Thursday 20 August 2020

Be careful who you vote for


In February 2020 when we were all beginning to worry about Covid the Scottish Government passed a law extending the franchise in Scottish Parliament and local elections so that everyone with leave to remain in the UK can vote plus some prisoners.

On the one hand I can see the justice of allowing someone who has been living and working in Scotland for years having the chance to vote despite not being a British citizen. In pre-SNP Scotland I would have supported this completely. But Scotland is not a normal democracy. Every election we have is fundamentally not about education, healthcare and the other issues that the Scottish Government controls. We might try to turn the conversation to those matters, and we might succeed up to a point, but we know that most voters will decide to vote on whether they want Scottish independence or not. I do not believe that this is a matter for foreigners.

I have lived and worked abroad. I would not dream of campaigning for someone else’s country to break up. It would be grotesquely rude of me to do so. It would be to break all the rules of hospitality. Imagine going to live in the United States, gaining the right to live and work there from the United States and then campaigning for one of the states to become independent. This would be considered completely unacceptable behaviour.

In every single EU member state, it would be considered simply an abuse to use the principle of free movement of people to attack the member state from within. Germans, Poles and Italians would react with fury if people from other countries moved en masse and then started agitating for secession. Imagine if Germans moved to parts of Poland in order to gain a majority for reunification with Germany. Poland would deport them. Imagine if enough Italians moved to Corsica and then demanded Corsica be returned to Italy. How would the French react?

Constitutional matters are for citizens not foreigners. It is for this reason that whenever I come across a foreigner campaigning for Scottish independence, I ask them which part of their own country they want to become independent. It is grossly hypocritical for a French person to campaign for Britain to be broken up if he would be horrified by the prospect of France breaking up. If it would be wrong for me to move to Brittany and campaign for Brittany to leave France it is equally wrong for an EU citizen to move here and campaign for Scotland to leave the UK.

But despite it being wrong to move to Britain accept British hospitality and then campaign for Britain’s breakup it must be admitted that many EU citizens and other foreigners are attracted to the SNP and its continual agitation to destroy the UK. Why are they attracted?

Some people for historical reasons hate Britain. They blame us because we had an empire and their ancestral home was part of it. They dislike us because of our historical foreign policies and the fact that we have been in wars with people they sympathise with. Others blame us for famines, for 1000 years of occupation and oppression. It’s odd that no one in Britain complains that we were conquered by Angles and Saxons. Others still resent that Britain voted to leave the EU. The SNP’s support for the EU and the prospect that Scottish independence might lead to Scotland joining the EU is attractive to some EU citizens.

These people should be careful what they wish for.

Anyone who has leave to remain in the UK has the legal right to live in the UK. But Scottish independence would destroy the UK as a nation state. We don’t know exactly what the resulting states would be, and we certainly don’t know who would have the right to live in them. That would be up to the Government’s of these future states. At the very least foreign nationals would have to reapply for leave to remain in either Scotland or the former UK. It is likely that foreign nationals would be given the right to remain in Scotland, but they would have no right to live and work in the former UK. They would not be former British citizens and there is no guarantee that leave to remain in Scotland would grant someone the right to live and work in England.

The most important issue however is that foreign nationals above all others should be careful with playing with nationalism. It is likely to burn you much more than fire. The British identity is open to every immigrant. Most British people think it is wrong to deny this identity to people who live here. But this attitude is quite unusual in Europe. Most Polish people for instance think that to be a Pole you need to speak Polish and have Polish ancestry. If I moved to Poland, I could never become a Pole.

But there is an element of this in the Scottish identity and also to an extent in the other identities in the UK. An English person with an English accent who has lived in Scotland for forty years will still be considered English by most Scots. If he wore a kilt many Scots would ask if he was entitled to do so. Entitlement comes from ancestry.

Scottish nationalists pretend to welcoming and inclusive to foreigners because they want your votes. So long as you support the SNP that welcome is liable to continue, but as soon as you disagree you will cease to be Scottish. This is the mistake so called “English Scots” fall into. You can go native if you like, Scottish nationalists will even say that you are as Scottish as they are as long as you support the SNP. But disagree with them just once and you will be straight back to being English.

Scottish nationalism is made up of some genuinely open-minded inclusive Scots who want independence for progressive reasons. But you only need to spend a small amount of time on social media and to see pictures of the Scottish nationalist marches to realise that Scottish nationalism appeals to ancestry. Why else are they dressing up as if they were refighting the 1745 rebellion?

Scottish nationalists have tried to appropriate Scotland’s flag and all of the symbols of Scotland and they have largely succeeded. But this sort of nationalism only applies to people who are from Scotland. It won’t ever apply to people from elsewhere. What have saltires and thistles and lions rampant and tales of 1314 to do with you if you are from Poland? You don’t even know who the Scottish heroes are nor can you understand your neighbour if he speaks Scots.

But this is the danger for foreigners in an independent Scotland. It would fundamentally define Scottishness by ancestry because anyone who has Scottish ancestry would get a passport and be fully Scottish. Anyone else might be allowed to remain, but there is no guarantee that a Polish accent would be quite so welcomed if times got tough. If you don’t look like a Jacobite or speak like a Jacobite be very careful voting for Scottish nationalists. You might find yourself watching TV in Gaelic or Scots and you might find that the ability to speak one or the other was a requirement for certain jobs and even a requirement for citizenship. If you think that could never happen here, it might be worth remembering that the ability to speak the national language is already a condition for gaining a passport in most EU countries including Britain. What would Scotland’s national language be? Do you really think it would be English? They hate the English. They might well end up hating you.