Saturday 1 August 2015

Hare Alex, Hare Nicola : an introduction

After the election there was nothing left to write. The battle had been fought and the SNP had won nearly all the seats. But they had lost the war. The nightmare scenario of a UK Government propped up by Scottish nationalists had been avoided. Unfortunately for the SNP and for the Left in general, the same nightmare will apply next time, too. Expect English and Welsh people to continue to vote for anyone but the SNP.

There will be further battles, but they are relatively far ahead. The Scottish parliament will have an election, the SNP may win another majority, but will they want to hold another independence referendum? Would they even be allowed to do so? I suspect the answer in both cases is ‘No’, or at least not for the foreseeable future. The numbers just aren’t there. Even those who want independence will more and more come to recognise as things calm down that we can’t afford it. Nothing is going to change that anytime soon.

The EU referendum likewise is far away. We can only talk vaguely about it. Britain’s role in the EU anyway is going to change in ways we cannot predict, because the EU may itself change in ways we cannot predict. Cameron’s attempt at renegotiation of the membership rules looks rather like tinkering at the edges while the club decides in what way it is to exist. No-one knows what is going to happen to the Eurozone in the next year or two. Is it going to move closer together or further apart?

The EU is at one of those see-saw moments which may set it on the path to becoming a United States of Europe or going back to being a Common Market of independent nation states who happen to trade together. Deciding on whether the UK wants to be a member of this club at the moment or trying to change the rules of our membership looks rather foolish. Who can predict what the EU will become in the next few years, so the question becomes: member of what? Events in the Eurozone will anyway far more determine the nature of our future membership rather than our votes.

In any case whatever happens, Scotland will go the way of the UK. We have seen how the EU can crush a small country and we have seen what happens when you try to have monetary union without a political and a transfer union. No-one is going to allow the same sort relationship to happen in the UK. It doesn’t matter what Scots vote for; that is not going to happen. As we have seen in Greece you can’t vote for a contradiction (they voted both to keep the Euro while rejecting the condition for the possibility of remaining in the Euro). The vote was meaningless.

A future Scottish vote for “independence” might see Scotland kicked out of the poundzone, which would be a disaster both for Scotland and the UK. If anyone thinks leaving a modern currency union is straightforward for any of those involved, they should think about why Greece does not already have the Drachma. More likely a vote for Scottish independence would lead to the poundzone retaining some sort of political and transfer union. In that case we would become the United States of the UK or some such nonsense and Scottish “independence” would amount to little more than flag waving. There isn’t a third option.  

The debate therefore has become sterile. We were all scared of the SNP winning so many seats. But look, they won them and nothing happened, but a game of musical chairs and some clapping. Who’s afraid of the big bad SNP?

So it just isn’t possible, or at least there is little point, writing a blog every week rehashing arguments that are already familiar to those with whom I agree and are like pebbles thrown at Nicola d’Arc. They just bounce off her shining armour.

But of course it is vital that Pro-UK people keep up the fight. If we all retreat into silence, where will we be when we next need to fight a battle? But we need to fight differently and we need to write in another way. It is for this reason that after the election I took the chance to expand on something I wrote soon after the referendum. It was called “It’s Scotland that needs rescuing now”. At that point I told the story of my experience in Russia of trying to rescue someone from involvement in a religious cult. I compared that experience with how things feel in Scotland today. I now expand on that story and develop the comparison. The result is a long piece of writing in the form of a memoir, but with a final section that amounts to a summing up of all that I think about Scottish nationalism. It’s only by reading the whole that you can properly understand the conclusion.

In the course of writing so extensively about Scottish nationalism, I have compared the SNP to many historical phenomena, including the Communist party in the USSR and the Confederacy in the USA. It would be hard to think of two groups that were more opposite. It is therefore worth remembering that these comparisons should not be taken too literally. That is not the purpose. When I say something is like something else, I also logically imply that it is different. Otherwise it would be the same. I don’t think the SNP are communists, nor are they Confederates, still less are they Hare Krishnas, but it can be illuminating to make comparisons. The reason for this is that such comparisons can reveal something that is otherwise hidden, and a tendency towards which a political movement is leading.

In order to write in detail about these matters, I had to use my experience, but it is memory filtered through the present and conditioned by what has happened in Scotland in the last few years. I do not allow memory to limit what I write. Rather a thought leads to another thought and soon I am describing something that did not happen or I am ascribing a thought I have now to a time when I had not yet worked it out. I do not particularly wish this long piece of writing therefore to be limited by its name. It is an act of remembering, but it is in the form of a novel, yet much of it involves argument, so it is a sort of very long blog. Call it what you will. It matters little to me what you call a thing, it matters only what it is.

I believe different forms of writing can be useful in trying to get across different truths. But is it true? That is always the question some people ask of certain types of writing. Yes some of it is true and some of it isn’t. It says as much about me as it does about my experience with the Hare Krishnas and my experience with Scottish nationalism. It tells a lot about how I ended up living in Russia and it says something about what I did there. The purpose, however, is to try to explain something about Scotland now. Everything is for the purpose of comparison. It doesn’t matter for that purpose what happened or didn’t happen. It matters only that within itself the writing has truth. How it relates to anything else is largely a matter of indifference.

As you read you may find yourself thinking is this all relevant? You may intend to read about Scottish politics, but find yourself in a different sort of story. This is sometimes the way with writing. Sometimes one story can only be told in the context of another. So if you read, you will have to forgive me that there are some long digressions and that the story has a tendency to go backwards and forwards. I play some games with the story, but that, too, is a way of describing a truth that can only be reached in different ways.

In the end, I relate the whole thing to Scottish politics. You could by all means skip to the epilogue if you are only interested in this aspect of the story. But something would have been missed by doing this. Everything that is before the epilogue enables it to be understood from within. I have tried to get inside the mind-set of Scottish nationalism by describing something that I find to be similar. There are differences, of course, but the comparison is illuminating.

Anyone who has been following my blogs and is curious will find out much in the course of reading this long piece of writing. It is only because of my life in Russia that I am able to write my blog at all. It gave me the perspective from which I write. So if you want to better understand my blogs from the past and those I may write in the future, here is the key.

I’m going to publish the whole thing on my blog in instalments; otherwise it would be impossible to digest.