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Of course devolution was a disaster The political future of the entire UK is waiting on the whim of four million Scottish voters

"Is it England’s destiny to be born with a shrug of resignation?" Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty

"Is it England’s destiny to be born with a shrug of resignation?" Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty


November 18, 2020   6 mins

There is a dispiriting, late Habsburg air to British politics at the moment, a sense that the old order is collapsing and no one in charge has any idea what to do to arrest it — if, indeed, anyone in Downing Street is actually in charge. The online jubilation of unionists upon seeing the latest poll from Scotland, indicating that our wavering compatriots wish to leave by a slimmer margin than previously, is depressing in itself.

That the Government is under pressure from the national and not just the Scottish press for calling devolution a disaster is a similarly depressing sign. Of course devolution was a disaster, for the British state: that was the express intention of the Scottish nationalists when they demanded it. If Blair’s intention was to arrest Scotland’s steady march towards secession, then the results were clearly yet another, and perhaps the most dangerous, of the many slow-fused time bombs he emplaced beneath the structure of the United Kingdom.

There are four possible outcomes now, and none of them is especially attractive: the first is that Scotland leaves the union, and the pieces fall where they will; the second is that Scotland’s government is persuaded to stay under the same roof, in the fraught and loveless cohabitation we are now accustomed to; the third is that we plunge headlong into a great constitutional reordering, a full confederalisation of the United Kingdom, incorporating either an English parliament, or an England broken into pieces small enough to assuage the periphery; and the last is that London calls last orders on the devolution experiment and rings the bell for Westminster rule once more.

The last idea, popular among some online Unionists, though far beyond the bounds of reality, would call for the dramatic reassertion of the power of the central state, a high-stakes gamble by the executive that the powers relinquished with such fanfare a generation ago can be suddenly reclaimed without aggravating crisis. Decisive as the idea may be, the hurdles it faces are most likely unsurmountable.

No matter how bloodlessly and bureaucratically the task was carried out, revoking devolution would surely inflame Scottish sentiment to a degree no Westminster government could long survive. Would the Scottish police, like their Catalan counterparts, put down the street protests that would likely ensue? If anything, Westminster is dependent on the Spanish state to wield the metaphorical baton for it, by blocking Scottish entry to the EU for fear of the precedent it would establish for its own separatist nations. 

But Britain is not Spain, and the idea of sending English police north of the border to shutter the Scottish parliament is unthinkable, not so much for any legal reasons but because the reaction of the London press would soon make the entire country ungovernable. The wave of political mania unleashed by Brexit, with its entire cast of resistance QCs and online political celebrities, buoyed by the grey-haired legions of Guildford and St Albans, would be dwarfed by the derangement unleashed by so stirring and romantic a cause; and a good proportion, perhaps a majority, of the English electorate would feel more sympathy for the Scots trying to escape Westminster’s rule than the government trying to enforce it.

This option must, then, surely be struck off the list of potential outcomes, at least as a choice for Westminster: yet if the Scottish government decides to hold an independence referendum against London’s will, as the Catalans did, surely these exact same dynamics would play out, and with the same results. The option to escalate is in Scottish hands and not English ones: Westminster is forced to stake the union’s existence on a hand no one would ever have chosen.

For those of us in what is irritatingly called the rump UK, clearly the time has come to make hard and serious decisions about our political future, before fecklessness and entropy make them for us. Could an independent England be a solution? If collapse is inevitable, or even probable, should we not start planning the successor state now, rather than leave it to be hashed out haphazardly in the courts and the press?

If the loss of Scotland would be painful, that of the Westminster apparatus would at least be some kind of liberation. At one stroke, if handled well, Westminster and all its baggage could be cut adrift and replaced with a more coherent and streamlined government, both closer to and less despised by the electorate.

An independent England would, it must be said, be a weaker state than we are accustomed to. Scotland possesses unique strategic and (through the solicitous self-interest of Labour governments past) industrial capacities necessary to maintaining our place among the upper-second tier of world powers. Perhaps a smaller, more inward-looking, even more Scandinavian England would not be a tragedy: we would be richer, for one thing, and we can always hope that the final severing of world power status would force a future English government to devote the attention to industry and infrastructure that has been neglected for so many decades.

For Tories, there is the minor consolation that an independent England would at least be a significantly more conservative polity than the UK, and a less congenial political home to the London media class cheering on our nation’s dissolution out of some strange and self-negating sense of Brexit schadenfreude. A divorce would be sad, of course — they always are — but some good may come of it, eventually. Perhaps it is England’s destiny to be born not with any great burst of enthusiasm, but with a shrug of resignation, and only after all other options have been exhausted. 

If such a breach is too much to bear, then we are left with the alternatives of keeping things as they are, and hoping that the Scottish electorate changes its collective mind, or with the grand experiment of confederation. An English parliament in the singular, or a collection of regional ones, all within a looser union, would effectively mean a trial separation, and would at least offer the benefit of allowing England some meaningful practice in governing herself, for herself, before she is forced to do so by events out of her control.

If it meant the shuttering of Westminster, this would be no catastrophe in itself: a certain contempt for the inhabitants of the Gothic confection on the Thames is one of the few things that unites this country politically, and its mothballing might offer a rare moment of national consensus. 

Federalism could come in many different forms: a unitary English state within a loose union, an England broken into regions or even counties, or even a parallel reconfiguration of Scotland and Wales, so that across the entire country local governance take the place of nationalist fervour and sullen resentment. The idea should be seriously discussed, at least, before the moment for compromise is lost: yet whether a Westminster long-regretting devolution and an Edinburgh already scenting nationhood could accept such a half-way house, and its diminishment of both their power, is surely doubtful.

In truth, none of the options available to us is appealing, but then the status quo is not sustainable either. It is intolerable that the political future of the entire nation is kept waiting on the finely-balanced whims of four million Scottish voters. One way or another, the situation that currently exists must be resolved. If the Government intends to make the case for the union, then it should do so now, and not leave the great ship of state drifting rudderless to crash where it will.

Trusting that the narrow economic self-interest of the Scottish electorate will make the case for the union on its behalf is madness: lurid warnings of economic disaster did not sway England’s voters away from Brexit, as Johnson well knows. The case for Scotland’s independence is a romantic one, like that of all nationalisms, and though the SNP shrinks from comparison to its sharper-clawed counterparts, it is a nationalist movement like any other, whose strange and irrational impulses will likely override any measured arguments made by Downing Street. 

Yet even if the Government devotes itself to maintaining the Union, it is long past time to begin planning for what comes after its collapse. Its heartland is in England, and England has been ignored in this debilitating psychodrama for far too long. Perhaps the birth of England as a coherent political entity will stave off rupture by proving to wavering Scottish voters that the stakes are real; perhaps it will do the opposite, and convince the nationalists that history is on their side; we do not know.

But a sober appreciation of the options available to the Government must surely underline that the responsible task ahead of it is to limit the damage that a disorderly and contested breakup of our nation will entail. Johnson is unlikely to go down in history in the manner he intended, but he can at least salvage something for the nation in the decisions he takes now, by preparing a working lifeboat for the mass of his electorate as we rush towards the rocks ahead.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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Stephen Tye
Stephen Tye
3 years ago

Stop fighting the referendum – let the SNP have their way – AFTER the divorce details have been discussed, finalised and agreed.

1. A clear statement the BoE will not be used as a central bank by Scotland
2. The £ will be an English currency – if Scotland wish to use the £, then it will be like Zimbabwe using the USD
3. The Scots will be required to adopt a proportion of the UK national debt
4. All funding of Scotland by England will cease forthwith – go find your own £16bn/yr
5. Scottish goods and services will be taxed in England where consumed in England
6. There will be a border between Scotland and England
7. The Shetland Isles will be given a free vote on joining Scotland, staying with England, or reverting back to Norway
8. An incentive package will be put in place to help Scottish financial and commercial enterprises to relocate to England, where their main market is

Then England tells the Scottish voters they will each be required to stump up c£8000 each per annum to make up the current English grant to Scotland when it is withdrawn.

Then the vote goes ahead.

Barry Wetherilt
Barry Wetherilt
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

And the considerable number of civil service jobs based in Scotland that service rUK will be repatriated asap.

Gary Taylor
Gary Taylor
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

I find your argument compelling, but we must concede that very few independence movements care for economics.

charltonman
charltonman
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

And no dual citizenship. If the face painters want Scottish citizenship they cease to be UK citizens.

Ralph Windsor
Ralph Windsor
3 years ago
Reply to  charltonman

‘Braveheart’ was as much an insult to Scottish as to English intelligence. A typical Hollywood distortion of history.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Ralph Windsor

”Braveheart” Made by A drunken New York born Anti-semite,who borrowed film finance from USA jewish bankers!..

tom.zunder
tom.zunder
3 years ago
Reply to  charltonman

I refer to the parting of the Irish Republic from the UK and suggest you are not following precedent.

charltonman
charltonman
3 years ago
Reply to  tom.zunder

Do we have to ? Serious question.

