by Mike MacKenzie
I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to disagree with Ian. Uncomfortable because, formidable advocate that he is, I suspect I will have difficulty in making a superior case. Not wishing though to risk losing my status as a Braveheart I will plunge on before I lose my courage.
Firstly I must state that there is no such thing as Britain nor ever has been. It is merely an accident of geography and a loose term loosely applied by the Romans to describe an island and its inhabitants who at that time they knew next to nothing of. They knew then little of the different tribes and peoples on these islands and the synthesis that had been wrought between each and its lands over long time.
It takes long, long time to make an Eskimo people, a Kalahari Bushman, an Apache or a Scot. There was never enough time to make a people called the British. Peoples and Nations arenâ€™t forged by decree or treaty or Acts of parliament but by time. The Roman name Briton may have been recognised in Rome but it was not recognised by the people they described although some as a matter of convenience became Romans.
The Roman principle is worth pursuing. All over their Empire conquered people became citizens and just as quickly reverted when the empire fell. The label was just that, a name which carried with it certain convenient privileges.
The British name went largely unused until it was reinvigorated by the Acts of Union. Undoubtedly there were advantages in being a citizen at the heart of this new British Empire. Being British carried all the privileges of empire and the name had this convenience and this only. The Scots that helped carve out this empire did it in their own Scottish way plying their Scottish talents. The co-operation with English talents was undoubtedly effective. In some ways they were complimentary.
We tried this British name on like a new suit and wore it until the empire fell, when it no longer conferred much benefit, and went out of style. The clothes though do not really maketh the man and wearing them for a while changed us not one bit. Three hundred years of Union is a mere blink in the eye of history.
I recognise Empire and imperialism as a phenomenon of history, unfortunately not quite dead. I am not indifferent to it. It is always easier to steal wealth than it is to create it. It is easier to make slaves of people or exploit them than it is to work yourself. I cannot condone these basic principles of imperialism. I do not believe Ian does.
It is perhaps worth reflecting on our own Scottish attempt at establishing a colony and our ill fated but brilliant Darien adventure. This was an enterprise that would have solved one of the great problems of the age and in doing so would have added value and conferred on us a legitimate profit. It was not the imperial plundering of other peoples resources that typified most empires.
The best that can be said in excuse for those who practised imperialism was that they were in the unthinking grip of great historical tides but it is a poor reason. I have some sympathy for those sorry souls who were driven to do the empires bidding as the only alternative to abject poverty. I have no sympathy for the establishment, the British establishment, who drove this process. We Scots share the guilt of this but it does not make us British.
That great British establishment thought itself very clever at the height of empire. The unfortunate symptom of this success was a sense of innate superiority which persists to this day, despite all evidence to the contrary. Those who still subscribe to this delusion are those who profit from it. It is often those at the very heart of empire, the last remnants of the establishment, whose hold on the damaging delusion of former grandeur and glory persists longest.
The Scots and English are no better and no worse than people elsewhere and in this new world order will have to sink or swim by their own merits and endeavours. The sooner this is recognised, and the British establishment and name is consigned to history, the better will be the fortunes of both my English and my Scottish friends.