The Second BrExit Referendum and the Utility of Scottish Nationalism

uk battle map

Plan B: Operation Celtic Revenge

I have been meaning to do a post on Scottish nationalism for about a year now. Other more topical issues kept displacing it in the order to writing though. But I suppose the 2019 UK elections finally have made it the topical issue of the time that can no longer be avoided. Therefore, this is going to be a two for one special both on the just completed UK elections and the future of Scottish nationalism.

First its time to preempt the incoming SensibleSerious™ hot takes that will be bombarding us from both sides of the Atlantic in no time. No, Labour did not lose because it had gone too far left. It lost because of its inability to run with BrExit as a settled policy. The wishy-washy ‘we want both sides’ position was the last thing anyone wanted. In particular the working class base of the party whose interests are very divergent from the middle class Blairites who still control so much of the upper echelon of the organization. People clearly wanted this three and a half year nightmare to be over-one way or the other. And the way things are going (especially in regards to long held Labour seats suddenly defecting despite generally being anti-Tory bastions) meant that Labour would have been better off embracing BrExit than running against it…or running in a way that sidelined the issue altogether, which is what they did. That second referendum the Remainers asked for? We just got it. It was this election.

Bold claims perhaps, but I have evidence to back them up. Its quite simple really. The Liberal Democrats were the hard Remain party. True neoliberal centrists, they basically come across as if American Democrats were grafted onto the UK political system. If Labour voters were dissatisfied with the more left wing direction of the party under Corbyn (who, by the way, delivered unexpected and impressive gains two years ago in the last election when BrExit was less of an issue) they would have defected to the Lib Dems. But the Lib Dems, under Immortan Jo, got their clocks cleaned in this most recent election too. Jo Swinson herself, the leader of the party, lost her seat to the Scottish National Party. Outside of the two major parties there was generally a telling result: the Lib Dems bombed and the SNP gained.

immortan jo

Big Shocker

So now we come to the bridge between this election and my other point about Scottish nationalism. And that is that class and regional differences are now so strong that the very integrity of the United Kingdom is fatally compromised. The working and ruling class alike’s turn against the EU in England is very different from the situation in Scotland, where remaining part of the EU was a major motivating factor in handing the pro-union forces a victory in 2014. After all, the Union campaign said ‘if Scotland goes rogue it will be outside the EU and will have to re-apply.’ Less than two years later BrExit happens and…whoops. The Independence referendum was held under false pretenses.

I lived in the UK for over half a decade. One year in London and the rest in Scotland. I began my time as a temporary immigrant (I refuse the smug neoliberal term ‘expat’) and had little knowledge to start with about UK politics. At that time I found (then still Blairite) Labour and the Tories equally gross and largely just watched things happen as bemused observer. I was pro-union in the building Scottish Independence question, but only mildly so. I encouraged pro and anti sides to debate in front of me and always had a great deal of respect for independence leaning people. The degree to which I was pro-Union gradually eroded to only just barely, which is what I was left with when the vote came and ‘my side’ won.

But despite starting out on the other side, I came to realize that Scottish nationalism was a much different creature than pretty much any other contemporary nationalism I had ever experienced. While I have never been a fan of nationalism on a personal level, I recognize its utility and generally find it an often necessary, if distasteful, thing to appeal to in order to mobilize the coalitions needed to get policies done. But Scottish nationalism was different.

At first I thought it was just the affinity I had developed for my home-away-from-home, something I never felt when I was living in England and even arguably something I never quite felt growing up in the United States either. Scotland fit me really well and if it was up to me I probably never would have moved out (thanks for the new visa restrictions then Home Secretary Theresa May…well, at least she ended up getting her just desserts in the end). Naturally, I thought I was just being more forgiving to a place I had come to enjoy living in. But that wasn’t it. Unlike most nationalist groups, the SNP was always ethically and culturally diverse. Its concept of Scottish civic responsibility stems directly from a geographic rather than ethnic self of what makes Scotland unique. Scottish nationalism is, in effect, parallel to a lot of what I have come to advocate as a geopolitical strategist for a sustainable society: The situational and ecological tie to a specific place’s interest and its resulting unique political identity as a physical thing, rather than a romantic nature of ethnicity. Speculative realism meets the political world. For instance, in the 2014 vote on independence the rules were that UK citizens living in Scotland could vote in it, no matter where they were from originally, but Scots living elsewhere in the UK could not. It was all about what was best for the country from the people who lived there, no matter who they were. The important and unifying point is that it is (or should be) a distinct civic entity from its giant and increasingly reactionary southern neighbor.

But the feeling of fondness and respect for these trends only intensified once I moved out. And with its intensification my views on independence changed. David Cameron continued to gut the country and oversee the most incompetent government since Atlee. He also maybe fucked a dead pig. He promised a referendum on the EU that he didn’t need to make, and then, contrary to all expectations including his own, lost it. Cue the BrExit shitstorm, the trainwreck of Theresa May’s government, and the eventual saddling of the world with Boris Johnson, a truly Trumpian clown who isn’t even as funny or memeable as his American counterpart. Ever since all of Britain has been David Cameron’s Pig being fucked by London elites and Tory politicians and my views on Scottish independence went from mildly pro Union to massively pro-Independence. This also came in tandem with a former neutrality on Northern Ireland tilting strongly towards full Irish reunification.

