Have you got an annoying relative? We all have relatives whose politics are an embarrassment. I’ve got a relative who’s a No voter. His case for a No vote is based on swallowing Better Together propaganda wholesale, and he considers it brow beating when his numerous factual errors and misconceptions are pointed out to him. It’s bullying to give him facts which contradict him, and aggravated assault to give him non-Scottish nationalist sources for those facts.
Admittedly, he does have me for a relative, and that’s a difficult gig when we disagree because I’m the family bitch-queen, but still … I only said that if Scotland votes No, when we get screwed over by Westminster I’ll be telling him “See, I fucking told you so” for the rest of his life … That’s very mild by my standards, but this relative claimed to take it as a threat. Which if you ask me is getting dangerously into the drama queenery I’ve got first dibs on. Oh yeah, and I added that he had the political intelligence of a three week old haddock, which was unfair. I meant lumpfish.
My relative has a severe case of confirmation bias. One way in which his confirmation bias operates is that he will come out with some statement which is not correct, even though it’s been explained to him before that it’s wrong. Then people get exasperated with him because they’ve previously pointed out that his information is wrong, and there’s only so many times you can tell a person something without wanting to slap them with a lumpfish. But this then allows the person to go “Bullying nationalists!”
Recently my relative made the claim that he didn’t want a yes vote because he likes having a British passport and doesn’t want it to be taken away. However earlier this year the UK Government confirmed that no one will be stripped of their existing British citizenship as a result of Scottish independence.
It’s not entirely my relative’s fault that he clings to his myth of passport stripping independence, the claim has continued to be made by Better Together and the Unionist parties despite the fact it’s already been ruled out by the Home Office. Magrit Curran keeps mouthing about how she doesn’t want her weans in London to be foreigners. To be honest, even if this was true, and Magrit knows it isn’t, if she’s really going to feel alienated from her own children if they had different passports from her, that’s not an argument against independence, it’s an argument that Magrit is in serious and urgent need of family therapy and counselling.
So for the benefit of anyone with an equally misinformed but not quite so closed minded relative, or who isn’t Magrit Curran, here’s the citizenship story again.
The UK government admitted some months ago that existing UK citizenship laws will not be altered if Scotland becomes independent. Citizenship law is complex, but the basic position of UK citizenship law is that if British citizenship is acquired at birth, it cannot be alienated – nothing you do later in life can alter the circumstances of your birth. Which is fair enough, otherwise it would be a bit like changing your star sign by deed poll because you’d rather have a star sign that didn’t make you gullible enough to believe in astrology.
Even when a UK citizen is naturalised as the citizen of another country which requires the person to make a declaration renouncing any previous citizenship as a condition of naturalisation, the UK continues to regard that person as a British citizen. Stopping being British is a bit like giving up being Catholic. You can be a gay atheist commie (waves shyly), but the Catholic church will still regard you as one of the faithful, only just not a very faithful faithful. Nothing you do later in life alters the fact that you were baptised a Catholic when you were a baby. Britishness works the exact same way as Catholicism. The Orange Order is still struggling with the irony.
In fact Britishness is even harder to give up than Catholicism, and both are far harder than giving up smoking while trapped in a tobacco warehouse with a crate of rizlas and an annoying relative. If you manage to piss off the Catholic hierarchy sufficiently, you can in theory be excommunicated, but that isn’t that easy to achieve nowadays. You’d have to actually sacrifice a goat to Satan during an orgiastic Black Mass on the steps of the cathedral before you’re likely to risk excommunication, although even then you’re just as likely to get a nice wee letter from a nun expressing thanks for your efforts at ecumenical outreach. But if you’re born British there’s nothing you can do to make the British government strip you of your citizenship. Even Guy Burgess wasn’t stripped of his British citizenship after he’d fled to the Soviet Union.
If, as a lapsed Catholic, you decide you don’t want your kids to be baptised, they will not be Catholic in the eyes of the Catholic church. But you’ll still pass on your British citizenship to your future offspring, even if they will be born in an independent Scotland and you took up Scottish citizenship upon independence. The babies which are not yet even a twinkle in anyone’s eye will inherit British citizenship by virtue of their parents being British citizens. If you’ve already got kids, they are already British citizens, and will pass their British citizenship on to your grandchildren.
It’s only the children of children born after independence who will no longer be British citizens, the children of the first generation of Scottish citizens born into an independent Scotland. So not only have no children who will lose British citizenship been born yet, their parents haven’t been born yet either.
Scottish independence will not change the fact that everyone alive today who was born in Scotland was born a British citizen. The new citizens of Scotland will not even have made a formal renunciation of British citizenship, yet my relative affects to believe that his British passport will be ripped from his hands. He says this even though people who have signed a legally binding document explicitly stating that they renounce British citizenship still count as British citizens, and even though he swears to anyone who will listen that he’s determined to be British until the day he dies. And he will be, even in an independent Scotland.
For my own part, I’ll view my British citizenship after Scottish independence in much the same way as Catholicism. I’ll be very firmly lapsed, but not sufficiently motivated to go and sacrifice a goat to the Demonic Alicsammin on the steps of Westminster in an effort to get rid of it.
Unlike my relative, I don’t require any parliament to validate my personal identity. Independence is a state of mind. I know who I am, and don’t need a wee booklet to tell me – whether that’s a Scottish or a British passport, or the latest propaganda from Better Together.
This is not a debate about identity. It’s a debate about governance, about the future, about the kind of society we want to live in. It’s a debate about how we can ensure that politicians are accountable and representative, it’s a debate about democracy. It’s about bloated defence budgets, about what role we really want to play in the wider world, are we a land of peace or a land of nukes.
And we’re faced with a choice, not a choice of passports, a choice of futures. The future Westminster gives us whether we want it or not, hostages to the fortunes of a discredited political system, or the future we build for ourselves with our own resources, our own talents and our own skills. Getting a shiny new Scottish passport is just a bonus prize.
The only passport that interests me is a yes vote in September, that’s a passport to a positive future.