Michael Coulson
Michael Coulson
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

There is also a case for asking the Lowland counties, which predominantly vote Conservative or Labour, if they want to remain part of Scotland or throw in their lot with the remaining UK.

Ralph Windsor
Ralph Windsor
3 years ago

Remember the ’45! And the Scots who opposed the Jacobites.

Pete Rose
Pete Rose
3 years ago
Reply to  Ralph Windsor
imagearc
imagearc
3 years ago
Reply to  Ralph Windsor

And the cheering in Dundee when they were defeated!

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

You could also add:

– a definitive ruling on the status of the Queen / Royal Family in Scotland.
– ditto on the Nuclear Submarine fleet and Trident.
– the division of all current pan-UK institutions, such as the Post Office, Ordnance Survey, NTSB, to name but a few. I.e., form Scottish ones from scratch.
– an independent & objective audit of viable oil & gas reserves in Scottish territorial waters (as defined under the International Law of the Sea), coupled with a ruling on who owns what. There was way too much divergence last time and, besides, the SNP is supposed to be wedded to a totally green future.
– a definitive confirmation that Scotland will not automatically be eligible to join the EU (join the queue, perhaps below Albania and N. Macedonia). Last time round, Barroso had to intervene to correct Salmond’s blatant lie.
– The Orkney Islands to have a similar option as Shetland. Why not consult the Inner & Outer Hebrides while at it?

In 2014 too much crucial information was either obfuscated, ducked, denied or left floating unresolved. To make an informed choice, the stark reality and the whole truth and consequences must be on the table.

As others have already commented, facts and economics rarely count for much in referendums. Instead we get the fairytale falsehoods and romantic irrationality peddled by the reckless, single issue SNP. Just as well for Sturgeon & co that Coronavirus arrived when it did, as it has allowed her and the SNP to evade proper scrutiny of their abject failures in health, education, transportation, infrastructure and so much more. Just imagine how much better it would be under independence, as the SNP would tell you!

If the dangers of being subjugated completely by a one party state, when added to the lists above, aren’t abundantly clear then by all means vote to dive into the abyss of being in the lowest bracket of emerging markets globally. Without recourse to the credit rating of the UK or the BofE, Scotland would have to issue its own sovereign debt – but at such high interest rates (higher than junk bonds), the annual cost of servicing it would be unaffordable or would leave little to pay the bloated benefits expected let alone finance its excessive public sector payroll. Frankly, I doubt there’d be a global financial institution stupid enough to lend to such a basket case.

I almost forgot: would the franchise at the very least be extended to those Scots resident elsewhere in the UK? There are by most estimates over 1m of us. But I’d guess the SNP would rather we were not heard.

Paul
Paul
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

Aye, No more Barnett formula money, the Royal Dockyards at Portsmouth and Devonport will be glad of the work, as will the men of Barrow in Furness. The good men of the Clyde can retool making whisky bottle tops and shortbread tins. The nuclear subs can resite and the Royals back from Arbroath. Build the wall and lets have done with the anchor that has been Scotland since day one. Had they not bought into the first Ponzi scheme they would have had no need of English gold. Begone Ye Jocks. Throw the vote open to the English, you would be out with your head still spinning, looking for the £6bn you will need to find just to keep your addicts off the brew.

iain.swan
iain.swan
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul

The nuclear subs cannot resite; there is not a site in England or Wales that can take them. So you are going to have rent space at Faslane from us at a competitive rate. Oh and who says all of the subs will revert to English control anyway? As for being an anchor on Merry Olde England were you saying that when our oil revenue was balancing the books of U.K. plc. or is this just a new notion?

steveheath1978
steveheath1978
3 years ago
Reply to  iain.swan

not entirely true. there are deepwater ports in England where the subs could go. we would just have to build the infrastructure to support them.

jonathan.edwards
jonathan.edwards
3 years ago
Reply to  steveheath1978

Wales has offered Milford Haven. Best harbour in the world after Trincomalee, according to Nelson.

George McGhie
George McGhie
3 years ago
Reply to  iain.swan

“Oh and who says all of the subs will revert to English control anyway? Em, the skills and money required to run and maintain them. Take a look at Eire navy and plan on something similar.

Steve Collins
Steve Collins
3 years ago
Reply to  iain.swan

Am I not mistaken that the snp has already decide that we won’t be a nuclear power

F Wallace
F Wallace
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

Your lack of understanding of the actual situation would be hilarious if it wasn’t frightening as many people seem to share your delusions.England doesn’t “fund” Scotland. We wouldn’t be “obligated” legally to take ANY of UK debt, you know this surely. And if we chose to take some, it would be on the basis of also taking proportional assets that our tax money has paid for. The Shetland Isles are none of England’s concern, and there is no serious motion there for them to do anything other than stick with their fellow Scots.This is a made up argument showing a lack of knowledge. Zimbabwe using the dollar would be better than then using their own currency given its troubles. The Pound isn’t “Your” currency mate, anyone can used a traded currency if they want to. And technically thanks to Labour, the BoE isn’t “yours” either.Taxing our goods doesn’t help you, does it? If your entire position is “We’ll engage in bad faith purely because our neighbours want to run their own affairs”, all it does is confirm why we need to leave in the first place. I think you’ll be surprised at how much England relies on Scottish energy, water, trade, etc.We however might tell you that we’ll be keeping Trident at YOUR cost until you pay to build a base and buy it back. We might also tell those businesses they’ll always pay 1% less tax up here to counter your petty approach. We might always abandon paying YOUR debt altogether whilst rejoining the EU and taking part in their massive infrastructure spending programs. We might also demand our share of UK assets, cash reserves, gold, military equipment, etc. We might also take back the land the royal family have stolen from generations of our citizens and keep those earners for ourselves. No more Scottish tax going towards English train projects in London sounds good to me also.Seriously, you guys down south REALLY need to sack this idea that we are all homeless unemployed vagrants begging for English coin. That stinking, wildly inaccurate attitute is why increasing numbers want to leave this putrid union in the first place.

imagearc
imagearc
3 years ago
Reply to  F Wallace

You surely know that Scotland had never supplied England with water. Nor do we contribute to HS2 or anything else which doesn’t benefit Scots. Have you never heard of Barnett consequentials?
We couldn’t use the pound, controlled by the Bank of England if we wanted to join the EU.
We would be entitled to our share of assets but do the debts not outweigh them ? Our inability to raise enough revenue to even pay for our own defence adds to the national debt every year so we would indeed be due our population share of it.
BTW Scotland doesn’t own the electricity generation. It is owned by companies, most of them foreign. And all of the UK has to pay the subsidies that they require.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  imagearc

In other words back, to 1707 and abject penury.

Louise Henson
Louise Henson
3 years ago
Reply to  F Wallace

1. It won’t be you dictating the terms.
2. Scotland has the largest deficit in Europe and that’s despite receiving £2000 more than England for every citizen under the Barnett formula.
3. If you renege on your share of the national debt your credit rating, which will already be fragile as a new country with no bank or currency, will resemble that of North Korea.
4. Using the pound is not the issue. Your problem is that whatever currency you use you will not have the backing of any national bank. That will make it cripplingly difficult for you to borrow money.
5. England relies far more on French and Dutch energy than on Scottish.
6. There is no knowing how long it would take you to negotiate membership of EU, or whether it would even be allowed. Your deficit makes you technically ineligible and Spain and some other countries might refuse.
I could go on but I’m getting bored.

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  Louise Henson

Spot on!

George McGhie
George McGhie
3 years ago
Reply to  Louise Henson

Correct. And just for the wind up we could make Faslane a Crown base just like the two Crown bases in Cyprus.
The Lions share of Scottish business goes to the rest of the UK and it will be a problem if they manage to rejoin the EU, and the Euro. England then puts in force a border between Scotland and England. Great stuff.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  F Wallace

Sorry hand back Subsidies, SNP sold out Scottish Fisherpersons to EU years ago

Stephen Tye
Stephen Tye
3 years ago
Reply to  F Wallace

Too much rubbish in your comment for me to take the time to respond. However you might want to get an understanding of the Shetland Islands – Shetland Islands Council has overwhelmingly
voted to start looking at ways to become financially and politically
independent from Scotland.

Christopher Collier
Christopher Collier
3 years ago
Reply to  F Wallace

You cannot be seriously saying that the crews of the Royal Navy will obey Jimmie Krankie rather that Her Majesty the Queen.
And as for joining the EU, with Scotland’s deficits they’ll not take you.

Mike Horton
Mike Horton
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

Some good factually accurate points there. Seems to have caused some anger though, I can tell by the amount of capital letters being used (and it’s not racist that I read that reply out in a shouty Scottish accent, it just seemed to fit).

Andrew Gibbons
Andrew Gibbons
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

Excellent idea. Reverse the Brexit gambit of Vote first, details later.

http://brightblue.org.uk/ho

Jon Luisada
Jon Luisada
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

The funny thing is that after independence and after the glow has faded and the bills start to mount the Scottish electorate will reject the Old Labour with an amputation fetish that is the SNP and go conservative which is more in keeping with their historical character anyway.

nicktoeman4
nicktoeman4
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

This would be to behave like the EU does towards the ‘treacherous’
Brits. Certainly the currency, subsidy and debt are real issues the Nats
would have to deal with but we should not be vengeful towards our
neighbours by erecting unecessary and unhelpful barriers that harm us
all. It should be a example to our Continental ‘friends’.

