The Six Nations kicked off this weekend and aside from signaling one of my most anticipated sporting events of the year seems as good a time as any to talk about nationality (indeed, the very name of the tournament acknowledges that Britain is not a single ‘nation’ and that we have deep connections to the continent) and it’s relevance to the politics of these isles.
This is the time of year I am most likely to espouse anti-English sentiment (because they have this annoying habit of beating us… bastards) but this is not sincere. Indeed hating England or the English would be deeply troubling and outright hypocritical for me, given the amount of family, friends, much loved places and happy memories of mine which bide south of the border.
This attachment doesn’t stop me calling them all sorts of names for 80 minutes every year and wishing that they’d get a thumping from Ireland or Italy, just to knock them down a peg or two and neither should it. Rivalry is healthy.
In any case, for some time the concepts of ‘Scottishness ‘and ‘British values’ have been favoured political footballs of most parties, the first preyed on by the SNP to curry support amongst Scots, and the second by the traditionally dominant forces to preserve the UK’s current constitutional arrangement and by UKIP to enflame feeling against the EU and immigrants.
This really bothers me, because my politics and my nationality are not directly connected and it should be acknowledged as a universal truth that any person’s idea of what it means to be Scottish or British (or any other such grouping) will doubtless be different from the next person, and so on.
I was and remain a supporter of Scottish independence, but not because I hate the English. My reasons for supporting independence were based around a support for localism (devolving power as close to the people it affects as possible) and a desire to see positive constitutional and electoral reform, which would likely come much faster in a newly independent Scotland, shorn of the traditions and power-blocs of Westminster.
As such, my politics are not directly related to my ‘Scottishness’ other than that I happen to be a Scottish citizen, currently residing in the country and as such a voter in Scotland, concerned with the governance of Scotland.
Indeed, I don’t wish anything for Scotland that I wouldn’t wish for Wales, or Cornwall or the North West of England and if such reform can come within the United Kingdom (i.e. federalism.) then I’d have no great desire for independence (because borders are at the end of the day, fundamentally silly constructions…)
On that note – I’m not opposed to ‘English Votes for English Laws’ (EVEL) but rather believe that making the House of Commons a two-tier parliament, where Scots, Welsh and Irish MPs (and what about London MPs, seeing as that city also has a devolved Assembly) are excluded from voting on some issues and English MPs have veto over UK wide laws is a ridiculous notion.
Make every part of the UK equal, with devolved assemblies/parliaments, dealing with devolved issues and a central parliament basically dealing with broad financial policy and foreign affairs.
The fact that this option is so rarely promoted by major parties is indicative of the way ‘ationality’ is used as a political football. The Conservatives want EVEL because they traditionally win the election in England and if this went through, they would effectively have a veto on a Labour government which relied of Scottish & Welsh seats for a majority*, which is why Labour oppose it.
* Even though current votes and trends imply Labour will win the election in England and be all but eliminated in Scotland.
In short, the constitutional framework which affects us all is being tossed around by the two biggest parties in a bid for more votes and the keys to Downing Street, with little real concern for fairness.
As for ‘British values’ it’s such a nebulous term as to defy definition and is invariably used to enflame mindless head nodding when actual policies don’t bear up to scrutiny.
I could dissect many of the claims of what being ‘British’ means at length, but suffice to say that most assertions of Britain being an inherently democratic, unitary or Christian nation are so ridiculous
In short – any time someone uses your nationality (or religion, for that matter) to try and sway your vote, take a step back and analyse their policies, not react with an emotive response to the language used to sway you.