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  By Hamish Scott

There is a famous quote - though usually misquoted - given by a United States army officer to a journalist covering Vietnam’s American War, in justifying the destruction wrought on a South Vietnamese town, that: 'It became necessary to destroy the town to save it’.

It seems unionists are taking a similar approach to saving the Union in the independence referendum campaign. In particular, they are destroying Anglo-Scottish relations, Scotland’s status within the Union, and the status of the institutions of the Union.

Their most conspicuous impact to date on Anglo-Scottish relations is the enthusiastic promotion of the idea that Scotland is subsided by English taxpayers, an idea with a long pedigree but given unprecedented prominence in the referendum debate. The animosity generated in England by this idea, so ably articulated by the London-based commentariat and its followers alike, has probably done more to erode Anglo-Scottish relations, and thus the well-being of the Union, than anything else.

Yet unionist politicians and journalists know this idea of subsidised Scots is false. They use the statistics of Scotland having 8.4% of the UK’s population but receiving 9.3% of its public spending as enthusiastically as they ignore the statistic from the same source that Scotland also contributes 9.9% of the funding of that spending.

Further damage to Anglo-Scottish relations comes from the promotion of the idea that the desire for Scottish independence is driven by anti-English prejudice. This is an idea stated as fact by unionist commentators and politicians alike, both north and south of the border, despite it simply not being true.

In fact, it is the London-based media’s coverage of the referendum that is driven by prejudice – an anti-Scottish one. An unrelenting flow of vitriol pours forth, particularly from opinion columns and the below-the-line comments appended to such columns, but also on radio and television, and with little effort to moderate the abuse by those in position to.

The suggestion by the Ministry of Defence that Faslane and Coulport naval bases could be annexed as UK sovereign territory, has caused additional damage. Whilst the idea was swiftly extinguished, in public at least, the harm was done nonetheless in what it says of the mindset in Whitehall and Westminster.

In Scotland, it has been a long-standing view of the Union that it is ‘a partnership of equals’ which would be dissolved on Scottish independence, and that Scotland and England/rUK would thus both be continuator states. However, this idea of Scotland’s status in the Union has not been shared by the British government in the referendum campaign.

Its position, instead, is that Scottish independence would not dissolve the Union and that England/rUK would, but Scotland would not, be a continuator state.  The British government’s published legal opinion on the Union stated: ‘Whether or not England was also extinguished by the Union, Scotland certainly was extinguished as a matter of international law, by merger either into an enlarged and renamed England or into an entirely new state’.

One of the consequences of the British government’s position is for it to see the assets of the UK accrue solely to England/rUK in the event of Scottish independence. For example, one of its Scotland Analysis reports on independence says, in regard to diplomatic assets, that: ‘An independent Scottish state would not be entitled by right to any UK diplomatic premises, equipment or staff’.

Scottish unionism has endorsed the British government’s position despite it degrading Scotland’s status in the Union and diminishing the sense of ‘ownership’ Scots have both of the Union itself and its individual institutions.

Two of those institutions, the BBC and the Armed Forces, perhaps the two most highly regarded by the public generally, are being further undermined in the referendum campaign.

As a public broadcaster, the BBC has obligations of fair and balanced reporting and that role is all the more important in the referendum campaign when the print media is almost universally hostile to independence. Although the BBC’s partial approach to the campaign might be passing unionists by, it is far from unnoticed by those in favour of independence, and has been confirmed by an extensive academic study.

The effect so far is to diminish the standing of that institution in the eyes of many Scots, and if a close No vote follows continued BBC bias, especially during the official campaign period, there will be a perception that the BBC has influenced the result in a manner hostile to Scottish democracy. The BBC will lose its effectiveness as – in the words of a former director-general – ‘the glue that holds the Union together’.

The Armed Forces are being undermined by proxy through the decisions and statements of unionist politicians. One has been the choice of Stirling to host the Armed Forces Day national event in 2014. Although this will be only the sixth of such national events, it will be the second in Scotland: an usual frequency for such UK-wide occasions.

One reason for this choice, if not the reason, was indicated by the Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, in his comments on these national events that: ‘They remind us in a very graphic way that we are stronger together’. Moreover, the Armed Forces Day national event in 2014 is being staged at the same time and in the same city as the already scheduled and planned programme for the 700th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Bannockburn, and at a time when the official referendum campaign will be underway and passions already roused. Scots may wonder what this says of the sensibility of the British establishment, and the ‘respect’ agenda of the British government, towards Scotland.

