September 18th 2014 | Scotland

Disestablishment

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 22 August 2014
establishment

Scottish independence is often seen as offering a kind of peaceful revolution – a chance to clear out the cobwebs and the corruption of Westminster.

But the idea that we can vote Yes and liberate ourselves from the UK establishment, selling the House of Lord’s gold off for cash, itself raises another one.

What is we are just throwing off one establishment to be ruled by another?

Many Scots would argue that the Scottish system is more democratic, more transparent, more accountable than its Westminster equivalent.

The idea is a powerful argument for independence.

But the legal, education and religious systems of Scotland have been separate from those in England for centuries. It may be difficult to pin point what the establishment is, but if there is one in England there is also one here.

Half of Scotland’s private land is owned by just 432 people, and ten per cent is owned by 16 individuals or groups. Scotland has the most concentrated ownership of land in the whole of Europe, and for all the SNP’s rhetoric little has been done to change that.

Many would argue that the Scottish media has formed a clique of its own.

There is a Scottish banking establishment and a network of private schools that can easily rival those in England.

If Scotland became independent it would not be from any of these. They would remain, in fact these institutions could even gain more influence.

What if independence meant taking power from Whitehall, from the Lords, from UK lobbyists and financiers and then simply handing it over to their counterparts in Scotland?

Who would benefit most from independence?

Yes has done a great job of portraying itself as a campaign for normal people – a political campaign seemingly run by artisan bread makers, photographers painters and beat poets.

But Salmond in particular seems to have gone to great lengths to convince Scots that, if this is to be a revolution, it will be a small one. It is a pretty comfortable revolution that retains the Queen and even Nato membership .

It is hard to escape the feeling that the SNP have got so close to their goal that they panicked and started playing it a bit too safe.

Devolution has given Scottish politicians the chance to assert themselves but not one has attempted to take on the group or groups making up the Scottish establishment.

And for all the talk of independence shaking up democracy and leading to new ideas, it is hard to identify a single party, with the chance of getting elected, that would confront it.

It is possible that it is the ruling class, not the man on the street, that would be liberated by independence.

Liam Kirkaldy