“As my nations linguistic engagement with Christian nations illustrates nationalism need not be a disease. When yoked to the reforming power of the Bible, it can become a powerful redemptive force.” Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World – p. 177
Some people are very worried. The end of the world is near. George Robertson, leading Labour politician and former NATO General Secretary warned on the 8th of April 2014 in New York that Scotland leaving the United Kingdom would be the break up of the West and the ending of Western Civilisation. Even if you don’t accept that somewhat grandiose version of events there are other warnings that are causing fear amongst some people. If we leave the United Kingdom we are going to be poor, have no pensions, invaded by the Russians and not be able to watch Dr Who! Sadly that is the level that some of the ‘independence’ debate has been conducted on. The Record deserves better. Dr John Ross will provide a far better case for staying in the United Kingdom. I hope to provide an alternative point of view. But before I present the case for independence let me add a couple of caveats.
Firstly the Free Church does not ,and will not take a stance either for or against independence. Why? Because the Bible says nothing about it and we are here to teach the bible. In applying Gods word to our current society there is nothing in it that would tell us we should vote yes or we should vote no. Each has to be persuaded in their own mind. The Church should not make pronouncements on issues for which it has no scriptural warrant. These are my personal opinions and I hope I would never proclaim them from the pulpit as though they had the authority of Gods Word.
Secondly I do not believe that Scotland’s problems will be solved by becoming independent or by the United Kingdom remaining united. It is righteousness that exalts a nation, whatever that nation consists of. The crying need of our time is a renewal of biblical Christianity so that we can once again be the land of the people of the book. Thirdly no one should vote for independence because of racist reasons. People who talk about being free of English domination are missing the point. The question is how Scotland should be governed, not one of nationalistic hatred. I was born in England as was my father, but I will still be voting for Scottish independence. Why?
1) Britain is past its sell by date – There are many people who are attached to the idea of Great Britain. They like British values, they think of Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill, the Dunkirk Spirit, the BBC, the Monarchy, the NHS and many other great British institutions. Why would we vote to break that all up? The trouble is that it is all breaking up anyway. The United Kingdom was formed on the basis of the Empire, Protestantism and capitalism. Capitalism has triumphed but the other two reasons have gone. An independent Scotland could retain the monarchy as an independent Australia has.
2) We should govern ourselves – There is a basic principle of self-determination. Scotland should be governed from Scotland. Some will argue that with devolution we get the best of both worlds, we are able to govern ourselves on local issues whilst having the clout of a bigger nation. The trouble is that that is only partially true. Can Scots determine our own taxes? Can we determine on the time that abortions would be allowed? Can we decide if nuclear weapons should be based in Scotland? Can we set up an oil fund? No. This might not be so bad if the Westminster government governed in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom. But they don’t. The stock market and the City of London are the prime motivators. For example we are about to enter another housing bubble because of the overheated and over centralised economy in the South East of England – £60 billion of taxpayers money is going to be spent on taking 25 minutes of the rail journey from Birmingham to London!
3) Scotland is a wealthy nation – Apparently we are the 14th wealthiest nation in the world. And yet the Unionists keep telling us that we are too poor to be on our own. Apparently we are a nation of subsidy junkies who are incapable of looking after ourselves. A great deal of the argument is about oil but there are many other factors involved as well. Scotland is a small country with just over 5 million people. We have substantial resources in agriculture, industry, education, whisky, fishing, renewable energy, commerce and the arts. We are an inventive and creative people. If we have become a nation of subsidy junkies then we need to grow up and start making our own way. As regards the oil it is a tragedy that instead of setting up a 470 billion dollar oil fund (as the Norwegians have managed to do) and saved in the time of plenty, the money has been spent on destroying British manufacturing, foreign wars and creating a more unequal and unjust society.
4) Social, economic and political justice – I don’t believe that the Scots are inherently more communitarian and into social justice than the rest of the United Kingdom. That is a lazy and somewhat racist perspective. Although it has to be said that there is a strong tradition, stemming from our Christian heritage, of a desire for equality and justice. A mans a man for a that! But I do believe that in a smaller nation with a strong democratic tradition, and less dependence on the City of London and Big Business, there is a greater prospect of a more just and equal society. And we certainly need it. There is a profound rottenness and corruption at the heart of the British Establishment. Corruption and greed are not just third world problems. They are becoming increasingly endemic within the United Kingdom as we move away from our Christian heritage. Why should we expect to retain the fruits when we are rejecting the roots?
5) The Church will have more influence in an independent Scotland – My atheist and secular friends will be having kittens at that idea. Such is their hatred for Christianity that it is enough to make them vote no. But some of my Christian friends will be horrified as well. Isn’t the Scottish parliament an institution that wants to distance itself from Scotland’s Christian past? Wouldn’t we be better staying in what David Cameron has called ‘Christian Britain’ with our Christian institutions and traditions? It’s a moot point whether the UK or Scotland is going downhill quicker, but the fact is that they both are. Indeed they have descended at such a speed that I think we have to say that Christendom has gone. We are in a new situation and it is somewhat clutching at straws to have a misty-eyed view of Christian Britain. It’s gone. The Established churches are a dysfunctional mess, a pale disintegrating shadow of their former selves. I believe it will be easier for the Church and Christians to have a say in a society which is not centred on the worship of Mammon (the City of London), and which is a lot smaller. I certainly feel far more connected to Holyrood than Westminster. An independent Scotland will mean a new beginning. And the Church should be in there from the beginning seeking to be salt and light.
Of course nothing is as simple and simplistic as the above. In the modern world Scotland will not be completely independent. We will probably be tied in with NATO, the EU and other groups. We may not even have our own currency. But we will have more independence than we do now. In conclusion, I am somewhat bemused by people who warn about the evils of nationalism when it is Scottish, but seem to think it is ok when it is British. As the Mangalwadi quote at the start of this article states, nationalism when yoked to the reforming power of the Bible, can become a powerful redemptive force. At the end of the day – that is what I will work for, whether in an independent Scotland or a dependent Britain.
This article was first published in the Free Church’s ‘Record’ – together with a case for staying in the UK presented by Dr John Ross.