Scotland Must Remove Itself from UK’s Unethical Legacy Abroad


July 7, 2013 by Matthew Vickery



(Article originally published by National Collective on 06/07/2013)

Walking down Lord Arthur James Balfour Street in Tel Aviv, Israel, has never been a pleasant experience for me. However having recently taken up two days work a week in the city with a workers rights organisation, it is now become a weekly occurrence. Yet as someone who is primarily based in the West Bank, Palestine, and who has worked in the field as a journalist in the West Bank previously, I am well versed in the ins and outs of the Palestine/Israel conflict; which includes the pivotal role the United Kingdom, and Lord Balfour, played in creating one of the greatest injustices to exist in the 20th and 21st century.

I can admit I am driven by emotion regarding my citizenship, yet as a socially constructed phenomenon we must all be; however for me, I feel this emotion is forever at the forefront when faced daily with the military occupation of a whole nation in which the UK has had such a prominent historical role. As such my passport is rarely wielded, kept hidden away as much as possible, taken out only briefly when a soldier carrying a MK-14 beckons me to show my ID.

There are many reasons why I support an independent Scotland; the democratic deficit; no nuclear weapons on Scottish soil; I am also convinced by the economic arguments, albeit I do not pretend that going it alone will be easy. Yet there exists one primary reason for my advocation of independence, and I will admit that it is driven by emotion rather than spread-sheets and predictions for economic growth in a post-independence state.

On a personal level I have always hated the history of Great Britain. The ‘Great’ doesn’t quite befit a state that became (although certainly is not now) a world power through some rather brutal forms of colonialism and imperialism. An independent Scotland however, could partially slip away from this dodgy historical legacy.  And, as much as I should be making graphs of my economic predictions for the future of an independent Scotland, truthfully I am more interested in shedding the word ‘Great’ from my passport, and replacing ‘Britain’ with ‘Scotland’.

Independence would give Scotland a clean slate, and the chance to become a nation that approaches the world anew, with a humanistic and ethical lens firmly screwed on. Let’s not allow such a wonderful opportunity to pass us by.

I feel embarrassed when carrying out my work here in Palestine, when the passport that is lodged in my pocket declares a connection to Great Britain; a country that, more than any, created the mess I see every day. A country that continues to show apathy towards an on-going stagnating injustice that does nothing but tread on the internationally recognised human rights of a whole nation of people.

An independent Scotland and its people would have a real opportunity to show the world that we, as a nation, do not agree with many aspects of British foreign policy, but rather, that we value human rights, self-determination aspirations, and human dignity. This is a golden opportunity to show the world what we already know; that we are a compassionate, moral-driven nation.

We already have a great basis for this. Whenever I am asked where I am from, and I reply Scotland, the response is always so positive, and I am sure many Scots have witnessed such a reaction; in recent weeks American friends have lamented their nationality, declaring their wish that one day they will get the same response I receive. Yet, although my nationality elicits a positive response, my citizenship does not, and with good reason; and can I really be truly proud of being from Scotland when we are still so intrinsically tied to the foreign policy decisions of Westminster.

Independence will not separate Scotland from UK foreign policy that has gone before, yet it does set a path for us, as a nation to make up for it, by becoming a shining light in foreign diplomacy, a bastion for the advancement of human rights throughout the globe, and an advocate of the right to self-determination for all peoples if wished.

We can only truly be proud of our nation when collectively we stand up and show that Scotland is proud to rise against injustice throughout the world. The constraints of 21st century politics allows this to be easier said than done, yet while we are bound by the foreign policy of the UK, then we are missing the chance to at least try, as a nation, to make amends for the past while building a path towards a more just form of interaction between other nations and states around the globe.

Independence is not just a golden opportunity for Scotland, but also the most moral and ethical choice for the people of Scotland. Let’s build a better Scotland, and consequently, a better world.


4 thoughts on “Scotland Must Remove Itself from UK’s Unethical Legacy Abroad

  1. zaffa87 says:

    This was a really interesting blog post. I however find myself in disagreement upon a few things… Firstly it seems a bit unfair to judge modern Britain by the atrocities Britain committed in the past, and so, I find it unjust to wish a separation from Britain on that emotional basis. But I will reiterate that Britain did give away someone else’s country and they are defiling the good they have done to their own people by not taking responsibility for the Palestinian people. Secondly, even though I find your attachment to Scottish nationality endearing, I can’t help but find that it is a little naiive (forgive my honesty), human nature is uniform in its culpability and its kindnesss to others, a separation from British government does not result in Scottish rule being any less culpable or kind. Thirdly, I find it rather dangerous to be nationalistic, as nationalism thrives from conflict (e.g Andy Murray’s win at Tennis, sport is an excellent behavioral practice for conflict), and hence conflict is more likely to occur if we continue to make divisions and compartmentalise people as “us” and “them”. I don’t doubt that you don’t think along these lines, but I strongly believe that humans are very easily led into this type of thinking and it is nationality that spurns it. Perhaps it is better to focus on who you are, rather than where you are from.

    • Hi there, sorry for my late reply, I have been rushed off my feet and travelling all over the place. Thank you so much for your thoughts on this, they were interesting and very engaging. It is worth noting that as I mention, my support for Scottish independence is not purely based on emotion as I mention, but I wanted to write something from that perspective as it is a different slant on the debate from what we have been seeing so far.

      It may interest you that I am actually against nationalism as an ideology, so the idea of me supporting Scottish independence seems rather oxymoronic. However I hold my want for a purer form of democracy over my want for borders to be diluted (both would of course be wonderful), and within the context of modern Scotland, true democracy and the shedding of the democratic deficit can only be reached with Independence. For me if there was another option, I would take it, but in my opinion there really is not. I hope this gives some food for thought.

      All my best :)

    • Emma Houston says:

      It may be unfair to judge modern Britain by atrocities committed in the past, but what of Iraq and Afghanistan? Is it a problem that I have more of an affinity to Scotland than the rest of the UK, and as such am ‘nationalistic’, due to the ever-growing negativity towards immigrants in UK politics? Scottish nationalism isn’t just for white Scots, it encompasses people all over Scotland from all ethnic backgrounds, and is for all people who have accepted that Scotland as a country no longer cares for Westminster politics. It is for all people who have realised that the Scottish vote in the Westminster elections counts for next to nothing, – only on 3 occasions in the last 67 has the Scottish vote made a difference (1964, 1974b, 2010) – and want a chance to have a real democracy. It is for all people who want more control over taxation. Nationalism is a dirty word these days and often rightly so, but if you actually looked in to what the Scottish nationals truly stand for you would see that this is the exception to the rule.

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