The response from M&S to Edith Davidson’s complaint about the labelling Scotch whisky ‘British’ is truly extraordinary. Ms Davidson has every right to be offended. As does everyone in Scotland. Except, of course, those who agree with notion that Scotland is, or should be “part of the country known as England”. And there are a fair few of those.
The M&S letter is so extraordinary – both in terms of the quality of the writing and in terms of the sentiments expressed – that one might be inclined to accept the company’s assurance that it “in no way reflects the view of M&S”. Until one remembers that the whole thing began with M&S evincing an attitude to Scotland which is far more similar to that expressed by their, now disowned, customer service representative than they are prepared to admit. It was the company’s efforts to obscure or eliminate Scottish branding of goods on its website that provoked protests from customers – including Edith Davidson’s email complaint.
M&S may insist that the letter doesn’t reflect the company’s views. But the distinction between subsuming Scotland the brand into ‘British’ labelling and regarding Scotland the nation as having been absorbed by England is a fine one. And the attitude evidenced by both is merely the finer grain of an ongoing effort to diminish Scotland. As I wrote when the M&S website labelling of Scotch Whisky as ‘British’ was first exposed,
“The effort to obliterate ‘Scotland the brand’ fits precisely with the campaign to undermine confidence in our public services and delegitimise our democratic institutions. For British Nationalists, it is always and entirely about making Scotland less. Only by making Scotland less can they make the British state more.”
The Union has always been a ‘Greater England’ project. That is how it was conceived. That is how it was formulated. That is how it has functioned for over three hundred years. As you would expect with a something so protracted, the ‘Greater England’ project has gone through various phases. It has had to change with the times. It has had to adapt to all manner of social, political and technological developments. But it has never ceased. It is rarely explicit. It is insidious. It is always deniable.
The ‘Greater England’ project operates in a multitude of ways and at many different levels. Mostly, it’s small things which are readily dismissed as insignificant, isolated incidents. Or one-off mistakes – like calling Scotch Whisky ‘British’. Or mere coincidence – like the epidemic of TV programmes with ‘British’ titles. Or unauthorised actions – like the M&S customer service letter sent to Edith Davidson.
Sometimes, it’s bigger things, objections to which are casually dismissed as ‘conspiracy theories’ or ‘grievance politics’. EVEL, for example. Or the way the Scottish Government has been excluded from Brexit talks. Or the contempt for decisions of the Scottish Parliament. Or the British parties’ attacks on NHS Scotland and other distinctively Scottish institutions. Or pretty much everything about the manner in which Scottish politics is covered by the mainstream media.
All of this, from the effort to deny Scotland’s right of self-determination to the insistence that Scotland is part of “the country known as England”, is part of the ‘Greater England’ project. Whether deliberate or unintentional, all these things feed into an ongoing endeavour with the aim of eroding the distinction between Scotland and England.
In the past, the endeavour was principally concerned with suppression, or perversion, of Scotland’s national identity; the treatment and teaching of Scottish history being a significant part of this effort. Today, it’s all about eradicating Scotland’s distinctive political culture and eliminating the challenge to the authority, integrity and status of the British state posed by the Scottish Parliament, the SNP and the Yes movement.
The attempt to crush Scotland’s national identity has, self-evidently, failed. But, as it always has, the ‘Greater England’ project duly adapted. As Scotland grew more secure in its sense of itself, more confident in its separateness and more comfortable with its developing civic nationalism, the ‘Greater England’ project evolved into an aggressive ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism’ which represents a real and imminent threat to Scotland’s democracy.
Restoring Scotland’s independence is not only about reinstating popular sovereignty and securing the power to create a better nation and society. It is also about rescuing Scotland from a political union which is increasingly detrimental to Scotland’s economic, social, cultural and political interests.
#Referendum2018 will be a choice between a Scotland shaped by the needs, priorities and aspirations of its people, and a Scotland reduced to being nothing more than “part of the country known as England”.Views: 8588
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