Saturday, 21 March 2015

One nation, indivisible

In the last few years the United Kingdom has more and more come to resemble the United States as a nation of immigrants. In the 19th century the US was seen by millions as a place of hope. People went there from all over the world looking for a better life. The United States as we know it today is to a large part the result of these people who chose to come and live there. So, too, more and more people from the EU and elsewhere are coming to the UK first to work and then to live. It is a huge complement to our country that so many people do want to come and live here. Why do people come here rather than seek to go elsewhere? The answer is obvious. We have a language the whole world speaks. We are successful economically and have a relatively open labour force. We have a good record of people getting along together. There’s a reason for this that many of us take for granted.

When I lived in Russia, I was struck by something.  Russian identity was a more complex matter than I was used to in the UK. If you read Russian literature, you find people referred to as Germans who had emigrated to Russia centuries earlier. They spoke Russian, but because they had a German surname they were not considered to be Russian. Likewise, today someone born in Kazakhstan who is white and speaks Russian, will be considered a Russian, not a Kazakh. What I soon realised was that identity to an extent depended on ancestry. There are exceptions and complexities. Russia is a multicultural, multilingual country  with as good a record of integration as anywhere else. But I found that ordinary people did think of the idea of being Russian differently to the way I thought of the idea of being British.

For me being British is simply a matter of citizenship. It matters not one jot whether someone can trace their ancestry back to the Norman conquest or whether they arrived more recently. Anyone with a British passport is British. We in Britain have a more open idea about Britishness than most European countries, precisely because we are similar to the United States. Anyone with US citizenship is equally an American. It doesn’t matter if you came over on the Mayflower or arrived last week.

The United States because it went through a very bloody civil war was changed in terms of identity. Prior to the Civil War, people thought of their state almost as if it were an independent country. Thus even though he initially opposed secession, Robert E. Lee thought that his first duty was to his state Virginia. Few Americans today, I suspect, feel the same way about their state. The reason is that the Civil War decided the question of secession by force of arms. Now, no-one in the United States thinks that there is a serious possibility of a state being allowed to leave the Union. If there were such an attempt today, it would once more be prevented by the United States Army.

Some years after the end of the Civil War a sentence was written which with variations has been repeated by millions of Americans.

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

It was only because the Civil War had taken place that such a sentence could have been written and could have been considered necessary. Later it was adapted so that it became clear that the flag referred to was the United States flag, just in case people from elsewhere retained the idea that their allegiance was to where they had come from.  The important point, however, is that everyone who was a citizen of the United States was expected to accept that they lived in one nation that was indivisible.

This idea of living in one nation that is indivisible is common throughout the world. The primary goal of every government is to keep intact the territorial integrity of the nation state. More Americans died fighting to keep intact the territorial integrity of the United States between 1861 and 1865 than in all the other wars America has been involved in before and since. Moreover, the territorial integrity of the United States was never more threatened than in those years.  Given ordinary luck and competence the Army of Northern Virginia ought to have destroyed the main Union Army in 1862.

Imagine if people arriving in the United States from elsewhere in the years after the Civil War had set about trying to break up the United States once more. Imagine if they refused to accept that they owed allegiance to the flag of the United States and if they considered that it was not one indivisible nation. How would people today in the United States view such attitudes? How would people in any country anywhere view people coming to live in their country only to campaign to break it up? The answer is obvious. Such behaviour may or may not be legal, but it’s clearly ungrateful and rude. If I have chosen to live in the United States and have been given the right to do so, I should feel some duty not to attack it from within.

When I lived in the USSR, I knew that there were faults in the society in which I lived. But I had been granted an extraordinary favour by the Government. I was given permission to live where foreigners were normally not allowed. I would no more have dreamt of campaigning to break up the Soviet Union than I would dream of campaigning to break up Russia today. I would have considered it a betrayal of the country that had granted me the right to live there. I didn’t want the country I came from, the UK, to break up, so what right would I have had to campaign to break up the USSR? It would have been grotesquely hypocritical for me to do this. I don’t deny the right of people from the former republics of the USSR the right to campaign to leave it. If Lithuanians or Georgians felt this desire strongly enough, that was their business. But I did not have this right. Moreover, the USSR was just as much as the United States, one nation, indivisible. They would have likewise had the right to prevent secession even by force of arms if they had so chosen. It’s only because Ukraine became an independent sovereign nation state that there is international outcry because of the conflict there. If the Red Army had prevented the Ukrainian SSR from seceding in 1991, it would have been perfectly legal for them to do so.

