From an English socialist to a Scottish one: five reasons to stay

This is why I think you should stay. Fraternally yours, an English socialist.

This is why I think you should stay. Fraternally yours, an English socialist

Judging by the opinion polls, most people have already decided how they are going to vote in the Scottish independence referendum today. For those who haven’t, this is for you.

This will not, I hope, come across as an attempt to bully or scare you into voting No, as has happened all too often with the Better Together campaign.

Rather, I hope it will be taken as a fraternal attempt to persuade, rather than a stern admonition.

Socialism is about solidarity, coming together and uniting through common struggle

Or at least it should be. The nationalism of ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups should be anathema to anyone on the left, for it creates arbitrary divisions based on nothing more than where a person happened to be born. Claiming that the true road to socialism lies in erecting more borders is like arguing that the way to stay clean is to avoid taking a shower.

Self-determination is one thing and nationalism, which is propelling the Yes campaign, is quite another. Nationalism is never cuddly and always seeks to divide. Socialism should be about uniting people through common interests, not pulling people apart through arbitrary ideas of nationhood. Breaking things up into smaller and smaller units is surely the method of the right. The smallest unit after all is the individual, and when there is only the individual there is, as Margaret Thatcher famously put it, ‘no such thing as society’.

Britain is in fact two countries

Under the surface we are two countries: one of empire, monarchy and the class system, but also a multi-ethnic society at ease with itself and which cares for the sick regardless of how much money they have in the bank. We are the land of top hats and the Bullingdon Club, but also the home of George Orwell, Aneurin Bevan and Sylvia Pankhurst. England may often be too centrist and even too right-wing for many Scottish Labour voters, but remember that there are people on the left in England – millions of people – who despise the Westminster establishment just as much as you do.

As an English socialist, I ask you not to abandon us in our fight to throw out the Tories, but to stand alongside us in trying to create a Britain that no longer resembles the family with the wrong members in control. As mentioned already, socialism is about solidarity: please stay and together we have a far greater chance of creating a just society both north and south of the border (which really will be a border, with all the nasty things that go with it, if Scotland votes Yes).

The best lack conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity

You may scoff, but Britain is one of the few examples of a successful and democratic multi-faith and multi-ethnic state. Help to break it up if you must, but do not kid yourself that you are doing something progressive in the process. In Yeats’s poem the Second Coming, he famously noted that the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. Britain is a country of status quo politics and evolutionary change. But it is also a country of ‘tolerance’ – or to put it slightly differently, of complaining about everything under the sun but of rubbing along with each other regardless. It is certainly not the country where ‘traitors’ have bricks thrown through their windows.

Ignore the noisy Englishmen who bemoan immigration to these islands, and instead ask yourself why people flock to Britain – yes Britain – in the first place. As a writer in the Washington Post put it last year, ‘We [Britain] may not always be your cup of tea, but you know – and so often love – our culture nonetheless’.

We need you

And take that as a compliment. The stuff about the Conservatives having a ‘permanent majority’ in a Britain without Scotland is overblown, but having your good sense come General Election time helps to ensure that we English have rulers that are a bit more compassionate and a little less capitalist in tooth and claw than might otherwise be the case.

There are plenty of us in England who don’t like being ruled by a lineal descendant of King William IV either. I don’t want to live in a country where the best I can expect from government is a bunch of half-baked centrists. Help a comrade out and stay, will you?

The SNP will sell you down the river

I can see the left-wing books about the ‘great betrayal’ already. Salmond and the SNP have persuaded many that, provided they get a Yes vote, they will build Scandinavian-style social democracy using the profits from North Sea oil.

But instead of listening to the SNP’s rhetoric, why not look at a few of the things that Salmond has actually done when in power. Salmond has slashed away at corporation tax and mooted his own welfare cap. Those who view independence as the beginning of a transition to Scandinavian-style social democracy ought also to remember that Salmond’s economic sympathies lie firmly with Ireland, the ultra-low tax regime lionised by George Osborne as a “shining example of the art of the possible in economic policy-making”. And you don’t get a Nordic welfare state with Irish levels of taxation.