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson
3 years ago
Reply to  nicktoeman4

I agree with you about Stephen Tye’s last point and perhaps number 7. But the rest are hardly vindictive – just what you’d expect when two countries split up. Mr Tye did not suggest England would retain access to Scottish fishing waters, or impose tariff and other barriers on Scottish goods, or various other EU demands on the UK that clearly are vindictive or unfair.

tom.zunder
tom.zunder
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

1: why, why would the Scots have no claim to their share of the central bank, it’s not like they are not equal partners in the UK or:
1: would England wish to keep the whole of the National Debt and for Scotland not to take a share with them?

2: Why should the £ be English currency? The Irish stayed in monetary union with the UK for decades after independence. Ditto, equal partners.

3: only as part of 1 and 2.

4: yes, that is the hard truth.. but is it really so terrible, Scotland is still a wealthy state.

5: huh? you mean no free trade, why? seems like mutually agreed destruction.

6: there need not be, there was no border between Eire and UK for a long time and free movement and the right to live and vote in each country.

7: really? how about the Isle of Man, Channel Islands, Isle of Wight, Northumberland, Cumbria?

8: now you really are being silly..

Stephen Tye
Stephen Tye
3 years ago
Reply to  tom.zunder

Tom, you show your ignorance.

1. To start with, the BoE is a company established in 1694 to act as the English Government’s banker. Scotland has no claim over the bank.
2. When England bailed out a bankrupt Scotland following the disastrous Darien venture it paid Scotland a sum to compensate Scotland for assuming a proportion of the national debt. Scotland has a share of the national debt – it was paid to take it.
3. Scotland without the English support will have to slash its current profligate spending- sure not impossible but not as much fun as living off someone else’s money.
4. England does not need a free trade agreement with Scotland, Scotland needs a free trade agreement with England. Exports to the rest of the UK make up 61 per cent of Scotland’s total exports.
5. I suggest you look at the history of the Shetlands (pawned to Scotland by Norway as part of a marriage settlement) and current (Shetland Islands Council has overwhelmingly voted to start looking at ways to become financially and politically independent from Scotland).
6. An incentive package to relocate is probably silly – there is no need. I the run up to the last indyref the major institutions in Scotland took out lease options in London, just in case.

OK lesson over. Have a nice day.

Fiona Mortimer
Fiona Mortimer
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

I am unable to formulate a response to this as I am overwhelmed by an image of Foggo from Last of the Summer Wine singing ‘If I ruled the world’.

Cyril Kinsky
Cyril Kinsky
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

Good plan. The only element I would add is that the whole UK should vote in the referendum.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

Aberdeen should also be included in the free vote, that you suggest for the Shetland Isles.

The statue of Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, re-erected, in Cavendish Square, as an act of reconciliation.

David
David
3 years ago
Reply to  Stephen Tye

Why do you ignore that the only part of the UK in the last decade to vote to be part of the UK was that part we call Scotland?
Why do you ignore the sacrifice of Scots alongside their fellow Britons in two world wars where the men who did the fighting understood brotherhood in its most essential aspects?
Who then asked the value of their fellow Britons?
I never served with anyone in my service career like you.
I have met many people like you north and south of the border, you are not the people we find alongside each other in times of stress.
You are not indeed of much real value to real Britons at all for you understand the value of people little.

Stephen Tye
Stephen Tye
3 years ago
Reply to  David

I have no idea what you are on about.

polidoris ghost
polidoris ghost
3 years ago

Thinking aloud here.
The status quo is unstable and so cannot last.
It cannot last because The SNP will never stop campaigning for full independence – Why should it, the SNP only has to win a referendum once, whereas the unionists have to win every time.
Sometimes any decision is better than no decision at all, so let us force one.
Can we not offer another referendum that will exclude the option of the continuation of devolved government altogether? The choice can be between full independence on the one hand and the return of unitary government from Westminster on the other. The Scots can make the decision.

Paul Wright
Paul Wright
3 years ago

Good post; Scots elsewhere in the UK should also get to vote.

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Define ‘Scot’. Born there? Living there? One grandparent born there? Three grandparents born there? Dad once wore a kilt to a Burns night? I really don’t know. Has the SNP proposed a definition?

polidoris ghost
polidoris ghost
3 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

I am happy for the devolved Scottish Government to decide.
I am a new breed of Englishman. The Scots (and Irish) can sort out their own problems and I can sort out mine.

Janetta McGuigan
Janetta McGuigan
3 years ago

And the Welsh?

Fiona Mortimer
Fiona Mortimer
3 years ago

“An independent England would, it must be said, be a weaker state than we are accustomed to. Scotland possesses unique strategic and (through the solicitous self-interest of Labour governments past) industrial capacities necessary to maintaining our place among the upper-second tier of world powers.”
I respect your feelings on the subject but I agree with the author’s view that there would be losses as well as gains for England. Towns in the north of England have been frequently shown on news outlets during Covid and they do look neglected and certainly as poor as some areas of Scotland. A federal UK would be a better solution for a modern UK which embraces not just four nations but numerous cultures

George McGhie
George McGhie
3 years ago
Reply to  Fiona Mortimer

Agree with your last paragraph. Parts of Scotland and the North of England are still suffering from the demise of the industrial revolution. If that is accepted then there has to full scale reform of the Barnet formula. It is a bit bullish to call for Scottish independence when you have 9% deficit on GDP and a fiscal black hole of £15 billion, to say nothing of Scotland taking their share of the UK national debt. I am a Scot and when Brexit is finalized and the Scots have to look at the national position in the cold light of day, I may be wrong but suspect the braveheart costumes will be consigned to the back of wardrobe (until the next time).

Fiona Mortimer
Fiona Mortimer
3 years ago
Reply to  George McGhie

My first paragraph was, of course, quoting the author.

I am not a supporter of either the SNP or of independence but I do understand how circumstances and in particular grinding poverty lead people to apportion blame to someone or something ( in this case to the ‘auld enemy’) and to be attracted to an individual (Nicola Sturgeon) and a political party who are currently very sure of themselves and give the impression that they are a steady hand in their handling of the current crisis.

I am not sure why the Barnet formula has not been revised before now but yes, it ought to be.

Gary Taylor
Gary Taylor
3 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

I saw a survey (can’t remember where) which concluded that the majority of UK citizens defined a Brit as ‘someone who was born here’. I would use that definition for a Scots referendum since it probably has majority/plurality consensus.

Janice Alexander
Janice Alexander
3 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

Everyone with franchise in Scotland?

tom.zunder
tom.zunder
3 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

The SNP stated a long time ago that it is defined as those resident in Scotland regardless of ethnicity.

George McGhie
George McGhie
3 years ago
Reply to  Graeme Laws

For the purpose of the vote it is like anywhere else in the UK. If you live in Scotland and are registered to vote then you get your say(Scots, English, Polish etc). If you are not registered to vote in Scotland then you don’t get a vote. Simple.

polidoris ghost
polidoris ghost
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Thanks.
I was expecting somebody to point out some problems with my suggestion. None so far.
Maybe I should forward it to Boris (Only kidding)

Janice Alexander
Janice Alexander
3 years ago

Sorry, have a look at my reply!

polidoris ghost
polidoris ghost
3 years ago

Sorry!
Didn’t mean to do a Boris on you.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago

OK – the problem with your suggestion is that even if the referendum went for a return to central government the SNP would continue to try and force independence.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

33% of SNP members voted out in 2016 EU referendum,nicola Sturgeon has behaved like A Dictator…It Politicised Everything as have Lib-Lab-Cons-Plaid-Greens.. I Dont agree with Police &Crime commissioners, Supreme Court,BBC, Judiciary,State broadcaster,Police MUST not continue to be Political ..that is for Dictatorships,Corpus Juris & China

Janice Alexander
Janice Alexander
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Did Britons elsewhere in the world – or even Europe – get to vote for leave or remain for Brexit?

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago

No.

David Green
David Green
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

British resident in Europe were given the vote on Brexit. I live in France and I voted as did many of my British friends.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  David Green

Maybe you have been there only a short time? My son has lived in Europe for about twenty years, working for European companies. He was not allowed to vote.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

I think there’s a 15 year cut off.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Thank you , that explains why my son could not vote.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

Good job really

Louise Henson
Louise Henson
3 years ago

Yes, unless they had left more than 15 years ago.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
3 years ago

I voted from NZ

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Wright

Surely that logic would dictate that non scots living in Scoland cannot vote? Then what about my kids are they Scottish by Birth or Yorkshire by heritage. What about all scots living outside of the UK etc etc etc. I know, let’s stick with what we already do and for the most part works well : you vote where you are registered to vote.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

The first bit of your post is one of many arguments which should be used against separation.

The second part applies to a country as a whole which is staying whole.

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

It seems very unfair to change a person’s nationality without giving them a say because, in good faith, they lawfully moved to England & Wales.