Scottish politics has become something of interest to people from all over the world. I’m naturally grateful when I come across people online who support the preservation of the UK as one nation, indivisible. But I am frankly annoyed by people from elsewhere who want to break up my country while keeping their own intact. If I went to live in Poland and campaigned for parts of Poland to be returned to Germany or for Poland to be partitioned once more, I imagine I would not exactly be welcomed by ordinary Poles. If you have been granted leave to remain in the UK, or if your right to live and work in the UK depends on the UK being a member of the EU, it is grotesquely ungrateful to attempt to break up the UK. The UK has been extraordinarily welcoming to citizens from the EU. We rightly granted people from Eastern Europe the right to live and work here long before most other EU countries. To repay that by attacking us from within is at best very rude, at worst treacherous.

We need to move on in the UK from our civil war and realise that the victory at last year’s referendum was just as much a defeat for secession as that which defeated the Confederacy in 1865. We are now one nation, indivisible and it's time politicians made this clear. We cannot continue forever to refight old battles.  There is no right to secession in international law.

It was made clear prior to the referendum that this was a one off. Knowing what we do now about the failure of nationalists to accept the result, it would have been far better if David Cameron had simply said to Alex Salmond back in 2012 that there would be no referendum for the reason that the United Kingdom was one nation, indivisible. It should be made clear that this would be the answer from now on. There are not four nations in the UK. There is one. The others are nations in the sense that Fife is a “kingdom”. They are called “countries”, but they are not countries until and unless they become independent.

I am not in favour of pledging allegiance to a flag, but it should be made clear to everyone who comes to live in Britain that we are welcoming and grateful that you have chosen to live here, but that if you become a British citizen, you have an allegiance to the UK as one nation, indivisible. No doubt, after the Civil War had been lost, there were many in the southern states who resented the fact that they had lost and that the United States was one nation rather than two. These people wasted their lives refighting old battles rather than getting on with making their shared country better. No doubt, for a time 'lost cause' Confederates made up a significant portion of the population south of the Mason Dixon line, perhaps they even numbered more than 45%. But it didn’t matter. There wasn’t a rerun. There never will be a rerun. And now their battles seem as remote as Solway Moss and Pinkie Cleugh.

If you like my writing, you can find my books Scarlet on the Horizon (book, Kindle), An Indyref Romance (book, Kindle) and Complete Works (book, Kindle) on Amazon. I appreciate your support.


  1. I'm slightly shocked by your conclusion in this article Effie.

    In effect, you're saying there are two different levels of voter in the UK. Ones for whom voting and campaigning to change the constitution is acceptable and should be allowed, and others for whom it isn't.

    Where does this cutoff happen? Is is OK for a 2nd generation Sikh UK citizen to support Scottish independence for instance?

    And does your argument include other issues rather than the constitution? Would you block an immigrant from any political campaigning in the UK on the basis that they should be grateful to have been allowed in? Did you find the actions of the Glasgow Girls 'ungrateful and rude'?

    1. Everyone who lives in the UK has the right to campaign for any party they wish. I am simply trying to persuade people not to break up the UK. I'm particularly pointing out the hypocrisy of campaigning to break up the UK while wishing to keep another nation, e.g. Poland intact. But obviously people are free to ignore my attempt to persuade them and campaign for whatever they please.

      When I'm in Russia I don't get involved in Russian politics as I don't figure it's my business. Perhaps this is just a personal decision. But I know my friends and family in Russia appreciate it. But of course each to his own.

      I'm not blocking anyone from doing anything. I'm simply persuading. I don't know who the Glasgow girls are I'm afraid. But to be clear, I disagree with those campaigning for Scottish independence. I wish they wouldn't and try to persuade them to stop. But they don't have to listen to me and no doubt won't.

    2. Thanks Effie. For info, the Glasgow Girls were 7 schoolgirls at Drumchapel High School, some immigrants and refugees, who campaigned successfully to Jack McConnell and others to stop the horrible Home Office practice of carrying out dawn raids to detain asylum seekers families including children if their applications had been refused.

    3. Not sure why you are shocked Garve. Remember Effie and her friends like Jill Stephenson have form openly calling for future referendums to be banned or at the very least deferred for some random period of decades or generations. I've just seen a tweet from the profoundly misguided Ms Stephenson which says (and I quote) " We haven't taken up arms (yet) but it's a civil war - started by the SNP". So not content with openly advocating the suppression of the right of Scots to self determination, the cabal of British nationalist extremists gravitating around the less pleasant fringes of the Better Together camp are now openly conjuring civil war and armed resistance. That's not just tin hat wearing level delusion, it is deeply sinister.

