England is dysfunctional, corrupt and vastly unequal. Why would Scotland want to be tied to such a country?

George Monbiot writes: Imagine the question posed the other way round. An independent nation is asked to decide whether to surrender its sovereignty to a larger union. It would be allowed a measure of autonomy, but key aspects of its governance would be handed to another nation. It would be used as a military base by the dominant power and yoked to an economy over which it had no control.

It would have to be bloody desperate. Only a nation in which the institutions of governance had collapsed, which had been ruined economically, which was threatened by invasion or civil war or famine might contemplate this drastic step. Most nations faced even with such catastrophes choose to retain their independence – in fact, will fight to preserve it – rather than surrender to a dominant foreign power.

So what would you say about a country that sacrificed its sovereignty without collapse or compulsion; that had no obvious enemies, a basically sound economy and a broadly functional democracy, yet chose to swap it for remote governance by the hereditary elite of another nation, beholden to a corrupt financial centre?

What would you say about a country that exchanged an economy based on enterprise and distribution for one based on speculation and rent? That chose obeisance to a government that spies on its own citizens, uses the planet as its dustbin, governs on behalf of a transnational elite that owes loyalty to no nation, cedes public services to corporations, forces terminally ill people to work and can’t be trusted with a box of fireworks, let alone a fleet of nuclear submarines? You would conclude that it had lost its senses. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

3 thoughts on “England is dysfunctional, corrupt and vastly unequal. Why would Scotland want to be tied to such a country?

  1. Christopher Hoare

    Monbiot’s articles are usually well thought out and compelling, but I feel he is missing an important point here.The interests of the oil companies are a red flag. Living as I do in a Canadian Province that has been run for the benefit of the energy companies since 1950 or so I have to wonder how much the devolution thing has been promoted by those rich corporations that find controlling the governments of small entities is easier than that of greater. ( I admit my worry could be considered groundless when one looks at the example of the US.)

    Even so, if I were a Scot, I think the opportunity to leave the monster that is Financial London would be too much to resist. A few months back the Guardian had a piece by a Scottish media figure who travelled the North of England to see what the neighbours thought. It turned out that many of the Northern English would love to have the opportunity to kiss-off London as well.

  2. Internationalist

    Monbiot speaks as if, after secession from the UK, Scotland might use its “independence” to enact progressive policies. Me, I’m not holding my breath for the People’s Republic of Scotland.

    Instead, it’s easy to see that an independent Scotland would try to render itself economically viable by out-englishing the English. The weakness of a hypothetical new-fangled currency would make Scottish labour cheap, and it’s a safe bet that the government would enact agressive deregulation and fiscal policies to attract foreign capital. “Foreign” capital, in particular, from the City itself.

    In other words, Scotland would succumb to the imperatives of “(de-)regulatory arbitrage” in a global economy. Regulatory arbitrage, i.e. the need for elected officials in individual polities to curry the favour of global capital by competing with their neighbours, regardless of the wishes of their constituencies, is as prevalent a mechanism of globalisation as wage arbitrage.

    Greater political fragmentation leads to greater arbitrage. It’s that simple.

    In this article for the NYT, former Bush and Romney advisor Gregor Mankiw writes a specious and therefore highly instructive apologia for regulatory arbitrage. Although he refers specifically to individual US states, the underlying logic applies to Europe’s midget and middle-sized countries, too.

    (Just google Mankiw and “competition is good for governments too” if the link doesn’t work. The title of the piece already tells you all you need to know, basically)

    More generally, Monbiot’s piece is a handy example of several of the key failings of the contemporary left:

    – it’s not much of a stretch to see his vague evocation of the salutary effects of “independence” as internalised neo-liberal logic. “Independent” nations, “independent” individuals;

    – his romantic localism is common among environmentalists. It’s often little more than “small town values” that dare not speak their name. There’s a nasty streak in there, and one may argue that the rural stuff is ill suited to a world where most people live in cities;

    – however, he’s no small town person. Since he’s a romantic and a technocrat, he’s cavalier about the implications of disruptive change (another bit shared with neolibs). As Erwin Panofsky said, the humanist “rejects authority, but respects tradition”. For all its many failings, to say that the UK is a polity with remarkable pedigree would be a monumental understatement.

    In this video, Stewart Lee reveals a better understanding of what it is to live in a multi-national state than Monbiot. The comedian is a better democrat than the intellectual.

    (Google “Stewart Lee braveheart” if… etc.)

  3. Paul Woodward

    Thanks for your comment “Internationalist.” And just for the record and the benefit of others who leave comments here: this is what I regard as an exemplary comment — carefully written, informative, all substance, no bile (along with biting humor). It’s immaterial whether I agree with the writer’s conclusions.

Comments are closed.