The Genie of Aspiration

genie-of-independenceThe thing about aspiration is that it’s a tough genie to get back into its bottle.

This must be the conclusion of any mythical, dispassionate, possibly extra-terrestrial viewer when examining the current state of political affairs in the disUnited Kingdom. Less than two years ago a referendum was held which was explicitly intended to slay the Scottish nationalist monster for once and for all — sentiments reflecting those of the spectacularly unforesightful George Robertson when this whole journey began and his party found itself obliged to offer Scots a parliament of their own. Yet the genie is far from banished and if anything is more bumptious than ever.

The ‘wee pretendy parliament’ just growed and growed and now its roars — if still distant and ill-understood — have begun to frighten the gentle people of the far south, the colonial overlords of the disUnited Kingdom. Yes, frighten: for the first time since Churchill sent tanks and troops to quell the people of Glasgow, the English establishment has been rattled by events in Scotland.

For them the Scots’ discontentment is a profound mystery, one which they will probably never grasp. For the southern English, the Union is indeed a great thing. It achieved most that it was intended to. It established a militarily secure platform upon which the British Project — to make the world England — could be built and for centuries that project was a success; the Anglo-Saxon patriarchy was spread across the globe by it, taking, somewhat unfortunately, all the prejudice and insecurity of the English middle class with it.

Then again, for the southern English — and not a few Scots who have joined them — London and the south-east of England is the finest place in the world to live. It is a land of fabulous opportunity where all one has to do is work hard and one’s personal streets will be paved with gold. And they are not mean with their largesse: why anyone, from whatever uncultivated backwater of the disUnited Kingdom, may move to London and there spend their days serving the Great British Project, to the betterment — so their apologists attest — of all. Why, look at the money these people can send back to their poor relatives still living in frightful places like Inverurie or Campbeltown.

And this arrangement ideally suits the southern English who are approaching the end of their working days. London’s economic primacy over the disUnited Kingdom means that they can sell their ridiculously overpriced two-bedroom maisonettes and with the money thus liberated, buy a manor in Dunkeld or Aberfeldy. After all, the poor indigenes of these places have not the resources to compete. And if they should complain, then they must come to London, where they may, after a lifetime of slavery to the British Project,  earn enough to buy homes for themselves in the places they were born and raised. That is the free market. Yes, the system is equitable and works for the benefit of all.

Look you, the English even build roads and railways so that the impoverished Scots can travel south to where they should be, and there serve the British Project. How could anyone complain or deny this generosity?

Scotland is useful though; it gives the southern English a place to put their nuclear weapons. In truth these will never be used and represent an extravagance of obscene proportions, as well as being illegal. But they are the Imperial sabre that allows the English to pretend that ‘Britain’ is still a world player and that Vladimir Putin really gives a monkey’s what the Great British Prime Minister thinks. Once it was Nelson’s navy, now it is a fleet of submarines equipped with the most horrific killing systems the patriarchy has ever invented. Plus ca change…And in return, taxpayers (who are, of course, all English, since the Scots are all feckless spongers) even give poor Scottish peasant farmers actual real money to work on these obscenities. The fact that if anything ever goes wrong, those peasants will become irradiated flying mince, along with most of the rest of the Scots, is neither here nor there; it is not as if it were London, after all.

Meanwhile, the British Home Office decides who may enter the disUnited Kingdom, in order to protect the interests of everyone in it…or at least, the interests of the south-east of England. But then, the Scots clearly have not the competence to make such decisions: they weren’t born in England, poor things. And since the whole point of the British Project is to make everywhere England, then this too is reasonable and logical.

This is what our space-alien visitors might think, reading the crop of English and Unionist media in the run-up to the Scottish election. The Scots are a miserable, ungrateful shower who should be glad of the crumbs of English largesse that drop into the squalid, sordid swamp they live in. England’s generosity and magnanimity towards this backward, miserable wasteland to the north is unsurpassed and ongoing. How dare the Scots protest it?

But then our aliens, being scientists, as they must be to have got this far, would have to take another sample. They would come to Scotland and there they would hear a very different story.

The Scots do not, in the main, want an opportunity to compete for stratospheric wealth. They just want a comfortable life, thank you. The Scots do not hanker for the fair vistas of Tottenham or Islington; they prefer their own cities. The South Downs pale when compared to the Lairig Ghru and beaches? Who would choose Brighton over the magnificent strands of Scotland?

Scots do not appreciate that their children are priced out of living where they grew up and they certainly do not accept that it should be necessary for a person, well qualified and prepared to work hard, to have to go to another country in order to find a decent job.

The Scots, in the main, do not seek to pretend that they can dominate world affairs; by and large they would be happy to play a constructive role in Europe –although their ability to do so must, of course, be decided by the English. They do not respond warmly to the rattle of imperial sabres, partly because those sabres have been used, all too often, on the Scots themselves; but also because they do not covet militaristic glory.

Scots abhor injustice, discrimination and the kind of divide between rich and poor that apparently delights the hearts of their southern neighbours (and, at least till now, masters.) They are intrinsically an egalitarian lot, contemptuous of airs and graces and mocking of hereditary – or otherwise – titles. One of the greatest compliments a Scot can pay is that a person is ‘unassuming’. Their reaction to inequality is to try to make the system more fair and distribute wealth more equitably, rather than blame those trapped in poverty by it.

For a marriage to work, both partners must share a great deal in common. That which divides them – and there is always something – must be far less than that which draws them together. In many marriages, what binds the couple is their children, usually conceived in the early days. Frequently the desire to have children is the motivation for marriage. Then they have to be brought up and this implies a commitment to do so. It is no surprise that so many marriages come to an end – often amicably – when that responsibility is discharged. There is not enough in common left to make up for the differences and people do change over the years.

For the disUnited Kingdom, what bound the unlikely and disparate partners together was not children, but the British Project – making the world England, by force. For centuries this was a success and on it was built the empire upon which, famously, ‘the sun never set’.

Well that sun did, in the end, set. There is no British Empire now. It is defunct and while the world still suffers the consequences of its imposition, the disUnited Kingdom has little power to influence the global future. The British Project has run its course. It is the subject of academics and historians. Britain remains economically important but militarily it is spent. Even the operation that wrested the Falklands back from an invader, only thirty years ago, could not now be carried out by the British armed forces. The child of the disUnion, the British Project, is not only grown but has lived and died while those that begat it still sup at the same table, one of them increasingly aware of how little now brings them together and how much divides them, while the other blithely hums ‘Rule Britannia’ and fills in The Times’ crossword. ‘Eight letters, a cold place of discontent and strife…oh yes, Scotland.’

The disUnion is dead. It is defunct. It has hopped the twig, kicked the bucket, passed away, gone tits-up. It is like those marriages lived in cold sufferance of each other, where the parties stay together because it is familiar and they fear change. Our aliens, if they did not know the history behind it, would be asking themselves why on Earth two partners so completely different in so many ways would ever have come together in a union of any kind.

That is why, in the Scottish case, the aspirational nationalist genie cannot be put back into the bottle. It is an idea whose time has come. It will not go away and in the end, Scotland will be independent, one way or another. It is really up to the English, now and alongside their Unionist stooges in Scotland, to decide how much ill-feeling they wish to leave behind once the inevitable parting of the ways arrives.



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