    4. It is unusual in the world for nation states to allow parts to vote on secession. There is no other country in the world apart from perhaps Canada which would do so. I was in favour of the referendum we had last year and would have respected a Yes vote. What I am arguing is that given that there is no legal right to secede, and given we've had a vote which was won decisively by No, the UK government should make it clear that it will not for the foreseeable future grant another.

      No-one is inciting war. Certainly not by making historical comparisons between the United States in the 19th century and the UK today. The Tweet that you are quoting is being ludicrously misinterpreted. Far from encouraging violence it is worried that the divisions existing in Scotland may lead to violence. I too worry about this because I have seen what nationalism did to the formerly friendly relationship that existed between Ukrainians and Russians.

      I don't know who you are ndls61 but any further comments on my blog of a nature similar to this one will be deleted. I welcome rational comment, but I don't accept insults.

    5. I find this idea interesting. What if you don't want to declare allegiance to the British state or have no allegiance to the state? What then?

    6. I brought up the pledge of allegiance only as a matter of comparison. No-one is suggesting such a pledge in Britain. I would oppose it. What does a country do with citizens who feel they have no allegiance to the state. The answer of course is nothing. In every country there are such disaffected people. Most of them are harmless and are best ignored.

    7. I don't think this burying of your head in the sand strategy is going to work or provide cohesion for the continuation of the British state. In fact, this seems entirely counter-productive since increasing the disenfranchisement of a large part of the voting public would fuel further demand for constitutional change.

      A lot of what your saying sounds like wishful thinking. Is your most persuasive argument that people should feel more British a "you lost the referendum now get over it"?

      That won't work.

      Further, rather than demand that immigrants support the continuation of the British state for politeness sake would it not be more profitable to ask yourself why some have not and what their reasons are for supporting independence?

    8. I think on the contrary the fact that you are writing this shows that you fear it would work. Catalonia is not going to become independent, because the Spanish government has ruled any attempt to do so as illegal. The UK government should take the same approach. It is perfectly democratic. Almost no democratic country in the world would allow a referendum on secession. Nor should we. Why should UK supporters play the nationalists game?

    9. You are, as usual, failing to engage with the actual argument here Effie. The intellectually lazy assumption that Catalan independence will never happen because the Spanish government and constitution says so, and still worse your proposed extension of that "principle" to the the UK, is not only profoundly undemocratic, it risks encouraging the very process you purport to oppose.

      There are in fact a number of countries which allow for secession in their constitutions, and it is at least arguable that for a democratic "liberal-democracy" like Spain to refuse to even discuss the issue with the Catalans and Basques (although I suspect many Catalans and Basques don't actually accept Spain IS a liberal democracy in the real sense?!) already puts it on shaky ground with respect to its democratic credentials.

      As pointed out earlier (and ignored in your trite analysis above) the complex issues brought up here were being discussed in detail over on Lallands Peat Worriers recent blog:

      I warmly encourage you and your supporters to read and inwardly digest. International law (such as it is) is certainly predisposed to oppose the right of secession for sub-state units in situations where the "parent" entity opposes it. However, international law is an imperfect guide; it's current tenets were designed to cope with de-colonisation and the oppression of minorities. It has major difficulties dealing with situations such as Scotland, Quebec and Catalonia, which have certain affinities, but also intrinsic differences. Your "catch-all" suggestion of simply standing on the inviolability of the nation state is no longer tenable, nor should it be to any "real" democrat.

      You may not like being labelled an extremist in this regard Effie, but that is EXACTLY what your stated position amounts to, which is why no mainstream politician in the UK would support your view, and also why you find yourself in the company of some rather unpleasant ideological bedfellows both here in the UK, and in terms of general political direction, the crypto-francoists in Madrid threatening to jail Catalan separatists or crush any attempted referendum there by force of arms.

      If it walks like a duck, and quacks, guess what.......?

    10. I was trying to be helpful, but you did not engage with the bulk of what I was saying. I think that ties in with your initial post which is ultimately about not having to engage with people who don't agree with you any more.

      That's the dream your attempting to sell.

      What happens after that?

    11. The position argued by this post is no less legitimate than the stance taken by the pro-independence political leadership following the referendum.

