Back in the dear dead days of the late sixties there was a splendid arts and politics journal published in Edinburgh under the title “Scottish International”, committed to an open, ecumenical Scottishness that always saw Scotland on a map of the world. It was edited by a brilliant young man from Kilmarnock, Robert Tait.
His radical breadth of sympathy comes to mind now when the alternative to a various forms of toxic English nationalism appears to be some kind of Scottish nationalism. If I want to live and work in a society which is more free, equal and fraternal than that of the present UK, my best option is support for the SNP, at least until another referendum has established Scotland as an independent nation. I am heartened that there has been an increased support for this in the wake of The Brexit vote, because it indicates that our nationalism is outward looking, especially towards Europe.
From a Christian point of view, nationalisms look more like a barrier than a way forward: Christianity began with the breaking down of Jewish nationalism and the establishment of multiracial, multinational, assemblies of believers. It was the genius of St.Paul to see clearly that the gospel of Jesus was for all human beings, and to set out on his own transgressive mission that took no account of nationality. The painful adjustment of Jewish believers to this new identity is charted in the New Testament. He did not think that nation states and boundaries were of any great importance in the business of communicating the love of God, although of course he was operating in a world already united by Roman imperialism. His new vision was not only for himself but for his converts whom he urged to recognise their common belonging, by giving aid to their impoverished brothers and sisters on the other side of the world, in Jerusalem.
Can this sort of Christian faith really be allied with any sort of nationalism, however open?
The Christian conviction that nation states are not all that important suggests that decisions about communal life should be taken by those who are affected by them. The modern principle of subsidiarity as I understand it, proposes something similar; that decisions should be taken at the most local level that is feasible. In the fairly recent past, city and rural councils in Scotland had much more power and responsibility that they have now, due to the desire of central government in the UK to have no local opposition.I think their powers should be restored and even extended. There are also a whole range of decisions that could be taken for the whole of Scotland, by an independent government. I would like to see the injustices of global capitalism removed from my significant territory, and the benefits of radical justice established within it. My commitment, therefore, to gaining the inhabitants of that territory real autonomy, may at least be compatible with Christian faith.
And yes, I do have a deep longing that the self-serving expectations of bankers and CEO’s of large companies, the contempt of ruling elites, the braying voices of those who think themselves self-made, the sub-fascist propaganda of press barons and their prostituted journalists, the flatulent outbursts of cushy seniors who’ve had a good life thanks to a decent society and now want to pull up the drawbridge before their grandchildren can have the same, the lunatic economists who hold to a policy of infinite growth on a finite planet, the loud opinions of those who have no knowledge of history and no concern for the future, and the killers who wait in the corners knowing that they’ll be needed soon if not already; yes a deep longing that this whole clamjamfry may be deprived of any influence over a nation that has suffered them too long. That’s why I want independence.
Well, part of why I want it. The other part is my desire to belong to a reasonably just and well-run nation -something like Norway would do- confident enough in partnership with similar nations, to work for the ecological, economic and political peace of humanity and its planet. My acquaintance with the young people of Scotland tells me that many of them would like to live in such a nation, and would be excited by the opportunities it would provide for their creativity. But it also tells me they won’t hang around forever; that if Scotland does not provide a home for their egalitarian energy, they’ll go somewhere that does.
“Scottish International” – the old 1960’s masthead still points in the right direction.
*clamjamfry, Scots: rabble, crowd, noisy gathering