Saturday 6 October 2012

Can Scots bear to live in the same country as the English?

Although the nationalists would not like the question to be phrased in this way, the referendum on independence amounts to the following question: Can Scots bear to live in the same country as the English? Scots, who would vote for secession, are really saying we can’t bear to live with such people, but would prefer to live in a country only with our fellow Scots. It becomes obvious that this really is the case by reflecting on the fact that if a Scot were happy to live in the same country as the English, he would be happy with the present UK situation and would not vote for independence.
Let’s look at the logic of the position. Scotland is a multiracial, multicultural country. If we can’t bear to live in the same country as the English, how can we bear to live in the same country as people from Poland, Latvia, Pakistan or the Caribbean? To believe that we ought to live in harmony with people whose ancestors arrived in our country in the last fifty years or so, but that we cannot live in harmony with people whose ancestors have lived in the British Isles since the dawn of history is absurdly self-contradictory. If Scots are saying that it is intolerable for us to live in the same country as English people, how can we expect to find it tolerable living with people who differ from us to a far greater extent than the average person born in England. A typical English person speaks  the same language as a Scot, with a somewhat different accent. His culture and attitudes are broadly similar to ours. His religion, if he has one, will probably be a variant on the theme of Protestantism, just like in Scotland. His ancestors will probably be the same mixture of Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Viking, Norman and Roman as our ancestors. Scottish Nationalists maintain that they cannot bear to live in the same country as such a  person, who differs from us to such a small degree. But how then can they expect to be able to bear to live in an independent Scotland, which will contain people born in countries far away, people with different religions, with different skin colours, indeed with people who were born in England? What are they going to do? Send them all homeward tae think again.
The SNP moreover, wants an independent Scotland to remain in the EU post independence. At present Scotland is already in a union with three other countries. If Scots are really saying that we can’t bear to be in a union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland, how can we then say we can bear to be in a another union with 27 more countries, including those we have just left? If Scots can not stand being in a union with the English, how can we expect to long endure being in an ever closer union with Germans, French, Italians and Poles?
At present it’s as if Scotland, England Wales and Northern Ireland, like old friends, live in a house together. We’ve lived that way for a long time. We all speak the same language and have broadly similar attitudes and cultures. However, friction has developed in our house, primarily over bills, how to share our money and how to run the house. Scotland wants  to leave. Does Scotland want to live on its own? No, Scotland wants to live in a large dormitory, containing not only our former housemates, but people from whom we are very different in terms of language and culture. The residents of this dormitory, i.e. the EU, might well wonder whether they really want such a fractious new dormitory member. If Scotland could not bear to live in the same house as the English speaking people of the UK, would we not be a source of trouble and disharmony in the EU dormitory? Would we not set a bad example to other residents, such as, for example, the Spanish speakers. The EU might well see the wisdom of the proverb  “He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.”