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10 January 2013

The
empty
cupboard

Ian Hamilton


Mother Hubbard's cupboard is as bare as Scotland Says No's. Both are without a bone. Why is Scotland better off in the union? What is the argument for the union: facts: figures: illustrations: arguments? There can be no true decision without knowledge of what we are deciding. Yet! Nothing!

This is disconcerting. The Nos are led from London. I don't mean to be insulting but they are hardly the type to draw crowds to Hampden Park. Even people interested in the union find it difficult to place a name or a face. They are all discontinued goods. I think one was chancellor of the exchequer. He held up his red box and the banks played 'all fall down'. Not much confidence there. Then there's wee George Robertson who said that the way to get rid of the SNP was to give Scotland devolution. It wasn't the welfare of his country he had in mind. It was the welfare of his party. A nice wee chap and I'm glad he's done well for himself. I wish he had done as well for his country. But he did. He's the true author of devolution even if he proponed it for perceived party gain.

There may also be a secretary of state for Scotland but does anyone know his name? Can anyone quote a word he ever said? The unionists are simply relying on the inertia of the unthinking masses. What is the case for the union? We want to know.

In the interest of us all the case must be stated. Scotland Says Yes speaks no louder. It started off with a two million donation and hasn't been seen since. Have they bolted? Are they dead? Or, like the spring, do they merely need a touch of warmth to come awake and send forth details about all the other countries that recently became independent? In the last 100 years most of the countries of the world have become independent from someone. An attempt must be made to see how they did it and how they have fared since. The need for change convinced them it was time to go. What is so different about us that we must peddle furiously to stay the same?

History is against continued union. History is on the side of independence. I have no room to list the countries who gained their independence last century. There are all the British empire countries for a start. That is not quite correct for Norway came first, gaining independence from Sweden just over 100 years ago. Does anyone know how many countries escaped from the Russian empire, both tsarist and communist? Far more than a dozen, I should think. How are they doing? Is a case for reunion noisily advocated in any of them? I suspect that the United Kingdom is one of the few large countries left in the world where its smaller neighbours still struggle to escape the centralised grip.

This is surely the crux of the argument. Union is the exception, not the rule. Unionists see separation as apocalyptic. History shows it is normal. Nothing is permanent and change is the order of nature. But curiosity persists. Some of these countries became independent by convulsion; some peacefully. Scotland Says Yes should be studying them. The yes people have the money. There are plenty of researchers out of work. They should be sent to a representative half dozen states to find out how they managed their separation and how they have managed since. There is the mystery of ignorance here. We want to know how all the others did it and why none have wanted reunion.

The lack of any calls anywhere for reunion is a mystery. If unionism is right then why has no newly independent state ever agitated for reunion? If better together is a principle then let us hear why it isn't asserted anywhere except by the pale cries of those who may lose their jobs in Whitewall. Times change. The centre cannot hold. A new order is needed and over the world new orders are being created if not daily then with great frequency.

The union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom may be a special case. If so, we should hear the argument for this case. The union may have had its successes in the past, but times change. I have lived through more than a third of the union and I have seen the change.

Union is no longer strength. Separatism is the rule among nations. Let us hear the argument from the No people. They may have one. So far they have done nothing but shout stale slogans in the streets of Westminster.

Scotland deserves better.

Ian Hamilton QC