Monday, 15 September 2014

Sorry about the politics, but it's time to talk about Scotland

I think it's bad form to post about politics in a non-political blog, but Patrick did it and anyway, this is a once-every-three-centuries event, so I feel it deserves special comment. If you don't want to read a political rant don't read any further, and rest assured you have until the year 2321 to wait for another.

On Thursday, people living in Scotland are going to vote on whether they want Scotland to be an independent country. I have no idea how this is seen around the world, but I expect that it is largely based on misunderstandings about what Britain is; my perception, from talking to non-British people, is that everyone seems to think that the Scots are some sort of historically-oppressed minority group who were conquered by the English centuries ago and have been chafing under the yoke of London ever since. This is what led a Japanese person to message me earlier to ask why British people are opposed to Scottish independence, when Scotland would be so much better off having "freedom".

As I patiently explained: a) if Scotland has ever been conquered by the English it's through the very roundabout way of the dastardly, perfidious English somehow conniving for their queen to die heirless so a Scottish relative could take the crown; and b) you're surely thinking of the Welsh.

I blame Braveheart.

Scotland and England are essentially equal partners in Britain. Not in terms of population, because England's population is so much bigger, but constitutionally: they are two separate nations with separate crowns which are united in one monarch. They have separate legal systems, separate powers to print currency, and, since 1998, sort-of separate parliaments (Scotland has its own parliament, and there is also parliament in London which is for the whole UK; there is no English parliament of its own). What this means is that the Scottish independence referendum resembles, more than anything else, a divorce. It's two nations which have been bound together for 300 years breaking apart.

Like any good divorce, then, England is going to have to accept the result. You can't force somebody to stay married to you if they don't want to any more. That's not a recipe for happiness. You have to dust yourself down, pick yourself up, and start again. And England will do that. But it's an emotional blow that is going to take a long time to recover from.

I wasn't expecting to feel as emotional about this issue as I do. But as the date draws closer, I get increasingly distraught about it. You see, I'm half-Scottish. My dad is from Glasgow. I've never, ever defined myself as being English. Like a lot of people in this sceptered isle, I would always say that my national identity is British. I consider myself to be a product of the union between the different peoples who call the British Isles home - my English mother's father is of Irish heritage, and my dad's mother was Welsh. My mongrel background is represented in the mongrel nature of the country which I'm from: a muddled but largely successful amalgamation of ethnicities - a family, even. A group of nations who ended up having to share this cold, rainy little island and have learned to do so after many generations. A hard-won and delicately assembled arrangement which has taken centuries to evolve through blood and war.

But if people living in Scotland vote 'yes' on Thursday, what then? A dividing line comes down. From that point on you can no longer be British. You'll have to be Scottish or from "the other bit". I'll have to be Scottish or from the "other bit". My identity is going to have to change. Forget the economic arguments; this is something deeper. The Scottish nationalists are foisting an atavistic, prehistoric decision on me: I'm not going to be allowed to have the positive, forward-looking, civic association of Britishness any more, but only the backwards-looking, crude nationalism of Englishness or Scottishness. Why is this very significant thing so absent from the public debate? Why aren't Alex Salmond and the rest of his cronies being identified as what they are: enemies of progress and utter arseholes to boot?

The beauty of Britishness has always been that it isn't an ethnicity. It's an identity that anyone can have if they live here. That doesn't always work perfectly but it's as close as you get to New World, American- or Australian-style integration in Europe. We don't have the baggage of non-existent ethnic purity. Our union itself embraces diversity because it brings different ethnicities together and makes none of them synonymous with the State, and has done this since its inception. A 'yes' vote on Thursday is going to trash that.

Make no mistake about it. Nationalism is always and forever dark, restrictive, introspective, and mean-spirited. Its nature is division. And Scotland is waltzing into a future of nationalism without even apparently being aware of it - or the fact that it condemns not just itself but the rest of us British people alongside it.


  1. Perhaps a trivial comment, but I wonder what will happen (if anything) to the Union Flag if Scotland secedes. Will it be entirely scrapped? Or perhaps kept as-is? Or perhaps have the blue color removed? Etc.

    1. Nobody knows. We don't even know what the rest of the country is going to be called. I've seen suggestions that the blue background and saltire will get replaced with a green blackground, to represent Wales better. I don't know if that's just talk, though.

