Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Union dividend

There is a good article by Ian Bell in the Herald, laying bare the complicity of successive UK governments in renditions and torture in Libya.

As he rightly concludes:

Now we applaud the movement we betrayed, and bomb the torturer we succoured. And they say Gaddafi is mad.

Depending on your point of view Scotland has either ceded it's sovereignty over the past 300 years or had it roughly taken away. In return we are told that we benefit from the union in various ways, invariably rather vague and nebulous ways. Chief among them is often the notion that we punch above our weight in the world. Well, perhaps it's time to update that worn out phrase. Recently it seems rather to be the case that we tear fingernails out above our weight. Or waterboard above our weight.

This moral descent is the very real price that we in Scotland pay today for allowing our sovereignty to be mishandled by successive UK governments. These atrocities are done in our name. The British people are responsible since we elected politicians that either failed to stop it, tacitly condoned it or even ordered it. And for what? All these betrayals of basic human decency are committed so that Britain has a place at the far corner of the big boys' table, or worse, for grubby oil deals that will benefit the local populace not one iota.

Britain once held itself to stand for fair play, decency and democratic values. Perhaps this self-image was never a reality. As the new Foreign Minister in 1997 the late Robin Cook spoke of Britain developing an ethical foreign policy. Well, that aspiration was brutally crushed in the intervening 14 years. Whether it's the waging of illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no thought given to reconstruction afterwards, the use of bribery to sell weapons to repressive regimes, complicity in the rendition and torture of "terrorists" (was ever a more useful and flexible term coined?), abuse of so-called anti-terror legislation to silence an old age pensioner or to freeze the assets of Iceland (that hotbed of terrorism), rioting and looting in English cities or the callous robbing of a young man injured in the violence, the notion of Britain as home of fair play and the gentleman is dead and buried.

The pertinent question for Scotland today is, do we get a sufficient return on the investment of our sovereignty? Do the benefits of union outweigh the loss of control over our destiny? Well, Scotland should be in no doubt that it is inhumane, cold and calculating acts and values like those mentioned above that we continue to give our sovereignty away for. Britain has become a country with a nasty, vindictive ruling class that will do anything to anyone in the name of national interest. In truth this is the narrow nationalism that supporters of independence are often accused of. Now I don't doubt for a moment that there are Scots among this ruling class. As a people we are no more immune to human failings than anyone else. But an independent Scotland nevertheless has a chance to take a different path. We will assuredly suffer no delusions of being the world's policeman, or indeed his faithful poodle. We can leave the posturing death throes of imperial Britain behind and instead become a modern social democracy, one that seeks partnerships with like-minded peoples around the world. Let's try cooperating above our weight instead of punching everyone within reach.

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