The historical dysfunctional Anglo-French rivalry has had no effect on French adoration for Scotland and the Scottish people.
As a resident of Brittany, which holds the Festival Interceltique in Lorient every year, it is impossible to overstate the esteem and affection in which the Bretons hold the Scottish people. The historical, linguistic, musical, and cultural ties are deep and profoundly meaningful.
Having dealt with Westminster for centuries, the French are also keenly aware of how insufferable, archaic and dysfunctional the system is, and are baffled by the continued presence of a monarch in what is supposed to be a modern democracy. Having shut down the aristocracy more than two centuries ago, French minds are also boggled by the continued existence of the House of Lords.
Now that the UK Labour party is circling the drain and xenophobic Ukip will haul the UK out of the EU in 2017, any pretence that the UK is a true democracy has been obliterated. Alistair Darling, the Better Together campaign, and neoliberal think-tanks have been cooking up scare stories that are invariably demolished. If Scots vote No, Scotland will be chained to Westminster forever, Scotland’s oil wealth will continue to be wasted on illegal wars and hedge-fund tax cuts, Faslane will continue as a repository of weapons of mass destruction right next to Scotland’s largest population centre, and the full potential of the Scottish people will never be realised.
From a French perspective, how could Scots not take this amazing opportunity to become independent and chart their own destiny? Scots will have a blank constitutional canvas upon which to paint a political future commensurate with their delightful egalitarian and caring nature.
Scotland can fully emerge from the economic tyranny of the Thatcher era, and join France as a modern, functioning social democracy with a written constitution fit for purpose.
Scots, if they so decide, can upgrade to an elected head of state, rather than maintaining a monarchy. The French eliminated “Divine Right” as a basis for legitimacy long ago, and Scots could do the same and simply replace it with full popular sovereignty.
Aristocratic privilege can be bloodlessly abolished, and the status of Scottish “Dukes” and other archaic titles can be upgraded to citizens. The House of Lords will no longer have any authority over Scotland, thus removing a feudal vestige which should have been abolished centuries ago.
France is a secular state, and Scotland could learn from the French example in refraining from establishing any religion, even nominally. Given that the Queen’s coronation oath obliges her to favour Protestantism, it is easy to see why Catholics and members of other religions feel disfavoured. All religions must feel welcome and must all be equally recognized under the law.
As in France, Scotland must guarantee an absolute individual right to practice religion, but all churches must be in conformity with secular law.
Religion and education is another aspect of France which an independent Scotland would be well advised to emulate. In France, there is an absence of religious practice in schools, because the French rightly hold that the churches are for religion, and schools are for educating informed citizens sharing a common civic identity.
Upon independence, Scotland can join France as a social democracy rather than a plutocratic/monarchic/aristocratic sort-of-democratic autarchy, or whatever Westminster is. Workers’ rights, including the right to form a union and collectively bargain, can be enshrined in a written constitution, and all of the liberty-crushing anti-union laws passed since Thatcher can be scrapped. A vibrant Scottish Labour Party true to its roots will emerge.
The ludicrous assertion that Scots would cease to be British if they left the Westminster system is refuted when considering that the Swedes did not cease to be Scandinavian when they separated from Norway, and the Portuguese did not cease being Iberian when separating from Spain. “British” is an identity that individuals can feel along with other identities, not a dysfunctional political system.
The question becomes, is there any legitimate reason not to leave the UK? France is a proud, secular, social democratic republic, and would welcome Scotland to the family. «
• Mark McNaught is an Associate Professor of US Civilisation at the University of Rennes 2 France. He also teaches US constitutional law at Sciences-Po Paris