With intentions unlikely to be benign, the British state and corporate media have been drawing international attention to Scottish independence. High-ranking politicians from Russia, US and China – like the UK, all have permanent seats in UN Security Council – have been asked their views on the upcoming referendum. Out of those three, for simple reasons of imperial ambition, America is the one that will lose the most, were Scotland to choose self-determination.
In January this year, Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was asked his view on the referendum. With robotic diplomacy, he opined that all people had a right to self-determination, but argued that “being part of a single, strong state has some advantages”. He distanced himself by calling it “a domestic issues for the UK”.[i] In mid-June, the No camp claimed a success, pointing to US president, Barack Obama’s ostensible public backing of the British state. Speaking at the G7 conference, Obama said that the referendum was “up to the people of Scotland,” going on to assert that it is in the US interest to have a “strong, robust, united and effective partner”.[ii] It’s worth watching the video to see how he struggles to find the correct diplomatic language, and the words unnaturally tumble from his mouth. An explicit declaration of support for the British came later in June from Chinese premier Li Keqiang. At a press conference with David Cameron, Li voiced his support for a “strong, prosperous, united United Kingdom”.[iii] Incidentally, on the same visit, £14 billion in trade deals were signed between China and UK, with a £11.8 billion deal between China National Offshore Oil Corporation and BP pending.[iv] More telling were comments from US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, during an interview with Westminster mouthpiece, Jeremy Paxman. Clinton remarked that she “would hate to have you [the UK] lose Scotland”. She attempts to backpedal after this utterance of imperial language, by pointing out that she doesn’t have a vote in Scotland, just in case we were wondering.[v]
These comments have revealed that world powers have a preference for the status quo – which, in this case, is the British state. For the US as an imperial power, this is a serious concern. Obama’s fake neutrality was necessary to hide the American agenda: the continuation of the British vassal state. His description of the UK was flattering, and requires translation from diplomatic to power speak. It is a subservient, pliable, deferential junior partner of American imperialism. As expected, the US is deeply concerned with keeping its vassal state politically, militarily and economically intact. Wikileaks has revealed that the potential for the breaking of the British state is being closely watched and analysed by US intelligence.[vi]
The UK has been consistent in its support of the American Empire, during the Cold War and into the unipolar world that became a playground for NATO. Iran in 1953, Diego Garcia in 1968, East Timor from 1975-2000, Iraq in 1991, Kosovo in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq (again) in 2003 and Libya in 2011 have all been targets for US-British military aggression under various pretexts.
Scottish independence poses a genuine threat to British militarism and therefore to the status of junior imperial partner. While the Scottish government pledged to remove Trident from Faslane naval base near Glasgow in the event of a Yes vote, they narrowly voted in favour of joining NATO. Trident is the US nuclear weapon system, owned by the US navy, and a key component of UK military power. Scottish civil society is considerably more radical than the government, establishing active grassroots coalitions, No to NATO Scotland and Scrap Trident. The latter organised the April 2013 blockade of Faslane, an act of mass civil disobedience against British militarism. With no suitable alternative base for Trident in the UK, the only option would be to decommission the bombs, rendering both Scotland and Britain non-nuclear countries. According to Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, all nuclear bombs could be removed from Scotland within 2 years, and then being dismantled 2 years after that.[vii] Pressuring the nascent Scottish state to remove Trident as promised and not to join NATO will not be a case of petitions and voting. It will require consistent and energetic mobilisation, organised by dedicated and coherent grassroots campaigns. Scrap Trident offers an encouraging blueprint for this.
Scotland is not only home to nuclear weapons, but has been used as a transit country for CIA aircraft, in their ‘rendition’ programmes – this is where individuals are kidnapped from one country, and sent to another to be tortured. This year, legal charity Reprieve requested the Scottish government investigate their complicity in American human rights violations.[viii] Ensuring that an independent Scotland would not join NATO would preclude the CIA from using Scotland as a base for their global campaign of incarceration and torture.
If Scotland chooses independence, the UK would no longer enjoy the Scottish tax contribution to the British treasury, access to Scottish oil or various sources of renewable energy. It would also be stripped of the hard power privilege of nuclear weapons. This would open into question the UK permanent Security Council seat – with veto rights – at the UN; all permanent members have nuclear arms. An economically truncated UK with the nuclear threat could not hold onto its Security Council seat in the long term. Given the American reliance on British diplomatic support in the Security Council, losing a submissive ally would mean losing another vote which legitimises their across the world.
Of course, it would be an exaggeration to say that Scottish independence would strike a blow to American imperialism. With the loss of one ally, America will find another. The US has military bases and allies all across the globe. However, the weakening of British militarism and aggression is without question. By association, then, independence can break down a key American ally to the point of being inadequate as a junior partner. In the least, it will frustrate US ambitions, since the UK will be in no position to join in imperial adventures. On the global scale, this is a minor change, but still positive inasmuch as one global aggressor is taken out of the game. Clinton was being honest: they would hate to have the British ‘lose’ Scotland, because they, in turn, would lose their most reliable vassal state.