A Name For What You Lose

‘Vote Corbyn, lose Scotland.’

That was the big scary warning from clodhopping would-be provocateur Toby Young on Twitter this week.

While it might play well with the Tobester’s target audience of enthusiastically gullible bullshit-swallowers, it brought something else to mind for me: The music of Scritti Politti.

More specifically, this pungent lyrical nugget from ‘The Word Girl’: “… a name for what you lose when it was never yours.”

‘Losing Scotland’ is something we hear a lot these days from opinionated types whose connections to this marvellous country extend little further than the occasional glass of whisky, a bracing caravan holiday in 1978 and vague memories of Billy Connolly on ‘Parkinson’.

Many of them have to perform a delicate mental balancing act – fearing the ‘loss’ of a crucial part of their mental landscape while simultaneously maintaining belief in the myth of Scots as subsidy junkies supping on ambrosia and free NHS prescriptions at the expense of their hard-working southern neighbours.

(And let’s not get into why free prescriptions in Scotland wind them up so much when they never, ever mention the same phenomenon occurring in Wales and Northern Ireland…)

No, even though those costly – and usually drunk – Jocks are a drain and a pain, Toby and his target audience just can’t countenance the thought of a Labour-led government ‘allowing’ a second referendum which might see us sail off into a future of independence and – worse – success as a small and potentially liberal, accepting and truly European country.

They can countenance Brexit, though – the one thing pretty much certain to sell Independence to Scots  who would (as I once was) be otherwise resistant to the notion.

And that shows how far dedication to The Union really goes for many. They love Scotland, they tell us. They don’t want us to go. But they’re happy to impose something Scotland voted overwhelmingly against, and just as happy to ditch us if we get in the way of their demented dream.

The problem is, this peculiar attitude to Scotland and its right to self-determination isn’t exclusively a right wing or Brexiter problem.

Scotland – and the other parts of the UK which aren’t England – is a big blind spot for many people – even ones who should be natural allies.

Brexit has united and galvanised a lot of people who believe in maintaining our links with Europe and maintaining freedom of movement, who hope for a fairer society, with wealth more evenly distributed and a welcoming attitude for immigrants.

These have always been my ideals, and they’re at the heart of what I hope for in an independent Scotland.

But I’ve encountered good people who share those same ideals but who look at Scottish independence with suspicion, or who don’t seem fully aware of or concerned by the democratic deficit revealed by the whole sorry Brexit saga.

How much outcry was there, for instance, when Westminster ruled against a request that implementation of the result of the Brexit referendum be dependent on agreement from each of the devolved governments? How often do we hear any complaint about Scotland being pulled out of the EU against its will countered with something along the lines of ‘but London isn’t getting what it voted for, either!’

And how much anger is there at the way all of the devolved administrations have been cut out of any and all discussion and negotiation of Brexit?

Almost subconsciously, it seems that Scotland is thought of and treated as a region and, worse, as a possession rather than a country in its own right. It’s that ‘Word Girl’ thing again – Scotland often isn’t thought of as a full partner within the UK, but as a possession of the UK. Something that’s always been there, and always should be … because … well… just because.

I can understand why some people view the notion of Scottish independence with mistrust. I did, myself, for a long time. Brexit changed all that (you can find out a bit about that here). And it’s easy to miss the breadth of opinion within the Independence movement (again, I did it myself, for years).

At it’s heart, though, it’s pretty simple – people who want to make their own decisions should be free to make their own decisions. Any relationship in which someone is told they won’t be ‘allowed’ to make their own decisions has gone toxic.

And that’s the blind spot for a lot of people south of the Border. Whether you agree with Scottish Independence or not, it’s not up to anyone but the people of Scotland which direction their country takes. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion – but the decision should be ours.

Put it this way: I might have my own opinions about traffic calming in Tiger Bay, but it would be a tad presumptuous of me to get behind anything which stopped the good people of Cardiff doing what they think is best for their citizens.

If Independence happens, it happens because it’s what’s wanted by the majority. Don’t worry – we’ll still be here, Jocking away and hopefully still enjoying all that ambrosia and those delicious free NHS prescriptions. You’ll still be welcome – and an influx of new arrivals would definitely help with the work ahead. But you’re not losing us – because we were never yours.

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