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.Views: 4398
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