Damn the Union!

Scotland and the EU; A poisoned apple?

Daniel Hannan has struck a chord with Telegraph readers this weekend by suggesting that we should embrace the Scots, promote ‘Britishness’, and ‘leave the SNP to fall apart’ instead of the Union. He reminds us of how much the Scots – that ‘hardy and intrepid race of men’ – have contributed to our country, helping to make the UK ‘the greatest force for freedom on the planet’. All for one and one for all.    

But what is this ‘Britishness’ that is supposed to tie us together? Of course, there are countless family ties, and the memory of wars fought together – but then so there are with Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. True, we have shared a common political history since the Act of Union in 1707, but as Linda Colley points out in Britons, the unifying factors in our common history were Protestant wars, commercial success, and imperial conquest. Britain meant England projected overseas – English power, English civilization, and English customs. That is why the terms Britain and England were so often used indiscriminately and interchangeably, as in English (British) history.

But these unifying factors have long faded. Even the memory of fighting two world wars is fading fast. What remains is precisely what there was there before the imperial adventure began – England and Wales (Britannia), Ireland (Hibernia), and Scotland (Caledonia).   

The vacuous ‘Britishness’ that is now supposed to hold us together is a shared commitment to multi-culture and diversity, a settlement from which the English themselves have necessarily been banished – necessarily because the very term ‘English’ subverts this utopian dream, suggestive as it is of a settled host culture and people, into which newcomers might assimilate.

Yet even at the height of empire, England (not Britain) was the preferred term for evoking the homeland and stirring the heart. It was England that expected that every man will do his duty, it was England’s green and pleasant land to which men hoped to return, and it was a corner of a field forever England in which they would find eternal rest if they did not return. It was Henry V’s speech before Agincourt that a company commander read to his men as their landing craft approached the Normandy coast on the morning of 6 June 1944. Writing at the height of the Second World War, the historian A. L. Rowse concluded his The Spirit of English History with the following words, unthinkable in our post-devolutionary era and almost unbearably poignant to read now:

The long record of English history has been fortunate beyond belief: the greater the duty that rests upon every Englishman to see that the future is not unworthy of the past. 

So long as we are locked in the Union, any mention of ‘England’ or ‘the English’ immediately marks one as a proponent of English imperial domination, English nationalism, and of denial of the historic victimhood of the Scots, Welsh and Irish. The connotations of racism and the colonial oppression of coloured minorities are unmistakeable. The English can have no part in multicultural Britain but must forever atone for their past.  

But freed from the Union, and from the curse of ‘Britishness’, what is there left but ‘England’, and how else can its inhabitants be described than ‘the English’? We might even recapture something of the adventurous spirit, the ‘intensity of experience’ (Rowse’s words) of that most glorious period in our history, when Scotland was but a faraway country, a distant backwater – that of late Elizabethan England.  

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12 Comments on Damn the Union!

  1. “But freed from the Union, and from the curse of ‘Britishness’, what is there left but ‘England’?” – I’ll tell you what: N Ireland and Wales. One of the more entertaining aspects of Scottish secession would be trying to find a name for the country that remain.

  2. Here we go again. The Miller wrecking ball goes into full swing once more. First it was Trump. Bring him down at all costs. And replace with a puppet controlled by the hard left. Great idea!
    Oh I see, you thought Biden was a moderate did you? Like the rest of the British media, including The Spectator, sure you did.
    So now, as you gaze across the pond, you’ll be happy will you? I’m sure you’re thinking it’s just swell over there now. As the Marxists move into full wrecking ball mode with their multi trillion “new deal” to beat all new deals, brilliant handling of immigration and multi fronted programme to destroy America. Just great.
    Now the Miller destruction machine turns towards home. Ah yes, the Union. That force for good, nearly half a millennium old. Pull it down! Those hard left folk will be in control up there, but who cares? More destruction, what’s wrong with that?
    It’s a strange thing isn’t it, how conservative’s think these days? It’s the Marxist thinking of the new right. Destroy all around. Let’s tear it down – and start again! Oh yes, why not, we can make it all so much better. Thanks Mr Miller, you’re a true blue genius. The Conservative and Unionist party needs people like you. Like a hole in the head.

  3. I’ve previously supported Alistair Miller’s right to rant against Donald Trump, but I find it harder to support him when he rants against Scotland and my ain folk.

    We Scots are not all Marxist scum, ye ken. The success in Scotland of Labour in the 1980s and the SNP subsequently is partly a result of their offering bribes to proletarian voters, and partly a result of intentional neglect by the Westminster Conservatives, who callously calculated that they didn’t need Scottish seats to gain a parliamentary majority.

    But if Scotland is excluded from the UK, not only will my ain folk instantly be reduced to Balkanesque poverty, but England will also be deprived of an intellectual, military and imperial leaven that has over and over again leavened the whole lump.

    You abandon Scotland to the SNP at your peril!

    • Nobody is abandoning Scotland; a large number of Scots want to abandon the UK or, lets be honest about this, to cock a snook at their English neighbours. Ambitious people seek out opportunities, some of which will be found in England and the most lucrative probably elsewhere. If Scotland offers such opportunities, ambitious Scots will stay.

