I’m very anxious that my country sustains last century’s anti-nationalist movement by remaining part of a UK and a European Union. And as a Briton (for me natural borders like coastlines are the only ones to take seriously – and not all that seriously) I’m inclined, with David Mitchell, to consider Scotland ‘my country’ even though I’m merely a second generation Briton and London sojourner. Still, a country can’t just be wished into existence. You have to build it, shore it up, hold it dear, cherish its society, be patriotic.
On tonight’s Leader Conference, Lesley Riddoch mentioned that Scotland is deeply committed to the European Union and so the news that it might lose its membership if Scottish nationalist separatists won their referendum caused a ferocious backlash against Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party.
First is it true that Scots want to be in the EU? And if so, is that across the political spectrum? IPSOS Mori indicates not.
“Six in ten Scots (61%) think that an independent Scotland should be a member of the EU compared with three in ten who think it shouldn’t (33%).”
So, that’s not all many more Scots than English in favour of the EU after all. And how interesting that Scottish National Party voters are not among the most supportive of the EU.
“Support for Britain remaining a member of the EU is highest among those aged 18-24 (68%) and those living in Scotland’s most affluent areas (66%). Liberal Democrat and Labour voters are the most likely to say they would vote for Britain to stay in the EU (70% and 60% respectively).”
I’m not sure what light this sheds on Conservative and UKIP isolationists. Are Scottish isolationists motivated by land, blood, purity? Are they wary of being a small EU state with a correspondingly small influence? At any rate, the Royal Society report says that can be avoided if the representatives and diplomats are active.
Is it silly to say that as the UK is to the EU, so Scotland is to the UK? Riddoch for me epitomises a Scottish self-definition limited to comparisons with England. I entirely sympathise with her disgust, but she seems to lack a genuinely independent, positive vision. My Scottish friend favours separation but is bad at explaining why, leading me to think her reasons are sentimental. That’s no good. As Barry mildly put it, “you probably want to see if you can fix what is broken in a very important relationship before you break it off”. I don’t have a genuinely positive view for the EU, it’s just a strong positive hunch. I’ll try to find out more in the coming months.
Referendums. I don’t think most people are motivated to discover their own interests on the question of EU membership. I also think referendums confuse people. People probably reason that if the matter were all that important then it would be left to the experts and we wouldn’t be asked to vote at all. Having convinced ourselves that our votes hardly matter, we’ll indulge our gut feelings and the the ignorant jingoism or misty eyed national sentiment of the moment will prevail – goodbye EU. The Conservatives stupidly promised a referendum either because they know this, or because they can’t stand up to UKIP. If the matter isn’t settled before the Scottish referendum in September 2014, then you’d imagine the SNP would try to get that one postponed. And basically if we collectively vote No to Europe that will probably boost Scottish separatism – which I may even start referring to in more positive terms of ‘independence’ and move there myself. Did I mention my Grandpa grew up in the Gorbals?