Unionists often like to talk about independence in terms of a “divorce” to try to tug at our heart strings and make us feel like we’d be leaving a much-loved partner. The implication, of course, is that divorces are always bad, with losers on both sides.
They get very huffy when independence supporters suggest that it’s more like an abusive marriage, despite our relationship with England being far more like Stockholm Syndrome than they would like to admit. (Something their own “it’s a big, bad world out there, you’ll never survive without us” rhetoric suggests is the case.)
But if we take the metaphor of the United Kingdom being a marriage at face value, then what kind of marriage is it? And more to the point, is it worth saving?
(Note: we’ll take this to be a marriage where Scotland is the wife, and England is the husband. After all, gay couples are not yet able to marry, and having gone out with a girl six inches taller than me for a while a few years ago, I think I can safely say there are sound reasons why the bigger partner in a marriage tends to be the husband.)
It certainly wasn’t a fairytale whirlwind romance that brought Mr & Mrs UK together. The “marriage” of the two Kingdoms of Scotland and England didn’t come about because of mutual love and respect – if you want to be generous, you can say it was a marriage of convenience due to Miss Scotland’s poor finances, but the reality is a story of corruption, bribery and coercion, as the riots all over Scotland demonstrated.
But that’s all history now, and it’s not unknown for marriages of convenience to develop into ones where the couple grow to love and respect each other as equals. So is this where we find ourselves today?
No, it’s not. Both partners earn a living, but the wife has to hand all her earnings to the husband, who then unilaterally decides the best way to spend the majority of it, before somewhat grudgingly giving back “housekeeping” money in the shape of the block grant, from which she has to look after essential things like health and education.
Already, we can see that this is no modern marriage of equal partners – who would accept this lop-sided scenario in the 21st century? To make matters worse, the money the husband spends goes on boys toys (Trident), foreign adventures to exotic lands (Iraq, Afghanistan) and handouts to his rich friends that he hangs about with in some gentleman’s club called “the City”.
Most of this is a simple case of trying to keep up with the Joneses, but there’s more than a whiff of over-compensation for something too, as if something’s missing from his life. To top all that off, the amount of housekeeping she gets is declining, thanks largely to all the gambling debts he ran up and had to pay off.
If that’s not enough, Scotland is told who she can and can’t see. She can’t be friends with our neighbours in the EU because the husband thinks she should stay at home while he goes and acts the big man on the global stage. To make matters worse, he’s in the process of having a big fall-out with them, and threatens to move us away somewhere isolated unless the neighbours promise to let him dictate what happens in the whole street.
We can’t invite people to come and stay, because the husband decides who can and can’t come through the door – a problem compounded by the fact the husband is more than a little bit paranoid about foreigners (and even, dare we say it, a little bit racist). Rather than settle disagreements with a bit of diplomacy, he prefers to shoot his mouth off and, in some cases, start shooting other things too. Will Mr Iraq ever forgive us for smashing his home to rubble looking for our lost cat WMD, who turned out to have been sleeping in our shed all along?
But that’s not the limit of his bigotry. He hates disabled people, thinks the poor should choose between starving to death or freezing to death, and he’s cruel to children. She can see what he’s like, but she’s scared to leave because the years of verbal abuse she’s endured have sapped all her self-confidence:
“You’re a scrounger! You couldn’t survive in the big, bad world without me! If you walk out that door, there’s no coming back… but you’ll come crawling back on your hands and knees anyway! Nobody else wants you! The neighbours won’t let you stay in the EU club! How can you even contemplate this after all I’ve done for you? You can’t leave, there’ll be loads of forms to fill in!“
She’s tried and tried to make it work, but it’s time to admit that this is a marriage of (in)convenience between two people who want totally different things in life. Divorce may seem sad for those looking on from the outside, but it’s a far kinder outcome than forcing two people who have grown apart (if they were ever close in the first place) to remain shackled to each other.
Hopefully they’ll be better as friends – after all, he seems to get along with most of his former wives now. (Did we mention he’s a bigamist?) Miss Canada, Miss India and Miss Australia are doing great on their own, and although our good friend Miss Ireland – now THERE was a messy breakup – is having a pretty tough time of it at the moment she’s still much happier without him. This seems the best way for everyone.