29th June 2016 – 6 days after the Referendum

[In response to the article ‘Sturgeon secures propaganda boost with Brussels meetings’. https://infacts.org/sturgeon-secures-propaganda-boost-brussels-meetings/ ]

Unfortunately this article, while broadly correct about Scotland’s future being one of independence in the EU, makes a fundamental mistake, and one which speaks volumes about what is wrong with English attitudes to the EU. I’m not just talking about the author – Jack Schickler is a very smart guy, and I’m sure this was not intentional – but generally as well. The quote from it reproduced below frames the anger that Scot’s feel at potentially being dragged out of the EU despite overwhelmingly voting to stay in it in purely economic terms. It also frames the discussion over Independence in the same terms, and it is wrong to do so in both cases.

“Swapping Scotland’s union with England for one with Europe would be economically foolish. It exports four times as much to the rest of the UK as it does to the rest of the EU, as Gordon Brown, the former prime minister, explained today in a speech in Edinburgh. Likewise, border controls – which might be necessary if Scotland joined the single market while the rest of the UK quit it – would be deeply unattractive.

That said, if the UK faces a post-Brexit downturn, the Scots may be so angry that they could be persuaded to take the leap. There would also be some silver linings. For example, Scotland would be well-placed to tempt City financiers and foreign investors looking for a home within the single market.”

What many people have known for a long time though, and should be blatantly obvious to anyone by now, is that Scotland is not pro-EU solely because of the economic benefits that membership brings. Scotland, as Sturgeon’s speech in the immediate aftermath of the referendum made clear, is also actively in favour of free movement of people in the EU. Scotland actively welcomes people from other countries, and not just for the economic benefits they bring to a small country. They also welcome free movement, and membership of the EU, because they consider themselves to be fundamentally European. They want Scotland to be a society and a culture with people from around Europe. Being European is an important part of a huge number of Scot’s identity, and not something to be traded away casually on their behalf by others. It is not just an economic equation where the way forward is determined by whether the result is a positive or negative integer.

This comes, in my view, from a fundamental intellectual and cultural divergence between Scotland and England during the Enlightenment. The English Enlightenment produced thinkers still trying to deal with the aftermath of the reformation, and was primarily concerned with the question of power and how it should be distributed. The Scottish Enlightenment was however far more forward -and outward- looking, and had a much closer connection to the rationalism and humanism that was the centre of the Enlightenment in Europe.

We see this clearly today. England is fundamentally anti-intellectual, while Scotland is the opposite. Only in England can the word ‘Clever’ be used as an insult, both to an idea and a person. “Hmm, he’s very ‘clever’ though, isn’t he?”. Clever is not an insult in Scotland. In fact, walk down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, or around Glasgow, and you’ll see statues of clever people. Scotland celebrates clever people, and particularly internationalists, with statues, while England, celebrates violent war heroes with them. Scotland takes human rights and international obligations seriously, with newspapers welcoming refugees, while England does the bare minimum for refugees and sees conventions on human rights as threats, rather than something to uphold and be proud of.

As I’ve said before, England does not do Solidarity in the EU. In negotiations, anything on solidarity is pushed by the UK to the preambles where it can be safely ignored. When it’s brought up, they’ve always taken the attitude, accompanied with a sneer and a snigger, that we can let the funny Europeans bang on about it all they like as long as it doesn’t mean we have to do anything about it. Scotland on the other hand, does have an idea of solidarity with the rest of Europe, and this goes way beyond economic self-interest. Scotland wants to be part of the EU, partly for the prosperity it brings, but also to a significant extent because it considers itself part of Europe, and has a sense of solidarity with the people of Europe that the English consistently show themselves not to have.

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