A tale of two unions

The planet-sized fallacy underlying the whole of Iain Macwhirter’s article is the tendency to casually equate the EU and the UK, as if they were in any way comparable apart from the fact of both being political unions. But I suppose this is easier than analysing the differences between them, and considering the implications of these differences for the arguments of both pro- and anti-EU advocates of Scotland’s restored independence.

I’m not being paid by The Herald. So I don’t propose to go into detail. I will content myself with pointing out the essential differences between the two political unions which would be the obvious starting point for a meaningful analysis.

The EU is a modern model of post-imperial international association in which national sovereignty is pooled, without detriment, and in order to facilitate social, political, and economic arrangements which broadly benefit the populations of all member nations. It may be an imperfect realisation of this model. But no more so than any other institution contrived by fallible human beings. And, crucially, no worse than anything that might replace it whilst fulfilling a similar function.

The UK is an archaic hangover from a bygone age in which the sovereignty of the member states is subsumed in a synthesised British state, to the detriment of all, and in order to serve the narrow interests of social, political, and economic elites. It may be an incomplete realisation of the Greater England project. But considerably less so than anything that went before. And, crucially, something that could quite readily be improved upon by the new form of association that would replace it.

The pro-EU/anti-UK issue is nothing like as problematic for Nicola Sturgeon as would be suggested by an excessively simplistic perspective which sets aside the differences between the EU and the UK. One might readily formulate an argument against being part of the UK that simply wouldn’t be relevant to discussion of EU membership. Just as it would be possible to argue against membership of Nato without the same argument applying to the UN.

It is just plain silly to claim that the “central question” is as Iain Macwhirter suggests,

“Is Scotland really better off in a union that doesn’t want us as a member, the EU, than in a union that does, the UK?”

Once again, we see that even a journalist of Macwhirter’s standing can all too easily succumb to the cosy consensus of the British media. The notion that the EU “doesn’t want us as a member” is laughable if one declines to be unduly impressed by the clumsy politicking of some (former) EC functionary and instead takes account of the EU’s essentially expansionist and pragmatic nature. Not to mention the cornucopia that Scotland brings to the table.

The notion that the UK does want Scotland is hardly less dubious, if one declines to turn a deaf ear to the derogatory and often borderline xenophobic rhetoric drifting north on a stale wind of outrage at the temerity of the “Sweaties” seeking to assert their sovereignty.

Even if we are sufficiently naive to allow ourselves to be swayed by unionist “love-bombing”, there is still the matter of the terms on which they want Scotland to remain in the UK. Or, more to the point, who decides what those terms are.

Independence may be defined as the capacity to freely negotiate the terms on which a nation associates with other nations. Without independence we cannot freely negotiate the terms on which we associate with either the EU or the UK. This is not an acceptable situation. It never will be.


About Peter A Bell

Thinker. Listener. Talker. Reader. Writer. None of my attitudes are immutable. None of my conclusions are final. None of my opinions are humble.
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