Alexander Hamilton once warned of the risks posed by unchecked populism leading to an anarchy, one powerful enough to destroy the young enlightenment republic. The establishment of pro-independence civic Scotland are not cognizant of his warning.
Hamilton warnings of the dangers posed by an unchecked populism, arguably, contributed much to the eventual formulation of the US system of ‘checks and balances’. A system designed to ensure no one set of interests, or ideological obsession could overtake the national system of governance. This thesis exploring the risks of populism given free reign can and must be applied to the sorry state of the pro-independence civic Scottish leadership.
Any movement where an unchecked populism, or desire for wishful thinking, trumps rational scrutiny of facts is fundamentally a thread to the society wherein that movement exists. And today’s modern Scottish independence movement risks falling into this categorisation.
Emblazoned across the front cover of today’s ‘The National’ is the headline ‘Why the battle for independence can now be won’. But Tommy Sheppard who writes this piece should familiarise himself with the warnings of Alexander Hamilton. For any suggestion that ‘now is the time’ to start a renewed ‘national conversation’ about separation is inhabiting a strange netherworld. One where the financial crisis never required a concerted UK funded bailout, and the post-indyref oil price shock never occurred. Indeed it represents a political and intellectual plain of thought where facts simply don’t permeate. In short, ‘The National’ and the wider leadership of pro-Indy civic Scotland are living in the bubble.
When the economics of pro-indy oil falls away, and the reality that Scottish financial sector remains dependent upon UK-wide risk sharing is ignored, we enter a strange place. If these economic realities are ignored, and a wishful and unchecked populism is left to dominate pro-indy Scotland, it puts all Scotland at risk.
If 45% of Scotland is told by their pro-indy civic leaders that indy is just around the corner, ‘just one more push’, it deceives. It cements in place a deeply damaging divide in Scottish society. One where 45% are actively encouraged to remove themselves from mainstream news, mainstream politics. What we’re witnessing with the rise of ‘Bella Caledonia’ and ‘Wings Over Scotland'(WOS) is a kind of populistic pro-indy Scottish equivalent to Fox News. It isn’t hard for the majority of Scots (who do not receive their facts from such sources) to see a similarity to the bile and factual ignorance on display between Rush Limbaugh and WOS. What is motivating the rise of WOS and Bella Caledonia (BC) isn’t a reality that the mainstream media and discourse has ‘mislead’ or ‘manufactured’ fake facts. The BBC didn’t ‘invent’ the Scottish banking system being bailed out by the UK collective whole. Nor did it ‘invent’ the oil price shock which would’ve budgetarily crippled a newly independent Scotland. These things are facts, and WOS and BC can’t legitimately dismiss them just because they don’t ‘fit’ with the ‘inevitability’ of separation thesis. In truth the driving force behind BC and WOS is a refusal to challenge the wishful thinking on their own side. A wilful pandering to an unchecked populism which prevents all Scots from moving on, and talking in a common (fact based) political discourse. It’s also what is driving ‘The National’ and Tommy Sheppards absurd claim that 20 months on from their referendum defeat that somehow they just need to restate their failed economic case to win.
Alexander Hamilton was right, unchecked populism is divisive. It risks creating two nations which no nothing of each other, unable to relate or even communicate. When the losing side of a referendum on a national question chooses to dismiss established economic realities, and dismiss our commonly attended media sources in favour of their own echo chambers…this puts all Scotland at risk. It is time ‘the45’ came clean with reality, and left their bubble. Let Scotland move forward, let’s move beyond ‘the national question’. With failing education standards, collapsing access to universities and colleges and missed NHS targets, there is plenty of bread and butter issues needing our collective attention; regardless of if we were ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ 20 months ago.