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25 March 2015

Why the SNP tide won’t go out any time soon: love of nation is more important than numbers

A mere change at the top of the Scottish Labour party, or a fall in oil prices, won't change hearts or minds. 

By Aidan Kerr

The Scottish independence movement has, in recent weeks, suffered what many Unionists might have expected to be body blows. The latest revenue figures show that an independent Scotland would have a significantly larger deficit were it to leave the United Kingdom, while the fall in the price of oil has further weakened the country’s finances. Iain Martin, editor of CapX, described the non-impact of the fall in oil prices as “incredible”.

That description seemed so wrong to me. It is not incredible that people have not given up on the independence of their country due to the price change of a commodity, no matter how vitally important this commodity is to the economy of Scotland. Identity and patriotism were subdued as far as possible by the besuited politicos in Yes Scotland and the SNP during the referendum. However patriotism is the march music which quietly plays in the background of the independence movement. It is the foundation stone to which the various other aspects of the case are built around, whether the ‘Yes Left’ is comfortable with that or not.

To many down south, and in Scotland also, this disregard for economics is hard to comprehend. How can they simply shrug their shoulders when the oil price is mentioned?

To try and convey this I ask those with a British identity, be they Scottish or English, to ponder a situation in which the United Kingdom did not exist.

You feel British yet you did not have a state that truly represents that. When you someone says the word ‘parliament’ your first thought is Westminster yet this parliament is not the highest legislature in the land. You look at the Prime Minister of this hypothetical state and you do not see your sense of self reflected. If given the chance to create Britain, a new Jerusalem in this pleasant land, you would take it with both hands. For better or for worse you would choose a state you feel at home in. No one could blame you for that.

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For pro-independence Scots to not abandon their cause due to the economics not being in their favour is not incredible, it is the norm of national movements. It is a tale retold in the distant past and in the living memory of the 1990s.

When men and women poured into Dublin’s General Post Office with rifles in hand on Easter Monday, 1916 they did not care if being cut from one of the  world’s largest economies and the changing from pounds to punts would diminish their bank balance. Nor so did it matter in the January of 1991 in Lithuania when ordinary men and women stared down Soviet paratroopers.

Scotland unlike these nations is not under colonial rule, Scotland is an equal member of the United Kingdom. Yet, that stirring, quiet march of patriotism is repeated in Scotland as it has been many times over around the world.

You may have little in common politically with the 1.6 million people who voted to end the United Kingdom last  September. In many ways however you share their patriotism, just to a different nation. When you find their musings incredible or incomprehensibly remember the words of the great British patriot Sir Cecil Spring Rice:

I vow to thee, my country,

all earthly things above,Entire and whole and perfect,

the service of my love;

The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test”

They simply vow to a country too, just not one with a Union Flag.