  2. I've no skin in the game being from the US so my opinion really doesn't count but I am part Scottish also but a supporter of a separate nation. And in case you ask, if parts of the US wanted to leave and were allowed to peacefully become a separate nation I'd be in favor of it.

    Most of the places would either form a new Confederacy without slavery and the others link up with Mexico (since they are no longer European but through mass immigration moistly Spanish speaking and/or Latino)

    I do think you are well off base about nationalism. Nationalism is inherently good, far better than internationalism or trans-nationalism or universalism, simply because its roughly the largest group that is remotely sustainable.

    The others are bad ideas simply because all cultures are not equal and just as you do, want to keep the identity they were born with.

    Nationalism allows something bigger than a tribe but its constrained by its own limits and that as you rightly put it dark, restrictive, introspective, and mean-spirited nature of division is its strength, Not One of Us is inevitable anyway, nationalism lets you go a bit larger and managed rightly, allows others nations to exist and for people to get along better. If they respect borders and none of our nations have a terribly good habit of that.

    As for division, its also inherently good and human. Diversity and proximity is weakness and conflict r

    This is any kind of diversity excess political , class diversity, pretty much any ethnic or tribal diversity, religious, anything.

    I'm not a fascist, dissent useful, different opinions are good but when there is huge a gap between the Left and Right or Top and Bottom say as in the United States the inherent immorality of the political class is amplified. Its always becomes a spoils state if not an outright warzone

    As for adoptable identity, its utter nonsense in the US and in the UK. Its doesn't work and if you want a great example, Rotherham. That's cultural, ethnic and class diversity all in one poison brew, East Asian Culture (those aren't Britons or UK people in any way) Ethnic (obviously) and class since its pretty clear those were lower class girls and therefore expendable to their "betters" . I can almost promise you nothing will come of it, a token few will be punished and a chunk of the flower of Britain will be sacrificed so the rich can feel good about themselves and political correctness, Cultural Marxism can be maintained . Its sickening.

    If there was less division more nationalism instead of the Globalism both our governments spew well you'd see a lot less of that sort of thing and you might see something done. Even the upper class wouldn't care for the subjects being abused

    These things happen elsewhere, the same lot basically commits every violent rape in Norway and I can promise we have similar things here in the US carefully occluded,

    Another thing, assimilation doesn't work, It didn't work especially here, even with mass waves of European immigrants and lots of land. The Founding Fathers vision got flushed

    Now I'm White of several UK extractions and the rest European, heck only a few generations off the boats from England. . I might even have a claim on British nationality.

    My chance if I moved to the UK or whatever comes after of being British? Zero. I'll still be a foreigner with some British habits

    My children might end up British, maybe, my grandchildren will but it takes generations.

    Bring a a ton of my lot, tens of thousands of right wing Americans and you'll lose your identity. bit by bit, drip by drip. You might gain a bit from it and if we are all Whit you'll certainly notice it less but you'll regret it far more than losing a few people and some land

    1. I fundamentally disagree. I'm patriotic. I'm not nationalistic. My pride comes from British values and traditions, not from ethnicity - and indeed it couldn't come from ethnicity, because there is no British ethnicity.

      You might put down problems like the sex gangs in Rotherham and other English towns to political correctness but it is a far deeper issue than that. Cultural Marxism played its part in tearing down the traditions and social mores that once functioned in places like Rotherham, but so did modern economics and so did politics. We are reaping what was sown not just in the 1960s but in the 1970s and 80s (and I would say the 19th century and the First World War too): destruction of social and communal values with nihilism and amorality the result. Blaming that on political correctness or multiculturalism is like blaming the causes of the First World War on the train schedules for mobilization.

    2. I apologize but this will be a two parter, the $%%$^&$ thing is heavily limited

      We certainly can agree to disagree on those matters and I apologize for any discourtesy . Its your blog after all.

      I understand your point re: economics its part and parcel of the onus against Dame Thatcher, as I understand it her parties economic liberalism essentially destroyed the Working classes entry to the Middle and a good deal of the Middle as well.

      She basically brought back the old lack of social mobility.

