Mick Watson takes on the descriptions “BritNat” and “unionist” which are widely used on social media against opponents of Scottish independence, and sets out why this is both lazy and wrong.
As a heavy social media user who is generally opposed to Scottish independence, I’ve had the same experience many of my peers have had – of being called a unionist, and more recently, a BritNat (short for British Nationalist). I’m sorry, but these terms are just lazy and wrong, and I want to set out my reasoning here.
Let’s tackle the BritNat trope first of all. I’m not a nationalist, of any kind, and just because I don’t support Scottish independence, that doesn’t make me a British Nationalist. To be honest I would rather we didn’t define people by the nation they originated in at all. But it’s a sad fact of life that to exist (i.e. to have a passport, to have a job and pay taxes etc.) we have to be give our “nationality”, but there we are.
Nations are arbitrary. There, I’ve said it. They make no sense in that they are not rational or logical groupings of people (if we have to group people at all). Nations are arbitrary groups of people defined by arbitrary lines drawn on maps (i.e. borders) thousands of years ago by men whose motivations are completely irrelevant today. Why on Earth people think those borders are important today is unfathomable to me. If you are patriotic, or a nationalist, you will probably be sat there, mouth agape at what you are reading, but there it is.
And there are millions like me. We’re not nationalists, not Scottish nationalists, nor British nationalists. Borders are weird, arbitrary lines. Why should they define us? Why should people one side of a line be treated differentlty to people on the other side? It genuinely seems ridiculous to me that nations and borders can somehow define us.
Of course, I recognise that nations exist, that trade exists, that border checks exits, that national governments exist who supposedly act in the national interest. I get it. But that’s historical, and there is no logical or rational reason for it. We can see in both the EU and the UK unions of nations that make borders matter less, that try to ensure people are treated equally regardless of their nationality, and who make borders irrelevant in terms of trade and travel. That is the direction I think humanity needs to go in – to break down borders, not strengthen them. As I said, I am not a nationalist, of any kind.
So on to the union, and not being a unionist. Being a unionist to me suggests someone who is in favour of the United Kingdom in its current configuration. Well, I’m not one of those either. Just because I don’t want your change (i.e. Scottish independence) it doesn’t mean that I don’t want any change; it doesn’t mean that I want to deny Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or even England the opportunity to change the union if they want to. For what it’s worth, I think the UK works for many people, but not for many others. Could it be improved? Of course. Could it change politically or geographically? Of course. Should it? Well that’s for the people to decide, or the politicians (we live in a representative democracy, after all).
To say “you do not support Scottish independence, therefore you are a unionist” is a logical fallacy, because it’s perfectly possible to support neither. If I vote against Scottish independence, I am not voting for the union, I am just saying “Sorry but your proposed change to the union is not the one I want”. There is a difference, and as long as you’re not angry and draped in a flag, you’ll probably admit I have a point.
It’s been suggested to me that to try and deny nations the chance of being independent is by default nationalism, because it reinforces the status quo. This is some tortured reasoning – again, just because I don’t support your change, does not mean I support no change (i.e. the status quo). A rejection of a specific change is not a vote for the status quo. And nor would I deny any people the right to self determination. Crack on and have another referendum – I predict Scotland will still be part of the UK afterwards, and if you’re reading this blog with an open mind, perhaps you’ll figure out why.
So there we are. I do not support Scottish independence (yet), but nor am I a British Nationalist or a Unionist. So what am I? I’m a Labour Party member. I want a society and an economy that works for everyone. I want people to have jobs, a good education, access to good housing, good education, a legal system that is fair and equitable, a trade policy that encourages growth of an economy that benefits everyone. Is the UK government currently delivering that? Hell no. Would a UK Labour government deliver it? Possibly, though I’ve little love for our current leadership. So why not leave the UK? In other words, why not support Scottish independence? Well because I don’t believe independence will deliver those things either. And that’s the rub, right there. Yes many things in the UK are awful; but if you are proposing a change, there has to be evidence that the change will improve things, and that evidence is just not there for the Scottish independence movement.
The reason I say “yet” above is that, should such evidence be produced, I would of course change my mind. Any logical, rational person would. And there are millions like me. So stop calling me a unionist or a British Nationalist. I am neither; if anything, call me a rationalist.