On my travels across the internet I found this stellar comment from before this year’s General Election which so eloquently puts the fall of Britishness and why Scotland feels like it no longer belongs that I felt it was worth saving. It was posted in response to a Gerry Hassan article on Open Democracy, titled “The tartan tsunami and how it will change Scotland and the UK for good”
A lot of good thoughts here, good observations, especially about the hurt and sense of dislocation that many English people now feel that Scots are increasingly rejecting the idea of Britain. I think what must add to that pain is the sense of utter bewilderment, and the natural proclivity to blame this detachment on some kind of evil spell.
If I can offer any explanation to relieve that bewilderment and pain at Scotland’s increasing detachment it is this: the dissolution of all the bonds that held the old union together. This is principally the loss of our empire, which was gone by the 1960s, a thing which neither partner could have prevented, or indeed, wanted to prevent as old-fashioned imperialism declined. But that was not the death knell. What was the death knell was what England could have prevented, and that was the dissolution of all the British institutions that we in Scotland felt proud of, the institutions of our internal empire which briefly flourished after the war; British Steel, British Rail, British Petroleum – all the national and nationalised industries and utilities that belonged to the people of Britain as a common treasury for the future. This gave purpose, meaning, and pride to the concept of Britain for us in Scotland, post-war, post-empire, and I suspect, for many people in England too, trying to recover from the war and re-build a new future.
If you want an explanation for the dissolution of the ties that bind, look no further than Margaret Thatcher and all the governments which have followed her which have sold off all of our common treasury, including the unexpected bounty of North Sea oil, which was used to fund her project of paying for unemployment benefit whilst she killed off what remained of British industry. You cannot shrink the state without shrinking the social glue that holds the state together. Such is utter folly, but the comfortable classes of England have compelled this process on, and now they reap the bitter harvest.