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A new union? – Towards Indyref2…

A new union?

“Scottish Labour members backed Dugdale’s federalism plans, voting in favour of a motion calling on the UK party to…”

There you have it! The supposedly autonomous “Scottish Labour” has to ask its British Labour bosses for permission to pursue what it entertainingly presents as its ‘new’ policy on the constitution. A new policy which, like every devolution measure before it, has nothing whatever to do with addressing the needs. priorities and aspirations of Scotland’s people and everything to do with preserving the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state.

Dugdale’s risible ‘plan’ is not concerned with ensuring good governance for Scotland or addressing the grating anomalies and the dire democratic deficit of a purposefully asymmetric political union. It is entirely concerned with making British Labour in Scotland look remotely relevant whilst continuing to rationalise the withholding of powers that rightfully belong to the Scottish Parliament; the one actually elected by the people of Scotland.

Dugdale claims to want a renewed union. One fit for the 21st century and the demands of a modern democracy, to replace the one contrived in the 18th century to serve the interests of an avaricious elite. But the harsh reality is that this is precisely what British Labour and their Tory allies fought against in the first independence referendum campaign. That referendum offered an opportunity to break the resented shackles of the old union and build a new relationship between Scotland and England.

The following is an edited extract from an article I wrote about a year before we voted in the 2014 referendum. It is, if anything, more relevant now than it was then.

“What is missing from the anti-independence campaign’s argument is a more profound consideration of what it is about the union that is valued. Valued, not by the British political parties and the vested interests that they represent, but by the people of the UK.

Alex Salmond addressed this issue back in July 2013 when he spoke of the six unions that “govern our lives today in Scotland”. The political union of the UK; union with Europe through the EU; the currency union, the Union of the Crowns; a defence union based on Nato and a social union among the people of the UK.

The [then] First Minister talked of these six unions in terms of their importance to Scotland, making the point that only the first of these – political union with the UK – works against Scotland’s interests. The others serve us reasonably well and are generally valued by the people of Scotland.

The social union is something we are so comfortable with that we rarely even think of it. When we do reflect on it, however, it is likely that we rank it first among all the unions. The rest are mere practical or political arrangements, whereas the social union is about people.

My point here is that, if we get past the self-serving politicians of the British parties whose sole priority is the preservation of the structures of power, privilege and patronage which benefit them and their clients; if we address those who have been lured by the simplistic slogans of the anti-independence campaign and induce them to really think about what it is that they value about the union, it is highly probable that they will come up with much the same answers that Alex Salmond did. They would surely place the highest value on the social union. And, while they might vary in the way they prioritise the others, there would still be general agreement with pro-independence campaigners on the list as a whole.

We all, nationalist and unionist alike, tend to value the same things about the union, differing only in the emphasis that we put on each. Where we part company is principally, if not solely, on the matter of the political union of the UK. I would urge unionists to think long and hard about whether we do not have a common interest in that regard also.

The sheer mindlessness of the anti-independence rhetoric pumped out by Blair McDougall’s appalling Project Fear operation precludes the kind of nuanced analysis that Alex Salmond has offered. Whereas the circumstances of the world in which we live require a concept of independence that involves a redefining of relationships, the No campaign can think only in terms of a complete severing of those relationships. It presents a totally false choice between all of the six unions, or none of them. Even to the point of threatening to wilfully destroy things that work well.

Those unionists who value the same aspects of the union as nationalists do must ask themselves whether they are prepared to sacrifice the good bits in order to preserve a political union which serves nobody other than the elites of the British state. They must accept that a No vote does not mean a return to some comfortable status quo ante. Scotland has changed in ways that make that impossible.

A No vote on 18 September 2014 will have consequences. The outcome itself and the all too easily envisaged response of the British state to that outcome will alter an already unsatisfactory political union in ways that must inevitably have a deleterious effect on the social union that we all value so much.

To those intending to vote No I say, if you value the best of the old union, then think of how it will be put in jeopardy by failure to take this opportunity to forge anew the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Think how much better together we will be if we create a new union. A reformed association which preserves all that is desirable and effective about what has been developed over the years but places this in the context of a political relationship fit for our times and the future. A relationship that is strong, not in the facile sense subscribed to by British nationalists, but in the sense of being robust and durable. A relationship that respects the differences between nations while cherishing the social and cultural ties among people. A true partnership of equals.

All of this is possible. It requires only the goodwill and commonality of interest that already exists. And the confidence to vote Yes.”

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