14 May 2013
Who wants to
be part of a
I was surprised by Angus Skinner's (9 May) view of Scotland's future 'global engagement' as an independent state, giving that it gave the impression that if independent we would become a sort of North Korea of Europe, when what it would offer Scotland is the capacity to determine our own relations with the wider world, rather than as a minority shareholder of the UK.
He asserts that 'Our future lies in our relationships with others' and I would be among the first to agree with him on the importance of this. Thus I was struck by the article in the same edition by Tessa Ransford (9 May) which suggests a redevelopment of the Auld Alliance – a relationship with France which predates our unification with England in 1707 by a good many centuries. As she notes: 'If the Scots collège founded by Patrick Geddes in Montpellier is also re-established as an international forum, there might be some elliptical exchanges in France, drawing together from Europe and beyond those who seek the kind of interactive dialogue and creative exactitude of thought that has distinguished Scottish scholarship at its best'.
Scotland has a long history of trade and collaboration with other European countries, which is an easily verifiable part of our history, as is Scotland's contribution to world affairs and a willingness to explore future engagements. Independence will allow us to do this again on our own account, as Scotland in Europe and in the world.
No one is denigrating this history of engagement in other countries and in world affairs in any way, as Tessa Ransford's article demonstrates very nicely, both historically as well as looking forward. Indeed, I might suggest that Mr Skinner's concern that we only undertake these relations through the medium of the UK is what is denigrating of Scotland's history and its past successes in relations with other countries.
However, perhaps most ironic of all, is that the trend at Westminster – the link Mr Skinner clearly wants to continue – seems to be, and particularly on the basis of the vote received by UKIP candidates in the recent English local council elections, for the UK to leave the EU and adopt exactly the sort of isolation that Mr Skinner is arguing against. So if isolation is what you want, vote for what Mr Skinner refers to as 'forward'. Paradoxically, since I don't see being part of a UK outwith the EU and significantly influenced by UKIP as any kind of progress at all.
It is a great pity that Mr Skinner considers the independence debate 'silliness', particularly as the kind of progress that he seeks – achievement in the US, in India, China and Africa – seems more likely in an independent and outward-looking Scotland, rather than the inward-looking, and to some extent xenophobic, course that the largest part of the UK seems set upon just now.
Some of your readers may not be aware of the curious historical phenomenon which was the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League. Founded in 1908, this was an organisation of women who opposed women being granted the vote. Amongst the arguments this body put forward were the following:
That the modern state deals with issues of miltary power, diplomacy, finance and industry, to which women are not and should not be admitted to take part; that the granting of limited powers to women to take part in local political matters is suffiicient, and all they can cope with; that the influence of women in social causes will be diminished by granting them actual power; and that it would weaken the central governing forces of the state.
The above arguments would now generally be considered as spurious, patronising and possibly downright ridiculous. I imagine history may judge Angus Skinner's article in the Scottish Review in a similar way.
The Cafe is our readers' forum. Send your contribution to firstname.lastname@example.org