O dry bones, hear the word of the Sovereign

My dad once told me the story of how he got stopped by Gardaí on a trip to Donegal. They asked to look in the boot of the car, where they found a roast chicken. They asked him what the purpose of the chicken was. He said he planned on making some sandwiches with it. They said: when you finish eating the chicken, make sure you bury the bones.

There is no moral to this story, it is just an anecdote about border crossings from the UK into other countries. To the best of my knowledge, his boot wasn’t searched on the way back. It seems the RUC weren’t so concerned with giving cooked animal carcasses a proper burial, for whatever reason.

In an article the other day, Labour leader Ed Miliband wrote that Scottish independence would mean the introduction of border controls. Both the Tories and the Lib Dems agreed with this position. Yet aside from impromptu customs checkpoints, by and large there are no border controls in place on crossing between the UK and the other independent state with which it officially shares a land border. So for Miliband to make such a claim relies on a general ignorance of what happens when a country becomes formally independent from the United Kingdom. For all I know he may be ignorant of this fact himself. As a friend pointed out, it also relies on the assumption that the migration flow would naturally be southward.

In a lot of the public discourse on the No side too, there is this fear of walls suddenly being erected, a vast security apparatus conjured up to make sure that undesirables do not make their way south of the border. Why? Is it just all part of what the Yes side has named Project Fear? Or are they more an anxious dramatising of the receding of political sovereignty from Westminster itself, in the manner described by Wendy Brown’s book Walled States, Waning Sovereignty?

It seems remarkable to me that when it comes to the No side on the one hand you have all these grandiloquently sentimental effusions about common bonds, but the hint that people in Scotland might spurn the common bonds -in the terms that they are proposed- brings about this threat of punitive securitisation. Stick with us, we love you, you are our friends, but if you don’t do things the way we want you to, we’re changing the locks because we can’t be sure who you are anymore. That is hardly the basis for a stable relationship. And, given that as things stand people in Scotland are still UK citizens as a matter of fact, and given the way the Northern Ireland experience is summarily ignored, it hardly bodes well for the State’s future treatment of English people either. All the more reason to hope that the No campaign’s goose is cooked, and that a Yes vote will impose some degree of good sense.

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