It’s a month from now, so I suppose as the resident Jock I should say something about it. Okay, here’s the thing. I realised recently exactly why I’ll be voting “No”, and it comes down to this: Sure, the UK sometimes screws things up – Cameron is currently busy making an almighty hash of dealing with ISIS, for example, and the economic situation’s an unholy mess – but it’s my country, dammit. I’m British. My father’s family were Ulster Protestants (and you don’t get much more British than that), ultimately from Yorkshire, while my mother’s descended from border reivers who didn’t give a flying crap what country there were in at any given time. She has a cousin who moved to Yorkshire, coincidentally enough, and brought up a family there. I like cricket (as much as I like any sport), and support England, for whom Scots are eligible to play, and have. Friends I grew up with live and work in England and Wales (and therefore, incidentally, have no say in this). We don’t have much of a military history on either side of the family (both my grandfathers neatly managed to be too young for WWI and work in reserved occupations during WWII), but my great-grandfather died at Gallipoli under the Union Jack. Buggered if I’m about to vote for taking the blue bits off it.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
… as someone once said.
But moreover, leaving aside all the emotional aspects that we’re told are irrelevant by a bunch of people swanning around in painted faces and tribal dress, harking back to battles fought seven centuries ago – and this is the epiphany that struck me the other day when I realised that it’s what’s been in the back of my head all along – I have absolutely no confidence whatever, not a scrap, that a Scottish state would be the slightest bit better. Not least because, as we all know, all states are a bit crap in the end, but mainly because of Holyrood itself. Great Things were promised by the “Yes” campaign back in 1997. Almost exactly the same Great Things as are promised by the “Yes” campaign right now. Everything was going to be absolutely wonderful in the New Scotland, brought to us by an Era of Consensual Politics™. The parliament would get everything right, be all things to all men, we’d all be happier, healthier, and wealthier, neighbours would smile benignly at one another of a morning, and everyone would get off with the all the people they fancied. Or something.
And you know what? It’s no different. If anything, it’s worse: more centralization of power, more irresponsible profligacy with the taxpayers’ money, more pinch-faced governmental busybodying, and less individual liberty. Which might have happened anyway, but still. No better. Just last week Holyrood announced an attempt to scale back Westminster’s relaxation of gambling laws because “there are too many betting shops”. Who says? They do, our Betters. And if the Edinburgh Tramway isn’t the Springfield Monorail come to hideous, eye wateringly-expensive, life, I don’t know what is. (“What about us braindead slobs?” “You’ll all be given cushy jobs!” Was that the Simpsons, or the referendum debate the other week? It’s getting hard to tell.)
I didn’t buy the “Yes” hucksters’ flim-flam in ’97 and I don’t buy it now.
But why is it no different? Because they don’t want it to be. The entire raison d’etre of the seperatist movement – in which I include the paradoxically centralizing “devolution” – is to resist the perceived liberalising trend of Westminster. The writers of the words I quoted above recognised that the logical response to abuses of the power of a state is to create one less able to exert that power (and they still, arguably, failed) but the Scottish political class is absolutely fine with it as long as The Right People are in charge. It’s painfully obvious from everything they say that the advocates of a seperate Scotland want to use it to its fullest. From what little we know of their constitutional plans – we are again, as we were in 1997, being asked to sign a blank cheque – they intend a litany of “positive rights”, making classical liberalism effectively illegal.
But then, that’s nationalism for you. They always think they speak for all of us. No, worse than that, they think they – or somebody – can speak for all of us. People like that have no concept of the dangers of the state’s monopoly of force. If the state is “us”, then misuse of its power is an impossibility; how can we oppress ourselves? And this really seems to be the thinking: Westminster’s failures are due to “them”, “the English”, but if “we” had the power, all would be rosy. I can’t help recalling that old joke about the Lone Ranger: “What’s all this ‘we’ stuff, Kemosabe?” A nation is not one big happy family making consensual decisions around the kitchen table of its government. State power is at best a necessary evil that must be handled with the utmost care. Scotland’s nationalists – of all political colours, because they only differ on the matter of degree – are far too in love with it to be trusted.