Getting rid of the “imperialist baggage” of the UK state through Scottish independence will present new cultural and political opportunities, according to author Irvine Welsh.
In an article published online, in which he describes his early life visiting relatives in London, Welsh argues that political separation could promote cultural unity.
He suggests that expressions of Britishness – as displayed during last summer’s Olympics – will continue, also proposing that the British team could remain after independence.
Irvine Welsh “cheered for Bradley Wiggins as much as Chris Hoy”
On wider political issues, he considers that the peace process in Northern Ireland could be encouraged if the Irish Republic feels more like part of a “shared geographical” entity with Britain.
“This state has stopped England from pursuing its main mission, namely to build a inclusive, post-imperial, multi-racial society, by forcing it to engage with the totally irrelevant (from an English perspective) distractions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland,” he wrote on the Bella Caledonia website.
“From the viewpoint of the Scots, it has foisted 35 years of a destructive neo-liberalism upon us, and prevented us from becoming the European social democracy we are politically inclined to be.
“Therefore I’m advancing another proposition: political separation could promote the cultural unity that the UK state, in its current form, with its notions of ‘assumed Englishness’ is constantly undermining.”
He refers to last summer’s Olympic celebrations, put together by director Danny Boyle, who turned Welsh’s book Trainspotting into a hit film.
“Despite the shallow flag-waving social engineers in Government and sections of the media, who tried to turn it into a bread-and- circuses propaganda event, the Olympics were the best expression of inclusive Britishness we’ve had for decades,” he argued.
“Danny Boyle, in a couple of hours, did more to assert democratic socialist values over neo-liberalism than the UK Labour Party has managed to do in almost 40 years. But it was also nostalgic; it mirrored not just what many of us still aspire to, it showed us what we have to accept we’ve irredeemably lost.
“But I cheered just as ecstatically when Brad Wiggins crossed the line as when Chris Hoy did, and plenty other Scots I know did too. So post UK, why not, for example, just keep the British Olympic team?”
He contrasts the countries that make up the UK with those of Scandinavia in an attempt to dispel any notion that Scottish political independence could lead to “conflict” or distrust.
“If we rid ourselves of the political imperialist baggage of the UK state, new possibilities emerge,” he continued.
“For example, it would become feasible for Ireland, as an established sovereign nation, to see itself as part of a shared geographical and cultural entity.
“This, in turn, brings potential opportunities for the continued development of the peace process in Northern Ireland.
“The idea of the political independence of England and Scotland leading to conflict, hatred and distrust is the mindset of opportunistic status-quo fearmongers and gloomy nationalist fantasists stuck in a Bannockburn-Culloden timewarp, and deeply insulting to the people of both countries.
“Swedes, Norwegians and Danes remain on amicable terms; they trade, co-operate and visit each other socially any time they like.
“They don’t need a pompous, blustering state called Scandinavia, informing them from Stockholm how wonderful they all are, but (kind of) only really meaning Sweden.”
The essay, which can be read in full at www.bellacaledonia.org.uk, begins with what he calls a “long digression” to the west London suburb of Southall in the 1970s, where he spent a lot of time as a teenager visiting his aunt Jessie.
It was those visits that helped inform his outlook on life, he wrote.
“As much as I loved London, I was also learning that the widely-assumed political and cultural homogeneity of the UK, even in the Seventies, was exaggerated and breaking down,” he continued.