THE latest “wisdom” to do the rounds just now is that Scotland could not possibly cope with rUK’s Brexit and independence from the UK simultaneously, so we should put our shoulders to the wheel of Brexit, forget about independence for now (translation: forever) and try and get a good deal with rUK, in spite of the fact that we have no voice at all, and a good deal is looking increasingly like a no deal.

What those who advocate this path mean is that, like dumb beasts of burden, we should issue forth the odd “moo” of protest when it all gets too much and the circling makes us dizzy, but never, ever think to throw off the yoke. That so many of these voices of negativity are from within Scotland itself says much for our psychological conditioning.

History shows us that it is at a time of disintegration of former alliances and territorial integrity that is the usual path to a mass independence event: the collapse of the Berlin Wall led to the collapse of communism, as Gorbachev decided it was time for the East to open up to glasnost and perestroika. Gradually, the opening up led to other former Cold War Eastern European countries taking a step away from the past.

So much conflict is taking place in the world today for, prima facie, different reasons, but they appear, mainly, to meld into one or two overriding elements: 1) what is good for the West and the Western powers; 2) the drive for resources/land/water/energy, etc but the unwillingness to actually negotiate a deal; and 3) to enforce a particular cultural or geo-political or geo-religious solution on to people who refuse to accept it.

When Soviet Russia opened up – too quickly, according to some – the strain proved too much and the empire started to crumble. The three Baltic States left and gained their individual independence in 1991; Poland went earlier, in 1989, swiftly followed by Czechoslovakia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Albania.

The disintegration of Yugoslavia, as communism collapsed in the Balkans, led to the various republics taking their independence: Bosnia-Herzegovina; Croatia; Macedonia; Montenegro; Serbia; Slovenia; (Kosovo) had all gone by 1992 after a vicious local war. Had the UN stepped in earlier, in full knowledge of the region’s past history, and also the predictable attempted land grabs by Serbia and Croatia, this would almost certainly have been avoided. This war, which split families and led to terrible atrocities and war crimes, should be a salutary lesson for the UN to recognise rights to independence and usher them in sensibly, timeously and peacefully, and not, as some would have us believe, avoid independence like the plague. It should also be a salutary lesson to those who try to deny others their independence and start throwing their weight around.

The British Empire also started to crumble after the Second World War, and India and Pakistan went quickly in 1947 (again after bloody fighting which could have been avoided) because, here again, antagonism between Hindu and Muslim was long known, and understood to be a flashpoint.

Czechoslovakia itself split amicably in the “Velvet Divorce” (from which the UK should take a lesson in statecraft) and Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, split from West Pakistan (now Pakistan) in 1971 after a horrendous war (again, perfectly avoidable and foreseeable, just like Yugoslavia). West Pakistan invaded East Pakistan. Sri Lanka had gone in 1948.

Many more examples exist of regime collapse and disintegrations that heralded independence bids. Granted, some of these have been vicious, but not because of individual areas desiring independence, as many English/British Nationalists would have us believe, but because larger, usually former imperial nations refuse to acknowledge that they are disintegrating and try, by force and terror tactics, to hold on to reluctant satellites/colonies. Africa is full of examples of splits and break-ups where violence has been the result, and where colonialism specifically, and the divisions/false divisions it created, were at the root of much of the conflict (eg Rwanda).

Does that mean independence or nationalism is inherently a bad thing? Of course not; that is just the propaganda that spews out of those countries in whose interest maintaining the status quo is preferable. The type of nationalism that is seeking only to establish its own nationhood, or, in Scotland’s case, re-establish its nationhood, is not a bad thing at all, and only a fool or an inherently self-centred and self-interested person would believe that to be the case – which is why I say that looking behind the reasons why certain groups vote a certain way can be very instructive. If there is something intrinsically wrong with wishing to have what every other independent country has, then someone is going to have to explain why.
Lorna Campbell
Via email