BY EFFIE DEANS
Any measure that could conceivably be made to limit illegal immigration would be condemned by various people on the Left as godless or evil. Sending migrants to Rwanda has Ian Blackford, Nicola Sturgeon and various Scottish nationalist commentators tutting about wicked Tories showing once more why virtuous Scotland has to leave the UK. But so too would doing anything else. It might be that the British Government could try to make the UK less attractive by changing the benefit and health care systems so that they were only available to citizens, but this would equally be condemned as unchristian and contrary to the ideals of welcoming Scotland.
Without admitting it therefore it becomes clear that the Left favours unlimited immigration. If every method of trying to limit it is condemned as evil and Tory, we must conclude that Labour and the SNP want no practical limits whatsoever.
I think it is for this reason that certain people on the Left were so furious about Brexit. They see the EU as about abolishing borders. If Europe can get rid of nation states and create a common European citizenship then that would be a step on the path to the ultimate goal of creating a world without borders, where everyone could live where they pleased. There would no longer be countries but equal human beings living in peace, harmony and equality.
But there is clearly a problem for the SNP if it has an ideal of a borderless world because it is obviously incompatible with its ideal of independence.
Scottish nationalism requires Scotland both to be already a country and for the people of this nation to wish to form a state. But this only makes sense if Scotland has boundaries and if its people form a coherent group that is distinct from other people. But neither of these ideas make sense if the ideal is also to gradually move towards a world without borders in which migration can take place without limit.
The people who used to live in Aberdeen at one point probably spoke a language similar to Welsh. We know this because of the prefix “Aber” which is found in Welsh place names like Aberystwyth. There is no longer a Welsh speaking population in Aberdeenshire because of immigration. First people came here from Ireland who spoke Irish, then people came from Scandinavia and Germany who spoke Anglo-Saxon. The people who lived in what the Romans called Caledonia no longer exist. They were absorbed by the migrants.
Such absorptions have happened on countless occasions in history. Whoever lived in Scotland prior to the arrival of the Celts was also absorbed or supplanted. Likewise, no one in France speaks like Asterix the Gaul anymore because there is no Gaul and there are few if any speakers of the language of Manhattan prior to its being sold to the immigrants who arrived there without limit.
Scotland is relatively sparsely populated. If we had a population density similar to England, we would have a massively larger population. Let’s imagine that Scotland’s population doubled. The SNP could encourage migrants not merely from other parts of the UK but also from the EU. It could say to those who are now arriving in rubber dinghies that there was no need to risk drowning as there was a welcome in Scotland waiting just for them.
But the result of an open borders policy which doubled or trebled Scotland’s population would mean that the population of Scotland would be as supplanted as the Picts were.
If five million English people arrived in Scotland encouraged by SNP generosity, it is unlikely that they would vote for Scottish independence and they would probably continue to support England at football. They might not even feel Scottish at all. After all Scots living in England don’t usually think of themselves as English.
But even if the SNP were able to prevent English immigrants from arriving in Scotland it is unclear that an open borders policy would lead to these “new Scots” feeling Scottish or having any affinity with the languages or culture of Scotland. After all the migrants to what is now the United States rarely chose to learn the languages of the Native Americans nor did they know much about Native American culture.
In fact, the whole concept of Scottish nationalism depends on limiting migration, otherwise you rapidly lose a Scotland to be nationalistic about. After all, when Vikings migrants came to Scotland, they identified with whichever part of Scandinavia they came from previously and were more intent on conquering than learning either Pictish or Gaelic.
A world without borders with equal citizenship and free movement would rapidly destroy the concept of the nation state. A country is not about territory, it is about the people who live there. After all, when Poles moved into what had prior to 1939 been Germany, they created Poland rather than retained Germany. Scotland only exists when the overwhelming majority of the people see themselves as forming a coherent group united by culture, language and history. Without that there is neither Scotland nor Scottish nationalism.
For it to make sense for Nicola Sturgeon to support Scottish independence she has to be in favour of limiting immigration. She has to be in favour of borders. But she cannot do this if she at the same time opposes all and every attempt to limit migration. She cannot both want open borders and Scottish independence because a Scotland which let everyone in would rapidly not be Scotland at all.
Few immigrants live in Scotland, which makes it easy for us to welcome those who never come. But the alternative to limiting migration is for it to be unlimited. This is what the Left and the SNP wants without admitting it.
The SNP’s open borders unlimited migration ideal is contradicted by its wish to create an international border where none has existed for more than 300 years, but it also depends on the idea that Scotland can be virtuous about immigration because they won’t come here anyway. It is this and this alone that allows us to resolve the contradiction of being both nationalists and internationalists.
But Scottish nationalists are overwhelmingly white and native to Scotland and would rapidly resent open borders if the demographics of Scotland were radically changed by unlimited migration. It is this above all which makes Scottish nationalist criticism of sending migrants to Rwanda so hypocritical.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.