    • England will not be deprived of productive, contributing Scots, either in the brawn or brains categories. Such folk will simply move from Scotland to England. Canada, NZ, and Australia might not want them because of their fast-growing preference for a non-White, anti-Christian future. But England will obviously be a good home for those good Scots, and so convenient to get to. Now yes, those remaining in Scotland will descend into poverty. And that is why the separation will not last long.

    • I’m not ranting against your ancestors any more than mine, who were good Scottish pioneers and soldiers. It’s the abolition of England and its replacement by a multicultural dystopia that is the question for us English in these post-imperial times.

      Incidentally, the dominions came to Britain’s rescue in two world wars. No need to be part of the UK to be a loyal ally.

  4. Were Scotland to leave the Union, it’d be begging to re-join within a decade.

    Meantime, most of the most productive Scots will have moved South or elsewhere.

    As for the nuke subs and other major defense items, something will be worked out, and likely already has.

  5. It says a lot about our fragile relations that jokes of the ‘There was an Englishman, a Scotsman, and an Irishman’ variety have long been banished. Here’s one from Bernard Manning that sums up the situation very well:

    There was an Englishman, a Scotsman, a Welshman and an Irishman waiting to be executed by the Iraqis and they’re each granted a last wish. The Scotsman asks for a thousand pipers playing Scotland the Brave. The Welshman asks for a thousand voice choir singing Men of Harlech. The Irishman asks for a thousand dancers doing the River Dance. The Iraqi comes to the Englishman and says, ‘What’s your last wish?’

    ‘Fucking shoot me first.’

  6. What the author decries as English imperialism was very much a Scottish venture. How does he think Scotland’s large country houses, Edinburgh’s New Town, and Glasgow’s merchant city were financed? How does he account for the legions of Scotsmen involved in conquering, controlling, administering, policing, and economically exploiting the Empire? He might study the lists of generals and governors and see how many Scots were wholehearted participants and beneficiaries of the imperial adventure. He might consider Mr Oswald of Ayr, who ran a huge slave-warehouse off the West coast of Africa at Bunce Island, eagerly loading boats with their human cargo for destinations in the Americas. Even Robert Burns, boasted of as Scotland’s great ‘man o’ the common man’ had applied for an administrative post on a slave plantation and was preparing to embark for the journey before his star rose among the intelligentsia of Edinburgh and he was able to subsist as a poet. As for the oppression of Ireland, ask the Catholic Ulstermen who were evicted and had their land taken by grasping Scotsmen in the Plantation of Ulster.

    Mr Miller seems to have merely regurgitated the mythical Scottish history used in Scotland to promote the interests of the SNP.

  7. I once heard someone admiringly compare Scots with Jews – two talented peoples whose impact on the world has long been greater than their numbers might suggest. Enlightenment thinkers, brilliant professionals, heroic fighters and so on. There’s something in the comparison of course but what worries me is that too many English people seem to admire these undoubted virtues and have also swallowed the Romantic image of bonnie Scotland without having an inkling as to the darker side of Scottishness and it is this darker side which expresses itself in support for the Scottish Nasty Party. Few Scots openly acknowledge the great benefit which earlier generations drew from the Union with England, one which still exists to some extent today – a much larger labour market with a shared language in which their competitive energy and loquaciousness makes the diffident English easy prey. The English labour market still offers many opportunities but as we all know the larger rewards these days are to be found overseas, which means that in many Scottish eyes the Union has outlasted its usefulness.

    How then should England respond? First, discard the rose-tinted spectacles and stop pandering to their identity politics and knavish tricks. Remember that it was a Scot who warned you about the impressiveness of Scotsmen on the make – the Scottish Nasty Party are the current embodiment of that national trait. Second, understand that if you engage in negotiations they will take you to the cleaners: whatever concessions you offer they will always come back for more. Third, ask yourselves whether the political unity of the UK mainland is as much a military necessity as it used to be. If not, why worry about Scotland going its own way? Fourth, base any campaign against Scottish nationalism on shared culture – education, hard work, free (relatively) markets. Never, never, never suggest that Scotland is dependent on English largesse. The truth of the matter is irrelevant – the suggestion alone is gravely offensive. Finally, rediscover the meritorious qualities in Englishness. You don’t need to boast about it (the Scots are much better at boasting than you will ever be). Just rediscover some self-confidence and stop apologising for yourselves.

  8. One could no more embrace Sturgeon or Drakeford than the baboon lifting the wallet from one’s pocket.
    What motivates them? Not nationalism one suspects, but an ingrained malice, against England and its people.
    One foreseeable future may see French and German border troops garrisoned west of the Severn bridge and north of the Tweed, with reinforcements deployed strategically from a hibernian hub via the Boris tunnel, generously gifted to the EU by the English taxpayer.

    • You are right to be wary of a Boris tunnel. Should it ever come to be, such will serve only to encourage a collaborative effort between Scottish nationalists and Irish republicans to remove Scotland and Northern Ireland both from the United Kingdom, and so to form an EU-aligned bloc from Brussels to Dublin using Scotland and NI as a political and geographical bridge north of Carlisle. Needless to say, the effort will then continue to bridge across the South Irish Sea, politically at least if not materially, and complete the bloc by levering Wales away from the UK. Joy all round as England is isolated among its economic enemies. The Boris tunnel is a short-sighted and naive concept that will do more to unravel the UK than to unite it.