Family of Nations

07/09/14
So, my eldest daughter left home yesterday.*

The night before, joking, I said to someone in a facebook thread in which we’d been debating independence, something along the lines of: ‘I have to go, stuff to do, my daughter’s leaving home tomorrow – bloody separatist that she is ;)’

A silly joke, but it got me thinking about some of the analogies used by the No campaign, particularly David Cameron and George Osbourne’s use of ‘family of nations’ (as in don’t break up this…). Like the marriage/divorce analogy used by Alistair Darling (among others), there are lots of ways this doesn’t work – eg. are we to assume that one or more of the countries making up the UK is a parent and others are children?**

If so, why should we accept a relationship which implies such a discrepancy of power? And if Scotland is one of the children, then isn’t it normal that we should one day want to take responsibility for our own lives? … And of course Scotland isn’t actually thinking of ‘leaving’, just trying to acquire the normal powers enjoyed by most modern countries. And unlike Scotland, our daughter hasn’t been contributing more financially to the ‘household’ than she gets back…

So it’s not really a useful analogy, but if I was to run with it for a while… It’s obviously difficult and in some ways really sad to see Beth go, she’s a friend as well as our child and we’ll miss her terribly, and I’m understandably nervous about her having to fend for herself in the big bad world.

But I didn’t at any point consider saying ‘Don’t go, we love you!’ or, for that matter: ‘Well, you’ll never manage. Without our backing you’ll struggle and you’ll be back begging for help, but it’ll be too late. On your own head be it…’ Both of which seem to have been fairly prominent messages to Scotland’s Yes voters from some of the No campaign and in the open letters from celebrities.

We respect that our daughter is a capable individual who has to find her own way, make her own mistakes and enjoy her independence. We’ll always be here for her when she needs us, but she really doesn’t need us holding onto her with threats of a doomed future, or how because our family has been wonderful while we all lived under one roof, that that means she has to stay right here with us for all her days. And as an independent adult, our relationship with her might change a little, but there’s no reason why it should be a change for the worse!

So – I don’t think of Scotland as a child leaving home, I think that would be truly an insult to Scotland, but if we were, why not encourage us and support us rather than swing between despair at us ‘leaving’ and threats of retribution because of hurt feelings?

* I did ask my daughter’s permission before publishing this!
** Of course, maybe, since we’re contributing so much to the value of the pound, we’re actually supposed to be not the child, but the major earner in the family who is about to walk out and leave our children starving? But then if that’s the case his analogy still doesn’t work – how many families do you know where the major earner just gets a portion of their earnings back and is at the same time criticised for being a scrounger?
** Or maybe of course it’s a nod to Wittgenstein’s family resemblances theory, but that seems unlikely and wouldn’t get rid of the problem of discrepancy of power.

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