Wednesday 22 March 2023

Is the UK Government a foreign power Mr Yousaf?


For as long as I have been discussing Scottish independence, I have had Scottish nationalists tell me that after independence the people living in the other parts of the UK would not be foreigners. Nor would Scots be foreigners to them. Instead, we would be a family of nations, best friends, good neighbours and as close if not closer than we are now.

But suddenly Humza Yousaf tells me “If we were independent, we would not have a foreign government coming in, for example, and vetoing our legislation.” Yet I wonder if that is true.

Humza Yousaf wants Scotland to join the EU. Well, that would mean Scotland rejoining the Common Fisheries Policy, the Common Agricultural Policy and having to reaccept all EU law and allow that the EU, its courts and parliament could require Scotland to change whatever law the EU wished.

For instance, if Scotland wanted to abolish VAT and made a law that did so, the EU would say sorry President Yousaf you can’t do that. If Scotland wanted to keep eh foreign fishing boats out of Scottish waters, the EU would say sorry President Yousaf you can’t do that?

But Mr Yousaf has no problem with Brussels telling him what to do. Does this mean that he thinks that the people of the EU would not be foreign after Scottish independence, but the people of the former UK would be? Why Brussels good, London bad, Mr Yousaf.

Moreover, Mr Yousaf would I’m sure want Scotland to be part of the United Nations. So, if perchance Mr Yousaf wanted Scotland to invade Iraq and the UN said sorry Mr Yousaf, we think that sort of war is illegal, Mr Yousaf would have to obey the UN. Isn’t that how the argument went when Mr Yousaf was part of the Stop the War Coalition?

But this is the nature of international relations. No country except perhaps China and the USA can afford to ignore international treaties and can make any law that it pleases. The UK now is constrained by membership of the European Court of Human rights. It is constrained with regard to Northern Ireland by its various agreements with the EU. Scotland too would be constrained, perhaps more so if it rejoined the EU.

So why is Mr Yousaf making a big deal about the UK Government vetoing legislation on gender which would affect the other parts of the UK and when the UK is using a part of the Scotland Act, which set up the Scottish Parliament in the first place to do so? Scotland has a devolved parliament. We are not a sovereign independent nation state. That is what Mr Yousaf wants us to become. But even if we were independent, we would still have to follow the various treaties and international rules on things like climate change and human rights, or does Mr Yousaf think the Scottish Government should be allowed to do as it pleases about these after independence. Perhaps we could discourage crime by introducing some methods of punishment currently banned by human rights law, perhaps we should ban recycling and electric cars.

What is most odd however is that it should be Mr Yousaf who uses the F word about the UK Government. After all it was the UK Government which granted Mr Yousaf’s parents the right to come to the UK in the 1960s. They were then one assumes given leave to remain by the UK Home Office and eventually given British passports.

If my parents had arrived in Brittany in the 1960s and had been given permission by France to live there, I don’t think I would describe the Government of France as foreign. After all my parents had been the foreigners until the French were generous enough to let them come to Brittany. It would be rather “Ne mords pas la main qui te nourrit”.

In Britain we rightly have a convention that we are all equally British or Scottish no matter where our parents came from. This is a consequence of mass immigration. We could not have two tiers of people one called Native Britons (rather like Native Americans), and another called foreigners. This would make living together in harmony rather difficult.

But this convention is extraordinarily recent and applies in few other countries except Western Europe and North America.

In much of the world identity is a matter of language, culture and parentage. In Poland someone whose parents arrived from Vietnam in the 1960s is still Vietnamese even if he was born in Poland, speaks perfect Polish and has a Polish passport.

If Mr Yousaf’s parents had gone to Japan, he would not be considered Japanese and he certainly would not be seeking to lead the Hokkaido National Party wanting that island to separate from Japan, which he would then consider to be a foreign power. If he tried, he would be called a Gaijin or something worse and told to mind his own business.

Scotland has been part of the UK for over 300 years which is rather more than Mr Yousaf’s family has been here. Of course, he has the right to campaign for what he likes. He is as Scottish and British as the rest of us even if he doesn’t want to be British.

But most people in the UK have family ties with the other parts of the UK that stretch back to the beginning of time. When the Romans came, we all spoke the same language had the same religion in Great Britain and there were no doubt cultural ties that linked Stone Henge with Scara Brae.

If I lacked those family and cultural ties if my family had arrived only fifty years ago, I would be rather careful who I called a foreigner.