Three things are evident in the response of British politicians to the SNP’s proposed day of action and, indeed, to any form of democratic engagement with or on the part of the ‘ordinary’ people of Scotland. The first and, perhaps, the most obvious is their contempt for the democratic process. Or, to be more precise, their disdain for any form of democratic activity which they do not control. People doing politics is not the British way. The British tradition is that politics should be left to the professionals. Politics is the business of a self-defining and self-perpetuating elite. Other than on the few occasions when they are shepherded into polling pens, the sheeple should not presume to participate.
The British ruling elite regards democracy as an indulgence to be grudgingly bestowed upon a generally unqualified and undeserving population in carefully controlled portions. Too much democracy, like too much alcohol or too much sugar or too much money, is bad for those not equipped by breeding and schooling to deal with it. Political power is a privilege. And privilege is, by definition, for the privileged alone.
So it is that also evident from the content and tone of British politicians’s utterances is their eagerness for a swift return to the comfortable formality of a terpsichorean two-party system. The SNP is hated not least because it declines to fall into step with this well-choreographed routine, preferring to dance to the tune of Scotland’s distinctive political culture. The SNP is regarded as dangerous and threat to the British state because it knows the steps of the British political ballet well enough to join in when this suits its purpose. And that purpose tends to be to trip British politicians.
Nowhere is the British establishment’s disdain for democracy and contempt for the electorate more evident than in the fanatical opposition to a new constitutional referendum. The principle of popular sovereignty is anathema to British Nationalists; whose ideology coalesces around the concept of ‘the Crown in Parliament’ and political authority emanating from a divinely ordained monarch. This is the tenuous foundation on which rest the structures of power, privilege and patronage which define the British state. Structures which are threatened by the fundamental democratic principle that the people are the sole legitimate source of all political authority.
When British politicians feverishly denounce the idea of Scotland’s people exercising their right of self-determination, their voices tremble with the dread knowledge that a new constitutional referendum will bring those structures of power, privilege and patronage crashing down.
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