Following on from telling us why the SNP winning 81% of Scotland’s Westminster seats in the General Election doesn’t count as a mandate for another independence referendum, British nationalists have found a new straw to clutch at. You just knew that there was going to be one, didn’t you. For every number on the bingo card, the callers of the British media have a pithy wee statement about how it’s going to bring about devastation, penury, and disaster. Only they’re not so much pithy as jutht pith.
Immediately after telling us that getting involved in pointless wars in the Middle East is the way to guarantee peace, next up in the British nationalist bingo card of reasons why Scotland can’t possibly have an independence referendum is the warning that if Scotland was to have a vote on whether it wanted to remain a part of Brexit Britain, it would spark off “appreciable political violence” in Northern Ireland. This is according to a report in the Times, quoting a certain Jonathan Stevenson, senior fellow for US defence at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). Jonathan is the editor of the IISS journal Survival, which sounds like it could be the sort of magazine that Bear Grylls reads while he’s taking a dump in the woods. And indeed, it may well be.
Next week we’ll be told that Scottish independence will create a hole in the ozone layer, cause the extinction of the white rhinoceros, destabilise the neutron star PSR B1509-58 in the Circinus constellation devastating the nascent civilisation of crab people developing on a nearby planet, and will put an end to John Barrowman’s career as a guest presenter on This Morning. Although why that last one is a bad thing for anyone except John Barrowman will be left unexplained.
For British nationalists, especially for those in Scotland with a vested interest in keeping things the way that they are, the possibility of independence is always going to be met with warnings of dire happenings, catastrophes, and the end of civilisation as we know it. Any imagined link between independence and certain death, no matter if it’s even more tenuous than the link between what comes out of Boris Johnson’s mouth and reality, will be played up for all it’s worth. And to be fair, the possiblity of independence has already spelled the death of numerous Scottish Conservative political careers and almost the entire Labour party branch office. Just ask Stephen Kerr, that guy from Ochil and South Perthshire whose name no one could ever remember, and all those nonentities with a red rosette.
British nationalism has a vested interest in misery. British nationalism in Scotland is an exercise in expectation reduction. Misery is its default setting. It drinks half the glass and tells us that we should be grateful for the half glass that’s left because we’re not worthy or capable enough to produce a quarter full glass by ourselves even though we own the water. It wants us to believe that a half empty glass is the best that can be achieved and threatens us with the misery of a broken glass if we dare to expect more. It urges Scotland to put up with the UK’s misery of austerity, of poor public services, of privatisation, of foreign wars, of xenophobia and anti-migrant rhetoric and threatens us with far worse if we resist and aspire to better. So it’s only natural that a Scotland which seeks to distance itself from the British nationalism which created sectarianism as a product of its Irish adventures would be threatened with an outbreak of sectarian violence.
Jonathan was speaking at a foreign relations conference in New York, and told delegates that if Boris Johnson was to authorise a Scottish referendum but didn’t also allow a poll on Irish unification this could spark off violence from dissident republicans in Northern Ireland. This ignores the obvious, that ignoring calls for a unification poll in Northern Ireland could spark off violence in Northern Ireland irrespective of what happens in Scotland. You’d almost think that opponents of independence haven’t realised that Scotland and Northern Ireland have different politics, despite the best efforts of the Conservatives and Labour to channel Ian Paisley saying Noooooooo and the Conservatives in Scotland turning into the No Surrender party complete with dog whistles to sectarian bigotry.
The fact is that the issues in Northern Ireland are the historic creation of the British state and British colonisation of Ireland, it’s a product of British nationalism. It’s pretty rich to lay the responsibility for it on those of us in Scotland who seek to leave the British state. It’s as nonsensical as British nationalists blaming the SNP for the share of the UK’s deficit that gets allocated to Scotland. Oh wait, that’s exactly what they do.
Jonathan also claimed that the independence referendum in 2014 was marked by a rise in Republican violence in Northern Ireland and that some of these attacks were lethal. In other words he was trying to associate the entirely peaceful, constitutional, and legal campaign for Scottish independence with terrorist attacks. There was indeed violence associated with the Scottish independence referendum, but those responsible for that violence were the British nationalist thugs who went on the rampage in Glasgow city centre after the result was announced, beating up and attacking entirely peaceable and law-abiding independence supporters. It’s funny that when they’re warning of political violence opponents of independence always seem to forget that the violence only ever comes from their own side.
Other experts are of course available, except when you’re a British nationalist in search of a straw to clutch at, and those other experts – experts like Kieran McConaghy, a lecturer with the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews – said that this was, to use a technical term much cited in international politics and relations, but possibly not in the Survival journal, a load of auld keech. Although I am paraphrasing there somewhat. Mind you auld keech is what Bear Grylls produces when he’s reading the Survival journal in the woods, so there’s a sort of cosmic circularity to it all.
However it is a fact that there was no rise in Republican violence before or during the Scottish referendum. Attacks carried out by dissident Republican groups in Northern Ireland remained at a constant level before, during and after Scotland’s referendum. There was no rise in Republic violence in Northern Ireland because Scotland was holding a referendum in 2014, and there will be no rise in Republican violence in Northern Ireland when Scotland holds its next referendum either. But that doesn’t suit the red white and blue pearl clutching narrative.
The only prospect of violence as a result of a Scottish independence vote will come from British nationalist extremists. But if we’re expecting the anti-independence parties to take responsibility for the trolls of British nationalism that their rhetoric of fear has unleashed, we’ll be in for a long wait. Instead we’ll see our newspapers full of more scare stories without substance. Opponents of independence are afraid that they’ve already lost the argument and can no longer rely upon being given the benefit of the doubt and so are being driven into increasingly hysterical scare stories. The misery of British nationalism bingo is set to become ever more ridiculous as Brexit bites and the British state loses its hold on the people of Scotland. But we have some bingo of our own. Number 1 – Kelly’s eye, Boris’s lie … Number 2 – We can rejoin the EU … Number 3 – Scotland’s free. … Number 4 – We don’t believe Tories any more …
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