From: Mairianna Clyde
It’s always worth listening closely to the words of Scotland’s greatest historian, Professor Sir Tom Devine. At the weekend he gave my colleague Neil Mackay a vivid picture of the current state of the Union – and why it’s in deep trouble in the wake of Boris Johnson and Brexit. But between the lines, I think Sir Tom was also delivering a quiet warning to ardent Scottish nationalists who think independence is just a matter of time. It’s not a done deal.
Tom Devine (whom I knew personally in the 1990s as a doctoral student) was always a Labour man who thought that independence would be achieved despite the SNP, not because of them.
But Macwhirter forgets that the Tories appear keen on reversing devolution, and that Scotland’s political culture has expressed a different direction to England’s under the Tories. These alone are reasons for getting out, the old cry of ‘Scotland free, or a desert’.
Basically the union has survived because England left us alone. England’s aims in securing the union were limited. They had no imperial interest in our assets. Now they do. And actually, this can be traced back to Labour’s nationalisation in the 1950s and Thatcher’s selling off of the family silver in the 1980s.
Many Scots were alarmed by Labour’s nationalisations of Scottish coal, industry, trains. Though others – more naive, it turns out – were caught up in the euphoria of the idea of the people’s ownership. Because within a decade Beeching was closing off Scottish branch lines, British steel was favouring English plants, then along comes Thatcher and sells the lot off.
The union has changed. No longer is England indifferent to us. They want what we’ve got. Their interest is imperial. There is no need for an economic case, just the recognition that the union is predatory. They already took our oil.