Things we just don’t do

That Scotland has developed a political culture very distinct from that of the UK is a fact disputed only by those who, having subscribed to the dogma of ‘One Nation’ British nationalism, are ideologically prohibited from acknowledging any difference between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Arguably, nothing illustrates the distinctiveness of Scotland’s political culture than the Tories’ ‘rape clause’, and the reaction to it from most of civic Scotland.

Dani Garavelli has written an eloquent and passionate article about this iniquitous proposal.

The rape clause has been shocking from the outset. Just how shocking became obvious when Nicola Sturgeon’s description of the policy provoked gasps of disbelief at the Women in the World summit in New York. But there is something about seeing it laid out in cold officialese – an act of violence reduced to a series of bureaucratic hurdles – that chills the blood.

Protests against the rape clause have been led by SNP MP Alison Thewliss and Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland have refused to co-operate with implementation of the measure. Condemnation of the rape clause has been all but unanimous in Scotland; with Ruth Davidson being the embarrassing exception.

This is not to imply that Scottish people are in some way superior to people in England. There is no suggestion that individuals in Scotland have more worthy attitudes and values than their counterparts in the rest of the UK. There is no reason to suppose that the rape clause isn’t as repugnant to people everywhere as it is to people in Scotland. The response of that audience in New York to Nicola Surgeon’s comments on the matter seems to confirm that aversion to the rape clause is the normal response.

All of which raises the question of why a policy that would be quite unimaginable in a Scotland with full powers over welfare policy is considered by the UK Government to be, in the words of Ruth Davidson, “the most sensitive way possible” of dealing with things. Given that attitudes and values are pretty much the same wherever you go, how does the political culture in Scotland come to be so different to that in the rest of the UK?

What makes Scotland’s political culture different? Ultimately, it must be the people. Because it is people who shape the political culture. But that does not imply that individuals in Dundee or Dunfermline have attitudes that are markedly different from those of individuals in Doncaster or Durham. We can all be appalled by the heartless savagery of the rape clause just as we can all be offended by the injustice of the bedroom tax and the obscenity that is Trident.

People are pretty much the same the world over. But political cultures vary tremendously. This can only be because the attitudes and values of a society are expressed differently through the local institutions and processes of democracy so as to produce a distinctive political culture.

I would contend that the most important factor in the rise of Scotland’s progressive independence movement has been the fact that a distinctive political culture has evolved in Scotland because the democratic processes and institutions native to Scotland have been more effective in translating the attitudes of the electorate into public policy.

This is NOT to say that people in Scotland have different attitudes to people elsewhere in these islands. It most certainly is NOT to claim that these attitudes are in some sense “superior”. It is only to say that the way in which politics works in Scotland – the electoral system, political parties, parliament etc. – is better at giving effect to these attitudes. Marginally so, perhaps, but still enough to allow a distinctive political culture to develop over time.

The fact that many of the differences in attitudes and priorities between Scotland and the rest of the UK (rUK) are small is completely irrelevant. Even the tiniest difference can be massively significant if the political culture is such as to allow this difference to be reflected in policy.

Without independence, this distinctive political culture must always be subordinated to the dominant political culture of the British state. A culture which regards power as deriving from fear and insecurity. A culture which is inured to distress and suffering. A culture which rationalises the rape clause as a ‘solution’ to something which few if any actual persons would consider to be a problem.

The British state seems irrevocably set on a path which is the very antithesis of, and increasingly aggressively opposed to, the political culture in Scotland. The subordinate culture must be denied and, at some point systematically, suppressed. We cannot allow this.

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7 thoughts on “Things we just don’t do

  1. Kerly

    Boils down to money ,if you are making enough they don,t care what changes are made as long as they can keep that standard of living
    Just like the thousands of no voters in scotland that in their hearts would love to vote yes but side with a government they can’t stomach just to be certain to keep their income level the same

  2. Col

    The future UK looks grim indeed. If we can’t get support for Scotland to at least pursue a different path then I will be one depressed individual. How low would we be dragged having voted no twice. It isn’t worth thinking about. Truelly a shocking path for any nation to willingly go down.

  3. bringiton

    After 300 years of British propaganda from the Westminster establishment aimed at Scotland,it is amazing that there are any differences of opinion and culture.
    That wasn’t intended to happen,we are supposed to be one big happy,unified family of the nation of Greater England.
    A pity the Tories didn’t bring in a law demanding that people had to prove that they weren’t brain dead before the Brexit vote.
    We wouldn’t now be in the present mess.
    Mind you,brain activity is not often observed in the Tory party and it’s supporters so no surprises.

  4. commonoldworkinchap

    When you look at some of the people the tories are trying to woo, re. trade deals, then
    this kind of appalling clause can be seen in another perspective. I am sure Liam Fox
    got a pat on the back from Duterte on hearing about it.

    The barrel has been well and truly scraped on this one. It is not enough to make
    people jump through hoops to receive enough to ” survive ” on. Oh no we want
    your self esteem , your personal well being, your mental well being and for the final
    insult we would like you to relive the ( probably ) most harrowing episode in your life.
    And !!! wait for it !!! if we don’t believe you , you wont get your £7.60 odd a day.

    This will inevitably add to the DWP suicide squads growing numbers. Appalling,
    appalling behaviour from evil people. Do not accept it, it is not acceptable, vote
    for Independence Scotland.

  5. Robin Ross

    Scotland has had 300 years in a union in which its legal system has remained based on principle rather than precedent as is the case in England/Wales: it’s dominant social culture was governed by Presbyterianism with its emphasis on governance through elders rather than the hierarchical system of top down authority by Bishops in Episcopal England: it’s education system emphasised a broad approach rather than an narrower focus earlier on in a pupil’s career: we have a health service built on the principle of cooperation and cohesion rather than competition and market place privatisation: finally we have the accepted principle of sovereignty of the people as supposed to sovereignty of parliament. All of the elements which are distinctive markers of a national ethos highlight the differences between the Scottish and English polities.

    Ruth Davidson, Kezia Dugdale and Willie Rennie need to explain how they, as Scottish politicians, will foster these distinctive elements of Scottish national life, or are they happy to see them all eroded. Is that how there constituents are best represented?

  6. Edward Freeman

    I have heard more than enough from Tory MSPs about “holding the SNP [Government] to account”. Now I want to hear and see Ruth Davidson being held to account for the “rape clause”. Rather, I would like to see that just for a start. Then I would like her put on the spot for every abuse against disabled people, every child whose parent has had her benefits sanctioned – there is a very long list of charges, is there not?

    “Holding to account” should go both ways.

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