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With Boris Johnson steering Brexit towards disaster capitalism, Scottish indy is a lifeboat

John Wight
John Wight
John Wight has written for a variety of newspapers and websites, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal.
With Boris Johnson steering Brexit towards disaster capitalism, Scottish indy is a lifeboat
With the fifth anniversary of the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence upon us, for many in Scotland a second referendum cannot come soon enough.

I write here as a Scot who was opposed to independence in 2014. Holding this position, I wrote articles, campaigned, and took part in debates making the case that what unites ordinary working people across the UK is far more meaningful and relevant than anything that divides them, such as national identity. 

Five years on, I no longer believe this to be the case. And judging by recent opinion polls showing a steady increase in support for Scottish independence, I am not the only one.

Brexit has changed everything. It has rent asunder the cultural and social fault lines cleaved across the regions and constituent nations of the United Kingdom – England, Scotland, and Wales – over three decades of deindustrialisation and financialised capitalism.

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Sixty-two percent of people in Scotland voted to remain at the EU referendum in 2016, as did 55 percent of people in Northern Ireland, which after England, Scotland, and Wales, makes up the rest of the UK (at least in its current form).

Compared to the xenophobia and nativism that delivered Brexit, the celebration of inclusiveness that marked the campaign for Scottish independence now seems like an age ago.

The high level of grassroots participation and political engagement, the ferment of ideas, debate, and discussion that took place at every level of Scottish society, was a tribute to democracy, a word and concept that has increasingly come to be wielded as a sword to deprive people and peoples of their rights, rather than as a shield held up to protect and uphold them.

Brexit is the most indictable example of what I mean, when you consider that two million EU citizens resident in the UK were deprived of the right to vote in the 2016 EU referendum, an election upon which their future and fate hinged more than that of any other single demographic. We are talking about people who had married, raised and were raising families in Britain, who worked and were paying tax.

However, amid the tsunami of xenophobic ordure that covered the campaign for Brexit, it mattered not. They were deemed outcasts.

Compare and contrast to the civic nationalism that underpinned the cause of Scottish independence in 2014, which embraced all who lived and worked in the country, regardless of national identity, religion or ethnicity. 

This is not, of course, to claim that Scotland is some kind of utopia in which everyone is walking around hand in hand with flowers in their hair singing love songs. The recent ugly scenes that unfolded in Glasgow, when a march in support of a united Ireland, on the part of supporters of Irish republicanism, was attacked by hundreds of counter demonstrators, comprising British loyalist thugs, refutes any such fatuous claim.

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Said ugly scenes were a reminder of the cancer of religious sectarianism and anti-Irish bigotry that has been entrenched within Scottish culture and society for far too long. It is a cancer that stands as another powerful argument in favour of independence. This on the basis that it will best be neutralised by cutting it off from the body that provides it with sustenance, namely Rule-Britannia-singing, Union-Jack-waving Brexit Britain. 

Scotland has more than enough resources, wealth, and capacity to flourish as an independent country within a larger European context. It also has the potential to be a beacon of inclusion and progress within the arid desert of anti-migrant nationalism that has spread across Europe in recent years.

The idea that people in Scotland can be expected to tolerate cartoonish Old Etonian reactionaries, such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, ripping them out of the EU against their democratic will is absurd.

People here have long memories. They remember, for example, how Boris Johnson when editor of the Spectator Magazine, a right wing political publication in London, sanctioned the publication of a poem in its pages which carried the line, ‘The Scotch – what a verminous race!’

More pertinently, they remember being told by former Prime Minister David Cameron, along with other prominent figures in the No camp during the campaign for independence in 2014, that the only way Scotland could remain within the EU would be if it remained within the UK.

Five years on and those in Scotland who made the mistake of believing these siren voices, voices portending doom and disaster if the country chose independence, now find themselves teetering on the edge of a no-deal hard Brexit cliff on the other side of which lies US vassalage and disaster capitalism.

Speaking of Boris Johnson, Britain’s unelected prime minister who recently suspended Britain’s elected parliament with the connivance of its unelected head of state, the Queen, at the time of writing is on his very own humiliation tour of Europe, trying and failing miserably to persuade the EU to compromise and thereby save his political bacon.

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Johnson’s humiliation was exemplified by his decision to back out of a press conference alongside the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Xavier Bettel, who in an act of pristine political theatre went ahead with the press conference without him. Thus we had ourselves a prime minister, whose political hero is Winston Churchill, declining to appear alongside the leader of mighty Luxembourg because of few protestors.

It was a bigger retreat than Dunkirk.

Brexit has revealed the UK to be a hollowed out post-colonial hulk of a state, underpinned by semi-feudal institutions that have infantilised those who take pride in being the subjects of an unelected monarch rather than citizens of a 21st century modern and outward-looking democracy. 

‘We’re a’ Jock Tamson’s bairns’ is an old Scottish saying which means that when all is said and done we are all the same. It powerfully articulates the difference between the inclusive character of Scottish independence and the xenophobic, nativist exclusiveness of Brexit.

It is why Scottish independence is now not a matter of if but when.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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