      That said, change was inevitable as automation increased jobs were going to go. You can't rely on stasis, at most you can delay the inevitable. People change.machines iterate Unless you have a ring of power of course ;) Than its a longer delay .

      Jokes aside in practice economics has little to do with morals, take Appalachia. Its among the poorest areas of the US per capita , many on government aid and fairly well armed with no strict gun laws yet is crime rate is much lower than the US (about 3/4 of the national average) and its often petty stuff like mild welfare fraud and the like . They are also ethnically drawn much from the Anglo-Scots, a group not noted for mild tempers . The reason? Christian Faith.

      I don't see religions returning to the UK any time soon though, even Islam (not that that would help) or Asatru (which would be cool) but there you go.

    3. Part 2 as I am a long winded bloviator

      Upside here, you do have a change to fix things, wither make people assimilate or kick them out.

      The US does not and its inexorably moving to a low trust, low stability society.

      Speaking for a different country, had Norway had no immigrants or maybe a few European and 1st world immigrants it would have no violent rapes. None, zero zed.

      As it is culture much immigration sacrifices girls and sometimes men for the idea that they can magically become part of something bigger, an idea of Americanism or being British or Norwegian.

      Its bosh, immigrants including the Europeans that came to my country back in 19th century changed it in ways that made it drift far far from its roots.

      The original Jeffersonian model would have strictly limited immigration but he same urge that forced slavery on the US (no slavery, no union) also brought in successive hordes of immigrants. It was at best unwise. At worst a disaster

      I'm sure the original Celtic Britons basically had the same experience as did the First Nations through more violent means.

      Now as for the idea that you even should create a multi-ethnic society driven by a proposition , Its White Man's burden 2.0 , its a foolish dream one as the tiny (3%!) Pakistani population of Rotherham and elsewhere and their PC supporters have shown.

      Pure Evil and its almost entirely driven by the need for secular values and traditions to be offered to people who don't want them.

      Faith might work but no work of man will, people rarely wish to change and once they have a base of support won't .

      This is not to say no one does, that's false but it does say the costs benefit analysis is skewed and any nation is better off with mostly its original inhabitants and maybe its diaspora returned home (maybe) As for values destruction, that's a Leftist doing , I'll say no more.

      That said it was a pleasure talking with you and there was a time we'd have agreed more closely but living in So-Cal has cured that idea for me.

      However if you every happen to be in my neck of the woods, we don't have pubs as you do and I am mostly a teetotaler but I'll sport ya a beer.

      Good gaming.

    4. Good lord. It requires a certain amount of fortitude to no engage, but that is obviously the best course of action. Instead, I will write to say thanks much for your commitment to keeping the blog non-political, and that I am very much looking forward to Yoon-suin!

    5. Thanks Ivan. Any day now, really. I'm just formatting the Appendices (I couldn't resist creating A-N of these....) and then it's a matter of slotting art work into the placeholders. Real life has an annoying habit of getting in the way.

  3. I don't know if my original post was eaten so I apologize if it shows up . Probably better that it was eaten anyway. It was a bit emotional

    Now I've no "Skin in the game" as we say in the US. I am part Scottish and other UK nationalities but I don't live there and have no plans to. Still even if the same happened to my nation. I'd be fine with it,

    As to your point, I understand your opinion but I think its a mistake, smaller, more homogeneous nations with stronger identities and less diversity are almost always better.

    Nationalism is basically the largest sustainable arrangement and while I agree that it is dark, restrictive, introspective, and mean-spirited and divisive by nature, all of those things are good traits for a society to have.

    Lack of those traits is really the root cause of so many problem both our nations (the US and the UK) face.

  4. Aye, sorry for the triple post. Feel free to delete one. My computer was crashing during the long one (mouse troubles)and I thought it might eat my longer post.

  5. I'd say, as another American on-looker, that you're probably right about the Braveheart factor, but I'm pretty sure that most of us recognize that if the Scots were oppressed 400 years ago, that ceased to have any meaning in the last century at least. On-going separatist sentiments are as baffling as the Irish "troubles" were, only more so without even religious friction to blame it on.

    But I'm most baffled by this all apparently coming down to a simple majority vote. I would have thought that something as drastic as secession should properly require a supermajority of 60% at least, or maybe 66%.

