|Strikers marching down |
the Royal Mile in Edinburgh
I am dubious about nationalism anyway, as it's a form of politics derived from geography. The Scots are not a single people: ethnically they are derived from Picts, Gaels, Norse, Britons (akin to the Welsh), Anglo-Saxons and (after 1066) English. I would argue that, even today, most Glaswegians have more in common with people in Manchester or Leeds than they do with inhabitants of the Highlands and Islands. The main unifying feature of the Scottish people collectively is that they live north of the border with England.
Ordinary Scottish people face the same problems and - I would assert - the same enemies as their English counterparts. We have all been affected by the recession caused by the greed and incompetence of big bankers; we are all suffering from the effects of minuscule pay rises or pay freezes while inflation is out of control; job losses are devastating communities in England and Wales as well as Scotland. We are all affected by an economy that squanders scant resources on nuclear weapons and fighting wars for incomprehensible causes while cutting back on essential public services.
This situation isn't new, but the current recession reinforces the fact that that ordinary Britons have more that unites than divides them across national borders. It demonstrates that, when it comes down to it, we're all cogs in a machine that exists to preserve the privileges of the rich, with their seven-figure bonuses and 50% pay rises. From this perspective, the border marked by the River Tweed seems much less relevant than the divisions between people who are flourishing in this recession and people who who are suffering. Identical strikes, marches and rallies took place in towns and cities in England, Scotland and Wales (in alphabetical order) on 30th November to challenge the attacks on the pensions of ordinary working people in the public sector; which nation you lived in was utterly irrelevant on that day.
The SNP's response as as muddled as ever: the strikes were wrong because the public should have access to services, but they supported the attacks on the UK government's pensions reforms "because the short-term cash grab by the UK government has undermined the opportunity to secure agreement aimed at affordable and sustainable public sector pensions" said John Swinney of the SNP, clearly just using the dispute to have a pop at the Westminster government. Sorry, John, stop sitting on the fence and recognise that in this situation you can't have opposition without strikes, because negotiations with an outcome predetermined by the London government could never go anywhere. Unions know that verbal protests and humble petitions in situations like this simply won't work as they've tried them before. I write this as a former trade union officer for 24 years who spent much of that time as a negotiator: I can recognise official time-wasting and delaying tactics a mile off, and that is what the unions were facing here. But the champions of the Scottish people came out sounding just like the Labour Party, their main opponents in Scotland. When political opponents sound the same, as a voter you are deprived of choice, which is especially odd in Scotland, seeing that the SNP want to create a separate state on the basis of inherent Scottish difference.
The SNP stands for the idea of Scotland based solely on geography. They seems incapable, just like the main Westminster parties, of discerning the injustices being heaped on ordinary people, wherever they live in the UK. Except for their desire to make the border between England and Scotland into a national frontier, they are really little different from the London politicians they affect to despise.