The ongoing attempt by unionists of all hues to come up with new ways to defend the Union continue unabated. One of the latest was penned by journalist Kenny Farquharson in last weekend’s edition of Scotland on Sunday. It was titled, Britishness is about pop and fish’n’chips. Really. Clearly we are in the middle of the silly season. If not and this is what unionists are reduced to, then the prospects for Scottish independence can only grow by the day.
The crux of Farquharson’s claim is that there is a sense of Britishness which can become the most powerful argument against Scottish independence. This revelation came from watching a Newsnight programme devoted to independence. According to Farquharson, the English participants on the programme articulated a clear sense of Britishness which, “was predicated on common British values: tolerance; diversity; shared endeavour; unity; moderation; fair play; innovation; solidarity. All were presented as good reasons for the nations of these islands to stick together, to accentuate what we had in common rather than what divided us.” Farquharson was so taken by this that he gushed to say, “I’ve never heard a Unionist argument this effective in 20 years of covering Scottish politics.”
Alas, for the likes of Farquharson, there is nothing new in this or similar litanies of “British” values. There is also nothing to suggest that they are in any sense uniquely British. No evidence is ever produced to justify such a claim and Farquharson offers none himself. I am sure there must be many citizens of other countries who are more than slightly fed up of hearing yet another Briton lecture them on how superior us Brits are. For all these assertions of so-called British values does, is confirm that arrogance and a feeling of superiority are probably the only two genuine British values.
There is another aspect to this claim which always goes unmentioned by its advocates. The existence of the Republic of Ireland. Do the good citizens of the Republic share these ‘British’ values? After all most people in the UK consider the island of Ireland to be one of the islands that make up the British Isles. And of course the whole of Ireland was part of the UK until the early 1920s. So unless these ‘British’ values only emerged since then, unlikely, they must be equally shared by the Irish. This becomes clearer when Farquharson outlines his own choice of emblems which can be used to save Scotland for the Union. “More powerful than the NHS, Lancaster bombers, the monarchy and the British Legion, are alternative emblems such as Blue Peter, the Grand National, fish’n'chips and – most powerful of all – the cultural heft of half a century of distinctively British pop music.”
Is the esteemed Mr Farquharson claiming that the citizens of the Irish Republic have no feeling for Blue Peter, or that the Irish care nothing for the Grand National or have an antithapy for fish’n’chips? Surely not. And as for that great cultural achievement - distinctively British pop music - precisely what distinguishes the UK contribution from the Irish contribution? Or is he claiming that Irish bands and musicians do not form an integral part of ‘British’ pop. Once again we are back with the typical UK arrogance. We just ignore the contribution of others.
In this case thought it pretty much destroys his whole argument. For unless he can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the people from the Republic of Ireland do not and never have shared in these common ‘British’ values, then their existence cannot not be used as an argument for maintaining the UK. Will need to do much better than this young Farquharson.
Though originally published in Scotland on Sunday, the whole article is available here on Scottish Labour Hame. This is supposes to be a grassroots website for the Labour Party in Scotland, though most of the contributors seem to be MPs, MSPs or local councillors. Worth a visit if only to confirm the terminal decline of Scottish Labour.