    1. I agree with you. It's only one of many baffling things: the entire election is rigged in favour of the nationalists. First, the franchise has been extended to 16 and 17 year olds, who are more likely to be nationalist. Second, Scottish people living in England, who are probably about 10% of the total population of Scots in Britain, can't vote (they're more likely to vote 'no'). Third, the question is weighted towards a 'yes' vote ("Should Scotland be an independent country?"). I'm astounded this was agreed to.

    2. do you think england underestimated the pull of the independence movement until it was too late? the (panicked?) last minute-attempts of all major english political parties seem to me like it has.

      the way i see it (from the outside of course) the campaign for independence has clear, concrete goals, while the supporters of remaining in the uk have mostly resorted to emotional arguments, tradition, or outright fearmongering (considering that a lot of issues are completely up in the air some fearmongering may turn out to be quite reasonable). what i have missed, at least in coverage of the issue in my country, is solid information what would really change for the scottish people. could you sum up a few of the most important points? a real person > wikipedia. :)

      while i generally agree with you about nationalism, i am not sure we can view this as a typical nationalistic movement. as far as i know all parties supporting independence want to remain part of the eu (or rejoin, if needed). being pro-eu and nationalistic (in the way you describe) at the same time doesn't really work out.

      last, but not least, you have to respect the fact that such a "divorce" is possible at all. democracy über alles!

      ps: if you are right about the bookies you don't have anything to worry about.

    3. Yes - there is no doubt whatsoever that the Westminster politicians thought it would be a good idea to call the Scottish nationalists' bluff and have a resounding referendum win which would shut them up for good. A spectacular miscalculation.

      It's hard to sum up the important points because the debate has been so virulent and so confused. Both camps make diametrically opposed arguments on the economy (to the 'no' campaign we are facing an economic apocalypse if Scotland goes independent; to the 'yes' campaign an independent Scotland will suddenly turn into an even better version of Norway by 2018) and both sides have become more emotive.

      What would definitely change is the currency. Scotland would be in the awkward position of either trying to keep the pound (in which case it would have no control over interest rates) or creating its own currency. This would be a genuinely nightmarish prospect for anyone North of the border who owes money - particularly people with mortgages. The nationalists are utterly blithe about this. Other than that, there is some sort of airy-fairy, vague notion that Scotland will be more social democratic in the continental tradition; nobody seems to have realised that this hasn't worked out very well for many places in Europe. Bizarrely, a lot of the rhetoric from the nationalists surrounds protecting the National Health Service, the implication being that the Conservative Party is hell-bent on privatizing health services in Britain. But to British people the NHS is the closest thing you get nowadays to a national religion, so expecting reason to prevail in that area is foolish to say the least.

  6. Replies
    1. Catalonia will be next on the path to atavism, I'm sure.

    2. I'd call it Freedom, which is to say the right to be governed by your own people and customs. Or your own jerks I suppose your remark about Braveheart is pot on, that's what Wallace was fighting for really. For a Scot to run things

      However re: Catalonia. If the Scotland leaves and I don't think it will it will be peaceful. Catalonia won't be allowed to go without bloodshed and if the US gets the same (its its growing here) neither will we,

      That's the sad part,

      Y'all in the UK at least are trying for the velvet divorce

      As for the upthread point about the curious nature of this, I agree. I can't see how this was allowed either. Heck maybe the UK no longer wants Scotland . Who knows.

    3. In my opinion nationalism is a dangerous thing. An incredibly dangerous thing. And the reason is in it's core, because what nationalism says, where it grows from, is an evil idea: that different people can't live together.

      Since I teach and research at a university I have a privilege that not many people in my country have: to be able to travel, live in other countries (not just be a tourist, you know, but to actually live there) and work hand to hand with all kind of foreigners. Those experiences have opened my eyes, and convinced me that more borders are always an error. As Pío Baroja, a fantastic spanish writer (and Vasque!) said: "Nationalism is a disease cured by travelling"

      Now, about Catalonia. In my opinion Catalonia will leave Spain if Scotland leaves the UK. And peacefully, by the way. I can't see a war here nowadays. In fact, I think that the "yes" of Scotland could trigger a chain reaction in the whole Europe. Almost every western european country has one (or more!) regions that play with the idea of leaving their countries. And where does that leads us to? A return of tiny feudal and antagonistic countries, medieval-style.

