… the wreckage of Brexit Britain with its brutal lack of compassion and humanity
– Gerry Hassan
I don’t know if you’ve read the work of nationalist commentator Gerry Hassan. He can be quite engaging, sometimes bang on the button but sometimes devastatingly wrong, both of which we shall see shortly. He’s a serious writer although prone to curious lapses of judgement. For example, as I was drafting this post I noticed he has a poll on Twitter inviting people to guess when the ‘next’ separation referendum will be, as if a Twitter poll that purports to be serious (I’m all for jokey ones) ever gave a result that did anything other than confirm its author’s point of view. You won’t be surprised to know I cast a vote in favour of ‘Never.’
Anyhow, he has an article in the latest edition of the online Scottish Review entitled The day Britain died. 8 February 2017. He doesn’t use the phrase ‘indyref2 trigger’ but it’s yet another example of a genre of nationalist fiction that began on 19 September 2014, the day after 45% on a turnout of 85% (i.e. 38% of the total electorate) of Scotland voted ‘Yes’ to separation. The last two and a half years are littered with events and non-events that were said to ‘inevitably’ trigger another referendum.
Last week on 8 February the Commons voted to approve the ‘Article 50’ process that will lead to the UK leaving the European Union. This according to Hassan, puts the final nail in the coffin of Great Britain.
His article’s worth a read if, for nothing else, his acute analysis of the failings of the SNP, not to mention a few other nationalist tendencies along the way. I do hope the SNP either don’t notice his critique (unlikely) or are incapable of learning its lessons (highly likely) as attending to them would solve some of their problems with the only question that matters to them.
This post doesn’t pretend to be a comprehensive review of Hassan’s article, merely a comment on a fatal flaw in his understanding – those words at the head of this post, his view of the ‘wreckage’ of ‘Brexit Britain’ and ‘its brutal lack of compassion.’ They’re the starkest expression of a perception that occurs elsewhere in his article – ‘the game is up for Britain … the carnage and mess that is emerging …’ and so on.
That sort of characterisation is not unusual amongst Scottish nationalists. Just as they paint a Scottish exceptionalism that is positive (‘Wha’s like us?’, ‘Jock Tamson’s bairns’ …) so they paint a negative British exceptionalism, as if Britain were uniquely bad amongst nations.
Since Hassan hangs his thoughts on the Brexit decision they’re worth countering with some facts from that referendum. Across the UK only 52% on a turnout of 75% (i.e. 37% of the UK electorate) voted ‘Leave’ last year. In Scotland only 62% on a turnout of 67% (i.e. 42% of the Scottish electorate) voted ‘Remain’ – minorities in both cases. Moreover, if the post-referendum poll funded by Lord Ashcroft is to be believed, 36% of SNP voters who voted in the referendum voted ‘Leave’ (if not clear, all these figures are explained and referenced in an earlier post on this blog).
Remember also that governments are ephemeral. The SNP at Holyrood and Conservatives at Westminster will inevitably be ousted at some future election. It’s the inherent nature of democracy.
I mention the statistics and the ephemeral nature of governments to try and bring home how temporary and partial Hassan’s view of ‘Brexit Britain’ is. Like many nationalists he seems incapable of seeing beyond a parody, in his case of ‘wreckage’ and a ‘brutal lack of compassion and humanity’
Britain is neither a government nor a referendum result. It’s the 66 million people who live in Scotland, England, Wales and (UK) Northern Ireland. They’re diverse and they’re wonderful and they share fundamental values and a similar way of life. Struggling against a constant barrage of nationalist negativity, we don’t remember or celebrate this often enough. I sometimes wonder how many of the more strident separatists have actually spent any significant time amongst our fellow British citizens. Or do they only venture forth looking for grievances and funny accents?
In case you’re minded to challenge me on my own view of Britain I refer you to a piece I wrote two years after the ‘once in a generation’ independence referendum – In praise of my country on a special anniversary.
Hassan does say something about referendums I agree with. If they are based on ‘a false prospectus’
the result is bitterness, acrimony, accusation and counter-accusation, and an inability to move on. We are stuck in a perpetual Groundhog Day … arguing about the issues which should have been decided in the referendum … From their fraudulent offers has flowed divisiveness and rage. That’s not a prospectus for a new nation.
He applies these words to Brexit. What other referendum do they remind you of?