FREEDOM

The SNP, so opposing politicians repeatedly declaim, is ‘intent on breaking up the union.’ This is rather like saying, of someone setting out to make an omelette, that he’s ‘intent on breaking eggs’. The SNP’s aim is to obtain a greater measure of independence for Scotland. Breaking up the union might well turn out to be collateral damage, but it is not the purpose of the enterprise. And indeed one option – the federation – would give Scotland greater independence without breaking up the union. It was not the SNP who refused to have Devo Max as an option in the Referendum questions.

When you are in a private discussion with someone on this subject, generally the last objection offered is, why should 90% of the population of Britain be obliged to change custom and practice they are quite content with, because 10% of the population of the UK wish it to be done?

I suggest we people of the four nations identify firstly according to our nation. So, I am a Scot. But I am also British and proud to be so. I suggest most British people of whatever ethnicity feel much the same. We believe that to be British makes us the equal of anyone. We believe that we are a just and fair-minded people. We regard ourselves as being ‘the mother of parliaments’ and that we offered a model of democracy to emerging nations. We regard ourselves as free citizens who have chosen to live within the union, which is an honourable estate. (We have the occasional lapse of morality; illegal wars, MP’s expenses etc – but everybody has those regrettable lapes – and on the whole, we feel good about ourselves.) We’re glad that we’re British.

We also accept that we are four nations, united by common consent within the United Kingdom. Any-one from any of the four areas, mistaken for one of the others, would immediately correct the error.

In particular, within the union, Scotland’s rights as a separate kingdom have been jealously guarded. We have a separate legal system, a different education system, a different royal regalia, a different church hierarchy. We are another country without a doubt. (I cast no aspersions of the entitlement of the other countries of the UK to be regarded as separate countries.)

So it follows then that since we are a free people of a separate country, (Scotland) which therefore belongs to us, and we live in a democracy, we are at liberty to choose whether we remain within the union or not. We recently voted on this issue, and we did not choose to leave the union, and being the democratic people that we are, we are still within it. But if we were to be denied the right to make this choice, then we would not be free British living by choice in a democratic union. We would be a vassal state belonging to England.

So this is why 10% of the population can choose to leave the union. We have not encroached on England’s rights. We are not proposing to annexe northern counties of England. It is also a democracy. It can choose how to run its own affairs.

So I suggest the English people stop frettng abou the SNP and consider how they wish to run their own country. Do they want to continue having their administration in London, or do they want it rotated through their principal cities. Do they wish the whole of England to be one administrative body or would they prefer a different arrangement. Do they wish to stand alone or would they like to join their neighbouring states in a federation? (Terms to be negotiated.) Only the English people can decide on these matters. We Scots will certainly uphold their right to do so. These questions are not being asked yet, but they are coming.

Meanwhile let us remember the words of Rule:Britannia. Britons never shall be slaves.

PS   I should point out that the assertion that we are ‘united by common consent within the UK’ is a moot point.   James VI, who sold his birthright for a mess of potage, decided on our behalf.   The Scottish people have NEVER been asked if they consent to the unio.   But let us not be petty.   We have not objected and therefore our comsent must be assumed.

WE ARE STILL STANDING

WE ARE STILL STANDING

John and I, at the end of a long and quite tiring though interesting journey through the UK, were seated in the cafe of Chedwood Roman Villa in the Cotswolds, It had mosaics of better volume than quality, but even so it was of course interesting although it struck me as being the equivalent in Romano British society of what a house owned by Jeffrey Archer might be in ours.

Right beside us at the next table were seated two elderly Englishmen and the wife of one of them, having a discussion on the result of the Scottish referendum. They were frankly exultant about the defeat of the movement for Independence. They hailed Gordon Brown as the hero of the hour. Alastair Darling was severely criticised for not having made a better defence for the No campaign. I can’t repeat here what they said about Alex Salmond. They were jealous of the concessions made to the Scots and did not wish them to be honoured. I heard the word ‘parasites’ being used of the Scots. John, listening to them but watching me, said, ‘They are having a private conversation.’ I replied, ‘You’d better get me out of here, then.’ As we prepared to go, the least pre-possessing of the unlovely triad declared, ‘I must say I’m relieved we’ve won. Thank God it’s all over and we can go back to normal.’ John’s hand was firmly in the small of my back as he ushered me out.

