Thursday, 18 September 2014

On Scottish Independence

Today the people of Scotland will vote to decide whether to remain within the 307 year old Union, or whether to strike out alone as an independent nation. The polls have been on a knife-edge for the last few weeks and nobody can predict what the Scottish electorate will decide to do. Personally, I hope that Scotland votes to stay in the Union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It would be a shame to throw away the historic bonds that link the inhabitants of this very small island in the Atlantic. The world is also now a place where the nation state counts for much less than it used to. Most nations are now interdependent rather than truly independent of each other. 

Scotland has also a played a prominent role in the story of the United Kingdom. Indeed it was when a Scottish king inherited the English throne that the road to full political union began on this island. Had James VI of Scotland had his way when he became James I of England, then Great Britain would have come into existence in 1603 rather than 1707. Since King James’ reign countless Scots have achieved much within the Union, but there is a real possibility that all this could end with the result announced on Friday morning. There is everything to play for and the eyes of the world will be on Scotland.

The energy that has been driving the pro-independence campaign has come from a growing sense of Scottish nationalism, a deep dissatisfaction with the Westminster elite and a palpable desire for change. I can see the attractions of voting independence in order to achieve a better and fairer society in Scotland, and if I thought that this would happen I would support independence. However, I don’t believe that Scottish politicians are any more trustworthy than English politicians. I don’t believe that Alex Salmond is any more honourable than David Cameron, or Ed Miliband, or Nick Clegg. The New Jersusalem will not be built in Scotland’s green and pleasant glens any more than in England’s green and pleasant lands. People in Scotland (and the rest of the United Kingdom) may be crying out for change, but even if independence were achieved then I think people would end up being disappointed and disillusioned.

In morning prayer today there was a clear warning in Psalm 146: ‘Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help.’ Ultimately politics and politicians are flawed. They will always let us down in the end. The election of Tony Blair in 1997 and Barack Obama in 2008 were both supposed to herald new dawns, but they are mere men and have disappointed many. If our salvation is to be found in politics and politicians then God help us all.

So if redemption cannot, ultimately, be found in politics, where can it be found? If you’re expecting me to say the Church then you will also be disappointed. The Church is just as fallible and prone to error as any political party. Just look at our history. I guarantee you that if you put your faith in the Church then you will be let down. But the one the Church professes to follow is different. Jesus Christ is beyond the Church, and I truly believe that in him we can have hope. His teachings offer us an alternative way of living, but more than that, Christians also believe that in him we can find the change and new life that we all desire.

So is the Union worth saving? I believe it is because it speaks of interdependent nations living together in unity rather than separation. However, ultimately it is of course just as flawed as any other political system. Should we worry about our identity as Britons if the Union dissolves? It might be hard to accept that Britain no longer exists, but ultimately our identity shouldn’t be found in our nationality. Instead, who we are should be found in Christ alone. For in him there is neither British nor European, Scottish nor English. Ultimately we are not citizens of the United Kingdom but instead citizens of the Kingdom of God and children of the same heavenly Father.

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