Dissenting Radical

The Common Good: A 'Christian-Left' perspective on radical theology, progressive politics, authentic culture and sustainable living.

Month: September, 2017

Every time you reorganise, you bleed.

When people ask me how I can support Scottish independence but oppose Brexit, I have many answers, but one of those answers reminds me of a military axiom that I first encountered at Dartmouth: ‘Every time you reorganise, you bleed’. (I think it was attributed to General Patton, or Admiral Nimitz, or someone like that.)

The essence of this pithy quote is that there are always costs to institutional and organisational change. Even beneficial change. Along the way, to get from where we are to where we are going, things get lost, broken, upset and disarranged. Established patterns and routines are disturbed and new patterns and routines have to be found. Collective knowledge and experience is lost. It’s a massive headache – and a financial cost too. It’s not something you’d do unless the expected benefit resulting from the change greatly outweighs the foreseeable costs of undertaking the change.

Scotland becoming an independent state within the EU would be a relatively minor change – a change, yes, but one without immediate catastrophic economic disruption, because of the two Unions in which Scotland is embedded, the EU is far more important in terms of its regulatory frameworks and economic structures than the UK. The costs and complications of the UK leaving the EU far outweigh the costs and complications of Scotland leaving the UK and staying in the EU. There’s just no comparison.

It is, in fact, the very existence of supranational structures like the EU that makes Scottish independence possible and desirable: the intention is not isolation or separation, but ‘member state’ rather than ‘regional’ status. Before the EU, we had the Commonwealth, and the SNP’s founding aim was for Scotland to have ‘dominion status within the commonwealth’ – which, at the time, had embryonic structures of international trade and military co-operation. Scottish nationalists do not want to be alone. Ours is not an isolationist, still less a chauvinistic, nationalism. It is a civic, democratic, inclusive type of nationalism, which simply demands that Scotland be entitled to the same respect and the same status as other countries. All that those who support independence ask is that we take our rightful place as an equal member of a community of democratic states – be that the Commonwealth, was it was in the 1930s, or the EU today.



Getting my ambitions down

1. I’d like to make a difference on constitutional issues around the world, strengthening democracy, human rights, good governance etc.

2. I’d particularly like to make a contribution to the Scottish constitutional question, culminating perhaps in working on the actual constitution of an independent Scottish state.

3. I’d like to spread public knowledge of constitutional matters through my teaching and also through writing for popular audiences, in newspapers and blogs, and by doing radio and TV interviews.

4. I’d like, through my research and writings, to leave a lasting intellectual contribution to the field of constitutional studies.

5. By keeping myself informed, voting wisely, writing to representatives, and contributing to public debate, I’d like to make a positive contribution to the common good in a range of policy areas, especially with regard to health, education, poverty reduction and alleviation, worker’s rights, peace, and the environment.

6. In my teaching and mentoring, I hope to inspire and encourage others, both to pursue their studies and to use their knowledge for good.

7. I’d like to be a good local citizen of wherever I find myself, in little ways: picking up litter, helping people who look lost, buying locally where possible, etc.

8. I’d like to use my excess income to transform lives and reduce suffering, both through acts of charity for those in need and through financially supporting campaigns to end systemic causes of distress.

9. I’d like to be a good husband, good father, good brother, good uncle and good son.

10. I’d like to start my own Liberal Arts college, which goes back to the essence of a university as a ‘community of scholars’ and which focuses as much on character, leadership and values as it does on academic work.

The case for Scottish independence, briefly restated.

The case for Scotland independence is not (never really has been, and cannot be) about ‘nationalism’, at least not in the ethnic or cultural sense. The case for independence is anti-imperial: its motivation lies in the hope of a new democratic order, and in the replacement of a political system developed for the benefit of metropolitan, financial and imperial elites with a political system developed by and for the ‘whole community of the realm’. The aim is to build a country at peace with itself, dedicated to the idea that there is such a thing as the common good.