It was wonderful being in Scotland in the lead up to the referendum. The vote was the single topic everywhere and everyone spoke to everybody expressing a range of views but it was all polite and good-humoured. Given the level of engagement – there was an 85% turnout – we were surprised that we did not see more Yes and No flags, but the Scots seemed to take the view that everyone’s vote was his own business.

It has never been entirely clear to me that Alex Salmond’s ultimate goal was actually full independence. That he has Scotland’s best interests (as he sees them) at heart I have no doubt, but I have wondered if he said Independence because then Devo Max would be a relief instead, since you were unlikely to get the whole of what you asked for. (He has of course denied this.) But if I can contemplate ostensibly pursuing one goal while actually manoeuvring for another, you can be certain that the much cleverer Alex Salmond can do so also. I do not suggest of course that he was not disappointed in the result, but I do not think he was surprised.

In the event 45% of Scots voters said Yes, but I do not believe they all actually wanted Independence. Some of them had done, but others had voted thus as the only way of jolting the Westminster government to listen to the desire for change of at least some of its citizens. 55% of the vote was No, and again although some had said No and meant it, some had been Yes voters influenced by the Devo Max package offered at the last provided they voted No.

I felt low in the days following the event, though John was proud that his city, Glasgow, had stuck to its guns throughout. I felt that the cause was just, the leader true, but we had failed to be the people. But I had also felt very sad in the days leading up to the 18th at the potential loss of our fellow nationals, and part of me was relieved that we did not face immediate drastic action.

So, where do we stand now?

The SNP’s membership has increased since the vote (without any appeal by them) by 50,000 persons up to yesterday and they are now the third largest party in the whole of the UK. Alex Salmond will resign, as is fitting, but he is not going anywhere. He’ll still be there, the most capable politician, wily strategist and powerful speaker we presently have in the UK.

So if the Scots have any sense – and I believe they do – they will return as many SNP MPs to both Edinburgh and Westminster parliaments as possible. Meanwhile the SNP, heartened no doubt both by this unanticipated show of support and the boost to its finances, will regroup and it will watch and wait to see if Westminster delivers as promised. It will accept anything given, but will continue to apply pressure for the whole of what was offered. In my view, Cameron, or whoever else may be in power, will find it impossible to deliver what they said they would. Someone said (was it Dr Johnson?) that it was not difficult to distinguish between a ray of sunshine and a Scotsman with a grievance, and I think we may see evidence of the truth of this in the months to come. Another potential flashpoint would be if there were a referendum on EU membership and the English voted to leave.

So contrary to the hopeful view of our apology-for-an-Englishman sitting in the second rate Roman ruin, the ‘war’ is not over. That was a preliminary skirmish; perhaps the first round.

One of the things that has given me greatest comfort throughout this whole process has been that there has been not a whiff of anti English sentiment in Scotland; and since the result and our return over the border, we have been greeted only with warmth and kindness.

I believe it will be in all our interests to renegotiate our system of government. We need to recognise the aspirations of three of our nationhoods for greater control of their own affairs in a new system which also recognises the rights of the English nation. We need to progress carefully towards a new position, discussing these matters between us with kindness and consideration for one another. We have been fellow countrymen for a long time, and there is no reason why we should not continue to be so; although it will need to be on a different basis. There are many difficult decisions ahead of us. But as for the bellicose sentiments of our ignorant Englishman at the next table, he is wholly misinformed. Firstly, this is not a war and we should all of us do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t become one. It is a long and delicate negotiation. There is no going back to ‘normal’. What he pleases to regard as normal has gone forever, swept away.

Stands Scotland where it did? Not exactly. But one thing is certain. We’re still standing.