The British government has decided that the official centennial commemoration of the beginning of the first world war will also be centred in Scotland, in this case Glasgow. This is another somewhat unusual choice of venue for a major UK-wide event of the kind that normally takes place in London.

The official reason given is that Commonwealth leaders will be gathered in Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games but some Scots will see that as an excuse rather than a reason. More importantly, there is another issue here of the British government’s sensibility towards Scotland in that Scotland’s combat casualty rate in the first world war was more than double that of England’s, despite Scottish and English units being in the same army.


If the British government attempts to in some way co-opt the death and suffering of many Scots in that war into its anti-independence campaign, it would further damage the Union in the eyes of many Scots, including unionists. This course has already been taken by Lord Lang in his comment that independence would: ‘dishonour…those who died for the UK’.

This self-destructive approach to the Union by unionists is not something new, prompted by the independence referendum, but a concentrated manifestation of what has been a long-standing feature of unionism. The referendum campaign, however, sees this approach reaching a point at which it is delivering mortal blows to itself. In particular, the Scottish view of the Union, summed up in the old mantra of ‘a partnership of equals’, is being killed off, the end of unionism’s most powerful defence in Scotland. If there is a No vote, the Union will still have come closer to its destruction.


Hamish Scott is a makkar whose poetry has been published in various outlets. His first collection – 'Kennins’ – was published in May 2013 and is available as a printed pamphlet from here and as an e-pamphlet from online retailers.

Comments  

 
# rodmac 2014-02-05 13:42
Excellent article which I thoroughly agree with!

And here is mine today in a somewhat similar vein..

.../better-together-or-independent-who-cares
 
 
# bringiton 2014-02-05 13:44
Hamish,
Excellent piece.
The London establishment has made it crystal clear to us that,in their view,there is no Union of equals and that Scotland as a country no longer exists,only Greater England.
The battle is for control of Scotland's resources (in the case of the London establishment) and nothing to do with their concern for the welfare of Scots.
Mark Carney,in his Edinburgh speech,mentione d that the dividing up of oil resources would be either geographic or per head of population.
This should tell us what the London establishment's negotiating position will be in that respect.
We are only Better Together,in London's mind,so long as they have free access to Scotland's resources.
They are prepared to trash anything (including our democratic rights)in pursuit of retaining that control.
What Union?
 
 
# Jo Bloggs 2014-02-05 14:22
Oil divided per head of population? Aye, right. Sorry, london, it won't wash, not with Alex and Nicola leading the negotiations and no need to pull their punches anymore.
 
 
# gerrydotp 2014-02-05 14:47
We really should have a "We urney Scared" rally.
That would put the wind up them.
 
 
# Rafiki 2014-02-05 15:07
I was intrigues as to Mr Carney's comments on some loss of sovereignty if we enter a currency union.. One assumes he means some Westminster sovereignty as well?
 
 
# Aplinal 2014-02-05 15:27
@Rafiki

I took Mark Carney's comments to be exactly as he stated them. In other words, NOT the spin by the MSM/BBC in Scotland. In any effective currency union the partners will all (both) have to cede some sovereignty "for the greater benefit" of the security the union brings.

The fact that the anti-independence campaign want to present this as ONLY applying to Scotland speaks volumes. The additional fact that they can't see that they are painting themselves into a corner and that eventually ALL Scots will know they are - to be polite - misinforming them, shows up their lack of serious consideration of the issues. The BBC can only protect them for so long.
 
 
# gus1940 2014-02-05 15:48
It has been argued that we should receive 8.4% of The UK's Current Assets that being Scotland's Current % of the Uk population.

Could it not be argued that we should receive that % relative to the populations at the time of The Treaty Of Union in 1707 given what 307 years of the alleged equal Union has done to Scotland's population relative to that of England.
 
 
# Massan_Gow 2014-02-05 15:55
Funnily enough none of the mainstream media reported the devastating and contoversial view of the UK Government that Scotland was 'extinguished' in 1707.

I refuse to watch anything on the BBC such is their anti-Scottish agenda and look forward to the day that those Scots daft enough to pay the licence fee no longer have to.
 
 
# millie 2014-02-05 15:57
Also with regard to Armed Forces Day – From The Courier-
Quote-
“There have been concerns about whether Stirling could cope with Bannockburn Live and Armed Forces Day, which is expected to attract around 40,000 people to the city over the same weekend.
Councillors have agreed to carry out an audit to investigate how the decision for Stirling to host Armed Forces Day — which will cost the local authority around £250,000 — was made.
It emerged last week that Provost Mike Robbins approached the Ministry of Defence about hosting the event several months before a decision-making committee was even formed.
There have also been criticisms that the MoD is trying to undermine support for Scottish independence by staging Armed Forces Day in Stirling at the same time as the Bannockburn Live event.”

thecourier.co.uk/.../...

