By Joe Jones
Well, it happened. The second SNP leader with a suspiciously-fishy sounding name has thrown down their challenge for a referendum. I do not know if the Prime Minister will allow it to happen in such a tumultuous time, but if she does then we have a hell of a fight on our hands to save the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In fact, even if No. 10 does not allow the First Minister to hold her referendum we need to start fighting for our Union. No argument is ever fully won, thoughts are notoriously hard to kill, and if one side stops arguing it simply allows a vacuum to be filled by the rantings of the other side.
I am certain as all this heats up, again, the economic argument for remaining in the United Kingdom will be trotted out, as it should, however we should not solely focus on it. The economic argument has already been won: there is near universal agreement that it would be economically barmy to jump out of both the UK and the EU (which is what would happen), or even just the UK, that is if the SNP got their fantasy. It would be a mistake to focus on economic minutiae, facts and figures can be debated over, denied and blatantly ignored – after all in the words of John Galbraith, the only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.
We will not win a referendum on appealing to homoeconomicus, we nearly lost the last one by appealing to it. Instead, may I recommend appealing to that endangered and rarefied species: homo-Britianicus. Across the globe we have seen a resurgence of nationalism and patriotism bound up in the revolt against a perceived political class (in some cases more real than not) who have been viewed as an un-caring, unpatriotic and sneering elite that dismiss the truly proud, flag waving patriots as an ever-so-embarrassing mistake left behind from a by-gone age. In Scotland, this is as true as elsewhere. The Scottish Nationalist Party are, unsurprisingly, nationalists. They are unapologetically proud to be Scottish and as we have sauntered around in England being a tad embarrassed over this whole being British business, they have re-written the culture of Scotland. The SNP have gone near-unchallenged on the narrative of what it means to be Scottish and it has gone on far too long.
The narrative needs to be constructed to re-build the British story, about how important Scotland is to that story. How, throughout history, the two nations of England and Scotland have scrapped against each other. How England has fought against English heirs to the Scottish throne, how Scotland has fought against Scottish kings of England. How, through political convenience, these two nations were joined as one in 1707. How some of the greatest thinkers of an age were forged in that centre of culture called Edinburgh, for the benefit of all four British nations. How this union came to be the forefront power in the world, how it battled slavery, re-wrote the rules of economics, how it managed to stumble forward into one of the longest-lasting and most stable of democracies, how it defeated Hitler and perhaps most importantly how it created the mightiest and the greatest of all biscuits, the McVities hobnob.
Furthermore, we need to loudly bang of the drum over the disaster that the SNP has been for Scotland. They have not led their nation well. They stand on an Olympian-sized mountain of domestic failures coated in a false veneer of populist ‘its-not-our-fault’ rhetoric and centre-piece policies that deliver nothing but a good story. When they are criticised the SNP responds by denouncing their critics as English or, and even worse, a Tory in a fashion similar to that of a demented and radical witch-hunter screaming their vitriol at the latest heretic to Scottish independence – a heresy that I know my Glaswegian-born-and-proud mother is guilty of. The SNP is a master of, and I never thought I’d use this phrase in a serious argument, fake news. They are masters at taking a half-truth and twisting it against Westminster and England, turning a fact that doesn’t suit them into a political tool with which to bash those insidious English Tories among us, who plot against the true and loyal patriotic Scots – seems I’m almost a Catholic in the fury of Dr Henry Sacheverell’s 1709 sermon.
This argument will not be won if we don’t start to re-build Britishness over the border, if we don’t make the emotional case for Scotland and why this beautiful and brilliant country is not just important to us, but part of us. In the words of Elizabeth I, to her Scottish heir James VI, mon bon frère, please, oh please, do not leave us. You are our brother, our sister, our partner in crime, you are family and we will fight for you.