It’s one thing to accept a democratic vote even though one doesn’t agree with the outcome.

It’s another to be expected to respect the outcome even though one was refused a vote.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

What about giving us English a vote? …….

mpniven
mpniven
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

You do realise that SNP has given voting rights to refugees, asylum seekers, overseas students, 16 year olds, yet army, navy etc personnel, based elsewhere, cannot vote even if their residence is in Scotland. Scots intending to return to Scotland but residing in England, cannot vote in a referendum. It is a very uneven playing field. Who gives the franchise to non citizens? In EU countries, as far as I know, you cannot vote in national elections unless you are a citizen, even if you have been resident for many years.

Janice Alexander
Janice Alexander
3 years ago

That idea wouldn’t work. That would most definitely bring on Scottish Independence, because it’s Westminster’s cavalier attitude to Scotland (always treated as the poor, needy relative) that promotes the longing for Independence within much of the Scottish population. It’s no coincidence that poll figures have shot up since the onset of Conservative austerity and then recent choice of Prime Minister. We Scots were already aware of Mr Johnson’s vast ineptitude as Foreign Secretary and his disdain for Scots.

polidoris ghost
polidoris ghost
3 years ago

I am quite prepared to accept Scottish independence. I wouldn’t treat it as a disaster or even a personal insult. I live north of the M25 and I assure you that he treats me with as much disdain as he does you. Actually, I don’t think he disdains us, he just doesn’t know we are here.

Janice Alexander
Janice Alexander
3 years ago

Should we change from ‘Independence for Scotland’ to ‘Independence for Northern Britain’? We can always add in other parts later

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago

One could go back to the ancient kingdoms, like Northumbria.

David Brown
David Brown
3 years ago

North Britain is just a Unionist name for Scotland. I might start using it more.

Jon Luisada
Jon Luisada
3 years ago

That’s not a Boris thing, that is a London thing…

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago

“We Scots were already aware of Mr Johnson’s vast ineptitude as Foreign Secretary and his disdain for Scots.”

You will have to come up with something more substantial than that. Did you absorb it from the Scottish Fake News or the English? Whichever it be, you are betraying the Anglophobic bigotry and class hatred which pull down the Scots.

Janice Alexander
Janice Alexander
3 years ago

Actually I ‘absorbed’ it from my own observations on the PM’s track record. It wasn’t aimed at him particularly as an Englishman, more as a man. And I love the English. My great grandchildren’s mother is English. Have you considered the possibility of the truth that BJ and his government are truly incompetent, regardless of nationality or class? On what evidence have you decided I’m possessing the Anglophobic bigotry and class hatred you accuse me of?

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

winding up Scots,Welsh,Irish is part of The ”Fun” as per 6N etc…

Jonathan Stirling
Jonathan Stirling
3 years ago

“…attitude to Scotland (always treated as the poor, needy relative)”
But doesn’t the Barnett formula enshrine exactly that truth? England hands Scotland a subsidy: so Scotland is a poor need relative.
Or do you think Scotland is going to hand back the money?

Ben
Ben
3 years ago

Awful idea, sorry. Blair had no choice but to offer devolution. Relations between England and Scotland were poisonous after the Thatcher years: squandering of North Sea Oil reserves to fund tax cuts for Tory chums in the City and then foisting the Poll Tax on them for good measure. No wonder they hated her…

Joint and Equal partnership is the best way IMHO.

lindahughes1
lindahughes1
3 years ago

I moved back to Scotland, from London, a couple of years ago. I have been shocked at the lack of opposition here to the SNP. The SNP have never won a majority of Scottish votes, but got 48 seats out of 59 on 45% of the vote last time. They desperately need to be held to account on their record – which is poor in education, health and business – by Scotland and by the media in England who rarely look into the SNP’s track record. On Covid, for example, there was a higher percentage of deaths in care homes here than in England, yet much of the media accepted the narrative of Sturgeon’s ‘good’ pandemic – because she sounds in control! I agree that rational arguement doesn’t go far with Nationalists. Sadly it’s the poorest people here (who would be Trump voters in the USA/ Brexit voters in England), who show most support for the SNP. It’s a case of ‘things are bad for me now, how much worse can they get, independence is worth a try’ (along with romantic notions of freedom, of course). Sadly, things could get much worse, but by then it could be too late.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  lindahughes1

More Scots voted for Brexit than voted for the Scottish National Socialists. You would never think so from the Fake News.

Not only was the death rate in nursing homes, alas, higher than in England, but the highest in Europe. The Fake News is covering up an awful lot to get at Boris.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

Boris has been Appalling As Useless As Tony Bliar Theresa may ,David Cameron etc..

R Malarkey
R Malarkey
3 years ago

The breakup is inevitable, it’s been inevitable since devolution, and potentially before.

I’m done with bribing the Scots to stay, so are more and more English I think. So it’s time to prepare for the UK minus Scotland. There’s a lot the rUK government could do with some imagination and daring, neither of which seem present in todays utterly useless political establishment.

Like, preparing Devonport to handle the SSBNs (they already do handle them but make it their permanent home), and look into making the Shetland Islands a crown dependency. Get the border prepped or start talking with the SNP seriously about some sort of confederation/treaty.

However, the UK’s establishment will do none of this because they would rather behave like an ostrich and hope more and more bribes will preserve the status quo.

Harry Potter
Harry Potter
3 years ago

I just can’t understand western way of thinking.
China, already the largest country in temperate zone, is doing everything it can to further annex Taiwan and other islands in the surrounding seas and to erase the remnants of heterogeneous ethnic cultures within its empire, while the West’s already small fragmented nations are trying to divide further?
Hong Kong as a city has seven million people, while Scotland has a little more than half that number.
In China, people are afraid of being labeled as anti-nationalist, or race traitors, even for the reformists who opposed to the CCP’s dictatorship. In the West, on the other hand, you would be a racist, xenophobe if you wish to limit the excessive/uncontrolled influx of illegal immigrants.
Let’s see who history will declare as the ultimate winner.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Harry Potter

China does not have the situation which pertains in Europe with vast numbers of immigrants arriving from many countries. How many immigrants even want to go to China when they would probably face the same treatment as the Uighur people

Of course China is annexing everywhere, it’s called Empire Building. China is doing what Britain and other western countries did over the past few hundred years.

Harry Potter
Harry Potter
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

It’s not about whether there’re immigrants influxes in reality, but the totally different mindset. Immigrants are further encouraged because Western governments publicly welcome them.
Btw, Uyghurs are locals in Xinjiang.
Emipre building has been in progress for more than 2 thousands years in China.
For a successful colonization, what an empire need is an overwhelming demographic advantage and a period of continunious high-pressure brainwashing. Once assimilated, then no need to worry forever. In terms of controlling, China’s political system has been way more ahead of west for some 2 thousand years.
I’m not suggesting authoritarian rule is morally superior. But everything has its own consequences in reality.
“Weaken the local and strengthen the Central”, this is one of the ancient political “wisdom” of the East.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Harry Potter

I know the Uighers are locals. That’s how the Chinese treat “locals”, it obvious how they they would treat immigrants,
If you think ” China’s political system has been way ahead of the West for 2thousand years”. you’re admitting it has never changed so oppressive for all that time. How did they succumb to the opium wars?

Kevin Ryan
Kevin Ryan
3 years ago
Reply to  Harry Potter

You despair of “the West’s already small fragmented nations.. trying to divide further”.

You really don’t see the irony of that comment, when a large part of the Scottish devolution argument is Brexit?

Harry Potter
Harry Potter
3 years ago
Reply to  Kevin Ryan

But the EU is not a sovereign country. I don’t think it’s as effective as a country in reducing the cost of political coordination among nations.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Harry Potter

Furthermore, the West is consumed with paranoia about Trump and turning a blind eye to the patient long term ambitions of the Comrade General Secretary.

Carl Goulding
Carl Goulding
3 years ago

Another referendum should be allowed but this time the other 62 million citizens of the UK ( sorry Dis-UK) should also be allowed to have their say. I wonder what result that would give? Now that there is no Trump it would give the MSM and social media mob something to feast on! (They must be starting to have hunger pangs by now)

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
3 years ago
Reply to  Carl Goulding

Yes, and why only two options? I would prefer a third where the borders, islands and Aberdeen all continue in the union.

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

Shetland?

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Mushroom

Shetland Want Independence from Holyrood &SNP

R Malarkey
R Malarkey
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

That sounds like a rehash of Northern Ireland – no thanks.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Carl Goulding

I have been told that no one listens to MSM…so what is the bit**ing about?

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago

Devolution was and remains a mistake. It shouldn’t have been granted. Blair is a spineless worm.

Huw Hannigan Popp
Huw Hannigan Popp
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

Blair is indeed not great as you say. But devolution was inevitable, it would have happened if John Smith, Gordon Brown or whoever was leader of Labour in the mid-90s. It was settled desire of the Labour machine in Scotland. Just like here in Wales. You can’t pin it all on Blair.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago

That’s fair, I don’t understand it though, did they not realise what it would do to the country?