NOT REPORTED BY THE BBC.
 
 
# From The Suburbs 2014-02-05 17:07
Stirling Council were well aware of the ongoing Bannockburn 700th anniversary plans when the Labour / Tory coalition made their politically motivated stunt to host the 2014 Armed Forces Day at the same time to deflect attention from the Bannockburn events.

Stirling’s offer was gleefully accepted by David Cameron despite the fact that Portsmouth had a far better claim to hold the Armed Forces event in 2014 as the city, which is the home of the Royal Navy and D Day veterans, would have been the international focal point for the 350th anniversary of the Royal Marines, the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

However nothing surprises me about the Stirling council administration that recently tried to remove the Saltire from the City Hall or the UK government’s political machinations in the run up to the Referendum. .
 
 
# Drew1314 2014-02-05 16:27
Great article well compiled and a good read.

O/T Vince Cable has been shooting his mouth off. Any odds on it being headline on BBC Reporting Scotland:

telegraph.co.uk/.../...
 
 
# spagan 2014-02-05 18:11
Drew
Sadly you are correct - if it isn't lead story - it'll not be far off it. Or they will keep it for a cozy Naughtie-Cable chat tomorrow?
They won't report that I said "It is inevitable that Barclays and HSBC will relocate from London to Edinburgh" .......
 
 
# Drew1314 2014-02-05 18:49
@spagan

Sadly you could have won some money, mind you they did report his comments re currency. :)
 
 
# proudscot 2014-02-05 17:21
Spot on re Vince Cable, Drew1314. I've just heard his assertion dutifully reported on the BBC Radio Scotland News.

Cue a queue of LibDem and Labour unionist drones all agreeing with this, and predicting the equivalent of the biblical plagues of Egypt striking Scotland if we dare to vote for independence.
 
 
# Marian 2014-02-05 18:35
Westminster is reacting to the opinion polls showing a slow but steady movement away from NO towards voting YES and has decided to increase its scorched earth policy in Scotland without a care for the permanent collateral damage they are doing to the reputations of Westminster, newspaper journalism and the BBC in Scotland.

I hope someone is keeping PDF's of every Project Fear speech, newspaper article, and biased report on the BBC to remind Scotland's people for the rest of eternity of what Westminster and its media lackeys did to try and usurp this democratic campaign, for I wouldn't be surprised if they try to delete it all from the web after 18 September.
 
 
# Christian_Wright 2014-02-05 22:59
This campaign would be now won were the Unionists not joined in common cause with the media. The media is the existential threat to the campaign for independence, not the empty suits of NO.

We contest the carnival barking of project fear rather than concentrate our efforts squarely were they might actually do some good. If the media is the threat, then it is the media we need confront.

Not surprisingly, Unionists near total control of the print press and state broadcasting is not recognised publicly by the MSM. It is the elephant in the room and the BBC is the 800lb gorilla that rides atop it.

The BBC has power because it is believed. We need promote the meme of its political corruption so that it spreads organically and reaches the key demographic that will decide this outcome of this referendum, the currently unengaged low-information voter.

www.weourselves.com/.../
 
 
# govanite 2014-02-06 18:30
I agree Christian, I've said here before that our big hitters should expose the BBC, remove the BBC's cloak of objectivity & neutrality. They are unionist stakeholders. Create a stushie, at least allow people to consider that the BBC is biased.

This hasn't happened obviously, not part of the Yes strategy perhaps.
Frustrating for our troops.
 
 
# cuckooshoe 2014-02-05 23:11
Under EU state aid rules won't RBS, Nat West and Ulster Bank have to be sold off? Presumably RBS will keep its Scottish Banking Licence, Nat West will keep the English one, and Ulster Bank? Could it end up with an Irish one? I would like to cite TSB Bank in evidence..

en.wikipedia.org/.../...Kingdom)

"TSB Bank plc is a British retail bank with a nationwide network of 631 branches across England, Scotland and Wales. TSB launched on 9 September 2013, with more than 4.6 million customers and over £20 billion of loans and customer deposits, and is headquartered in Edinburgh."


continues

"TSB operates as a separate division within Lloyds Banking Group, and is due to be divested from the group in 2014 through an initial public offering. The divestment was necessary due to a European Commission ruling that the British government's purchase of a 43.4% stake in the group in 2009 counted as state aid."
 

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