Is the future of UK to be dominated by a narrow English nationalism, or by a wider vision of a more socially just, generous and egalitarian family of nations?
Is it possible to learn from the huge grassroots political energy generated within Scotland over the past few months and re-frame the debate about the future of the UK, not in terms of competing nationalisms, but of a shared concern for social justice and the common good?
Whilst most of us were only just waking up to the news of the No vote on Friday morning, the Prime Minister had already fired the first salvo in what may turn out to be an even bigger battle for the future of the UK.
Far from a generous statesmanlike intervention to assuage the feelings of the Scots, who had only narrowly voted to stay within the UK, David Cameron’s response was driven by an appeal to English nationalism: ‘English votes for English laws’ – or ‘Home Rule for England’ as the Daily Mail helpfully put it. In one move, a debate about the future of Scotland and of the UK as a whole, has been reframed in terms of what is good for England.
So which vision for the UK will win out? One dominated by a narrow English nationalism, or one informed by a wider vision of a more socially just, generous and egalitarian family of nations?
Beyond the binary of Yes/No, the clear message from the Referendum is that the Scots are fed up with the old ways of doing politics at Westminster. What appeared to energize many Scots was a passion for a new politics build on principles of equality and social justice just as much as a thirst for independence per se.
As Paul Mason and Lesley Riddoch have both observed the real energy behind the Yes campaign’s success in galvanizing popular opinion across Scotland was not so much the SNP as a series of much more grassroots non-nationalist groups. Thousands of previously uninvolved Scots have entered a world of greater awareness, involvement and readiness to act in the political arena thanks not to the SNP, but to the Radical Independence Campaign, National Collective, Women for Independence, Business for Scotland and Common Weal.
The approach taken by Common Weal is based on the simple question – where in the world can we find nations which have done things better than they’re currently done in Scotland and what can we learn from them? Many of these examples come from the Nordic countries but examples are drawn from everywhere from Latin America to Asia.
The desire for an end to the politics of the ‘Westminster elite’, an end to ever increasing inequality, and for a return of power to local communities is widely shared across the UK.
What would it take to develop a similar grassroots political movement that draws on the energies of local communities across the UK, and is framed in terms of a positive vision for our four nations rooted in principles of social justice, solidarity, subsidiarity and the common good?