‘For me Scottish independence means putting an international border across my country. My country is Britain.’
And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the definitive statement of Unionism in this whole campaign.
It comes, not from a BNP online nutter, but from one of the most esteemed Unionist commentators in the debate, the Professor of Public Law at Glasgow University, Adam Tomkins.
Tomkins was hailed by Angus Macleod, Scottish editor of the Times, as the best brain on the subject when he opined against Holyrood having the powers to stage a referendum. He was chosen as the key adviser on the constitution by Ruth Davidson when she set up her devolution commission. He is adviser to the House of Lords Constitution Committee. He is commentator of choice for the BBC on legal issues surrounding independence.
He is the definitive Unionist, happily domiciled in Scotland and totally committed to the retention of the United Kingdom (albeit without a monarchy. Sorry, ma’am)
Tomkins makes his declaration at the very top not of a pro Union production but in the intro to Scotland Yet, a documentary on the referendum story from the Yes perspective featuring many faces from the campaign. Aye…even mine.
I repeat it here because it cuts through the verbiage and the politicking and goes straight to the heart of the matter.
In essence, it answers the question: Which is your country? In September we choose between two options – Scotland or Britain. Tomkins is in no doubt and I respect him for it because he doesn’t fudge and wheedle or do ‘The Proud Scotbut’ routine. My phrase for this is Principled Unionism because it stands on a principle – that he feels deeply that he belongs to Britain and whatever emotion he holds for home or for Scotland, it is subjugated in favour of his premier choice of nation – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
He acknowledges the real meaning of the independence question: Should Scotland be an independent country? You vote Yes if you regard Scotland as your first choice nation and you vote No if you prefer the alternative – the UK.
As I argue in Generation X (see previous posts) this doesn’t directly affect your identity. You can be whoever you choose – a British Scot, an Asian Scot, a Pakistani-Irish Scot or simply British in whatever settlement is reached and you can remain that in Scotland and you can take citizenship or not. It matters not.
The point of the question is…do you want decisions about your life made in Edinburgh or in London, so that you are choosing which is your government of choice and which country – UK or Scotland – truly represents you.
That’s what the leading Unionist Tomkins is saying. He feels British, prefers the British government, defers to the British state – in old language, he owes his allegiance to London (symbolically). Whatever Scotland means to him – and I’ve read some genuine expressions of affection and commitment from him – it does not represent his idea of his country. It is part of his country and however many powers it has, it will always be secondary to the UK…supplementary, subservient, auxiliary.
I choose Scotland. Tomkins is a Britnat. I am a Scotnat. You can argue the toss on nuclear subs, pensions, the EU, Nordic welfare and border guards until you’re Saltire blue in the face – the real choice is Scotland or Britain. Which do you belong to?
Ultimately I believe that question trumps all others and will lie at the heart of the decision facing Scots in the polling station. For Tomkins and all the many other British Scots, it’s as simple as that. For me and the Yes community, it’s that easy.
You can add in all sorts of aspirations and side allegiances if you like. I believe for example that independence will unleash Scotland’s entrepreneurial spirit and our latent egalitarianism so that independence is a route to that end but my main motivation above all others is that Scotland is my country. And, if you need to hear it – Britain is not my country.
I don’t ‘hate’ it or wish it ill, although I admit to detesting the apparatus of the British state which is designed to feed an elite and which lies when it wishes (to be discussed separately). I want it be my equal neighbour, my friend and ally – not my boss. For those of you who groan at this characterisation, remember the blocking of the currency union – a major mistake engineered by Darling which laid bare the true colonial-lite mentality of even the Labour Party and the supposedly federalist Lib Dems. They behaved like masters as they do over for example shipyard contracts – which must now be built on the Clyde regardless – and pretending not to buy our renewable energy – exposed this very week as tosh http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2434503/government_hostility_to_renewables_and_scottish_independence_may_put_the_lights_out.html.
Do as you’re told or you’ll be punished just isn’t the language of the caring friend, at least none I want to know.
I hear from Unionists who ‘Don’t want to make that choice’…well, hard luck. That’s democracy – we voted into government a party with the referendum in their manifesto so now we have a referendum. Grow up and make the choice. Decide if you truly are British first and Scottish second or if it’s the other way round. Either way, you retain your personal identity and both countries will work closely together anyway.
Others laugh at the very idea that they have to choose. But how juvenile is that? We are always choosing and making decisions and the truth about Britain is that we have had this comfortable, if illogical fudge of two countries into one for 300 years and now it’s time to clarify. Nobody else says they are for example a Proud Canadian…but. There are no Proud Frenchmen….mais. Every other nation on earth is sure of itself and so am I. So is Adam Tomkins. Get on board and stop pretending this isn’t happening.
And don’t tell me it’s a decision forever that can never be changed. What do think voting No means? Do you believe after a No Scots will ever have any clout again with the UK? I know many of you Unionists will cheer if it means a win in the short term but I doubt history will be kind to those who rejected the chance to empower themselves – the first people in history to vote away their own independence.
Listen to your own Unionist guru, the professor. This IS Scotland versus Britain. Which do you choose…by