      What I'd love to see is a true European Union, something similar to the United States.

      For the record, I live in Madrid, but my mother's family is from Catalonia, and the speak Catalan.

    4. Yes, talk of violence is a bit daft, I think, although obviously it's not that long ago that Basques were using violence in the name of separatism - so who knows?

      I share your fears, although I don't think a true European Union is the answer. The EU is the subsuming of national identity, which is the opposite extreme and to me just as dangerous.

    5. Rodrigo, the US union is fraying at the seams and not that many years ago in historical terms we fought a bloody war , probably illegal war to force it together, Its not all that it is cracked up to be and while nowhere near as strong as in Europe, the US has the same urge as Europe, one I think will only grow as the US shifts to a 3rd world model

      As for Catalonia, I am pleased to think it will be peaceful. There was violence and riots back in 2012 and earlier. I can easily see why they want their own nation. They don't speak Spanish and are a clearly identifiable culture and ethnicity of their own.

      As for the idea that travel cures nationalism, it depends, Many people,maybe most do not relish the kind of flexible bohemian lifestyle that the internal set does. They'd rather live, work and play around their own folks

      Rudyard Kipling's The Stranger sums up how so many of us think

      I'll post it here.
      The Stranger within my gate,
      He may be true or kind,
      But he does not talk my talk–
      I cannot feel his mind.
      I see the face and the eyes and the mouth,
      But not the soul behind.
      The men of my own stock,
      They may do ill or well,
      But they tell the lies I am wanted to,
      They are used to the lies I tell;
      And we do not need interpreters
      When we go to buy or sell.
      The Stranger within my gates,
      He may be evil or good,
      But I cannot tell what powers control–
      What reasons sway his mood;
      Nor when the Gods of his far-off land
      Shall repossess his blood.
      The men of my own stock,
      Bitter bad they may be,
      But, at least, they hear the things I hear,
      And see the things I see;
      And whatever I think of them and their likes
      They think of the likes of me.
      This was my father’s belief
      And this is also mine:
      Let the corn be all one sheaf–
      And the grapes be all one vine,
      Ere our children’s teeth are set on edge
      By bitter bread and wine.

      Now I have worked with people from all over the world, grown to respect other cultures , traveled a tad and am no one of those ugly Americans but I like most of the people who are pro succession want to live, work and play among my own kind and be governed by them.

      Not D.C , not the U.N people in my State. Here in California there is an active movement to break the state up. I am all for it, Its too big for dimwits in Sacramento to run the place, better to divest power

      Now granted the Scots situation is quite odd, I can't imagine why they'd want to leave the UK and join the EU. That makes no sense.

      For that matter, Brussels ought not be the HQ of the EU. Belgium while peaceful and functional doesn't have an actual government. Its just Flanders and Wallonia basically agreeing to pretend.

      Splitting those cultures would be sound really, they are a different people.

      And as for the land issue, yes Europe is crowded and many of the countries are flyspecks. That's OK, smaller is often better. Also nothing stops people from alliances and with aging in Europe , the old habits of internecine killing might just be reduced do the lack of young men too.

    6. Since noisms has already move on and resumed posting amazing Yoon-Suin material, I'll do the same. But first I'm afraid I must point to some misunderstadings. Catalonians speak Catalan and Spanish, it's not so rare for some regions in Europe to speak several languages. In fact, in Spain there are 10 languages. Spanish is just the one all regions have in common. Also, there is no Spain-Catalonian culture division, Spain is composed of 17 regions, each with its own identity and particularities, but all of them Spanish, in the same way that an Englishman is English an British, or a Welshman is Welsh and British.

      I know that this is something difficult to understand from outside, specially considering the poor job that the news are making of all this mess.

      However, at this point it seems that we'll have to agree to disagree. Since I have Catalonian family, this is painful for me, and as I said, I'll move on to more fun and games.

  7. Excellent post. I'm Scottish and British, and I feel exactly as you do (and feel no contradiction between the two). I suspect and hope that it will be a 'No' vote on Thursday (I think the 'shy No' thesis has some validity), but if not, I suspect that a great many people will only realise the enormity of what they've done when it's too late.

