Tuesday 26 August 2014

Did the First Minister misspeak?

In his latest intervention in the debate on Scottish independence, our First Minister had this to say in his piece in the Daily Record:
“I firmly believe in people working together.  I believe there is such a thing as society and we all have a duty to make it fairer and that society has a responsibility to make individuals lives better.
“That doesn’t compete with my sense of identity as a Welshman.  Indeed it is a sense of community which marks out my nation and it is an instinct we share with most Scots.
“But the difference I have with nationalists is that I do not believe that community has to stop at a border.”
I can’t disagree for one moment with the first two sentences of that short extract.  Indeed, I’ve been surprised that the ‘no’ campaign in Scotland has concentrated to the extent that they have on trying to frighten people with what often seem to be imaginary consequences, rather than promoting the positives of union and community.  It’s the final sentence of that extract, however, which perhaps provides the explanation.
The problem that unionists – including Carwyn Jones – face is that all their noble arguments about community and strength in numbers apply to the concept of union in general, rather than to the union in the particular.  There is nothing which limits those benefits and advantages to any particular geographical arrangement.
He claims that the difference he has with nationalists is that he doesn’t believe that “community has to stop at a border”.  Now I think that I’m a nationalist, but I don’t think that community has to stop at a border either.  I don’t think that he’s identified the right difference between nationalists and unionists in that statement at all.
Because, in the sense in which he’s using the argument, he doesn’t really believe it himself, does he?  For him, those benefits do stop at a border; the border of the UK.  He’s not arguing for union with France or Germany; he’s not arguing for the re-incorporation of the Irish republic into the UK.  He’s not, in fact, arguing for union in the general sense at all; he’s arguing that what exists should continue to exist, frozen in aspic for all eternity, apparently. 
His views might be dressed up in apparently progressive words about sharing and working together, but at heart, his message is a deeply (small c) conservative one; that which exists should continue, ‘because it is’.  That conservatism seems to pervade the ‘no’ camp in general, but it’s a weak argument. 
I agree with what the First Minister says in that community doesn’t have to stop at a border; but I’m not at all convinced that he believes it himself.  Perhaps a more accurate statement of his views would have been for him to say that “The difference I have with nationalists is that they believe that community can work across borders, whereas I believe that community can only exist within state borders”.  Doesn’t have the same rhetorical ring to it, but is probably a more accurate statement of his views.


Anonymous said...


Glyn Erasmus

An Eye On... said...

You have the old Jac O The North site in your blog roll in the side bar.

His new site is http://jacothenorth.net/blog/

John Dixon said...

Thank you - duly corrected

Anonymous said...

If it's a yes vote, does Carwyn have a Plan B for Wales?

Anonymous said...

There is no greater turn-off in life than someone proclaiming to identify as a 'Welshman'.

What does it mean? And if I like what it means how can I identify as one too?

Sod sense of community ....... if you need to work you'll find yourself moving from community to community on a regular basis throughout a lifetime.

Perhaps this is what's wrong with Wales. We think we have a right to stay 'in community' when times get tough rather than getting on our bikes.

Maybe there is a lesson in what Carwyn said.

Welsh not British said...

EBC radio Wales were playing some old interviews on Monday (cheap Bank Hol radio).

The FM mentioned how the younger generation are far more confident now. That they don't believe they should be second best.

That we can compete on the world stage with anyone.

Funny that, because we are second best because we cannot compete with the country next door due to the lack of confidence by the FMs party.

Anonymous said...

Most nationalists are unionists in the sense that they want a European Union of some kind. Some of them are trade unionists. Some of them want a different kind of British Union where it is made up of independent states...they are not stopping community or solidarity.

The SNP want to maintain a formal currency but are called 'separatists'. Labour/Tories want to disallow that and are called 'unionists'.