It’s Not About London, Mr Hutton

This post is made in response to Will Hutton’s piece in today’s Observer: We have 10 days to find a settlement to save the union.

You are right to say that a big, real offer on Constitutional reform was what was needed to save the Union, but wrong about so much else. How dare you suggest that independence would split families? My sister lives in England with my English brother-in-law, and half Scots/English niece and nephew. I am not atypical. Nothing would stop them being my family or change our sense of interconnectedness.

The London commentartiat have missed something completely in this debate. Generations of failure to invest Scotland’s resources in Scotland have meant hundred of thousands of Scots have been forced to live and work in England, often marrying, having children and putting down family ties. Ironically, the failure of the UK to be a fair economic Union has increased the level of cross-border family Union to a point where petty nationalism is no longer the factor it was even 40 years ago, when most Scots regarded the SNP as a bit of a “nasty party”.

You lazily raised the spectre of “atavistic forces of nationalism”, but if you were here listening to Scottish people instead of talking at us from London, you would realise that is just a lot of rubbish. The reform agenda here is ENTIRELY to do with democratic deficit, challenging inequality and championing pluralistic politics. If that were not the case, why would Scots, uniquely in the UK, want to stay in the EU while most of your (supposedly liberal?) southern friends want to pull us out on the back of a tide of slavering, racist, anti-immigration rhetoric? Do you really think that UKIP represents the “liberal enlightenment” and that enlightenment philosophy is embedded in the “idea” of Britain?  Are we talking about the same Britain which made its fortune from colonial exploitation and the economics of first slavery, and then indentured servitude?

You propose constitutional reform, but don’t want it to be dictated by the people. Of course, the unelected Lords must go, but the history of “Upper Houses” has, since the Roman Senate, been tarnished with the notion that it is a house of the great and good – the class system writ large and embodied in an institution. The new independent Scotland will only have one chamber of government – reflecting its founding principle that the people are sovereign and equal. You seem to want to reform the state – but only within boundaries dictated by people like yourself, in London.

You also seem incapable of conceding that an independent Scotland would be truly independent and able to make meaningful policy without London. Are you even listening to what you are saying yourself here? An independent Scotland then, wouldn’t be able to change our economy from a property bubble Ponzi scheme by liberating debt generation into the mass building of new public housing, for example? That one change would transform the nature of our economy and society, and is entirely feasible within the economic framework proposed. An independent Scotland wouldn’t be able to stop paying for Trident, Crossrail and HS2 and spend the money on our own services? We wouldn’t be able to channel credit to invest in GDP-creating sectors of our own economy? The essence of your argument is that even as an independent country, we will be nothing without London. How deeply, deeply misguided of you.

I used to think as you do.  But the Westminster establishment had plenty of opportunity to address all of these constitutional issues when your chum Tony Blair was in power.  He reneged on all of the elements of the Charter 88 proposals (which he signed) which didn’t increase his own personal power and retain it in the hand of public school elites like himself. In the end the leader of Charter 88, Helena Kennedy QC, ended up taking a seat in the unelected House of Lords and being assimilated into the system she set out to reform.  Now the chickens of those half-baked reforms are finally coming home to roost.

If I could summarise your position in a sentence it would be this: London needs to find a way to stay in charge, and that will all be OK if only it’s done on MY terms.

You have entirely missed the point: in Scotland, the people are sovereign.

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