    And here's a point: the civilisation that's so evident through the fantastic architecture of Edinburgh and Glasgow is a product of the Union. No living Scot has much in common with medieval warlords and Renaissance kings. All of us, though, have a great deal in common with, and a great debt to, the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment, who were proud to be both North Britons and Scots.

    There's an odd ahistorical side to the Yes campaign: one that creates a non-existent oppression and harks back to some pre-Union golden age. In fact, modern Scotland is overwhelmingly the fruit of the Union, which was good for both Scotland and England. It's worth remembering, too, that Scotland's capital is regularly voted one of the best places to live in Europe and indeed the world. I agree; and it's not a bad gauge of how much Scotland has benefited from being British.

  8. I live in Britian, and am technically British. However I spent my formative years outside Britian so lots of the issues are rather confusing to me.

    Most glaringly I cannot understand the insistance that Scotland's independance will wipe out the possiblity of being British. My incomprehension comes from two points, firstly you can't destroy a three hundred year old identity over night, like you said, Britian as a concept is about a great many distinct peoples being forced to come to terms with the fact that they share a small geographical space with each other, and that given that proximity cooperation was the only solution. However the borders shake out cooperation must still be the norm, centuries of cultural and ethnic mixing aside, it's obvious from the discussions that the two new nations would still be reliant on each other.

    Second, however many parts of Britian are removed from the union there will always be those people who require an identity that is not English. Britishness will still have meaning even without the involvement of the Scots. However I project that a significant proportion of the people who wouldl ive in the new Scotland would find the concept of Britishness useful to hang on to. In short Britishness is an idea, your idea, why are you letting the rather irrelevant fact of some border drawing, some movement of power and the possible repainting of a flag change that? Ideas are so much more robust than Nations.

    A little aside on Nationalism. Why do people always point to where we are and say that's as far as we can go? Nationalism was the limit of the world of the newspaper, the radio, the TV and the telegram. And the days before writing limited us to tribalism. The barrier to internationalism is lack of understanding, and whilst technology can't yet provide us a fully functional understanding of those who speak differant languages and live in distant places it's getting there. The main barrier to understanding is a simple refusal to engage, it doesn't take long to notice that the stereotypes of nationalism are superficial and generalised. Furthermore they are more superficial than the stereotypes of the past. No one claims anymore than certain ethnicities (or cultures) are more hard working, or brave, or clever than others and that this is a hard limit that connot be changed. So why should people in the next fifty years still believe that certain nations and cultures are naturally more polite, hospitable or friendly? History has a pattern of breaking barriers. So why is Nationalism the final barrier, rather than just the result of the last broken barrier?(identficiation with the town or city of your birth, with a little regionalism thrown in)

    1. You're very blithe about the existence of borders and geographical space. It's perfectly true that tomorrow I could decide that I'm Italian and embrace my Italian identity while ignoring insignificant and irrelevant issues like borders and governments. But in practice that isn't how things work: nationality isn't merely conceptual. It's intimately tied to geographical space. If in two years' time there is a national border between England and Scotland, different passports, different currencies, then there can't be anything but a shift in identities and we'll be able to assert our British identities until we're blue in the face without it having any meaning.

      My objection to the referendum is precisely that you CAN destroy a three hundred year old identity overnight. That is precisely what the nationalists want. The Scots in Scotland with their own identity and everybody else can go hang. Britishness won't be the identity it was before, because it won't have any Scottish character.

    2. The interesting thing is the actual practical affect of these differences, a national border is likely to be extremely porous (assuming that Scotland is part of the EU) in a similar vein, seperate passports will allow the same level of access to the same places. Separate currencies will have the largest effect, but the again, currency exchange is pretty much no meaning to the average person so long as they have a plastic card and (optionally) enough maths to be able to convert from one currency to another. The major differences already exist. Today I am a brit, but I haven't benefitted from Scotland's free higher education, and I have not suffered from Scotland's health issues. Identity is chosen (if not by yourself then by your educators), just because a large number of people are opting out of the idea of Britian as an inclusive, cooperative idealistic place doesn't mean that the idea of Britian can't mean anything. Many people on both sides of the border have consitently chosen not to identify with that identity since it was first invented. Admittedly, you can choose, if Scotland does vote yes, to decide that the idea of Britian has no meaning anymore, but that is you abandoning the identity and possibly creating a self fulfilling prophecy.

