I’ve been thinking about Scottish Independence. And now that I’ve started, I can’t get it out of my head. Moreover, the more I think about Scottish independence, the further away from a satisfactory answer to my opinion on it I get.
From a simply tribalist political perspective, the issue of Scottish Independence is fairly straight forward. If we lose the Scots, we gain the Tories. The red north would be decapitated and the remaining rump would be stuck with many more years of (and a general preponderance towards) the plastic man. [It is interesting to note that while the plastic man thumps his fists and postures like a one nation tory, he is also creating a confrontation and has done so using Lord Forsyth of Drumlean in a manner that is either incredibly crass or contemptously astute (and such is the nature of the plastic man I’m unsure as to which it is).] As a left leaning voter, I should therefore be against a successful yes vote in any referendum.
But there’s more to me than my political affiliations. I’m a part of the legacy of colonialism, and there’s no way that I would ever consider it right for India or any other of the colonial countries to be denied their right of self determination. And there’s no way I can hide behind the history - with the integration of Scotland into the governance of the UK (West Lothian question and all) and the large part played by the Scots in the extension and embedding of colonial British rule - and the argument that Scotland isn’t really a country. Devolution has stymied that argument, and just as I wouldn’t stand for a devolved India, I can’t do so for Scotland. So I should be supporting the SNP’s stance on the vote.
But there’s something more than that. It’s the question of identity and of who I am that stretches beyond my political identity and my ethnic roots. I am, in so far as I am concerned, Mancunian first and foremost, British, and Asian. Ignoring the first of those for the moment (given that I’ve successfullty made it back up north I don’t need to think about that for now), and the Scottish question gains another layer of complexity. What happens to that part of my identity if Scotland leaves the union?
Britain without Scotland becomes England and Wales, in the same way the England and Wales Cricket Board is the ECB. I’d be Mancunian, English and Asian. But I’m not English. Nor will I ever be. I, and I’d wager a large portion of second and third generation immigrants along with me, see myself as british for exactly the same reason that the old chants of those aligned with the BNP that ‘there ain’t no black in the union jack’ have been usurped by the ‘In-Ger-Land’ of the EDL. The very nature of the identity identifiers has changed - English (especially in the EDL sense) can be seen as Hegelian, or Hobbesianas described by Schmidt - political in that it is defined by its opposition, by the other which it is not. Britishness on the other hand has been emptied of value on its own, and has become comparable to American as defined by Kymlika I think (and its only I think I can’t remember exactly who as it was reading done in preparation for my dissertation nearly 10 years ago). American, someone said, is a form of identity only in that it can be hyphenated, italian-american, black-american latino-american, irish-american, and in the hyphenation it becomes inclusive. That’s what British is to me (although the hyphenation can be ignored, we’re not all Americans). I’m British-Asian or British-Mancunian, just as my wife should be British-English, or Dr V British-Scottish.
If Scotland leaves the union, who will I be?