Right of Reply: Neil MacCormick

The SNP's constitutional affairs spokesman counters David Aaronovitch's attack on the Scots
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The Independent Culture
THE CULTURES of even near-neighbour societies have differences of nuance and historical inheritance. But if they are different, which is better?

England and Scotland have had some differences. The history of kingly rule, and interpretations of the "law of the kingdom", differed before the union of 1707. There is even a difference revealed in the choice of whether to describe the instrument of union as the "Act of Union" or the "Treaty of Union".

Aaronovitch is an "Act of Union" person. This implies that the English Parliament by the Act admitted into itself Scottish peers and MPs at the same time that the Scottish Parliament liquidated itself. The "Treaty" alternative implies agreement between equal partners, each of which abolished itself by separately legislating to incorporate a new entity.

The forging of the imperial nation-state formally entitled "Great Britain" involved much assimilationist historiography. Classroom history taught that the blessings of civilisation came to be possessed in the non-English parts of the UK to the extent they assimilated, and abandoned ancient barbarisms. With the decline of Empire, assimilationist fallacy was reversed. But it remained a fallacy. The global evaluation of cultures or constitutional traditions is always suspect and in this case nonsense.

Aaronovitch is accordingly both right and wrong: right in reproving any Scot who is tempted into the equivalence of difference and superiority; wrong in counter-asserting a global superiority for freedom-loving England. I commend instead the attitude "a bit different - and no worse". I commend it equally to supporters and opponents of self-government in Scotland.

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