( 31st March 2007 )
Let's sing, all together now ...
"Happy Birthday, UK" ...
It's probably escaped your notice, but this year, 2007, is the tercentenary of the birth of the nation state we call The United Kingdom. 300 years ago the parliaments of England and Scotland dissolved themselves (theoretically) and merged to form the Parliament of the UK.
Look around the world. Look at other nation states. They celebrate, or at the very least commemorate, the anniversary of the birth of their nation states. The Americans do it every year on the 4th of July, the French on Bastille Day, the Irish on Easter Sunday and so on.
One would think that the tercentenary of the birth of the UK would be a cause for Unionists all over the UK to be rejoicing and celebrating.
The reality? Zilch. Nothing. Nowt. Not a wet firecracker in a dustbin in a back alley in Grimsby.
Doesn't it strike you as somewhat peculiar that such a (one would think) significant occasion - the 300th anniversary of the birth of the state - is passing completely unnoticed and uncommemorated by most of the UK? In fact, that the only people even discussing the 1707 Treaty of Union which created the United Kingdom are those of us in Scotland who want to dismantle it altogether?
There is only one issue at the forthcoming Scottish election. Independence.
It's no surprise that the SNP want to discuss Independence; it is, after all, the very reason they were founded and exist. But the Labour Party is also campaigning exclusively on the issue.
Well, not surprising really. The one thing they don't want to talk about on the doorstep or on TV interviews is Blair. So, they have a choice. They could try to find something Scotland has gained from 10 years of "New Labour" but they know they're on a hiding to nothing there. Every time they open their mouths about their record, they will find the words "Blair", "Iraq", "Trident" and "Council Tax" being rammed down their throats. Not a good platform on which to fight an election. So the only thing left for them is to run a scare campaign - "We know you're disappointed in us but vote for us anyway because otherwise the sky will fall on your heads".
They don't even attempt to expand the argument by telling us what we're supposed to have gained from 300 years of Union. They simply wave the bogeyman - "We're too pathetic to be trusted to run our own affairs."
If the Union is really such a wonderful thing for all the peoples of these islands, then where are the tercentenary celebrations? Where are the huge fireworks displays and street parties? The gala concerts? The motions in Parliament calling for us to rejoice?
After all, every 5th November they expect people all over the UK, including Scotland, to celebrate an event which happened while Scotland and England were still separate nation states, an event which really had little to do with Scotland or Scots, namely the failure by a Welshman to blow up the Parliament of England.
So why are most people south of the border not even aware that this year has any significance for them?
Well, that's an easy one. Because to most of them, it is utterly without significance of any kind.
And to be fair to them, why should it have any significance to them?
To Scotland, it was a Union, a marriage of equal partners, a momentous event. To England, it was a politically expedient annexation, a takeover, a minor event. England does not view the 1707 Union as being the birth of the nation state. Therefore there is nothing to commemorate or celebrate. End of discussion.
I have no argument with England or with English people. My argument is with The United Kingdom.
I want a referendum put to the people of Scotland asking one question - "Do you want an Independent Scotland?" If all the Unionists are confident that people will vote "No", they have no reason for opposing the question being asked. The only truthful reason for opposing such a referendum is doubt about the outcome.
Devolution was a calculated risk taken by Unionists that it would silence the demand for Independence. They miscalculated. Badly. What it did was to highlight the internal contradictions between the Labour Party in Scotland and the Labour Party in the UK as a whole.
New Labour doesn't have a lot of support within Scotland. Most of Labour's support in Scotland is from the working class heartlands, and the interests and aspirations of those people are at odds with the interests of the constituency New Labour was invented to appeal to. Therefore the real core interests of the Labour Party in Scotland are diametrically opposed to the interests of the Labour Party down south.
The leaders of the Labour Party in Scotland made the disastrous error of believing that people in their heartlands would vote for anything that wore a "Labour" sticker. By accepting the devil's bargain of devolution, they believed that they would have a permanent unassailable majority in Scotland. That arrogance is now starting to hurt them. Scottish people don't want "New" Labour; we don't want Trident; we don't want the war in Iraq; we don't want the Council Tax. But for Labour in Scotland to deliver what the people really want, they would have to go against every policy held by the much bigger party in the south. Damned if they do, damned if they don't.
I would hate to be Jack McDonnell.
Sorry, "McConnell". One of his senior colleagues in Westminster couldn't even remember his name.
Yes, it was funny, in a dreadfully ironic sense, but it was also an appalling insult to the entire Scottish nation. He's our First Minister, for God's sake, the leader of the Scottish Executive, and like him or not, he was elected by the people of Scotland as the chief representative of our people.
The treating of any other leader of a nation in such a patronisingly dismissive fashion by a Government Minister would have caused outrage, apology and immediate resignation of the Minister in question. In Jack's case, it was all treated as a bit of a giggle.
I have no argument with England or with English people. My argument is with The United Kingdom. And with the humiliating situation we have been in for 300 years as a junior subservient insignificant member of that Union.
As witnessed by a UK Government Cabinet Minister berating us about how wonderful the Union has been for us while not even bothering to go to the trouble of learning the name of our First Minister.