Saturday, September 01, 2007

Pour Encourager les Autres

Wendy Alexander is interviewed in the Times today, where she takes to task those south of the border who complain about the Scots for our cheek in having a parliament of our own. (Incidentally, the first two readers' comments at the end of the article really do seem to come from the shallow end of the gene pool). Sadly, in discussing matters financial, she does nothing to dispel the 'subsidy' argument, relying instead on the falsehood that London alone bails out the rest of the UK.

Actually, Wendy, that's not true, and I suspect that the South East and East of England might have something to say about that as well as the Scots. But then, I suppose its too much to expect you to make the case that 'Scotland more than pays her way in the union, and here's why she should continue to do so'. After all, that would mean making a positive argument for the union. It would also mean dumping the Holy Trinity of Labour's dependency culture that we're all too wee, too poor and too stupid. Nah, it would never catch on...

Anyway, what caught really my eye was this, new-ish argument against independence, when she declares that:

“The bigger issue is what signal it would send to the rest of the world if we [the English and the Scots] said we could not live together.”

Let's leave aside the outdated rhetoric about 'not being able to live together' (eh?) and consider what is probably the nub of her point: that Scotland and England should remain bolted to eachother to set an example to the rest of the world. Never mind whether the political structures work; never mind whether the resulting state is effective; never mind if it distorts and skews the resulting power in favour of a narrow and unrepresentative elite; we've got to stick together so that the rest of the world doesn't get nasty ideas about changing the way it is governed.

It really is difficult to know where to start taking apart such a complacent, irrelevant, vapid and historically ignorant statement. I'm tempted to say that the UK sticking together hasn't been a notable restraining factor in any global trouble spots recently, and that an amicable parting of the ways might actually serve as a far more positive example as to how the future should be embraced. However, since time's short, I'll simply pose two questions:

1. Why should shared values and common histories, in as much as they exist, necessitate common statehood?

2. Shouldn't states be ordered for the convenience of the governed, rather than for the convenience of the political elites which they spawn over time?

I had hoped that Wendy Alexander as Labour Leader might elevate the level of debate from her party. So far, it just sounds like the same old mixture of fears, smears and guilt, garnished with some bigger words. Plus ├ža change...


Anonymous said...

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Mountjoy said...

So Wendy Alexander has forgotten about the oil money. Although London has huge financial wealth via the city, it actually bails out the rest of London!

As for what the rest of the world thinks, although I'm a unionist, I can say that no one thinks twice about the Velvet Divorce between the Czech Republic and Slovakia? I personally think Scotland leaving the UK would be tremendously tragic, but at the same time if that's what Scots decide democratically, who am I to say otherwise?

Richard Thomson said...

My view has always been that those things which we share in common - family links, friendships, economic links - all transcend UK political structures anyway. Free movememnt of people, goods and capital is guaranteed by the EU; which means that the rationale for the UK, which arguably only came about as a counterweight to the threat of invasion from Continental Europe, has now gone.

As I say, in my view, that which some might say makes us 'British' doesn't require a British government in order to continue, in the same way that those things which make Swedes, Danes and Norweigans 'Scandinavian' don't necessitate a common nordic statehood.

There's no doubt quite a few positive arguments for continued union. Sadly, they seem to be taking a while to fall from Ms Alexander's lips.