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago

But it is a Wh*res devolution. Scotland and Wales should be forced to raise in taxation that which they so freely spend. At present they can spend, spend, spend and send the bill to England and the English.

And England was never considered in devolution. I have heard Labour politicians say that England can’t have a devolved Parliament like Scotland because it is too big, too Tory etc, etc, etc. So lets have parity for England and sort out the question of spending and taxation.

Brian McGinty
Brian McGinty
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Scotland has full control over income tax and wishes much more control over business taxes and borrowing . Bring it on .

dcx3li
dcx3li
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian McGinty

Absolutely, let’s get rid of the Barnett hand-out first. Raise taxes for your own spending on defence (after we take back ALL our kit), education (shambles), police, hospitals (shambles), a hard border would be an absolute must as would be your own currency.Then we’ll see how popular independence is, I’m Scottish, but I’m also a proud Brit.

Fiona Mortimer
Fiona Mortimer
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

You imply that only the English pay taxes and then hand out alms to the other nations. I note that English people who make such statements have little regard for the UK as a whole. Perhaps it is time for England to go it alone? As the author states, you would be wealthier but without the assistance of the three other nations who helped make Britain Great, there would be no position on the world stage for you. Could the little Englanders stomach that?

Richard Spira
Richard Spira
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

All worms are spineless.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Vivek Rajkhowa

Blair won 3 elections – even after Iraq Debacle (GE2005).

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago

The Scottish Nationalists are showing themselves more every day to be a really horrible bunch of fascists.

The sooner England is shot of them and anyone who would vote for them, the better, although it would be sad to lose the decent ones.

Janice Alexander
Janice Alexander
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Graham

I agree that the SNP are beginning to show cracks, but they’ve got a long long long way to go till they reach the depths of the Tory party. Cronyism beyond belief!!!!

Adrian
Adrian
3 years ago

As if immigration was not high enough already, having an extra million Scots migrating to London is not going to be much fun at all.

Mike Horton
Mike Horton
3 years ago

I don’t believe the SNP actually want full independence, more they want more devolved powers. Currently anything that goes wrong is blamed on their evil ‘English’ overlords in Westminster, far easier to blame this convenient scapegoat than having to face up to their own incompetence if they ever got independence.
If they were really serious about wanting full independence they would ask for the whole of the UK to vote, I’m pretty sure they’d be cut lose quickly.

Nicholas Ridiculous
Nicholas Ridiculous
3 years ago

I can’t work out whether Aris likes the idea of the Union ending or feels sad about it. Regardless, his focus on England is interesting but less interesting than what happens to Scotland. England will lick its wounds for a while and have to put up with more put-downs from faux-friends than normal, but imagine for a moment a win for independence similar to Brexit – 52/48 – which is not at all inconceivable. It’s going to be a bloodbath up there as the economy tanks and unemployment rockets. I wonder if Aris missed the final option – after a couple of years of hell the Scots revolt and cancel the project altogether?

Caroline Galwey
Caroline Galwey
3 years ago

Quite. I can imagine a ‘People’s Vote’ campaign getting more traction in a post-referendum Scotland than its pro-EU equivalent ever did in England.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Yes, “faux-friends”…that encapsulates all the English problems.

R Malarkey
R Malarkey
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

We got plenty of real ones, but they aren’t to be found in Europe.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  R Malarkey

Of course.

polidoris ghost
polidoris ghost
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Perhaps “faux-friends”includes you Jeremy!

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Yes, my commentary here is the REAL problem for UK

Josh Cook
Josh Cook
3 years ago

A very good analysis – it is truly amazing this has not been taken more seriously by London Journalists or Politicians in the last 10 years.

The bizarre progressive attachment to what would amount to a weakening of one of the only great liberal states – also beggars belief and I thinks demonstrates how vacuous the British elite are.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Josh Cook

Same with out of control mass immigration.

Mickey John
Mickey John
3 years ago

As usual up here in Alba , we’ve screwed up. Put simply , the oil’s increasingly worthless , so the game’s no longer worth the candle.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
3 years ago

An excellent timely and thought provoking article in Unherd again. For me devolution was and is a disaster for the people of Scotland and will result in an eventual unwinding of the Act of Union – which might not be a bad thing for either party. In that regard, a consultative referendum including all U.K. voters might prove instructive. When it comes to a divorce surely it’s a good idea to hear from both sides of the current union? It might not only prove instructive for the politicians but also speed things up and make them less acrimonious. Mind you, I suppose it would be awkward if the English and Welsh voted for Scotland to go and the Scots voted to stay. However, maybe that would result in better manners all round.

charltonman
charltonman
3 years ago

The fervour for separation will die out and could be hastened by strong competent Westminster government. At the moment that last factor is sadly lacking.
As a first step in dealing with COVID Boris could have centralised the response and eliminated the sick intra UK competitive politics game.
There are many good infrastructure projects that need full UK participation – get them onto the political agenda not the hate campaign led by Sturgeon.
Undertake a proper audit of all the devolved assemblies and their administrations. And put miscreants in jail.
Set terms for devolved administrations. No “hate crime” garbage from Sturgeon’s token Muslim, no foreign jaunts, no state propaganda.
And make it clear – dual citizenship will not be allowed to citizens of a separated Scotland.

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
3 years ago

Why must England be broken up?
Rubbish, we are not that big a country.
If Scotland wants to go, good luck to them but they had a referendum and voted to stay, once in a generation it was supposed to be but the result was wrong so have another go?
Voted to leave the EU but the result was wrong so have another go?
If they want independence good luck to them, try another referendum in 10 years and see what happens because the SNP are going no where and they hate England.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago

It is always darkest before dawn, but there are signs of the Scots rumbling the Scottish National Socialists and the sheer awfulness of their tyrannical and impoverishing rule.

David Foot
David Foot
3 years ago

One should also look at this as a product of the much larger Marxist movement which since its inception will support any revolutionary movement against the state, and ultimately will look to reconfigure the state as a Marxist (socialist) one ever tending towards a “communist paradise”, so breaking up of the Empire in 1945 with a landslide then, and the Union with the landslide of 1997 is just a path to that Marxist pardise (sadly no longer a Berlin wall to remind us of the paradise on the other side), the target is not Scotland but England which has to be broken up even further and must be taken to before the Tudors.
The most vulnerable section of the population is no longer given patriotic indoctrination to counter any “bright new ideas” and snowflakes fall to the sirens of Marxism. They don’t have the history of evolution of thought and why we are like we are, they are being made to “reinvent the wheel” by the Marxists.
Bad as it was before, in 2019 “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” which was thrown at the leavers of power of the UK and England was principally easily linked to Marx and the IRA. The Marxists would be happy for the kingdom to split.
As many say here and as we all saw on June 7th in London itself, there is incalculable, unsustainable instability not only in our relationship with Scotland and its devolution but with the logical continuation of this “devolution” as a path of breaking up the entire Empire and Kingdom and now Kingdoms, specially the breaking up of England. The Marxists would welcome a Parliament in Edinburgh which James VI of Scotland knew was a stupid idea, but the Marxist would avoid like the plague an English Parliament.

marklucas8809
marklucas8809
3 years ago

Some of the West’s most successful and stable countries have federal systems of government. Germany, Australia, Canada, USA. So why not the United Kingdom?

And those countries all have power divided between federal and state institutions, with the more local level holding most domestic powers, There is also a split between federal and local taxation, and redistribution of tax income across states.

If Scottish devolution has resulted in an unstable UK settlement, the solution lies in Westminster not Edinburgh. The status quo presumes whoever governs England will also form the UK government. A recipe for resentment north and south of Hadrians Wall. Better to embrace fully fledged English devolution, and accept a smaller, sleeker governement for genuine UK wide federal affairs.

R Malarkey
R Malarkey
3 years ago
Reply to  marklucas8809

England is so big that the UK parliament would pretty much be the English parliament.

The only way to avoid it is to give the periphery a ridiculous amount of power, like how Malta has one EU commissioner the same as Germany, or to split England up into bits, which isn’t going to fly well in England.

opn
opn
3 years ago
Reply to  marklucas8809

So why not the United Kingdom?
Because though Westminster seems a long way away, Bristol is also a long way away and a good deal harder to get to.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
3 years ago

My understanding is that Scottish devolution has been on the agenda for over 100 years. The progress of the Government of Scotland Bill 1913 (aka the Scottish Home Rule Bill) was seemingly only scuppered by the advent WW1.

Independence is not an inevitable outcome. Quebec has twice in my lifetime held independence referendums. If I recall correctly, on the last occasion independence was only rejected by the smallest of margins. However, appetite for independence amongst the people of Quebec is now apparently low. I do not what Faustian sacrifices were required from the rest of Canada to bring about this change or whether the rest of Canada thought it was worth it.

Ultimately independence has to be an issue for the people of Scotland (or should that be the Scottish people) but those fervent democrats the SNP will presumably insist that in any vote those areas of Scotland that in recent years have expressed concern about remaining part of an independent Scotland are also given the choice of remain part of the Union or full independence.