      The dreams were offered to the people in the form of a prospectus for an independent nation state, the electorate debated them. It certainly got its engagement (two whole years of it), and a conclusion was arrived at. Democracy worked.

      The softer message underpinning this post argues for not much more than some semblance of stability following the outcome. It is an entirely reasonable proposition and something the current pro-independence political leadership are denying the population by their decision not to deviate from the course that was rejected by the majority of the people they claim to represent.

      In what ways are this leadership engaging with the will of those whom rejected their constitutional goal of independence? As the separatist rhetoric continues unabated the opinions of those who opposed and continue to oppose their stance are clearly relegated to the status of an outcome that is at best nothing more than an inconvenience.

      By advocating no further movement on independence, this post does no worse than take a position that is an opposite of the stance of the current pro-independence leadership (whom offer only an unceasing pursuit of independence).

      Effie's post is certainly no less legitimate, arguably more so because her position is a response seeking to uphold the opinions already expressed by a majority, of which the ink on the ballot papers has barely had time to dry.

    12. Thanks. This is a really helpful comment. Why must we who voted No be constantly under threat of having our country broken up. No-one in virtually any other democratic country faces this same threat. Why should we?

    13. Bucks boy's comment may be a helpful, but it and your response rather misses the point. Pro independence campaigners don't expect unionists to give up their beliefs overnight in the event of a Yes vote, and yet you and your supporters expect supporters of a Yes vote to just give up and get back in their box?

      It's called democracy. Those arguing that future referendums should be banned, or deferred for periods of their choosing even in the face of a majority in favour of such a vote, are not true democrats in any conventional sense. Similarly Effie's rather petulant insistence that "new Scots" who had migrated to Scotland had no business supporting independence and were somehow morally obliged to support a unitary UK rather than independence is actually quite sinister.

      Is your union really so fragile that it cannot endure the test of referendums? You not only should face the "threat" inherent in facing a democratic test, you are obliged to do so in the name of democracy. If there is no appetite for it, then it won't happen; however there IS an appetite for it as recent events and polls since September 2014 clearly demonstrate. To insist otherwise, and try to de-legitimise future attempts to hold referendums, or accuse immigrants who freely chose to support independence rather than British nationalism of treachery as Effie does is pretty repugnant; I often find myself wondering if you actually think about how badly the things you write come across, and how extreme they sound?

  2. Well said Effie what we need is all unionist parties emphasising there will be no rerun until it gets through the heads of the members of the cult of nationalism.

    1. Above all we must make voting for the SNP a pointless exercise. We've had the referendum and there is no legal route to independence from now on.

    2. That's simply factually incorrect. The legal route to independence would be exactly the same as that used for the referendum in 2014. The precedent already exists. A refusal by Westminster to countenance a repeat would simply make a pro-independence in Scotland more likely. Presented with the same intransigence from London as the Catalans face from Madrid makes a plebiscitary election and/or further independence referendum virtually inevitable.

      Whether such a move would be seen as technically legal (and whatever you and your unionist friends wishfully think there is considerable debate about whether such a refusal by London or Madrid could stand in the face of a clear majority to a clear question in the context of a liberal democracy where the use of force or coercion would not be seen as legitimate) is really neither here nor there.

      In it's discussion of the Quebec situation and the Clarity Act, the Canadian Supreme Court recognises that BOTH sides are in effect obliged to hold good faith discussions on a Yes vote to independence. Trying to ban a vote being held, or to overturn a majority result by claiming it is illegal or against the constitution (pace Madrid versus Barcelona) does not represent good faith, and may not be accepted as readily by the international community as britnats seem to think.

  3. Unlike you Effie, I'm happy not to hide behind the cloak of anonymity; my twitter tag is the same as the one used here, and my name is Andy Ellis. There is no insult in my post. Jill Stephenson's tweet doesn't appear to me to leave any room for misinterpretation. It is at best spectacularly ill-judged, and at worst deeply sinister.

    The argument that there is no legal right to secede is spurious. If you are really interested in a well informed debate on the issues, rather than avoiding them as seems to be your wont, you might like to look at the lively discussion on Lallands Peat Worrier's latest blog. There is in fact considerable academic debate about the right to secede, self determination, territorial integrity and the conflict between legalistic approaches and the democratic rights of sub-state units like Scotland, Quebec and Catalonia. None of these units have the same background of course, although there are similarities, but it is quite possible to argue that all 3 are sui generis and not readily accounted for under existing norms. Of course the nuances of the situation don't fit with the simplistic "SNP=BAD" britnat mindset you and your followers exemplify.

