Yesterday was Gibraltar National Day, where the people of Gibraltar asserted their Britishness. It took place on the anniversary of the Gibraltar Sovereignty Referendum, where the Gibraltarians decided they are not, never were, and never will be Spanish.
Today is Diada Nacional de Catalunya, the Catalonians’ national day. Where Gibraltar’s day is dedicated to keeping their sovereignty in the hands of a larger power, Catalonia’s is a sombre remembrance of the day the Catalonians surrendered their sovereignty unwillingly – the anniversary of the Fall of Barcelona, and subsequent loss of Catalonian sovereignty.
The UK, on the other hand, is distinctive for not having a national day at all. While most countries in the world have independence days – mostly because they had lost their independence at one point, and fought to reassert their sovereignty – there are several which have national days of unification, like Romania, France, and Germany. Yet the UK does not.*
It is not through want of trying – Liam Byrne made a heroic attempt, as have Lord Goldsmith, Gordon Brown, and the DCMS – yet none have appeared thus far. Surely it is time to address this anomaly, this injustice, and finally acknowledge One Nation Britain?
As luck would have it, we have a plethora of candidates. 24th of March, to mark the Union of the Crowns? Might get the Jacobites’ hackles up. May Day, to mark the Act of Union? Nah, the Nats would never shut up about “Parcels o’ Rogues” and whatnot. VE Day? Might detract from the WW2 veterans and offend our German friends. Waterloo, Trafalgar, Hastings – you just know how the Jocks would react to that! Yet next week we have a golden opportunity: the first anniversary of the day the people of one of the two signatories of the United Kingdom made their solidarity official in a democratic referendum!
Truly a wondrous affirmation that the people of Scotland wanted Scotland to remain British deserves recognition, especially one that was called “overwhelming,” “decisive,” and all manner of similar superlatives on the 19th! Scotland is British! Scots are Britons! Alba is North Britain! The Vile Separatists were defeated, the wily First Minister was crushed, that nasty parochial Scottish Nationalism was killed stone dead. Let the Union Flag fly high, belt out “Rule Britannia,” and celebrate the Scots’ decision to pool and share their resources!
Well, Brits, how about we make the 18th of September a national holiday? Call it “Britain Day,” “Better Together Day,” “UK Day,” or something along those lines. Should we not consider this a great victory for the United Kingdom, and give it all the pomp and circumstance deserving of such an anniversary? After all, nationalism was soundly defeated, the SNP crushed, and the Union stronger than ever. Politicians, newspapers, businesses, churches, elders, leaders, celebrities and families from England, Wales and Northern Ireland all pleaded with the people of Scotland to stay. The ballot itself may have been only open to Scots, but the people of the other nations all played their part, didn’t they?
So let’s do it. Let’s have a whole day where everyone takes a holiday to celebrate their Britishness. Union flags fluttering from every windowpane. “God Save the Queen,” “Rule Britannia,” “Land of Hope and Glory,” and other British anthems blaring from tannoys and loudspeakers. Project the good old Union Flag on all our historic buildings. Raise the standard above all our national symbols and icons as a reminder that separatism will never succeed. And just like with the Queen, we can enjoy those horrid SNP politicians squirming and twisting as they are forced to be polite to people they must really hate, and give the United Kingdom the humble deference the people of Scotland clearly voted for last year.
What could possibly go wrong?
Oh. That wasn’t supposed to happen…
*You have to wonder how much the British Establishment’s complete anathema of Scottish independence is down to this simple fact. The UK has never been in a situation where it is dominated by another country. It has no understanding of what it is like to have your nation considered only a region; to have your parliament deemed inferior to another’s; to have your languages and culture and history ridiculed and belittled compared to the languages and culture and history of the ruling nation. The UK has never felt the need for an independence day, or a national day, because from a UK perspective, they have never experienced the existential threat of suppression, oppression or annihilation nearly every other country in the world has. The closest they came was World War II – and even then, the extent of German occupation in the British Isles was the Channel Islands. Nothing like what the French, Polish, Hungarians or other occupied nations.
Perhaps if the UK appreciated just how precious its own independence is, and how unusual it is that theirs has never been challenged to the degree of their neighbours in Europe and America, they might understand the desire for independence among many Scots.