A better rule of six – to help see Scottish nationalism for the mirage it is

A better rule of six – to help see Scottish nationalism for the mirage it is

by Eben Wilson
article from Thursday 8, October, 2020

SOME NUMBERS have given me pause for thought recently about Scotland’s future.  The first is the small poll that suggested that more than 65 per cent of Scots youngsters would vote for independence.

The second that around two thirds of teachers and eight out of ten university staffs consider themselves to be “of the left”.  

I have to say that I doubt whether either figure translates directly to the polling booth; the noise within our Neverendum produces a lot of heat and light, but not much insight. 

The young in our country are free to listen to whom they want; and act accordingly, but I think it would be a great pity if they ended up voting for a false prospectus that caused them many years of grief and impoverishment, especially if this has been taught to them at school and university. 

Those of us who have moved on from the idealism of our younger days and adopted at least some sort of pragmatism, hopefully built on empirical evidence and a consistent re-thinking of principle and practice about the realities of Scotland in the UK, have a duty to persuade the young to think hard about what they wish for. 

In this vein, I offer six points to be considered by all younger people becoming persuaded by the all-pervading rubric of SNP statism. 

1. When you hear the term “equality”, remember that this is an aspiration being offered. In reality proposers are actually offering equalisation.

Actions taken to equalise have consequences that are not benign. They involve taking from some to give to others. In the process, both those taken from and those given are incentivised to act differently. All evidence points to the productive becoming less productive and the less productive not usually becoming more productive. In combination this makes us all less well-off – both financially and in spirit. There are better ways to support those in need than using the bludgeoning equalisations of the redistributive state.

2. When you hear the term “social justice” do not accept that anyone knows what this actually means. 

Justice, on its own, is a negative goal; using general rules applying to all that deny anyone from constraining or coercing someone else in their behaviours.  “Social” justice on the other hand, involves some person or group seeking to create positive outcomes, defined by those seekers. As such it inevitably denies justice to anyone being forced to adjust their behaviours to meet the imposed “social” goals. As with equalisation, most often such positive actions for justice actually involve unjust actions to others. 

3. State powers that seek equality and social justice inevitably use their power over you. This introduces the self-interest of the powerful and their view of how the world should be. 

State action always takes ownership of your tomorrows. Exerting power requires the powerful to take over the ownership of property and ideas – denying others the chance to act and think differently. This is dangerous. The powerful can make mistakes, and usually do.  Constraining powers has been the historical asset of the free world in its approach to political economy, in order to keep individuals free through the ownership of our own tomorrows. 

4. Prices are more than just monetary; they provide information. When you allow state action, more often than not the state replaces prices with unpriced service actions.  Inevitably, they discard a lot of information that helps us know whether some actions are useful.

Losing knowledge like this is not a good thing, it allows the powerful to pretend they know more than they do, and we can be none the wiser because there are no prices available to help us know the cost and benefit of what is being done. Prices and competition are the key drivers in a free society to develop more and more knowledge about what has been done well in the past and what might be good things to do tomorrow. 

5. The idea that Scotland has a “government” is false. It’s a ruse by those with controlling and centralising powers who declare that it is doing more than it can do. Secessionists use this as an argument for more powers. 

In twenty years, the Scottish executive has shown little capacity for innovation in support of greater freedom and prosperity; the mind-sets of its participants is that of the controlling administrators of a huge Department of Unpriced Public Service Spending paid for by undefined private wealth; whether that be from oil, state-funded innovation, wind power or “the rich”. These free lunches do not exist now, and there is zero chance that they will be available tomorrow. 

6. The United Kingdom union allows diversity, promotes competition, and through priced internal trade lets us work out how well we are doing now, and what we might do later. It favours free international trade that benefits us and the global poor. 

It’s a fascinating innovating entity. In its sociability between us all it tolerates some inequality, but it also knows emotionally that undue influence and power creating prejudicial advantage is not good. We have a generalised moral tradition across the UK that undue privilege will not be allowed. That dissent must be applied to state provided privilege too.

The union also preserves historic differences; no-one in power tries to wipe out localised allegiances. Scots can wear their kilts, talk in Scots dialect and call each other numpties. Morris dancers can wear noisy shoes and funny hats with bells on and laugh about how ridiculous it all is. The Welsh can sing and eat lava bread, and the Northern Irish can play shinty, but call it hurling, and work doggedly and productively in the rain. 

In many nations, such differences would be smoothed out; there would be centralised control of language, entertainment, eating habits and games.  We are allowed in the UK to be mildly tribal, while avoiding prejudicial tribalism. We are so mixed up genetically and through our families (15% of Scots live elsewhere in the UK), that there is no singular British racial identity; rather we are bound by a cultural identity which involves a set of ideas about shared decency and manners that allow others, even those different from ourselves, their liberty. 

The outcome of this is that we are successful far beyond the size of our population. We are a global tribe, travelling and trading worldwide; accepted for our un-domineering decency and moral notions of fair play. We carry with us a past; not all good, but obtaining the respect of other peoples who recognise that we can carry a big stick and will actually use it if someone dares meddle with us. Our diversity across the home nations fascinates other peoples. 

Dropping this unity for the sake of a vacuous aspiration to fairness and equality that is based on insular nativist nationalism would not only be a huge mistake, it would cause each and every Scot (and Briton) enormous personal and reputational damage.  That’s before the unintended effects of the attempt at equalisation and the imposition of the forced prejudices used to impose “social justice”; effects that would make every young Scot poorer in mind and money for many years, if not for ever. 

Leaving the United Kingdom would be a terrible retrogade step for the heritage and liberality in ideas that made us who we are. 

An honours graduate in economics from the University of St Andrews, Eben Wilson has had three careers; in journalism and broadcasting, economics and now business.

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