Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Fear and West Lothian in England

I don't suppose anyone needs my opinion on the Scottish independence referendum coming up in just over a week, but the subject came up in my (English but living in the US) household due to the sudden pro-independence surge in the polls this week. Here's my opinion:

Hey, Scottish people! Do what you want! (I know you were doing it already and didn't need my permission, but you can have it anyway.)

A digression:

One thing that's really rattling me is to hear (or see) American opinions on it. It sounds like most of us sleep on pillows embroidered with quotes from the Federalist Papers and spend our time recalling the Good Bits of Braveheart, with a bit of Gerry Adams/Sinn Fein propaganda leaflets from the 70's thrown in. Even that would be okay, if Americans got hold of a map and learned the difference between England, Scotland, Britain (and British), Great Britain and the UK (or UKOGBANI).

Here's a rather lame official video that explains it.

When everyone's watched it, perhaps there be a little bit less of things like this:

"Good for plucky Scotland finally getting rid of the British!" ß Scottish people are British.  

"Scotland is now trying to get rid of colonial rule!" ßThe English have not colonized Scotland and they don't "rule" it.  The government in Westminster (London, England) has representatives from Scotland, voted in by Scottish people. Scotland have their own Parliament, which votes on matters that have been "devolved" to the Scottish alone. The last few Prime Ministers were Scottish, or of Scottish descent. There is no equivalent English Parliament which some English people think is a bit rich. (It's called the West Lothian Question, hence the title.)

The colonizing the British Empire has done was partly done by Scottish people. About a third of the British Army that fought in the American Revolution were Scottish.  Lots of Canada is populated by the descendents of Scottish people. One bit of it is called New Scotland.

Back to independence:

The UK government is completely out of step with Scottish values – the Scots prefer a well-run welfare state over the rampant Neo-liberalism of the current government. Devolution did not come quickly enough nor grant enough powers and the Scottish see their cherished society being sacrificed to "austerity" while the English swallow Scotland's North Sea Oil revenue and give it to the 1%. I'm told that much of Scotland is now impoverished.

I know how that feels. I'm from northern England. Not from near the border, but from Yorkshire. The cities I grew up in are equally ill-served by the British government and equally impoverished. Everyone in the UK knows what happened: In 1979 the Thatcher government was elected and proceeded to dismantle the nationalized industries – British Steel, British Rail, and so on – and went on a furious ideology-driven rampage to close down the heavy industries and the coal mines that the north – and Scotland – depended on. The industries were "uneconomical" and "needed modernizing" but the London government did not put one millisecond of thought into what would replace them, how the workforce would be trained to do any new jobs, or for that matter, how to pay for the inevitable welfare payments that would ensue. Perhaps they thought the Invisible Hand of the Market would snap its invisible fingers and new jobs would appear? Well, it didn't. It would be difficult to exaggerate how angry I remain over this. Whole communities saw their men thrown out of paid work over a very short time frame; no new jobs or significant job training ever materialized. No one ever thought being a coal miner or being a steel worker was *fun* but it was steady, paid work.

The Blair government that followed 18 years of Tory wealth transfer from to the working class to the rich Tories were more Thatcherites in the disguise of the "Labour" party, and followed up with ten years of more of the same, plus some foreign wars. And as soon as the UK turfed Blair out, the banker-caused economic meltdown occurred (in 2008), leading the new government to bail out rich bankers, continue to transfer nationalized industries (such as the Royal Mail) to private hands at great profit to the 1%, all the while shrinking the welfare safety net as much as they dare.

The north of England and Scotland are blighted. Almost all the 1% work and live within the environs of the City of London, London, and the Home Counties. (Though they own palaces and vast swathes of hunting estates in Scotland.) But they are the 1% after all. If all of Scotland and northern England is taken out of the equation, that just makes them the 2% or 3%, meaning the other 97% of southerners are part of the blood-sucked, rather than the blood-suckers. It's just that the ruling class like nice things around them, and pay for local services, so the Home Counties have not been slid into the mire in the way the northern, previously industrial, areas have.

The Scottish are rightfully pissed off with 34 years of unending pilfering from the ordinary person in the street in order to line the pockets of the rich, and as a northerner, so am I.

If the Scots do vote for independence, I hope they'll let Yorkshire join them. (Huddersfield can remain an English enclave.)

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin
I sometimes mention a product on this blog, and I give a URL to Amazon or similar sites. Just to reassure you, I don't get paid to advertise anything here and I don't get any money from your clicks. Everything I say here is because I feel like saying it.