might move from being a pleasant notion to an urgent necessity. If so, I think this time is almost upon us. I would never previously have considered myself to be a blood-and-guts nationalist. Indeed, I still experience a degree of discomfort at the word ‘nationalist’ – a result of older and more wretched connotations that have been long attached to the word.

The movement for Scottish independence is about the hopes and aspirations of generations of people stretching back centuries for Scotland to be about its own business. It does not stand or fall on the popularity of individual politicians or the policies of a single political party. This is not about a cult of personality, which is an empty rebuke devoid of any intellectual merit that some opponents have used to denigrate the Yes movement. It also insults ordinary supporters of independence and their families.

Already, after the lengthy and serious charges being faced by Alex Salmond were published, some people are seeking to make political capital. Mr Salmond has strenuously denied all of the charges and his innocence or guilt will be established in a court of law. This, though, won’t stop ill-advised and ignorant speculation about the implications for the independence movement.ADVERTISING

The wider movement for independence will eventually succeed or fail by how many people like me, who hail from traditional Labour-supporting communities, it can persuade to join it. The polls that emerged at the start of the referendum campaign in 2013 all indicated that support for independence was running at around 30%. This showed that there would probably never be enough ‘spiritual’ SNPsupporters to deliver independence now or in the foreseeable future. That the Yes vote increased by around 50% in less than two years stemmed from several factors. For me, as I suspect it was for many from a similar background, the migration to self-determination was as much about the creeping values of neo-liberalism and profit-at-any-cost that had begun to dominate political Conservatism as it was about any emotional attachment to an independent Scotland.

You might reasonably counter with the claim that neo-liberalism and profiteering have always found a welcome in the fortresses of UK political Conservatism. In the last decade or so, however, it became possible to witness a kind of genetic transmutation of traditional Conservatism into something more malevolent and toxic.

Following the 2008 banking crisis many on the left observed the ways in which the UK political elite tried to mitigate its effects. This rested on a desire to protect big capital with tax breaks and lax scrutiny and to penalise the far greater many who had endured the worst of its effects. To ensure that such a strategy flew without close inspection by those it was designed to hurt some culprits had to be provided. Thus ‘excessive’ immigration and the ‘unaccountable’ bureaucrats of the EU were identified before being tried and found guilty in the pages of the English right-wing press, which now passes for the highest court of jurisdiction in this new hard-right ideology. For the first time many Labour supporters began to look more favourably upon the idea of an independent Scotland as offering a long-term escape route from a society that seemed to have lost all sense of a moral bearing. After independence we could shake the SNP’s hand; send them on their way with a nice clock to recognise their long service and then set about the task of ushering in an authentic socialist republic.

In the five years that have elapsed since I opted for an independent Scotland I’ve not been its most reliable role model. I was not emotionally scarred by the outcome of the referendum. Faith, family, friendship and even old football allegiances all remained higher in my list of priorities than the struggle for an independent Scotland. Independence was a preference rather a moral imperative. I still consider myself to be an Old Labour type and do not foresee any circumstances under which I would vote for the SNP, a party which still harbours too many right-wing types and Mickey Mouse liberals for my taste. The circumstances of Brexit and the conduct of those tasked with delivering it, however, have intensified my emotional commitment to an independent Scotland.

The fact that Scotland is increasingly likely to be dragged out of the EU in less than nine weeks with no viable deal, and against the overwhelmingly settled will of its citizens, initially raised obvious questions about the value of Scotland’s democratic institutions. This has been accompanied throughout the last two years with a disdain bordering on outright contempt for our parliament and for those elected representatives who, like me, believe that a measure of sovereignty resides in it.

Worse than this, though, as testified by events of the last few weeks, is the outright dishonesty of some of the chief Brexiters who are revealed to have been on the take from institutions with a direct interest in leaving the EU. The dangerous lies about immigration found fertile ground in empty minds and, recognising such, the UK Government is making plans for military intervention on the streets of mainland Britain. The Prime Minister is sacrificing the entire economic future of this country and risking serious civil unrest to placate the whims of 10 Ulster medievalists. These are people who awake each day hoping that they will be caught up in the Rapture that will portend the second coming of Jesus.

We are dealing with a country that has succumbed to the law of the economic jungle and where the chief architects of this are now openly mocking the rest of us as they move their fortunes offshore. If violence erupts on England’s streets we can be certain of one thing: they will be on the first Learjets out of here. In Scotland we will have one last opportunity to establish something better and more human. It’s now not merely a matter of moral necessity but one of self-respect. And when self-respect goes you will permit anything to be done in your name.