Like many others my reaction to the news that Scotland had said no to independence was disappointment and the sense that an important opportunity had been missed. Of course, a yes vote would not have delivered a swift solution to all of the problems that concern us. In fact, by creating a naturally Left-leaning new country, it would have worsened some of those problems in the short term.
But, by removing those Labour voters from UK elections, it would have also strengthened the right in England. Scottish independence would also have represented an important blow to the corrupt political elite in Westminster. The no vote was bad news.
But there is far too much pessimism in our movement, and every new situation presents new opportunities. Therefore I would like to suggest 10 reasons why the situation in Scotland should give us cause for hope.
1. Even though the no campaign won the vote, there will be no continuation of the status quo. A couple of days before the vote the three main party leaders promised to devolve more powers to Scotland. Bizarrely, the vote to remain as part of the union will result in Scotland moving further away from it. Whilst it certainly isn’t the same thing as independence, the so-called “devo-max” model of devolution will give the impression that secessionist movements cannot be ignored. The idea of secession is now very much on the agenda.
2. Giving further powers to Scotland has brought into sharper focus the “West Lothian question.” That is, why should Scottish MPs be allowed to vote on issues that only affect England when English MPs cannot vote on matters that only affect Scotland? Many Conservative MPs are now demanding that Scottish MPs should not be allowed to vote on such legislation. We should support this movement towards an English identity and push it further, linking it to “the ethnonationalist principle that different peoples need independent homelands to express their distinct identities and pursue their unique destinies.”
3. The discussion of English votes for English laws has allowed the notion of English independence to enter mainstream discourse. The possibility of establishing an English Parliament is now being discussed without scare quotes. A Parliament for England does not seem particularly likely but discussion of it does at least remind people that we are a distinct ethnic group. Presumably some English people still have a dim recollection of what it actually means to be English.
4. A vote for independence would have been very bad news for the Labour Party. They are the default political party in Scotland, and independence would have robbed them of a large number of their MPs. Therefore, the no vote was good for them. But with the prospect of English votes for English MPs now being pursued they might end up losing those MPs on many issues anyway. The less power the Labour Party has the less chance they will have of facilitating another Rotherham.
5. Any constitutional shift in power away from the Labour Party will shift England to the Right. This will mean that discussion of issues such as immigration will have to take place with a more Right-orientated constituency in mind. Needless to say, the media will not exactly rush to reflect this shift, but it should nonetheless embolden those on the Right to pull the discourse in their direction. The wind is in our sails.
6. Further to this, we should expect to see an increase in support for UKIP. Before you flood the comments section below pointing out that UKIP is not exactly sympathetic to our cause, yes I agree. But it would still shift the discourse to the Right and bring the issues of EU membership and immigration higher up the agenda. UKIP will not save us, but its popularity makes it increasingly difficult for the establishment to bury issues that they do not like. We should be prepared to benefit from this.
7. All of the political parties involved in the Scottish referendum agree that it was a great success for democracy. Let us agree with them and demand that we should have a referendum on EU membership to further celebrate the democratic will. If Scotland can’t break off from England, then perhaps the UK as a whole can break off from the EU. This would be a much greater victory. A no vote to EU membership is a far likelier outcome than a vote for Scottish independence. UK withdrawal from the EU would be a significant defeat for our enemies.
8. As the referendum was such a success, it should strengthen the hand of other nationalist and secessionist movements around the world who can point to this process as an example of how it is possible to confront the question of independence calmly and peacefully.
9. A likely outcome for England will be the establishment of regional assemblies. This could be a bad thing. The motivation behind the creation of such assemblies is, at least in part, to break up England and erase a sense of English identity. As one “expert” puts it, “People’s experience is of their local areas. They don’t necessarily identify much broader than that.” There is a lot of wishful thinking in that statement but regional assemblies might confuse the issue of English Nationalism. However, smaller assemblies are easier to target with concerted campaigns by nationalist parties. There is no reason why English identity cannot be asserted at a local level.
10. And what of those nationalist parties? There is something of a vacuum in nationalist politics in Britain at the moment. My references to English nationalism will not be appreciated by many of those who cling to the older notion of British nationalism, but it is clear that the secessionist impulse is entirely in accord with the principles of the New Right. In the coming months and years there will be an opportunity to refashion nationalist politics in England into a genuinely English nationalist movement. This is important because it would enable a populist party to be based on authentic New Right principles. It would also place us ahead of the curve of political developments rather than continually behind it.
Clearly, a vote for Scottish independence would have been better for us. But there is a lot of confusion about where the political establishment is heading at the moment, and a great deal of uncertainty about where we will be constitutionally in a few years’ time. By following the secessionist impulse we will be harnessing the popular political will of the moment and marrying it to our own clear principles. Rather than bemoaning current trends we can be shaping and leading them. There is a significant opportunity for success here, and there is genuine cause for optimism. Let us move forward with confidence.