Sunday, 8 July 2012

"Wir sind keine Nationalisten"

Last month, you may recall there was a bit of a hoo-hah following the SNP's baffling banning of the word "independence" in their rhetoric, which coincided with Angus Robertson's apparent denial that the SNP were nationalists (incidentally raising the obvious question: who are you, and what do you want?). The latter came from an interview in an Austrian newspaper, Wiener Zeitung. Union Jock thought it would be interesting to read what the Austrians are being told about the Scottish independence debate, so, armed with Google Translate and a smattering of schoolboy German, tracked down the article in question.

Opening with the usual nationalist gag of referring to the Queen as Queen Elizabeth I of Scotland, Robertson goes on to claim that Scotland should be independent because it has the same size of population as Denmark, Finland, Norway or Slovakia. Of course, he doesn't mention the German states of Baden-Württemberg or Bavaria, both of which have more than twice the population of Scotland, never mind North Rhine-Westphalia, which is about three times the size of Scotland. Are their independence accepted as self-evident too?

He goes on: Scotland has its own football and rugby team, we have our own churches, and even its own pound notes, there is no doubt that Scotland is a nation of their own. Sure, if you believe that grown men playing with balls in parks, the ever-diminishing relevance of the Church of Scotland, and the historical curiosity of seven banks in Northern Ireland and Scotland still retaining their 19th-century rights to issue their own promissory notes are the cornerstones of national identity.

We would definitely be more cooperative than the United Kingdom. Unlike the UK, Scotland has always been understood as a European nation. Well, being much smaller than the UK, Scotland wouldn't really have much alternative, as an EU member, to being co-operative with whatever Brussels decrees. And as for "always being understood as a European nation", it sounds like Mr Robertson is beginning to believe his own party's absurd propaganda about how we've always really been part of Scandinavia and never really had much to do with those people who live on the other side of the Cheviots.

However, he later returns to the purely political angle, citing the Conservatives' sole Scottish MP elected in the 2010 general election. Of course, no mention is made of the 11 Scottish LibDem MPs (or indeed the 6 SNP MPs). That would be as if the Austrian government would be dominated by Germany he says. A nice soundbite guaranteed to attract the attention of Austrian readers. But the relationship between Germany and Austria isn't particularly analogous to that of Scotland and the rest of the UK. Austria existed as a nation-state (and indeed an empire) long before Germany did, and its current size and status was determined by the outcomes of the First and Second World Wars.

No one has asked us whether we want to fight in Iraq, whether we want to have nuclear power plants or nuclear weapons on our soil. Well, actually we were asked when we had the 2010 general election. The fact that only 6 SNP MPs were elected presumably tells us the answer.

Robertson does however, proclaim himself to be a monarchist, and looks forward to Scotland being demoted from a part of the United Kingdom to a dominion of the Commonwealth (and the 22nd largest member of the Commonwealth at that, just behind Sierra Leone). Apparently that would cure the "disgruntled tenant" complex that we all suffer from. Hmmm.

And finally, he ends with: We Scots are open, friendly people, we are citizens of the world - therefore the German translation of my party annoys me: we are not nationalists. Open and friendly, except towards the other Inselaffen we share our islands with? The German translation he refers to is Schottischen Nationalpartei, which seems like a fairly obvious translation to me. I wonder what he would prefer - Schottischen Jeder außer England Partei maybe?


  1. I suppose I can start with the old unionist gag that they cannot count as there has never been an Elizabeth I of the UK before the present monarch. But lets go for an even bigger unionist joke - the claim that the Queen is in her Channel Islands capacity "the Duke of Normandy". I am sure that M. Hollande would raise an eyebrow to that one. Or even the claim from Edward III of England to George III of the UK that they were the lawful monarchs of France till the events of the revolution proved that claiming such a position was not considered a plus------

    You raise the German states. Since nationalists often get slated for saying Scotland can be like Ireland, Norway etc, maybe this is a case where you are saying you want the constitutional arrangements of Germany in the UK---

    So that means of course that you would like the Scottish government along with the other devolved administrations to have a veto on UK parliamentary legislation - including the budget as the German state governments do sitting collectively in the Bundesrat. The Bundesrat generally has an absolute veto on all legislation - including the setting of corporation, VAT and income tax rates. So you want Eck and Marty to have that power?

    Also of course the regional governments have control over regional broadcasting. You want Edinburgh to control BBC Scotland etc?

    The regional governments have their own intelligence services - the regional "Departments for the Defence of the Constitution" which report directly to the state governments. Does UJ want Eck to have his own coterie of spooks?

    The Bundesrat of course chooses half of the Constitutional Court. Should Eck, Pete, Marty and Carwyn have a say on who sits on the Supreme Court?

    Kind of doubt it?

    So what makes a nation? Well we could discuss the differences between the USA and Canada or maybe more relevantly the differences between Australia and New Zealand. In the latter example - aboringal peoples aside - what is the difference? A few years ago Australia proposed integration of New Zealand into the Commonwealth of Australia but Helen Clark chucked out the proposal after months of drawing up in one afternoon.

    Concerning the Canuks and the Yanks, what apart from the Francophones (and the Yanks have their Hispanics) divides the two nations. A little old lady who comes over to visit from time to time.

    But the world is shrinking. Today on one side of the border the little old lady reigns whilst on the other side a man whose father was a subject of that little old lady rules. Also that man's grandfather was detained and allegedly tortured in the name of that little old lady. The shrinking of the world is kinda fun!

    You mention Austria. Of course the core of the old Austrian state was a 400 year union - voluntary in light of the defeat of Czech and Hungarian forces at the battle of Mohacs in 1526 by the Turks. Who sponsored the sepratist movements in the old Austria during World War I or partitioned it by such treaties as the Treaty of London 1915 - ah we did.

    Edvard Benes running his anti-Habsburg stall from a shop in Piccadilly Circus funded by UK tax money. And we complain about Casement and the Germans------

    Should Benes have been hung by Vienna?

    I take it from your article that you believe that big is best. All things considered and having spent a bit of holiday time in both countries I would rather be a wee Austrian at the moment than be a big Ukrainian.

  2. I'm sure M. Hollande isn't losing any sleep over any of the Queen's historic titles!

    I'm open minded on alternative constitutional arrangements that keep Scotland in the UK, and federalism is certainly an interesting idea which seems to work for Germany. Quite how it would translate to the UK is another matter though.

    As for the difference between Australia and New Zealand - well the latter being about 1400 miles further into the Pacific Ocean is an obvious one! If they shared a land mass, would they still be separate countries? All of the original six independent colonies founded in Australia federated in 1901.

    Of course we played a part in the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire - we were at war with them at the time after all!

    I don't recall mentioning Ukraine in the article, but their current political tensions are of course a symptom of the ethnic, linguistic and religious divide within the country - precisely the kind of division that doesn't exist between Scotland and the rest of the UK, no matter how much the Scottish nationalists wish it did!