Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Solidarity in drowning

One of the better arguments used by the ‘Better Together’ campaign in Scotland is that many of the problems faced by Scotland aren’t unique to them; they’re problems faced by many other parts of the UK, including Wales.  It’s a good point, but it does rather invite the question which one of the audience raised during the second Salmond-Darling debate – ‘if we’re better together, why aren’t we better now?’
Whilst in principle, the idea that we can more effectively tackle problems collectively using the strength of the whole, is entirely credible, the notion is fatally undermined by the empirical evidence, which is that the problems are simply not being tackled.  Staying together means being bound to an economy which is heavily biased towards the south east; and a mere change of government (Labour’s sub-text to this argument) doesn’t seem to make any difference in practice.
A variation on the argument is that put forward by Douglas Alexander last week, who said:
“The Nationalists peddle a misplaced cultural conceit that holds that everyone south of the Solway Firth is an austerity loving Tory.  Our friends, family and comrades in Wales, Northern Ireland and in great cities like Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester find no place in this notion.”
Leaving aside the gratuitous reference to cultural conceit, the underlying point is a valid one – England is not a homogeneous austerity loving country.  And perhaps nationalists should put up our hands to the occasional over-simplistic reference to ‘England’ as a whole, as though it was homogeneous.  It isn’t – but then neither are Wales and Scotland – and it’s a mistake to pretend that it is.  And there are plenty of supporters of austerity to be found easily enough in Wales and Scotland too.
What is true though is that, aggregated up to a total using the national boundaries within the UK, the English majority are rather more supportive of austerity than are the Welsh and Scottish majorities.  And that is reflected in election results.  It means that parts of the UK opposed to austerity can be, and are, outvoted by its supporters.  Part of the price which any of the UK’s countries or regions pays for remaining part of the union is an acceptance that we will often be outvoted.
But there’s something else in this argument as well, even if not always expressed quite as openly as this – is it right for Scotland to walk away from the problems of Wales, Northern Ireland and Northern England rather than working with them to seek change from which all of them will benefit?  It’s an interesting moral question, but there’s a danger that it ends up being an argument that Scots should not take responsibility for solving their own problems out of solidarity for those elsewhere who cannot or will not do likewise.  It's a bit like arguing that we must all drown together.
In any event – what would give most hope to those other parts of the UK: for Scotland to stay put so that all sink together in comradeship and solidarity, or for Scotland to demonstrate that there is another way?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

' ... an economy which is heavily biased towards the southeast'. Perhaps so. But you could and perhaps should have said, an economy driven by capitalist principles rather socialist ones.

The economies of Wales and Scotland are largely public sector orientated. Too small to take risks with full blown capitalism and yet not entrepreneurial enough to be self-sustaining (unless oil is discovered).

Generally people choose to live together in relative harmony because they know the alternative is a whole lot worse. Ask the Palestinians. Or the Israeli's.

I suspect it's time we brought an end to this dreamt up concept of 'Welsh and Welshness' and all went back to just being plain old British (of Great Britain if you will, for all those not offended by the history of these islands) living in Wales (or anywhere for that matter).

Just maybe we'd be a whole lot more content!


Alan Hughes said...

Clear and apt

John Dixon said...

Anon,

So as long as we believe ourselves to be British we'll all be content; it's only our stupid insistence on choosing some other variant of identity which leads to discontent?

Anonymous said...

Usual drivel from Anon. All we need to do is "jolly well stop being beastly and complaining and accept your lot with a good dose of british stiff upper lip." Whatever way the economies of the "colonies" are constructed is due entirely on the mismanagement of consecutive Westminster governments. As is the fact that Great Britain is one of the most unequal societies in the western world.

Scotland will become independent in the not too distant future and Wales and Cornwall will follow it is just a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

14:49, any insistence on choosing some other variant of identity is done solely for the purpose of gain.

But this is no way to gain.

Gain from hard work, not the charity of others!


John Dixon said...

Anon,

I'm extremely reluctant to start blocking comments; I've never liked censorship nor been frightened of debate. But there really is more to intelligent debate than simply making wild assertions.

Anonymous said...

06:42, A 'wild assertion' to one is simple, plain common sense to another.

But it is your blog. Granted.

Peter Freeman said...

John;
I believe I have mentioned before that I enjoy and appreciate your blog for your insightful comments on the shenanigans back home. I include your blog in my regular reading of News of Wales.
I usually ignore the anonymous one but on this occasion he may have something to talk about.
He, or she, contends that we should all be British. That raises the question; What is British?
The third generation of Polish immigrants who speak Polish among their family and friends and attend an Orthodox Church, are they British. The Moslem wearing clothes that distinguish them from the majority of people, the Hindu who will not allow his children to marry outside of their religion, are they British?
What of the people of the regions of England? British means something very different to the Geordie, the Yorkshireman and the inhabitants of Kensington or Sloane Square. This without touching on the cultural and linguistic differences occurring among the Welsh, Scottish and Irish populations.
Let's all be British, but what is British?

Anonymous said...

'British' means civilised, tolerant and educated.

'Being' English, Scottish or Welsh is just like supporting a favourite football team, it is a matter of sporting, political, cultural, religious or linguistic choice. Do if you fancy, don't if you don't.