As for equality, Salmond gushes over Vladimir Putin and will happily stand on a platform with homophobic stagecoach boss Brian Souter (and take his money) if it benefits the SNP and the Yes campaign. Even David Cameron would find it difficult to get away with that.

 

So in sum, that is why I think you should stay. Fraternally yours, an English socialist.

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17 Responses to “From an English socialist to a Scottish one: five reasons to stay”

  1. Ian

    The drive for self determination in Scotland is not, as you put it, driven by nationalism. Whilst the SNP are the dominant player in the Yes Scotland campaign, they are not the be all and end all of the campaign. It has been to the Better Together campaigns detriment that Alasdair Darling et al, have decided to refer to everyone on the yes campaign as a nationalist.

    Nationalism, whilst manifesting in many forms, always has an ugly side to it. Something that I can’t associate with. I’m sure the BT campaign recognise this when they refer to all yes voters as nationalists. However the true signs of ugly nationalism manifest in an atrocious form of Britishness displayed by UKIP, the Orange Order, the BNP, Britain first etc.

    The Yes campaign has completely transcended notions of nationalism and is supported by the Scottish Green party, the Radical Independence Campaign (a broad left alliance) and most importantly, Labour voters who no longer want to be associated with a party who want to continue Trident, fight illegal wars, and impose austerity.

    People see a yes vote as an opportunity to shake up the political system, decentralisation of power with a fairer PR voting system that means people’s votes count. A yes vote also means that rUK also has to adapt and change alongside a new Scotland. People in Scotland have felt disenfranchised for too long, voter turnout is testament to that. Today, 97% of the adult population have joined the electoral register to vote. It is a good day for democracy.

  2. Stephen Wigmore

    Nationalist doesn’t just mean ‘member of the Scottish Nationalist Party’, it has a wider meaning. If you’re campaigning to break up the UK to form a Scottish Nation State then you’re a Nationalist. Get a dictionary.

  3. Bill

    1.You can unite with people across borders. We can still show solidarity with the Irish even though they’ve left the union.
    2. Socialism isn’t about creating a one-world superstate. Borders and countries exist. The borders of the United Kingdom now were drawn because of the personal interests of a king 300 years ago. Don’t get more arbitrary than that.
    3. Democracy works best when it’s as local as possible
    4. “Self-determination is one thing and nationalism, which is propelling the Yes campaign, is quite another. Nationalism is never cuddly and always seeks to divide.” – Why do you think the campaign is not driven by nationalism? No evidence in the article. I think independence would be a defeat for British nationalism and a triumph of internationalism and self-determination.
    5. What nasty things that go with a border will there be? Just scaremongering, no evidence.
    6. “You may scoff, but Britain is one of the few examples of a successful and democratic multi-faith and multi-ethnic state. Help to break it up if you must, but do not kid yourself that you are doing something progressive in the process. ” So all the other times its been broken up, when the Irish left and the empire collapsed, was that not progressive? Was that a threat to our democratic multi-faith and multi-ethnic state? Arguments really getting desperate and nonsensical. I will scoff
    7. If the SNP betray Scots, Scots will vote them out. Maybe for Labour, maybe for someone else. That’s democracy.
    8. The socialism that opposes things being broken into small units on principle is the top-down bureaucratic socialism of Stalin and George Galloway. Thankfully the modern socialism that has influende the Yes campaignis democratic, anarchist-influenced, bottom-up and believes that decisions are best made as locally as possible.

  4. Bill

    If you’re campaign to preserve the British nation then you’re a nationalist. Get a dictionary.

  5. subtleknife666

    Dammit, why do you want Scotland to be controlled forever by Tory or pseudo-Tory regimes (NuLabour is most definitely Thatcherite) instead of having a chance at a decent, progressive, ETHICAL government for a change?

  6. john

    1. Not true – it would be regarded as interfering in a foreign state.
    2. Factually incorrect rubbish. The crowns were united in 1603 (some 400 years ago in case your maths is as bad as your history) when James VI of Scotland inherited the English crown from Elizabeth I. Little more than an accident of birth. The Act of Union in 1707 created a unified Great Britain under one parliament and one crown. It was not as you claim the drawing of a border to suit a monarch, but the REMOVAL of one to bail out a bankrupt Scotland when its imperial adventures in South America ended in disaster.
    I am not verbose enough to go through the rest of your comments point by point. Suffice to say it is just more ill-informed rant and typical of the untruths on which the Yes campaign is based.