      I thought I'd try a different tact and come up with some real world examples. Obviously examples of identities surviving despite borders encompasing several identities and having larger identities imposed upon them are plentiful. Identities that exist despite the existance of borders dividing those that hold them are a little rarer, but still exist. Diasporas are a fine example, and the Jewish identity is an example of one that has survived (not uncahanged, nothing remains unchanged) for millenia. Despite 100 years under British rule, Hong Kong still remained chinese. Both the German and Italian national identities grew up in environments with many borders, many different currencies and differant rights to travel.

      Unlike National identities nothing about Britishness is incompatable with independant government. The British still need to cooperate with each other, they still need to accept each others cultural values. In order to survive in the modern world they still need to be forward looking, scientific and rationally minded. We still need to understand that we need to share this rock in the sea otherwise we're both screwed.

    3. Yes, we need to share this rock in the sea, so really, why on earth is a border a help? Why is division a good idea? I don't understand the logic.

    4. Me neither, but I don't understand why a border destroys anything either. I mean, it's a giant torpedo to the status quo of Westminster, but like a torpedo it's pretty much impossible to work out its effects.

    5. Except that it explodes and causes damage! ;)

      A border puts up a barrier, both physical and psychological, that simply does not need to be there. There is literally no good reason for it.

    6. You have no disagreement from me on that, I cannot think of a good reason to have it, plenty of things that might seem like good reasons at the time.

      The main thrust of my argument is that identities are strong, mutable and should not be given up so easily, whether British politics gets blown to kingdom come or not, the British identity has survived worse.

  9. Gosh, interesting stuff. I'm American, too...which really means I'm blissfully ignorant of what's happening in most parts of the world.

    I fundamentally disagree with most of what 5 Stone Games above is saying (and, yes, I am also part Scottish). If Washington State was to "secede" from the USA we would be a great little country: economically prosperous, socially progressive, agriculturally sustainable, with plenty of green power (we export our hydroelectric all over the west coast) we wouldn't have to store other state's nuclear waste and deal with Tea Party politicians voted into DC by knucklehead red states.

    But being a part of an American nation...even with the vast cultural differences between, say, Alabama and New York and California and Hawaii, etc. has made us a vastly stronger and far more interesting group of people. You don't get to choose your family (and most folks have some family members that drive 'em crazy), but part of being a HUMAN is learning to get along with your fellow person. It's good for growth/'s good for the soul.

    If Scotland chooses to leave Great Britain, it'll be a sad day.

  10. I don't really have a strong opinion about this particular instance, but, in general, I think it's a positive model for individual states to be able to choose what nation to be a part of from time to time. I suspect that it would increase competition between national government and generally improve how they function. It could discourage large nations from neglecting constituencies that aren't critical for their votes and just overall create a more more equitable system.

    So, even if you think that Scotland leaving the British Union is a mistake, perhaps it will set an example to be emulated elsewhere.

    Also, the British Isles will still be there so you can still identify as British, regardless of political lines. That said, I should mention that, while my mother's great aunt LOVED to brag about our descent from Mary Queen of Scots, it's far too distant a connection for me to have an emotional stake in the matter...

    1. Well yes, the British Isles will still be there, but every piece of land will always be there: the piece of land you live on is only half of the equation. The rest of it is who you're governed by.

  11. As an Irishman I have to say it hardly matters one way or the other and the future would not have depended on this vote if it did mattered to any great degree. Have you read or seen the BBC Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? Britain, never mind England, has been a political irrelevance outside of emotional nostalgia since WWII. Political blocks smaller than Europe-America-China are irrelevant.

    Aesthetically, as in Ireland the sense of an Island nation politically whole, complete and secure has its attractions but for individuals day to day it makes absolutely no difference. The Scot-Anglo emotional relationship, however it might currently be characterised, will be unaffected by any political change.

    Unwring your handies fella.

    1. Kent, it sort of does matter to people in Belfast, wouldn't you say?

      Anyway, I take your point that Britain has been a political irrelevance for a long time but it's not irrelevant to those of us who live here. It's of the utmost importance. Otherwise we wouldn't be as obsessed with it as we are. Life will go on, of course it will, but we'll be much diminished.

