"If the Scots want to show some solidarity with the people in England who feel trapped in a centralised state where cheap credit, privatisation and deregulation are the only solutions offered, they should vote yes to independence and set us all free." - Billy Bragg
The British class system, the British (un-codified) constitution and Britain's post-imperial hangover all collaborate to hold together the peculiarities of Britain's political consensus. It is a system, of course, which has much in common with most Western states. But it has many of its own features too: traditions which act to protect the excesses of neoliberalism.
Captivated by the flickering shadow of her past global dominance, the deluded UK struggles to come to terms with her place in the world. We believe Britain is great. But statistics on everything from infant mortality to economic productivity, childhood happiness to pensioner poverty and wages to working hours tell a very different story: we are one of the most unequal countries in the West. Our exploitative economic system is global, but it has found fertile soil in this land of anachronism.
In Scotland, and to a lesser extent in Wales and Northern Ireland, we have devolved legislatures to protect us from the worst of the excesses of the British state. Who is having their NHS privatised first? England. Who is hit hardest by the housing crisis? The English. Perhaps most dangerously of all, it's England whose political debate is most smothered by Westminster's stifling political consensus. And so who is it that is in most need of this consensus being disrupted? The English.
Likewise, which part of the UK is most imprisoned by a flag waving nationalistic nostalgia for a Britain of old which would forever be shaken up by a yes vote? Northern Ireland. Which country is hardest hit by Westminster's economic obsession with finance over manufacturing? Wales. Which historic nations are most often forgotten? Romani Gypsies and the Cornish.
And it's not just the nations. The independence debate has already helped stimulate the foundation of Yorkshire First, and the North East party – both calling for a shift of powers from London to the regions; and encouraged renewed efforts for a Cornish national assembly. It is not a coincidence that the major parties are now discussing devolution to the English cities. But these developments are only just starting and will be all too easily reversed if a ‘no’ vote is seen to legitimise the status quo, as Whitehall, Westminster and the City of London all hope.
A ‘Yes’ will be the opportunity to finally bury imperial Britain, to end the pompous “Britainnia rules” story, and to start a new one. A ‘Yes' vote will provide a chance not just in Scotland but also in England and Wales to demand a new written constitution, codifying the powers of the powerful and entreating the rights of us, the citizens (Northern Ireland, is another story).
With a 'Yes' vote – a vote to withdraw power from the British elite - we can build some momentum for radical and progressive change not just in Scotland, but across the UK. And we can in Scotland perhaps do that thing which terrifies the powerful more than any other: demonstrating that change really is possible.
Scots already feel the tangible benefits of our partial escape from a centuries old British political consensus which props up a class and constitutional system damaging to almost all on these islands. With that liberty Scotland has already secured, we are discovering the advantages of being a normal European country. We won't advance the causes of democracy and justice in England by seeking to very occasionally deny her Tory governments she votes for by sending south largely unaccountable New Labour MPs. We will do it by freeing her from the shackles of that very Britain politics too. It's time to do just that.
This article was made possible by a generous contribution from Juliette Daigre
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