There were many reasons to be opposed to the EU, some good and some bad. But surely the unraveling of the Good Friday Accords in Northern Ireland was an inevitable part of BrExit. Scotland itself, a small country with interests throughout Europe, needs connections to larger entities to survive. But its political culture is diverging rapidly from that of England as BrExit and the rise of the SNP clearly show. And it seems to me that England is holding the non-Anglo parts of the British Union back. Perhaps even dragging them down with it. While England sinks further and further into the morass of petty bitter nativism, the country where I once lived and had impromptu street parties I joined when Thatcher died is clearly turning away from both Tories and Labour and for the SNP, presaging a re-invigoration of the Independence debate. I would not be surprised if I, as an individual, end up outliving the United Kingdom.

My only hope is that, going forward, more countries could take cues from Scottish nationalism in general: a type of green-civic-geographic program of tying together people based on place rather than ethnicity. I believe it offers a far better future than either the tired neoliberal status quo being rejected around the world right now or the nativistic rise of the chuds that seems the only force yet striving to take its place.

Or you could just take the black pill and keep on voting for a country where someone like Greg Knight just sits in Parliament taking up oxygen and making the worst campaign videos ever seen by man. A slow death by mediocrity and Little Englandism.

Brexit to Nowhere

battle of the thames

From the ridiculous if amusing ‘Battle of the Thames‘ to the tragic and horrifying political assassination of a Labour MP by a fascist causing both campaigns to temporarily suspend themselves, it is apparent that emotions runs high in the upcoming vote for Britain staying or leaving the EU. Obviously, the geopolitical ramifications are potentially quite large.

Interestingly, there could be both a left wing and a right wing case made for leaving. Though considering the reality of domestic British politics the left could probably deliver far less than the right when it comes to this, even if their case on the inherently opaque and corporate backed EU probably more accurately identifies the organization’s problems than the Little Englanders on the right. The EU has many problems for sure, this blog has previously talked about some of them. However, as things currently stand, I am here to make the case that for the cohesiveness of the United Kingdom as a state, it is best at this juncture of time to vote ‘Remain’.

Granted, if the dissolution of the UK is more your style you might take this as a reason to make an accelorationist vote for ‘Leave’, as we shall see.

It boils down to trading one form of compromised sovereignty for another.

Britain is no longer a major world power, but a secondary one located in close proximity to other secondary ones. To offset this factor if freed from the EU Britain must compromise by becoming an even more attractive economic partner to other non-EU states. Naturally this means pulling a Boris Johnson (who once, it should be noted, almost ran over me while riding his bike up Holloway Road) by trying to turn London into a kind of Singapore-West but without the intelligence of discipline of that state. All the current factors affecting the housing and renting prices in London would be accelerated as London was made more and more a city built for Russian oligarchs and Chinese capital flight. The rich get richer and ironically for UKIP, it will be at the hands of foreign interests at least partially. Granted, the Conservative Party and UKIP will take credit for the short term economic boom that will ensue, but the long term trends will be to exacerbate already disturbing and unsustainable paths already being taken. Once the city becomes addicted to getting a nice chunk of its budget from these sources, it will further attempt to appease such investors in order to attract more.

And that is just the city of London. More interesting might be outside of said city.

For reasons listed above and others, leaving the EU will already exaggerate what I have come to call ‘The London Effect’, which is noticing how the UK is so dominated by its capitol city, which no close or even moderately distant secondary center of urban power can compete with, that it resembles a massively overgrown city-state in all but name. Perhaps this is something that comes from living in a variety of locations in the UK starting with London and eventually ending with my favorite city of Edinburgh which I liked much more, but it is a very real structural phenomenon built into the state.

Without being part of a zone containing the various competing mega-cities of Paris, Berlin, and what-have-you, the dominance of London over British affairs (and budgeting) will only increase. Combined with the likely loosening of various regulations on average workers this will exacerbate forces pulling away from state centralization. In other words, expect another Scottish independence referendum if the UK leaves the EU, and expect it to win the second time. And once that starts, who knows what next for a supposedly United Kingdom? Especially if, as would be extremely likely, Scotland then immediately applies for EU membership. How long could Wales agree to be even more proportionally dominated by the English? What would this bode for Northern Ireland?

We don’t know the answers for sure, but at this moment in time if one wanted to keep the UK together one should want to keep it inside the EU, at least for now.

Perhaps in the future we can talk about an alternative to the EU and NATO I came up with called ‘The Northern Alliance’, which would exist to protect the interests of states with arctic and sub-arctic climate change challenges and who do not wish to be divided and dominated by Russia, but that is a different enough topic that it can be saved for a future post.