Yesterday the Scottish government published its consultation proposals on the referendum on Independence for Scotland. Cue for lots of media coverage both here in Scotland and in the rest of the UK. What I find most fascinating about the responses from the Unionists is that they invariably fall back on the claim that independence would be damaging to Scotland and to Scots. At the same time they are desperate to make a positive case for the Union.
Is it in fact possible to make a positive case for Scotland to remain in the UK? Looking over some of the recent comments by Unionists, their case rests on three fundamentals: the economy, defence and British nationalism. Given that with devolution, the Scottish Parliament is now responsible for just about all domestic matters - education, health, policing, housing, justice, transport etc - this focus on the economy and defence makes sense from a Unionist perspective.
However, despite claims to the contrary, their pitch is relentlessly negative. Their key message is that Scotland is too small, too poor, too weak and goodness knows what else, to survive as an independent country. Without England we poor Scots would be alone and defenceless in the world and even poorer. The Scottish Daily Mail, one of the bastions of the Union, provided a nice illustration of this in their edition from 25th January. Entitled 1,000 days to save the Union, this front page editorial was full of dire claims of how disastrous independence would be for Scotland. According to this bulwark of the Union an independent Scotland would "confront a deficit of at least £9billion, enforced membership of the euro and a potentially unlimited liability in the ownership of toxic banks."
Now of course, as par for this kind of diatribe, no evidence was provided to support these claims. However what was really fascinating about this editorial was that despite the paper's clear view that Scotland is a basket case, which could not survive without English largesse, despite all this, the Daily Mail believes that Scottish Independence "will ultimately be a disaster for the whole of the UK." Pretty hard to square that circle I would have thought. Not that they even begin to try. If Scotland is so poor why on earth is the Daily Mail and other Unionists so keen to prevent our independence. So keen to keep Scotland in the UK that they are prepared to lie and spout out unsupported propaganda.
I suspect that part of the reason for the focus on negativity is that at bottom all Unionists are British nationalists. They are too emotionally tied to Britain and in particular notions of Great Britain that they cannot conceive of Britain without Scotland. At heart they know that Scotland is a net contributor to the UK, which is why, like the Daily Mail, they are aware that Scottish Independence could prove a disaster for the rest of the UK. Or more precisely the London dominated elites that currently rule the UK. But they cannot make too much of the UK's need for Scotland, for that would confirm that Scotland could not simply survive as an independent country, but would in fact be a very rich and successful independent country. Far easier to pretend that Scotland is a poor wee country and to fall back on the so-called glories of the past.
For a more detailed, yet light-hearted look at the failed attempts by Unionists to specify just what benefits Scotland gets from the Union, have a look here.