It worries me that we here in England are taking the chilling prospect of Scottish independence far too casually. Ask most people south of Berwick and they’ll shrug and make a comment about being not really bothered or worse, good riddance. In terms of press coverage, the focus has been financial, and in comment piece in the Daily Telegraph the other day, it was suggested that England – or rather, rUK (how I hate that acronym!) – would be better off long-term.
The possible break-away by Scotland is far more sinister and has considerably more far-reaching consequence than most in Scotland and certainly the majority in the rest of the United Kingdom appear to have considered.
The rise of Scottish nationalism and the current flutter to the UKIP cause are both entirely typical of the political and social upheavals caused by severe economic depressions. Look at the 1930s and the Great Recession and think about the huge political and social challenges brought about in their wake. France became politically fractious with a mass of political parties from the extreme right to the extreme left; its politics became so convoluted and extreme that its leaders became fatally impotent. In Britain, there was the rise of the British Union of Fascists – although, mercifully, they never gained significant political ground. Italy turned to Mussolini and Fascism, which, as the 1930s progressed, became ever more hard-line and increasingly repellent, with its militias and secret police creating an atmosphere of intimidation and mistrust. And then there is Germany. The Nazis were seen as a joke by most until almost the day Hitler took power in 1933. They, too, appealed to nationalism, and to a bogus historical inheritance. UKIP, like the Nazis, feeds on a kind of English – especially – nostalgia, that is every bit as false as the German National Socialists’ Wagner-wrapped teutonic past. UKIP, too, feeds on prejudice – there are too many Poles, too many Muslims, too many non-WASPS. Britain is a great nation because of its past but also because it has led the world in its liberal, forward-thinking attitude.
But back to Scottish Nationalism. What worries me is that the SNP are deliberately implying that anyone not supporting independence cannot be a good patriotic Scot. There is very disquieting propaganda being promulgated – the kind of William Wallace was a great Scottish hero and good soul, a freedom fighter battling against the evil English – which is not only utter baloney, but largely irrelevant to the current debate. An air of intimidation is emerging, in which to speak up for the Union is seen as unpatriotic and even treasonable. Nationalism – and intimidation in favour of nationalism – has a truly worrying resonance with the 1930s. What should all those working in local and national Scottish government – all those civil servants, doctors, nurses, policemen et al – be thinking now? That if Scotland secedes and they had voted to remain in the Union will their jobs still be secure? Or will they become outcasts in their work place? This may seem extreme, but it was exactly what happened in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. No-one should be taking Alex Salmond lightly – after all, this is a man who has publicly declared his admiration for President Putin.
Then there are the implications for England and the rest of the Union. If Scotland breaks away, the divorce will be a bitter and very messy one – a split that could take generations to repair. The rejection England will feel will run deep, nationalism and the odious Farage and his acolytes will gain only further traction, and Britain could descend into a new dark age. The political and social future of Britain has not been so threatened since the 1640s.
Somehow, Scottish people need to wake up to this potentially sinister reality. The votes of such a small minority of the British public hold enormous responsibility – one that could have devastating consequences if they poll the wrong way. Scotland is a wonderful place – an amazing country, full of extraordinary people. I am a massive Scotlandophile. Their heritage is not under any threat from England and the rest of the UK; economically, the future looks bright. Why unleash the kind of potential turmoil secession could bring?
Personally, I have never been much of a political animal. The crisis we face in September, is, however, about much, much more than politics. It is about the future of all of us. We must ensure – we must do everything possible – that we emerge from this potential catastrophe into the sunlit uplands once more.