Fisking Lord Robertson’s cataclysmic speech

Gustave Doré's illustration of Lord Robertson's preparations for the cataclysmic events he has predicted.
Gustave Doré’s illustration of Lord Robertson’s preparations for the cataclysmic events he has predicted.
I thought I would do a quick fisk of Lord Robertson’s Brookings speech. The following is based on the partial transcript supplied by Brookings. (I haven’t corrected the typos.)

The loudest cheers for the breakup of Britain would be from our adversaries and from our enemies.

This is an interesting use of ‘our’, because it makes it sound like they’re the same for everybody. But are America’s enemies always the same as the UK’s, and are Britain’s enemies also Scotland’s?

For the second military power in the West to shatter this year would be cataclysmic in geopolitical terms.

I think the noble lord might be overestimating the UK’s military might somewhat here. If this list is correct, the US spent $732bn on their military in 2011, while the UK spent $64bn and France $53bn. Given that the rest of NATO will still be able to act normally while the rUK and Scotland divide the UK military, I would have thought Scottish independence would feel more like a mild annoyance to NATO than a cataclysmic event. What exactly is it that Lord Robertson expects that the West won’t be able to do without the British PM jumping up and down with excitement next to the American president?

If the United Kingdom was to face a split at this of all times and find itself embroiled for several years in a torrid, complex, difficult and debilitating divorce, it would rob the West of a serious partner just when solidity and cool nerves are going to be vital.

Although he says ‘the West’ again here, this time he must mean ‘the US’ for the sentence to make any sense. In other words, he’s warning the American establishment that their British poodle might be less keen to take part in military adventures for a while. Sounds good to me.

Nobody should underestimate the effect all of that would have on existing global balances and the forces of darkness would simply love it.

I had no idea that the global balance was dependent on the UK to such an extent. I would have thought rogue states were more afraid of the US, or of the combined military might of NATO, or of the EU’s soft power, but it turns out I was wrong all along. Silly me!

The geostrategic consequences don’t stop with what happens in the United Kingdom on the 19th of September.

The 18th, Lord Robertson, not the 19th.

The ripple effects will go much wider than our own shores. The United Kingdom is not alone in having separatist movements.

True, and they’re likely to continue their fights whether Scotland votes Yes or No.

In Spain, both Catalonia and the Basque country have declared that they want independence. Catalonia where million and a half people marched in the streets demanding independence – and remember that the SNP have never had more than 10,000 people in any demonstration — Catalonia says that it will have its referendum from Spain even if it’s in breach of the constitution of its country.

This doesn’t sound like he expects Catalonia to back down if Scotland votes No, does it?

The Basque extremist have only in the recent past have backed away from terrorism, but they are watching Catalonia and Scotland with quote undisguised interest.

So?

Then there’s Belgium, a country which is held together by a thread. The Flemish nationalists see Scotland as breaking the mold. We’re next if Scotland breaks free and becomes a member of the European Union, they quite openly say.

And why would this be such a bad thing, so long as Flemish independence is achieved by peaceful means?

And as if to underline what this means for Europe, despite its manifest claim to nationhood, Kosovo still finds itself unrecognized by a handful of European Union countries worried about the implications of breakaway for their own separatist movements.

Yes, that is true. Just as Catalan independence will probably not be immediately recognised by all other countries. Such is life.

So I contend that it is far from scaremongering to use the term Balkanization to predict what might happen if Scotland were to break from its 300 year old union. The fragmentation of Europe starting on the centenary of the First World War would be both an irony and a tragedy with incalculable consequences.

So long as Scotland, Catalonia, the Basque Countries, Flanders and all the other areas of Europe contemplating sovereignty are allowed to achieve independence through peaceful means (we shouldn’t forget that the Spanish military has already been making threatening voices), and so long as the EU adopts a pragmatic approach rather than playing silly buggers, I don’t see why these new countries should cause any negative consequences for Europe.

The UK has adopted a sensible approach to Scottish independence, and Lord Robertson should recommend this as the way forward to Spain, Belgium and other countries that might fall apart, rather than trying to insinuate that the UK will go the way of Yugoslavia.

There is some significance in all of we Scots speaking here in Washington and in New York and the major cities of the United States of America. Because the possible independence of Scotland maybe resonates with some who were involved in great battles of the past over here. And some people with no real grasp of history make a tortured comparison with the American bid for independence from Britain in the 1770s. Something that was pioneered by the Scots of course who had a lot to do with that.

Why is this a ‘tortured comparison’? Just because Scotland has political representation in Westminster? We also want to create a fairer and more democratic country, just like the American founding fathers did.

but if [those] who make this facile comparison understood the history of this country they might look more relevantly at the Civil War where hundreds of thousands of Americans perished in a war to keep the new Union together. To Lincoln and his compatriots the Union was so precious, so important, and its integrity so valuable that rivers of blood would be split to keep it together.

Is this a thinly veiled threat that Westminster will spill rivers of blood to keep Scotland if we dare vote Yes? Somebody should ask Lord Robertson exactly what he meant by this.

[…] We have, indeed, as Scots, got the best of both worlds.

So what possible justification should there be for breaking up the United Kingdom? What could possibly justify giving the dictators, the persecutors, the oppressors, the annexers, the aggressors and the adventurers across the planet the biggest pre-Christmas present of their lives by tearing the United Kingdom apart? … I fear from time to time that we Scots are living in a veritable bubble in this debate and outside of that increasingly fractious bubble, we’re losing sight of the fact that our decision on the 18th of September will have much wider and bigger implications that any of us yet grasp.

Again, Lord Robertson seems to be overestimating the UK’s current power. The Empire is no more, and most of the world will probably just shrug their shoulders and get on with other things.

However, I hope that Scottish independence will have much wider and bigger implications that any of us yet grasp. I hope Scotland will become a democratic beacon and become famous for the reinvention of the welfare state (which is under threat in Scandinavia at the moment).

So the next few months, the people of Scotland have to properly and soberly examine the impact of their decision on the stability of the world. And in that time the rest of the ordered world needs to tell us that is actually cares.

Ah, so the world needs to tell the Scots what to vote. In other words, because we’ve stopped listening to Westminster, Lord Robertson thinks the solution is to get the American government to lecture us on the right way to vote.

I’m sure that would work wonders, because Scots just love to be told what to do, as you would expect from people living in a place that has no language or culture or any of that.

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