    As to your passive aggressive flouncing about posts you don't like, has it occurred to you that such negativity and failure to engage in good faith discussions, and the propensity to run away home with the ball when you're getting beaten, might help explain why Better Together has snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last September, and the SNP are about to extinguish the Scottish Labour party and likely hold the balance of power at Westminster after the election?

    You must be so proud of your part, and that of people like Jill Stephenson, in making that possible!

    1. You have no more evidence that I am hiding behind a cloak of anonymity than I have of you. I come across Andy Ellis on the Internet. I have no idea whether that name is real or not. You say it is. I believe you. I say that my name is real. You don't believe me. Oh but we've all been looking for you Effie. Trying to find where you work and where you live. Isn't that just a touch creepy? I use my Russian name professionally. But my name is Effie Deans.

      I rather regret blocking you on Twitter and thought of unblocking but I can't as you've blocked me too. So that's an impasse. I regret it as you make good, interesting comments that are well thought out and well written. I'm happy that you continue to do so.

      What mars them however is the tendency to play the man rather than the ball. By all means attack the arguments that I write. But I'm sorry I do block, ignore, delete people who call me an extreme British nationalist. I've explained with detailed argument that the term Brit Nat is offensive

      I was taught to argue impersonally. It means that I can disagree passionately with someone while remaining on good terms. There are many independence supporters who I like and respect. But that's because we don't insult each other.

    2. Projection on your part I'm afraid. I have zero interest in you personally; I do however instinctively distrust people who post anonymously. As some of us found to our cost during the indyref, the less tasteful parts of the britnat media are adept at hounding ordinary Yes supporters and labelling any disagreement, however politely expressed, as "vile cybernat abuse", whilst operating a double standard with respect to the invariably anonymous britnat trolls who use their anonymity to broadcast abuse which would see any Yes supporter crucified and hounded.

      You blocking me is sadly par for the course amongst britnats who are in my experience seldom interested in debate or remaining on good terms as you so politely put it. Of course you are quite entitled to dislike the epithet British nationalist or britnat; whether that's an over-reaction I'll leave to others to decide for themselves. I don't have any issue with being called a Scottish nationalist or even a cybernat (indeed I wear both badges with pride), but I certainly won't allow you to dictate what terminology I'm "allowed" to use. Of course, this is your blog, and you may do as you see fit. Your hair trigger response on this issue, and your tendency to block people rather than engage in debate somewhat weakens your basic case in my opinion.

      If it concerns you that people call you out for advocating policies and methods many of us find repugnant and anti-democratic (such as your calls for further referendums to be blocked, even if supported by the majority of Scots), then the correct interim response is not to attack the people doing so for insulting you, or using terms which you have personally decided are offensive.

      Arguing dispassionately and based on objective reason can be a virtue of course, but there is a place for passion and expressing your feelings. There is also an argument for explaining the reasoning behind your argument, which as we have all seen you seldom do; you simply assert you are right, assume the moral high ground, and oftentimes descend into a variation of the old "SNP=BAD", "SCOTNATZ=VILE" schtick.

      Don't assume that you can advocate courses of action which large numbers of people find regressive, anti-democratic and profoundly worrying without being called upon to explain yourself, to justify your choices, and to explain why you find it necessary to defend the outrageous statement of people like Jill Stephenson about taking up arms, whilst simultaneously insisting that your "side" has the monopoly on righteousness whilst your opposition is caricatured as irredeemably and uniformly negative.

  4. I'm happy to receive all the comments and grateful for everyone who takes the time to read my blog and write such well thought out arguments. But I am only one person. If I replied in the same detail to each and every one of you I would have to write the equivalent of another blog. I already wrote two this weekend. I can hardly be expected to write three. So if I don't address each and every one of the points raised, please accept that it is through lack of time. Perhaps in a future blog I will address the arguments so ably put forward.

  5. Effie, you have proposed that the SNP be considered 'beyond the pale'. How do you feel about political parties with links to paramilitary groups? Would they be acceptable participants in a coalition if that was needed to deny the SNP influence?
    If Westminster gave assent to Scottish independence after some future referendum in which Yes prevailed, would you condone / encourage armed resistance by civilian groups?

  6. SCOTLAND IS A NATION ! Check mate !!