Separatism is a dirty word, apparently. The No campaign use it all the time about those of us who support independence, just as non-nationalists for independence constantly get called nationalists by them too. Aside from partisan naming of US legislation, the independence referendum has been the site of perhaps the most intense linguistic and political battles I’ve ever seen.
I see why “separatism” gets used like that. Togetherness sounds warm and fuzzy. Let’s all have a big British cuddle. And what about your auntie in Bristol? Don’t you want to stay in the same country as her? Would you genuinely rather see a really big pair of scissors cut Scotland adrift, to float off into North Atlantic isolation? It’s a fine bit of rhetoric, even though a fair proportion of those same people would quite happily see us be much less Together with our European friends and family.
And socially, I agree. I’m part English, with countless friends and family members there. And when I say England already feels like a foreign country, for me that’s a compliment, or at least neutral. The Netherlands or Greece or America feel like foreign countries too, and (not being a ‘kipper or a near-’kipper), I like going there and I like the feeling of being abroad. Differences are sexy.
But then I look at the institutions of the British state: the endless crown to symbolise the people’s powerlessness, the House of Lords to remind us that the gentry should inherit their right to legislate (and an arbitrary subset of bishops too), the corrupt House of Commons with an electoral system designed to preserve the rule of two grim neoliberal parties, the City with its unbalancing greed and unrestrainable influence, and the pound sterling, managed to suit the City rather than the people. I see an uncodified constitution which offers the public no clarity, no protection, and no real democracy, and I see some unpleasant international entanglements too – notably NATO.
I don’t want anything to do with any of them. Not a jot. I may not be a nationalist, but I am a constitutional separatist. I want to be separated from these institutions entirely. I’d love to see my friends in England find a way to make a break from those institutions too (as brilliantly set out here on sparkling blog A Thousand Flowers). But they don’t seem to be making much progress, and I don’t want to wait another thousand years for reform or revolution to fix what’s wrong with the British state. I’d rather Scotland had a chance, nothing more than that, to be a progressive beacon on a hill to inspire the rUK left.
In short, therefore, although I am a signatory to the Business for Scotland pledge (being in business and in favour of independence), I strongly disagree with this post on their site. It’s a small-c conservative position, as one might expect from a business organisation. What we’re offered by the SNP isn’t very inspiring, but if separation from all the institutions of the British state had indeed been on the ballot next year, that might just have lit a spark.