Finally, I always had a lot of time Tam Dalyell, an old school politician whose independence of mind you could respect regardless of party allegiance. This article bought to mind a quotes from his book The Question of Scotland, “I am a Man of the Union because the alternative is puerile, romantic folly”,

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago

Tam Dalyell ”Devolution is A Motorway with NO turn offs or exits”.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

And the West Lothian Question continues to be dodged.

Teo
Teo
3 years ago

“… it is a nationalist movement like any other, …”

Not sure that is the case, more a progressive self-loathing grievance movement
that only seeks political discord. The SNP power base is built on an
antipathy towards the UK parliament not the soil politics of
nationalism. That makes it a UK political problem and one that a
competent UK government could remedy. Scotland stumbling into
independence on the pseudo-nationalist ticket would be a suicidal leap – not the stuff of nation building.

sublime5456
sublime5456
3 years ago

This is written very English orientated towards what a Britain should look like. Perhaps the English (perhaps better put as London) project of britishness forgot that other ways of being British exist and to the point they are now excluded and residents of each nation would agree they are seen as too stupid or poor to govern themselves (only london can borrow money and fund each nation – so of course financially they are handicapped) – and in terms of inclusion Wales isn’t even on the flag, for example.

Devolution, though has a longer history far before Blair and their seems to be an assumption implied in this article is that pre-devolution was better for each nation, but maybe I am reading into it too much. Maybe simpler, but by no means was it fairer or a partnership of equals. Even London was devolved at the same time as the Wales, Scotland, and N.Ireland, but this too seems forgotten by London centrics.

What criteria are being discussed to justify “disaster” because it seems to be successful in Scotland and mediocre in Wales, and is 20 years really enough? Using Jacob Rees Moggs assertion, the true success of Brexit won’t be fully known for 50 years, surely we should be a bit more tolerant for things to embed? For those that can remember, pre-devolution was a disaster, too with all the ridiculous quangos, mis-spend, and ridiculous decisions by secretaries of states with absolutely no clue about local issues; it was embarrassing e.g. John Redwood / Neil Hamilton.

Finally, each nation was given an opportunity to vote in a referendum, but because the current government think its not valuable, its ok to now take it away? how ummm democratic…. god forbid we cancel brexit in the same way if it becomes a “disaster”.

Perhaps a confederation is now inevitable if it ever gets discussed – is it really a bad idea? It might just make the idea of being british more meaningful across the UK than it currently appears. But perhaps If the tories were in control of each parliament I am sure devolution would be a great idea and we wouldn’t be having these discussions and opinions.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  sublime5456

But what about England ? Why should MPs from Scotland have any say whatsoever in English health, education and other devolved matters, when an English MP has not say in those matters in Scotland ?? Why is there no English Parliament that mirrors Scotlands ? Why is there so much more public spending per head of population in Scotland as opposed to England ?

Ralph Windsor
Ralph Windsor
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Certainly Scottish MPs should have no part in deciding England-only issues, but do you really want yet another parliament with even more politicians. You would have to be mad to think that’s a solution.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Ralph Windsor

No need for another Parliament, just send the SNP to sit in Holyrood.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Because the Anglophobes want to break England up into regions to abolish her, and the English don’t want that. So there is an impasse.

steveheath1978
steveheath1978
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

How else could they maximise how much extra gold they get, if they dont always vote the for most expensive option for England?

The Barnett formula is a mess.

sublime5456
sublime5456
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Hi Andy, totally understand and agree. Spending per head is always used to justify deligitimisation of devolution because its also about needs based income. Wales and Scotland have no ability to raise money on their own, they only pay into UK treasury and get the same block fund on the same principles pre and post devolution with the exception now that the relevant administrative delegation have (in some ways the same as pre-devolution) a say in how it gets spent on need – health and education being two major areas of devolved administration. So any money raised by UK treasury from residents in Wales and England goes to a treasury and then gets spent on things of no benefit – e.g., HS2. Those living in Wales will have 6% tax spent with no immediate benefit. Wales makes more than 15% electricity than is used and could be sold to generate income but goes into UK treasury. So UK Gov also benefits from resources in traditionally poor areas of UK. We could argue a healthy London makes a healthy UK, but as we all know the lived experience is not so and the UNion is not equal when the figures go beyond per head spend. With regards to voting, I agree, but imagine you live in Wales or Scotland which sends much fewer MPs to represent a largely rural population to vote on a matter that will disproportionally affect them (beyond a devolved remit). Because of the volume of MPs in England, some 400 then unless a party whip has sanctioned a specific way to vote, you will always be outvoted. This is the same with business and infrastructure (only part devolved) and one example is the way Cardiff Airport is repeatedly rejected for development as its a threat to Bristol airport – while environmentally this is a great rejection, it is not quite reasonable that MPs outside of Wales should be able to vote overwhelmingly to disadvantage Welsh Government areas for economic development in favour of a city across the river severn. In some ways they’re voting to keep Wales reliant on London… why? So in short, totally agree that England should have similar devolved administration because so far only London have this and Manchester to a lesser extent.

matthew-hall
matthew-hall
3 years ago

The SNP will implode given enough time.

emmamaysmith3
emmamaysmith3
3 years ago

This is the key sentence for any reader: “Perhaps a smaller, more inward-looking, even more Scandinavian England would not be a tragedy: we would be richer, for one thing, and we can always hope that the final severing of world power status would force a future English government to devote the attention to industry and infrastructure that has been neglected for so many decades.”

Years ago I accepted that an England, shorn of the pretension of the United Kingdom, would be smaller on the global stage but richer and deeper and stronger as a nation. Like many I’ve been frustrated with politics over the last decade but, unlike most, only because no national party seeks this very obvious goal.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  emmamaysmith3

The English population would continue to overgrow because Scotland would keep importing more people as they emigrate to England as they always have.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
3 years ago

Not necessary. If Scotland is truly independent there wouldn’t be any automatic right for Scots to enter or emigrate to whatever we call ourselves. The half baked arrangement with the Irish Republic shouldn’t be repeated.

g.morran42
g.morran42
3 years ago

The Pandemic has revealed the reality of living in England .We have had a Westminster elite forced to engage with the fragmented powerless governance of England outside the M25.The big issue is not the future of the UK or Scotland ,but what sort of England we want.Our fragmented week sub national Governance in England is a creation of the Conservative Party seeking to maximise its vote and Westminster controrather than good governance.England needs to be freed of Westminster control.If this can be delivered the Union will look after itself.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  g.morran42

You will find us Balkanised into many different and diverse left wing devocracies which will eventually start fighting each other for the land in between. There won’t be enough water and there won’t be enough energy either.

steveheath1978
steveheath1978
3 years ago
Reply to  g.morran42

Ha ha. ROFL… it is not the conservative movement that seeks to centralise power and control every aspect of peoples lives. This has always been a key requirement of socialist utopias.

Vicki Robinson
Vicki Robinson
3 years ago

It’s lopsided devolution that was the mistake. England is as frustrated with Westminster as Scotland, and wants change just as much. That’s the sad thing.

Jim Goudie
Jim Goudie
3 years ago

Surely if the promises made in ” the vow ” had been kept then the debate might not have become so fierce.
Many Scots voted no on the strength of this

croftyass
croftyass
3 years ago

If the Government intends to make the case for the union,..that would be a refreshing change-lets have at least a half informed grown up debate about the pro’s & cons-as it is(like the EU) there seems to be the assumption that because it exists it’s by definition the preferable option or its “just too difficult to unravel–it may be but lets have some back up rather than one off point scoring on Trident/North Sea Oil etc etc.

davidalbertwestbrook
davidalbertwestbrook
3 years ago

Kudos, Aris, on a clear and thoughtful piece, and many of the posts have much to say, too. I cannot tell you how refreshing it is for an American engage issues besides Covid, race, and the election at the end of the world. I have spent time in and have various connections to England, Scotland, and Ireland, but do not have an opinion here — also refreshing. I do have a question, though. I’ve heard lots of Scottish and English (with and without London) sentiment, but does anybody care about the UK as such?

J Roberts
J Roberts
3 years ago

My question is what is Scotland to do IF secession occurs? Debt is too high to immediately join EU. North sea oil whether depleting or not flies against a fossil fuel green future promoted by politicians including SNP. Perhaps a 21st century Darien expedition? We all know how that ended up.

Steve Craddock
Steve Craddock
3 years ago

I think Scotland and the Scottish are great. I for one would sorely miss them being part of the union of states that make up the UK. For me it would be like a family falling apart over something some relative did in the dim and distant past. What disturbs me the most is the cancerous nature of our politics and our politicians, specifically in this case the vitriol that is being seeded and then harvested to force or steer a debate either directly, or used as propaganda by their activists. We are supposed to be in a representative democracy which only works properly when our politicians have at least an inkling of what their constituents are thinking. The problem we have is the voices of the quietly spoken majority are so easily drowned out by the plethora of single issue activists who have access to all the technological megaphones of our modern society and a plan of action. This is made worse by the click or view-bating approach adopted by many of our opinion ne news channels where views and audience figures and returning visitors are considered more important than the truth.
I do hope that we can all start to see past the glamour and noise surrounding our politicians and governments whether they are SNP or Tory or Labour flavoured and that we start to hold them up to account and to deliver what we ask them for, rather than being brow beaten into accepting what we are given.

