OK, consider this country: its monetary policy is controlled by someone else’s central bank, and therefore so is much of its financial and bank regulation policy. Despite this, it has a full set of national symbols. It’s located somewhere on the periphery of Europe, and there’s every reason to think it might experience an inflow of capital and a run-up in housing prices. It has a couple of hometown banks with major executive aspirations and lots of political pull. Its politicians really, really love telling the citizenry and each other that they’re proper Europeans now, and they love being treated as such by diplomats even more.
Now consider another country. Its monetary policy is run by a central bank that sometimes looks like it might as well be somewhere else, and is heavily influenced by its politically powerful banking sector. It has the full set of national symbols mentioned above, and an enraged radical might argue that they serve to cover up the reality of its domination by finance capitalism via the central bank and other policy institutions.
The second country is, of course, Ukania, Tom Nairn’s sarcastic gloss on the United Kingdom and pretty much the intellectual foundation of the modern Scottish Nationalist Party. But what about the first, so very similar? It is somewhere we could call Tartania, the polity that the current SNP’s policy would set up.
As it stands, “independence” includes keeping the pound sterling and therefore the Bank of England in its new role, with its substantially broader remit and its reduced independence from the Treasury. It also includes keeping the BBC, the NHS, the Queen, and the Regiments. Actually, not just “keeping” them, but also reviving some of the old unit titles. Surely nothing could be more Ukanian – or Tartanian – than reviving battalion titles invented by the Cardwell Reforms?
It’s the whole symbolic tool kit. In the past, the big idea was joining the Euro. Like I used to, they believed the EU was a force for social democracy. In practice, it would have served to legitimise the Troika in the same way as it allegedly served to legitimise Thatcher. Now, the mission has been refocused: the theoretically hated symbology of Ukania is to be used to legitimise the SNP, which is now an end in itself. There is no radical case for the SNP.