If Salmond loses the independence referendum, there will be an urgent need to hammer out an alternative to Westminster absolutismby David Marquand / May 22, 2014 / Leave a comment
The Union Jack projected onto Parliament: “In the sub-conscious of English politicians and commentators lurks incomprehension about the UK’s non-English”. ©London News Pictures/Rex
Lying on the desk in front of me as I type is my passport. The cover is an elegant confection of maroon and gold. “European Union” proclaims the first line, in golden capital letters. Beneath, slightly larger golden capital letters add the words: “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” Beneath that, also in gold, are the arms of Her Britannic Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. At the top of the inside facing page are the words “European Union.” Below them are two lines, translating that term into the two Celtic languages of Great Britain, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic. Then come the words, “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” Below them come, once again, their Welsh and Scottish Gaelic equivalents. On the penultimate inside page of the passport, alongside an unflattering photograph and below my full name, are the portentous words, “British Citizen.”
The message is subtly, I almost said slyly, postmodern. It is also remarkably European. I am, my passport tells me, a British citizen. But that is not all I am. I am also a citizen of the European Union, bearing the rights guaranteed to EU citizens by virtue of the European Convention on Human Rights that all EU member states are bound to accept. I am represented in the directly elected European parliament, as well as in the British House of Commons. And thanks to the devolution of important powers to the non-English nations of the United Kingdom, British citizenship itself is a far more complicated matter than it used to be. I am Welsh by origin, and my wife and I have just acquired a flat near Cardiff, my native city. Before long, we shall be entitled to vote in elections to the Welsh assembly or Senedd.
This is typical of modern Europe. All over the continent, ancient ethnicities are emerging from under the carapace of the familiar European “nation state.” For Wales and Scotland read Catalonia, Sardinia, Galicia, Lombardy, Corsica, the Basque country, Andalusia and Flanders. To make sense of this, it is important to remember that the allegedly “national” states of Europe are, in many cases, artificial: products of dynastic marriages and the contingencies of…