Mary MacCallum Sullivan: 'Escape and Repair' - or Repair and Escape?

Mary MacCallum Sullivan, a psychotherapist from Argyll and CS columnist, says Common Weal’s new campaign slogan ‘escape and repair’ raises questions about Scotland’s relationship to Britain after independence – can we really escape the UK’s constitutional crisis?

SOME Scots want us to make a dash for independence; escape from the unprecedented parliamentary end-games taking place in Westminster. We should get out by any means necessary, gain our freedom to get on with the urgent business of ‘repairing the world’: be free to address the ‘real’ issues of our time - the climate emergency, the related global refugee and biodiversity emergencies.

The Scottish Government and SNP MPs stand accused of devoting their energy to the saving of the British state, rather than taking advantage of the chaos to strongly press for Scottish independence. Momentum for real social change is building up, notes Robin MacAlpine, amongst all those who want to think of the future as a better place. If we continue to wait, we infer, the moment will be lost. 

Writing in the Sunday National yesterday [8 September], Nicola Sturgeon said she believes “Westminster opposition to another independence referendum will be washed away by a major win by the SNP at the upcoming General Election”.  Mmm, maybe.

But what kind of independence? The current chaos and confusion around the consequences of the 2016 UK ‘Brexit’ referendum should give us pause. Both sides were careless and complacent of the freedoms, the opportunities, the advantages that membership of the European Union has brought to the whole United Kingdom; the one side to celebrate them, the other, to throw them away. We should be careful of the understandable accusation of a similar carelessness with the freedoms, opportunities and advantages of membership of the United Kingdom. 

READ MORE: Robin McAlpine: When all the ingredients for freedom arrive – and you just stare at them blankly...

The UK has already been dis-united by the Brexit referendum and the impossibility of implementing its outcome. Word on the streets is of a ‘broken democracy’: the unwritten constitution is confounded by the ungentlemanly behaviour of that element of the population who ‘just want to get it (Brexit) over with’. Let’s assume that a united opposition succeed in achieving a delay to the exit date and a post-October 31st General Election. Whatever the result of the election, and – hopefully – a further referendum, our democracy has been profoundly damaged. A ‘pure’ Scottish independence will inflict further harm, to resonate into the future.

Nothing less than a revolutionary re-imagining and re-negotiation of the constitutional arrangements of the UK which will return real power to its constituent nations and regions, to its neglected and ‘left-behind’ towns and localities, will do. Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland’s devolution has been shown up as a shallow reality dependent on mere ‘good faith’; ‘power retained’ by Westminster is the deeper reality. 

A majority in Scotland want a second independence referendum and new, written,  constitutional arrangements. A ‘united Ireland’ is beginning to be imagined as a consequence of any failure around the ‘backstop’. Wales is beginning also to imagine a greater degree of autonomy. The inhabitants of North England are agitating for devolved power and a greater degree of financial and planning autonomy, while the South-West wants greater recognition of its particular threats and opportunities.

READ MORE: Long Read: Richard Murphy on a Green New Deal for Scotland

Those who want freedom for Scotland can offer a positive vision of such a re-organisation: radical action in the face of the climate emergency, under the umbrella of a Green New Deal. A Green New Deal cannot, in any case, have any real meaning or traction without a much-increased level of localisation and global collaboration. A new confederated union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could act as a template for such collaboration.

There is a coalition of interest and intention to achieve this, and we don’t have much time. Let the current political and constitutional crisis be an opportunity to listen to the children and act to save their future. Scotland is well placed and well-prepared to lead on this; let our call for independence be enlarged to offer a wider hope.

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