Springingtiger's Blog

I, Personally, Shall Vote ‘Remain’

This is a statement of my personal position. You may think differently, I will not think any less of you if you do.

I cannot think of any political campaign in my lifetime as grubby as this EU Referendum (except perhaps the No Campaign in the Scottish Referendum) and I absolve neither side. It is clear that both the Tory led campaigns for In and Out have stooped to scaremongering, abuse, xenophobia, and blatant lying. Repeatedly fact checkers have debunked arguments and the figures used. I think the whole referendum debate has exposed how unpleasant is the phenomenon of ‘Britishness’ or British Nationalism.

I shall vote remain because I am a European, my culture is European. I am not, nor have I ever been ‘British’. I was born and am a citizen of the United Kingdom (a political union whose validity I do not recognise). I am Scots Irish. When I was four, watching Rugby on television, my mother made the mistake of laughing when England won and I in my anger overturned the tea table. I like to think my opposition to Britain has matured since then and my tolerance of the English grown along with it. However my lifelong passion for history led me to read of how during The Hunger the English allowed millions of Irish to starve while exporting food, that might have saved lives, from Ireland to England. I read of the thousands of Scots and Irish shipped by England as slaves for the sugar plantations. I read of the deliberate destruction of the Irish and Scots cultures and languages. I read of how thousands were forced from their homes by a landowning system imported from England that favoured the few over the many. Apart from the abuses to which England subjected the Scots and Irish (I must confess my reading never did justice to the treatment of the Welsh) I read of the abuses of the British Empire across the world. The slave trade. The destruction of India’s irrigation systems, the smashing of Indian weavers’ hands to compel Indians to purchase inferior cotton cloth from Lancashire, the Bengal famine and Churchill’s enjoyment of it. The compelling by of China to import opium. The arbitrary parcelling out of foreign territory. As far as I can see the overiding ethos of Britain is to turn a profit regardless of ethical consideration.

However, in fairness it must be said, many of the criticisms of Britain’s imperial past can be equally levelled at France, Spain, Germany, and to a lesser extent other nations like Italy. Neither can it be said that xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti semitism are qualities reserved to the English as they seem to manifest amongst right-wingers across the continent. No one can honestly say Vote Leave is any worse than other right-wing movements. Many of our European neighbours have nationalist movements every bit as ugly as the British Nationalism of the English so why would I stay in Europe?

Yes Europe contains Nationalists, but it contains many nationalisms and many nations who are prevented by its structures from dominating the continent. History shows us that for centuries Europe has been blighted by war after war, national boundaries have changed again and again. The European Union provides a structure that guarantees to every nation a degree of sovereignty and security from European wars, the price is a sharing of some part of each nation’s sovereignty with the community as a whole. I believe that a price worth paying to preserve peace and our individuality as a nation. I look at the determination of the Brexiteers to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights and shudder. This would destroy the constitutional agreements that provide our Scottish Parliament and underpin the Northern Irish Peace Process, I can see no good coming of that and neither will it promote peace and security in these islands.

I am European because my culture is European both Scotland and Ireland have always had close links with Europe sharing both ideas and art. I remember travelling down the Loire on a coach trip booked through the Glasgow Herald. At attraction after attraction our guide began sentences with, “When we were fighting you in the Hundred Years War…” eventually I took him aside and pointed out that the trip came from Scotland. The guide’s whole demeanour changed and from then on his commentary changed to, “When we were fighting together against the English…”. But it’s not just the Auld Alliance, we enjoy our shared culture and have welcomed, and still welcome, immigrants of every nation. The genes and culture of Italy, France, Poland and many other countries, European and otherwise, are part of us, I learned of Gigli from a railwayman and ex miner of Irish descent in Cambuslang, of Tito Gobbi from a Glaswegian telephone operator of Italian descent. We have no difficulty being both Scots and European, indeed many, like myself, find it more natural than trying to accommodate being Scots with being British. Like other small nations, including Catalonia, we find that our national identity can shine in Europe rather than being lost in a foreign culture like Britain that has adopted middle class London as its cultural norm and persistently undermines even English regional variations.

I vote remain because I am European. Having voted on Friday I will learn whether I can keep the passport I have or if I need to apply for an Irish one, but I will remain European. That is my position, but there are many who sincerely consider themselves British as opposed to European and others who consider themselves both British and European. In the end you must vote as your conscience directs and accept that others will vote differently and that however we vote there will be consequences that must not be allowed to drag us into violence. I find it hard to see how any worthwhile vision of the UK can survive this campaign whatever the result. However whatever the result we must somehow rebuild positive relationships and we cannot do that without mutual respect and that includes respecting the right of others to believe, think differently and even vote differently.


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