Simon Stephenson
Simon Stephenson
3 years ago

This is all very interesting, but if the Great Reset goes ahead as feared, democracy will instantaneously become dead, Parliaments will be powerless talking-shops, and the identity of which talking-shop contains the representatives of which geographical region will be a matter of complete irrelevance to the general public. The general public will in any case have more important things on their mind, headed by trying to work out how to take the Great Reset and put it in the incinerator, making arrangements to hang everyone connected with the treasonous act of seeking to impose it on a disapproving general public, and restoring democracy in such a way that its institutions of power can never again be populated by anyone with a personality disorder.

Man on the Doorstep
Man on the Doorstep
3 years ago

Health. Education. Just two words. Utter disasters under the SNP government.

gamer liv
gamer liv
3 years ago

I’ve been waiting for a piece like this from a reasonable commentator and I’m sympathetic to this English yearning to be Denmark . It seems we have all wanted to be Denmark at some point. I come from a traditional Scottish Labour home rule tradition and my family eventually migrated to the SNP after some time in the wilderness following Labour’s dropping of Scottish home rule from their manifesto in 1956. I left the SNP eventually, but later than I care to admit.

But it is important that those of us who don’t come from a formal unionist tradition in Scotland are listened to. The traditional unionist version of events is as problematic as any , and does little to hinder the SNP. You need to understand your enemy to defeat it properly, and Scottish unionism has long been in a battle with a pantomime monster. Scottish Conservatism under Ross/Davidson today is in the position today of fighting not one, but two pantomime monsters: it’s reduction of euroscepticism and Brexit to a parody of English nationalism is so complete that it has almost fallen into the lap of the first monster it created.

It is a major error to see the 1707 union in terms of a settled popular consensus and then an increasing erosion of it from the 1970s onwards. Labour also persist in this mistake, and so lay sole blame for a rise of separatism on Thatcher and Conservatism. What we have actually had here in Scotland are two identifiable trajectories with a much longer evolution.

Scotland lost it’s autonomy, as it was almost always bound to, when the means of retaining that were military and economic. But the rise of universal suffrage and the idea of using it as a means of restorative justice gave new means to regain it and retain it. It did so at a time when external events, WW1/WW2 were forging a genuine, popular British political identity more and more. Nothing really changed here to divert these two conflicting trajectories. The separatists became more urgent about, and more adept at fighting their cause via the ballot box as fewer and fewer Scots felt drawn to real independence. The SNP policy shift that disguised the losing trajectory to an extent was Sillars’ Independence in Europe.

In the end, a changing Europe became the means of refusing settlement and reconciling conflicting trajectories within the UK itself . The idea that a major material change such as EU membership could invalidate the 2014 referendum result was grasped by the SNP, and pro EU forces encouraged this as leverage against Brexit. UK EU loyalty as a whole then became emblematic in the SNP. In a very real sense, the SNP are no longer just about Scotland, or even just about the UK. They are about the EU.

So the position we are in today is one of Scotland torn in two halves, but with a Yes voting half that is highly unstable because it cannot agree on what it is saying Yes to. Scotland’s most fanatical pro EU and anti EU factions are now contained within that Yes. Once the outer pressure of a UK government is removed they will descend into vicious, internecine conflict, and this will be a proxy conflict for the larger actors outwith Scotland. There will be no Denmarks anywhere here for a long time.

What is the answer to this bleak mess? In my view the SNP needs to be damaged, badly beyond repair before Scots vote en masse for them again, and my suggestion would be to use their own doctrine of ‘material change’ to do this. Ordinary people actually respond to ideas more than political parties often understand, and the SNP need to be hit at this fundamental level. Without committing to a second referendum the UK government could still state that a condition of one would be agreement in principle to a third vote prior to EU accession. In the event of this material change, the choice of actual independence disappearing within, say 5 years of being voted for , a frank choice between two unions ought to be offered. This will act on the SNP like a depth charge. The huge damage will not be evident on the surface immediately, but it will surface with irreparable damage. If the SNP agree in principle when this is aired, they will anger the EU revanchists within them who will fear EU membership is not quite in the bag. If they don’t agree, their core support, the real Scottish sovereigntists, will threaten a split. If they don’t answer the question, either of these sides will fill in the blank themselves. There is no way they can maintain unity with the simple asking of this question.

In concert with this we also need to replace what is broken with something that is not. We need a new kind of British unionism. The half of Scotland that cried genuine tears in 2014 and is now willing to stand with the rest of the UK outside the EU regardless of how it voted in 2016, is something stronger to build on for the future than an independence movement that keeps grasping at everything and anything, even it’s complete inversion towards a new EU unionism and widespread chaos, to refuse loss.

Paul Marks
Paul Marks
3 years ago

Scottish Devolution has been a disaster for Scots Law. Scottish Education – and just about everything else. As for “independence” – the majority in Scotland does not want independence, they seem to want to be ruled by the European Union. People who actually want to be ruled by the European Union bureaucracy baffle me. But if that is what they really want – fair enough.

Of course I do not like how the London government is governing either – with its lockdowns and general submission to Agenda 2030 (international “Build Back Better”). I do not wish to be ruled by the World Economic Forum and the United Nations, no one voted for this insanity. We need a government that does what the people want – not what the totalitarian “experts” of the international establishment elite want.

Jeff Carr
Jeff Carr
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul Marks

The EU is an attractive option for the small state who sit pari-passu with the biggest members and feel they are weilding more power. The Scottish Independents think they will have more authority and power as part of the larger entity. They will certainly have a bigger international presence than they do as part of the UK.
Interesting to see how the devolved administration will be handled in the forthcoming COP27 meeting in Glasgow. I can see the ‘Wee Woman’ causing a fuss if she is not standing alongside the UK leader.

Nick Whitehouse
Nick Whitehouse
3 years ago

Just out of interest, how many Scots live in England and are thus unable to vote?

From reading your article, one answer springs to mind – close down the London press!

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

Don’t know the numbers. But I’m one of them and agree I shouldn’t have a vote in a Scottish Referendum. Voting should be based on residency and liability to pay tax, not nationality. Which is why its such a travesty the millions of resident EU Citizens living, working and paying tax in the UK (unless they happen to be Irish) didn’t get a vote in the Brexit referendum and still don’t get to vote in General Elections.

Glyn Jones
Glyn Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

So as a Welshman, living in England, who’s has a liability to pay tax that is then transferred to Scotland to support free prescriptions, free medicines for children, free university education in Scotland etc….

Do I get a vote?

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Glyn Jones

You do. In the Westminster elections that determine the government that decides what to spend your taxes on. If you don’t want to pay taxes to support these things in Scotland vote for a government that stops it.

Tom Graham
Tom Graham
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

A Scot living in England is a UK resident and taxpayer, no different to a Scot living in Glasgow, while the UK is still one country.

It is a pretty rubbish argument that someone should be excluded on voting on something as fundamental as what nationality they are.

An EU citizen living in the UK remains an EU citizen after we voted to leave. Nothing changes the nationality of a foreign national living in the UK.
No country in the world allows non-citizen foreign residents to vote in their national elections.

If I go to work in Australia, but remain a UK citizen, then the people of Australia have every right to vote to change immigration rules for their country that effect me, but they don’t have the right to vote to revoke my UK nationality.

R Malarkey
R Malarkey
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Citizenship actually means something you know.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  R Malarkey

But which country you are a citizen/subject of is not set in stone forever, is it?

The UK is one of the oldest modern nation states but it’s not that old – 300 and a bit years and in that time most of Ireland has already buggered off to do it’s own thing and some sort of democracy has been introduced to the rest of the conglomerate.

Arguably, becoming a nation state was actually just an early step on the British Empire project which is not really a runner these days.

The union of 1707 was a financial deal to create a trading and economic free trade entity – not an emotional commitment from the combined peoples of England and Scotland to become one nationality. (Does that argument sound familiar?) And there was no referendum.

National cultures are different and are expressed in different ways – economically and politically. At the moment, it looks like around half of people in Scotland feel their national culture could do with a further distancing from England for political and economic reasons and 62% felt the EU was a better example of the free trade entity they wanted to be part of than the UK.

In short, democracy trumps citizenship.

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

All countries in EU only allow citizens from other EU countries to vote in local and EU Parliament elections. They’re not allowed to vote in national elections or Referendums.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Mushroom

True. Thought by proposing something radical I was supporting the stated purpose of Unherd to push back against the herd mentality with new and bold thinking, and to provide a platform for otherwise unheard ideas, people and places

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

There’s no excuse not to allow a vote to Scots living in England & Wales in another referendum. And as with General Elections, ex-pat Scots should be allowed a vote up to 15 years away.

Allowing children to vote last time demeaned the sacrifices and sufferings of those who fought for the general franchise.

