Scotland – Separatist versus Unionist nationalism

The campaign to foil Alex Salmond's dream of a post-British Scotland was finally launched yesterday. Will it be a success?

Better together?
Tom Gallagher
On 26 June 2012 12:16

The campaign to foil Alex Salmond’s dream of a post-British Scotland was finally launched yesterday. It was fronted by Alistair Darling, one of the few Labour big-hitters to have preserved much of his credibility despite having served continuously in two Labour administrations which picked apart the sinews of Britishness in numerous ways.

Better Together extolled Scottish patriotism and claimed that Scotland was capable of standing on its own two feet but argued that Scottish well-being and its broad identity were best served by preserving the 305-year-old union. The strengths of the United Kingdom still counted for far more than a leap into the unknown: ‘it’s a big and difficult world and independence is an inadequate response’ Darling argued.

Upon the advice of spin doctors, ‘Independence’ has been banned from the Scottish National Party’s (SNP’s) campaigning lexicon because it creates nervousness in some target voters.

Salmond has been busy devising soothing potions in order to convince the sizeable number of doubters that Scotland’s political journey will reach a comfortable end point: Scottish Nationalism is really meant to reinforce ‘the social union’ and self-determination is simply the logical next step as the British Union grows up and members leave the family nest.

He is discouraged by the effective collapse of the independence experiment next-door in Ireland which is now a distressed administered territory of the European Union. But he derives encouragement from the number of English people who, on numerous blogs, mimic lusty Scottish separatists by proclaiming that the divorce courts await a ‘lifeless’ Anglo-Scottish marriage.

Better Together’slaunch was a sober, practical affair which placed in the foreground ordinary Scots who expressed their support for the British link in straightforward terms. This was in contrast to the lyrical and aspirational campaign, Yes for Scotland that was launched by the SNP in an Edinburgh cinema last month. A gallery of actors who lived in, and paid taxes abroad, insisted that it was time for Scotland to rejoin the world. The artefacts of independence were extolled along with Scotland’s ability to be a player in major events.

It’s not merely in its addiction to media spin and glitz from the Blair era that the SNP resembles New Labour. Its message is a pro-globalisation one. Scotland is bound to benefit if it throws its borders open to new financial investment and emigrant streams and strikes up international relationships sure to bring economic rewards in their wake.

But this globalised Scotland appears capable of benefiting only a small number of mobilised, politically savvy and well-connected professional Scots as was the case in the English South-East with Blair’s advocacy of Britain as a world community.

The SNP is vague about the hard questions that need answers if the number of Scots who believe independence can indeed be viable is to rise above the present 33 percent of the electorate. What will the country’s currency and monetary policy be? Its relationship with the EU and with NATO? Its taxation and regulatory framework?

How will the UK national debt be divided up in event of the island of Britain being partitioned? What is the scope for spending and borrowing that a Scottish government will have in light of the hotly disputed arguments over whether North Sea oil and staples like whisky, financial services, tourism and a shrinking industrial base, can meet Scotland’s outgoings?

To a people whose legendary caution has been eroded by an intoxifying media culture which extols risk and spectacle, the SNP offers the chance to embark on a new adventure. There is a state of expectancy as its intellectual and media backers proclaim that an entire phase of history is soon to give way to a new one; Scotland has been swept away in the past by such fervour, usually in the form of religious revivals.

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