    2. How is it different to discovering that a girl doesn't like you enough to remain formally attached anymore? First of all you should have been more aware of her not your feelings, secondly the formal attachment is false if it is not wanted. It is a fake attachment if the scots don't desire it.

      My point is that overnight nothing will change whatever the vote. The Scots will dislike the English to the same degree and the English will still cling to a nostalgic comfort blanket.

      The only real issue is the preposterous security complications but I assume at the level of security they are smart and well insulated.

    3. It's no different to that, which is why I compared it to a divorce. But a divorce is just about the most stressful of life events.

  12. Billy Bragg did a good article for the Guardian on the difference between the nationalism getting everyone excited in Scotland and the right-wing Nationalism that people are much more familiar with.

    Basically, for us it is all about self-determination and an opportunity to escape from an elite-controlled, neoconservative Government and the chance to have the opportunity to try and make things better, even if that's going to be big and complicated task. Its nothing to do with 'the English' and everything to do with Westminster. Most people I know want to get the north of England, Cornwall, Wales and anyone else who'd like to join us to come along too!

    My brother-in-law's family live in Luxembourg, the do most of their shopping in Germany and like to go out in Belgium. Why does it need to be any different for us? We'd all still be British, as the northern and southern Irish are still all Irish.

    PS. Thanks for a great blog, and sorry for adding my comment if you're already sick of this politics...

    1. Thanks for the comment. I understand that argument but I'm not persuaded by it at all. The message seems to be: if you don't like the government, secede. Great - I don't like the government either, so maybe I'll campaign for secession for Newcastle upon Tyne.... No, but wait, I don't like the Labour run council here either. Er... Fuck it, I want secession for myself! What happens when the people on the Western Isles decide they feel alienated by Holyrood? Secession! What a wonderful world it will be. We can just throw centuries of civic democracy out of the window, and our toys out of the pram into the bargain, whenever we happen not to get the government we most want.

      The honest truth of the matter is that Scottish nationalists are called nationalists for a reason: they can't extricate chauvinism and nationalism by pretending to be nice nationalists because their policies are a bit lefty. They're nationalists not because they dislike the mean old Tories but because they think Scotland is best off alone. That is by its nature divisive.

      The example of Ireland is an interesting one because if you ask people in Northern Ireland "are you all Irish?" I expect you'd get a rather mixed response. I also wonder about your Luxembourg example: does it mean that there are no German, Belgian or Luxembourgish national identities, then?

  13. It isn't just nationalism. There has always been Scot's nationalism, just as every out of the way resident from Kentucky hill folk to Tuareg tribesmen want home rule as well, a feeling brought on by being the left behind minority in a larger nation.

    I think dismissing this all as caused by Braveheart, the cult of Bonny Prince Charlie, or even nostalgia for Labor's heyday is ignoring that much of this is based in the idea of the European Union. It isn't just the Scot's Nationialists, it is the people who don't see the point of the UK anymore. I think much of the support is from people who don't see the point of the UK and a London centered policy, in a world where NATO and the EU handle the biggest issues.

    It is the alliance of the nationalists with the globalists that is making this a possibility.

    1. You may be right about that but this idea that Scots are the "left behind minority" is a complete myth. Scotland does much better out of the current constitutional arrangement than anywhere else in the UK. And now they've been promised more devolved powers after the 'no' vote they're going to do even better again.

    2. And this is no different than the situation in the US, where the set up of the Congress favors small, less populated states, yet these areas are the same ones who talk about secession and quite often make the same assumptions about everything staying the same, but... My use of "left-behind" has less to do with not getting their share and more to do with simply being the outsider opinion, in feeling you're not heard as much as you feel you deserve to be heard. On the gut level, it is hard to acknowledge that your region simply isn't that important in a democracy, because a democracy is ultimately about the majority or at least a collection of minorities who agree on some things. That your regional needs, despite being important to everyone where you live, are somewhat secondary to the larger thriving metropolitan areas, which have more people. I'm not sure this parallel applies in Britain, but the power dynamic is akin to the small town or neighborhood located near a big city. The same struggle for whether regional power is more important than local control (a.k.a any political unit small enough that my beliefs win.)

      Yeah I admit it sounds a bit insulting to be drawing parallels between Britain and county administration, but the dynamic is the same.