Independence follows Dependence

Doug Clelland | 01/09/2014 | 0 Comments

Independence follows dependence, "being controlled by someone or something else".

What is Scotland dependent on, to be retained or rejected on September 18? Does the referendum address Scotland's future as having political integration with friends and allies, pursuing relentless distribution of opportunity, and eschewing royalty and aristocracy: a future suited to Scotland's core?

Philip Ball, in the book Critical Mass, cites a 1690 manuscript: "… a small country, and few people, may by their Situation, Trade, and Policy, be equivalent in Wealth and Strength, to a far greater People, and Territory ..." Sir William Petty's words consumed England's new king, launching something revolutionary. Seventeen years later, the Union was to elevate Scots from an incompetent morass into the light of London's German Georgian dawn. Eighteen years after the Union, Daniel Defoe in A Tour … of Great Britain described the false promises of the English, lack of energy in Scotland, and the elite who had moved south: "I must, therefore, be contented to give an account of Scotland in the present state … leaving its … want of being improved as it … ought to have been … in whose power it is to mend it." Defoe considered the marriage of England and Scotland unrequited during its early passion. 

Two centuries later, William Wolfe in Scotland Lives: The Quest for Independence argued: "Scotland can be a self-governing nation again with no loss to herself or the world … If we are to be 'British', then we should be happy to let London continue to exploit Scotland … "

Soon after, Jo Grimond in A Roar for the Lion concluded, "We must start with the Scottish people … Home Rule … accompanied by decentralisation within Scotland." 

Donald Mackay in Scotland 1980: The Economics of Self-government put his finger on the pulse: "Economic growth is never a function of a particular constitutional arrangement, but the product of the temper of a people. No supporters opine: "If it's not broken, don't fix it." If they go beyond the sclerotic status quo, "to mend it" they will need political Viagra, in spades. Yes supporters, jettisoning dependence on the English, seem ready to be the mortar below the pestle of international institutions that will crush, grind and transform Scotland. 

"Rabbits snatched from hats" feature in such elections. No supporters seek none, discrediting their opponents as "airheads without a currency". The Yes campaign might spring an American lagomorph, offering Scotland the dollar if they can't have the pound, or the euro, dollarised like the British Virgin Islands. 

For Jonathan Freedland (Will Scotland Go Independent?) the issue is "the changing shape and meaning of nationhood in the twenty-first century". What of fragmentation? Zygmunt Bauman's watchword of human evolution? (in Liquid Times) Or powerlessness: "Monster" nations exploiting Scotland more than the English, guilty in the court of the Yes side? 

On September 18, will people want, in Alasdair Gray's words (Unlikely Stories, Mostly), to "work as if you were living in the early days of a better nation"? Yes supporters far more than the No side seek that "better nation", but where are the Teflon-coated visionaries leading Scotland's younger generations towards being exemplary citizens of the world?

Nationhood would bring power, political integration with friends and allies, relentless distribution of opportunity. Eschewing royalty and aristocracy would bring greater power, allowing Scots to participate in global design, to help arrest Elizabeth Kolbert's "the game's a bogey" (The Sixth Extinction).

Surely the Scottish people are not dependent on an England curling into itself, showing no interest in a federal Britain (distribution of opportunity), a republic (eschewing royalty and aristocracy), or a European federal republic (closer political integration with friends and allies); tools for a world of cooperation. 

The question on the ballot would have better read: Should Scotland be a European federal republic? It does not. All things being equal, the cross on the ballot should be Yes.


Doug Clelland is Emeritus Professor of Architecture at Liverpool John Moores University and visiting Professor in Berlin and Valetta. He is  Lead Architect and Head of Research at JIG Architects in Liverpool and Mold.

This article originaly appeared in the Herald  'Agenda' on Thursday 28th August 2014.  It has been published here with the kind permission of Professor Clelland.

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