By Stephen Bowman
When I first read the story in today’s Sunday Herald about the UK Government approaching Vladimir Putin for his support in the independence referendum, my immediate impulse was to get all angry and call David Cameron an assortment of impolite names. Here was a British Prime Minister approaching an unpleasant and reactionary world leader for help in sabotaging the democratic process, all the while insisting – as he did in the Edinburgh Agreement – that Scotland’s future is for Scotland to decide.
Then I became less angry. Here was a reactionary British Prime Minister speaking to a reactionary Russian President. Here was the leader of the United Kingdom seeking ways of preventing the disintegration of the United Kingdom. As I became less angry, I realised that there was little reason to be outraged or surprised. Why shouldn’t David Cameron look at all ways of defeating Scottish independence, including through speaking to potentially sympathetic foreign leaders? Indeed, Cameron’s actions are ostensibly little different from the Scottish Government’s approaches to various foreign governments in an effort to explain the benefits of independence. Cameron is just a little bit better connected.
That, of course, is part of the problem. Scotland doesn’t have a voice on the international stage. Scots might like to think that the world loves the Tartan Army, our culture and our accents, but this sometimes feels like a fiction that we tell ourselves to forget that we have no meaningful international clout, and also to distract ourselves from the fact that an alarming number of people seem to think that we’re Irish. Internationally speaking, Scotland doesn’t exist.
How angry you feel about all of this no doubt informs whether you support Scottish independence or whether you feel that Scotland is adequately represented within the United Kingdom. In either case, and for all of the reasons outlined above, Cameron’s approach to Russia is legitimate. Indeed, unlike his refusal to debate with Alex Salmond, at least it shows he cares. It is, however, still wrong. In this case, Cameron clearly doesn’t have Scotland’s best interests at heart, as Scotland’s interests are best served by letting those who live there get on with debating and deciding its constitutional future – not by courting the interference of a homophobic abuser of human rights.
While I’m not as angry as I was when I first read this story, I’m still depressed by it. As understandable as they are, Cameron’s actions are an attempt to circumnavigate and unduly influence the democratic process from the outside. This whole episode is indicative of the superficial nature of British ‘democracy’, and is a reminder why Scotland should leave it well behind.