  7. Chrisso

    1. “Self-determination is one thing and nationalism, which is propelling the Yes campaign, is quite another. Nationalism is never cuddly and always seeks to divide.” What DO you mean? The Scottish Yes campaign has been self-determination personified. It has not sought to divide, indeed it’s been the anti-thesis of the divisions that have torn England apart.

    2. “Under the surface we are two countries: one of empire, monarchy and the class system, but also a multi-ethnic society at ease with itself and which cares for the sick regardless of how much money they have in the bank.” So we are two countries (one of the ‘past’, one of the ‘present’ – is that it?) but not two nations, each one should not be entitled to allocate its own values and resources? That’s just silly.

    3. “Britain is one of the few examples of a successful and democratic multi-faith and multi-ethnic state. Help to break it up if you must, but do not kid yourself that you are doing something progressive in the process.” If you think Britain, with an unelected house of Lords (abolished once in the Cromwell era but resurrected after the monarchy was restored) is democratic you need to think again. Scotland will not be encumbered by England’s creaking class system, dominated by London. It will most certainly be a far more more progressive state.

    4. “Help a comrade out and stay.” Facile reason quite honestly. There’s no reason for 5 million Scots to ‘help out’ 50 million Brits that have failed to address Scotland’s problems adequately over the last 50 years at least and having an overwhelming majority were able to ignore Scottish wishes with impunity.

    5. “The SNP will sell you down the river.” This is the worst calumny of all. What makes you think that the SNP will continue as it is beyond independence day? Team Scotland will develop a new political party system, I anticipate the SNP fragmenting and there may be two or three parties representing various interests. Labour and also Scottish socialists will hopefully be on the left.

  8. Chrisso

    Indeed and (5) “nasty things that go with a border” is spurious. The border with Eire from N. Ireland is just a road-sign. Why should Scotland be any different? All it requires is cross-border co-operation between England and Scotland and N. Ireland and Scotland. Too much to expect of England?

  9. George

    As an Englishman I say good riddance to the wee scots.

  10. Chrisso

    The UK is an arrangement made 300 years ago, by the nobility, well before the democratic era. Now those were the ‘nationalists’ if you like. It’s about time that Little Britain fanatics got a grip and realised that a right to self-determination of peoples whether they be Kurds, Scots or from East Timor is a universally respected principle.

  11. sarntcrip

    NEW LABOUR IS DEAD AND GONE GOOD RIDDANCE A HEALTHY DOSE OF REA LABOUR TO CORRECT PRIVATISATIONS AND THE WRONGS DONE TO THE MOST VULNERABLE BY THE TORIES WITH THEIR WATERED DOWN TORY CHUMS THE FIBDEMS

  12. Jean Moss

    Thanks so much, that just about sums it up for me too.

  13. sarntcrip

    i say the uk benefits from the diferent cultures of it’s constituent parts little englander scotlandereelsh or ulsterpersonisimply regression god knows we have enough of that in england and wales under the no majority tories

  14. sarntcrip

    if you really believe the snp are anything more than new labour with a scots accent i fear for you and all my scottish friends and relatives

  15. sarntcrip

    tomorrow the snp’s reason for being will be gone if there is a yes vote then the snp will be no better than any other bunch of politicians

  16. subtleknife666

    I have no particular preference for the SNP, other than to praise them for having (I hope!) brought about Scotland’s independence.

    Once Scotland is free, it can have its own political parties which will be free from Westminster’s evil influence.

    I hope the Scottish Labour Party will remember that it was once part of a great progressive party; whereupon I can start to vote for it again, whereas the Thatcherite NuLabour at Westminster would never get my vote. See what I mean?

    Perhaps the SNP will end up being the main centre-right party in a free Scotland, given how utterly discredited the Tories and LibDems are?

    You’ll probably tell me that I’m being hopelessly idealistic. But honestly, if Scotland is free, what else can it not achieve, eh?

  17. Ricayboy

    If people in England vote Tory they should get Tory. We don’t need Scotland to ‘save’ the English from the consequences of their own democratic choices.

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