When you get involved in discussions about the benefits or otherwise of Scottish independence, it is difficult not to notice that there is more often than not a profound sense of anxiety lurking in the background. It is against this emotional background that many of the arguments recited by those who intend to vote ‘no’ are set.
But when you stop to think about it, perhaps this profound sense of anxiety has more to do with the psychological effect of generations of cultural suppression, than it has to do with sound rational appraisal of how independence will actually change this country.
Cultural suppression is built into the very concept of the United Kingdom. It is the feature without which the union could not have survived in the manner it has done for over three hundred years. It was integral to the strategy to control common Scots’ outrage at losing autonomy at the time and is pivotal to the strategy to discourage confidence in regaining it today.
The cruel thing about a country living through generations of cultural suppression is that after a while its people stop taking notice of it for what it is. You stop recognising that unwanted norms were imposed as a way of shaping living patterns in the style required to maintain a constitutional arrangement through which you gain some, in return for giving up a lot.
Many people who are opposed to the idea of independence repeat the mantra that Scotland cannot afford it. The economy isn’t diverse or resilient enough to cope in difficult times. The oil is going to run out shortly. The country doesn’t have the expertise or the budget to defend itself. Scotland would need to apply to be part of the EU and NATO. We would be weak, vulnerable and out of our depth on the international stage.
Yet when you press for facts, figures and evidence, they are never forthcoming. There are none. There cannot be any evidence to demonstrate that as an independent nation Scotland would not thrive. Even if a team of economic experts managed to pull together a set of figures and arranged them in such a way to show that Scotland did not currently pay its own way within the union, it would never follow that Scotland couldn’t support itself in the future as an independent country.
To think that it did it follow would be to believe that the additional powers gained through independence would leave the country in a weaker position than before; which seems rather counter-intuitive, until you think it through from the perspective of one who is emotionally immersed in a union built on unequal relations and held together through generations of cultural suppression. It is the confidence trick of a lifetime.