Central to the Scottish Nationalist frame of reference is that "the UK is not a country". Central to our belief as Unionists is that the UK (or Britain for shorthand) is indeed a country!
This essential difference usually means that Nationalists and Unionists are living and thinking and speaking in quite different realities.
We have to be aware of this, and be careful not to get into a "debate" where we are both speaking from utterly different premises.
Why do the SNP and their supporters believe and say such a thing?
Their aim is to de-legitimise the idea of the United Kingdom.
If they can pretend that the UK does not actually exist as a Nation-State then it is much easier to dismantle it and render it politically irrelevant.
To do this, the SNP push the idea of the UK being merely a political State; that is, a sort of convenient arrangement between different nations who agree to get along for the time being, but who are connected in no substantial way.
We disagree of course!
The UK is a Nation of Unions (not a union of nations)
There are two ways of looking at the United Kingdom. How you view and understand the UK "relationship" will lead you to different policies, which will lead you to different outcomes.
The first view is that it is a "union of nations". This leads us to the inevitable conclusion that the UK is merely a "conditional" arrangement.
That is, "so long as it works we can stay together, but if we go through a stormy patch then we need to break up and go our separate ways." This is a weak frame through which to view and understand the UK - although sometimes it may have its rhetorical uses. Unfortunately, it is the view which the MPs in the British Parliament predominantly articulate.
The second way - the way that we view the UK - is that it is a Nation of Unions. That is, it is something fundamental; a Nation in itself.
This leads us to the inevitable conclusion that we should be concerned at all times with its intrinsic integrity. This is the strong frame through which to view and understand the UK.
Our social and cultural union has been created for at least 5,000 years. We had a coming together of Tribes and small 'Kingdoms' throughout the British Isles; a union of sorts in the Kingdom of Scotland; a union of England with Wales; the 1603 Union of the Crowns; the Parliamentary Union in 1707; the Union with Ireland in 1801; as well as our natural social and familial unions which continue to be created every day.
Far from being a mere political State – a "Union of Nations" – the United Kingdom has become, over time, a Nation of Unions - a Nation-State; a political State which is also a Nation.
Furthermore, as evidence for our position, the UK today has all the proof of being a Country – a Nation-State – including as per the above graphic. We have a common:
- Head of State
- Political System - Representative Parliamentary Democracy
- International Boundary
- Armed Forces
- Presence on International Institutions
- Worldwide Embassies
Furthermore, while different parts of the UK have slightly different legal systems, we have an integrated Legal System in the sense that Judges from all parts of the UK sit on the Supreme Court, the ultimate court in the UK for civil cases.
So, we are clearly one Nation!
Our view of the UK frames it in a substantial way and in a way that is harder to destroy.
This is the Solid Frame through which to View the UK
The SNP (and unfortunately some in the mainstream "unionist" parties who want to move the UK in a "federalist" direction) frame it in a very loose way. They frame the UK as a mere "State", a mere "union of nations".
We understand that some people can view the UK as a "union of nations". We totally understand why, and we know that it can be viewed as that...through one particular frame. But it is a weak frame for a unionist to view the British relationship.
It leaves it weak and vulnerable and it is a potentially fatal frame. It confers no degree of solidity to the idea of the United Kingdom.
Our view of the UK as a Nation – as a "Nation of Unions" – frames it in a substantial way and in a way that is harder to destroy.
Why we Must Argue that Britain is a Nation
Well, firstly, we are correct! The UK has been brought together and developed over the centuries into one Nation, a Nation of Unions, as above. It is no longer just a "union of nations". The long history of our Islands has created something of considerably more substance!