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Nonsense its ”Regressive” as berthold breccht remarked after Communist 1953 invasion of East germany, Now the Populace has rebelled against the State,its obvious Change the Populace?..

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

No but EU citizens can vote in local Elections,They should Not have been allowed to vote in brexit referendum, Why should they? if EU is such a ‘Democratic paradise” they’d surely be on next plane back or dinghy?…UK voters can’t vote in German,French or Italian elections neither should they,
Spurious arguments.Like Welsh &Scottish assemblies allowing 16/17 to vote As they have been brainwashed by Green propaganda..as Older voters turn way..

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago

Supposed to be over a million, but possibly far higher. They’d never extend the franchise to those of us born and educated there but living in the rest of the U.K. (not just England) because they know how we’d vote.

But – and to politely disagree with Mark, below – we have every right to a vote as it is as much our country as those living there.

As the WW1 era song suggested, it’d be difficult to keep us expats down on the farm, now that we’ve seen Paree!

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Boris the Obese, and his consort Princess Nut Nut would do well to jettison Scotland without delay.

Like Northern Ireland, it hangs around the neck of the long suffering English Taxpayer like a putrid Albatross.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Boris the Obese is quintessentially Merry England.
Voted as PM by the English people.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Yes indeed, the triumph of hope over expectation, and so it has turned out to be.

The runes were clear enough to read, Greenham Common harridans, the mawkish behaviour over the death of Dianna Spencer, and many other pathetic gestures, all told of terminal decay.

Consummatum est.

croftyass
croftyass
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

and subsequently regretted by a large proportion of those voters I suspect!

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  croftyass

I think you are mistaken. Human have an amazing ability to justify their vote.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

And Princess Nut Nut?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Buy one get one free.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Name calling is puerile.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

We’ll make an Englishman of you yet!

ard10027
ard10027
3 years ago

Federalism should at least be given a try. As things stand now, I think the breakup of the UK is a racing certainty, but if the country is federalized there will, at the very least, be a lot less pain when the final breach comes. And who knows, it might actually satisfy everyone. There will be problems, of course. It would require some kind of central government, however loose, at which all of the four nations are equally represented, regardless of relative populations. That won’t go down well with the English, but then, they’re always moaning anyway!

R Malarkey
R Malarkey
3 years ago
Reply to  ard10027

Ridiculous, not gonna fly. Why would an English voter accept being worth a tenth of a Scottish voter?

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  R Malarkey

An Islander of Wight is already only worth a fifth of a Scottish Islander.

Jeff Bartlett
Jeff Bartlett
3 years ago

A question for Aris (or anybody who can answer!): To which ‘unique strategic and industrial capacities’ are you referring?

Michael Dawson
Michael Dawson
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Bartlett

I thought he meant the submarine base. I couldn’t think of anything else at all and very much doubt if the submarine base is irreplaceable.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago

“…There is a dispiriting, late Habsburg air to British politics at the moment, a sense that the old order is collapsing and no one in charge has any idea what to do to arrest it…”

Head of nail, meet hammer!

The reason why is obvious to those who are watching though..

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

I offered my Leadership at last 5 General Elections,and foolishly been rejected .ho humm?

Gill Holway
Gill Holway
3 years ago

Well yes but the article doesnt take account of the self-destruct button pressed by Sturgeon, her husband and Salmond during their recent infighting. That at least adds a note of uncertainty to the unravelling of their power grab.

James Brennan
James Brennan
3 years ago

For folk who don’t actually live in Scotland, the issue seems to be an occasion for a little not so innocent fantasy about something called the “United Kingdom” which enjoys, apparently, something called “sovereignty”, allegedly regained as a result of a popular vote a year or two back, and the consequent dismissal of the Scottish contribution to that vote as meaningless, especially with regard to the future of Barnard Castle. For folk in Scotland – well, where does one start? Not with a mirror-image fantasy. Nearly sixty years ago, governance at local level in my part of Scotland, the Highlands, couldn’t have been described meaningfully as anything to do with any sort of “United Kingdom” – let alone”democracy”. It was colonial. As a single example, among many possibles – during the Heath crisis a Cabinet Minister visiting the Inverness HQ of the HIDB on a day when by law the power was off and the lights too, demanded that they be switched back on to suit him, and was surprised when the demand was refused. Not what was supposed to happen – the natives were supposed to know their place. Around the same time, I was told by a permanent official of the local Council facing London-decided “regionalisation” that there was almost no “politics” in local government – “It is all administration”. At least, with devolution (for which, incidentally, there was also a referendum, I seem to recall), the centre of some government moved a bit closer, and its power-holders began to be chosen by Sottish voters. As might be expected, there has been a revival of national identity, around opposition to the past as much as any notion of breaking with the “Britain” of the popular press and the Bankses and Goves. The sheer offensiveness of Tory rhetoric on this matter is probably the strongest force behind the demand for a new referendum, and the SNP has become very skilled in stoking it up. But the only way Scotland can become a mature democracy is by practice. The Brexit referendum wasn’t a good way of getting it. Independence just might be.

William Cable
William Cable
3 years ago
Reply to  James Brennan

‘As a single example, among many possibles – during the Heath crisis a Cabinet Minister visiting the Inverness HQ of the HIDB on a day when by law the power was off and the lights too, demanded that they be switched back on to suit him, and was surprised when the demand was refused. Not what was supposed to happen – the natives were supposed to know their place.’ – THat is not evidence of colonialism, it was an arrogant minister being out of touch with what was going on in the country, what makes you think it would have been any different have the visit been to Devon or Yorkshire?

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  James Brennan

“The only way Scotland can become a mature democracy is by practice. The Brexit referendum wasn’t a good way of getting it” – Was that because if you don’t like the result it doesn’t count?

Edward Andrews
Edward Andrews
3 years ago

While there is much in your essay which I agree with there are a couple of points where you are wrong.

However right at the beginning you say “The online jubilation of unionists upon seeing the latest poll from Scotland, indicating that our wavering compatriots wish to leave by a slimmer margin than previously, is depressing in itself.” Given the the next poll showed a return to the growth of the desire for independence the jubilation was premature. Those of us who keep an eye on the polls know the they are much more complicated than they appear especially in the wording and methodology. Remember that for the of us who are independistas these things are out daily thought, for you at the back of your thoughts.

You say “Of course devolution was a disaster, for the British state: that was the express intention of the Scottish nationalists when they demanded it.” the Scottish Nationalists did not demand devolution, and there were many people who were opposed to it. I was the only member of my SNP branch who actively worked for a Yes vote in the 1997 Referendum. I took the line of Michael Colins that while it was not independence it was a development of the breakup of the Unitary UK. It was so much believed that Devolution was going to augment the Union that Lord Robertson promised that it would kill Nationalism stone dead. So believe me you are simply wrong in this assertion.

You say “If anything, Westminster is dependent on the Spanish state to wield the metaphorical baton for it, by blocking Scottish entry to the EU for fear of the precedent it would establish for its own separatist nations.” Sorry, but that particular fox is dead. The Spanish Government has explicitly said that it will not block Scottish Membership of the EU if it happens in accordance with EU law. The situation is that with Spain the constitution forbids the break up of the state (that in part was want the Civil War was about), that is not the situation with the UK.

It is this which brings us to my penultimate point. When you read the statements of many of your readers they seem to think that Scotland is some kind of colony, and that “England” can stop her gaining independence. The United Kingdom is a Union, freely entered into by the then government of Scotland. It is within the competency of the present government of Scotland to terminate it. There are in fact legal moved being considered on this line.
Many of the clauses of the Treaty of Union have been broken by the UK not least with the fact that the UK parliament is essentially the English Parliament with extra members rather than being a new body. The introduction of Henry VIII clauses in the EU legislation demonstrates this, Henry was never our King.

My final point is I would thank you for trying to work out what a Federal UK would look like. Why would the people of Scotland want to be remain part of the United Kingdom? When they UK political parties gave the Vow which they had no intention of keeping all kinds of changes were offered, and we were threatened that as the UK would be the successor state we would loose our membership of the EU. We have now lost our membership of the EU. Most of us would have no problem with England becoming the successor state with her nuclear weapons and seat in the Security Council. We would not want a division of the assets of the Kingdom. We could leave the Union as we entered, with no public debt and get on with being the kind of country which is it clear that most people in Scotland want.

William Cable
William Cable
3 years ago
Reply to  Edward Andrews

‘It is within the competency of the present government of Scotland to terminate it.’ – No it isn’t. The current Scottish government is in no way the legal successor of the pre-1707 government. This government was enacted by Westminster Statute and can be abolished but Westminster statute.

Janice Alexander
Janice Alexander
3 years ago

The Westminster parliamentary system, including the House of Lords, is archaic to the nth degree. Fix that and the main reason for the desire for an independent Scotland would disappear.

Ralph Windsor
Ralph Windsor
3 years ago

Unfortunately, the political class exhibits little willingness or ability to “fix” the system. The new Reform UK party has made a few of the right noises but we must wait and see whether they have a strategic or merely a tactical vision. To date all meaningful reform of Westminster has fallen at the first hurdle so it’s more realistic to expect little and avoid disappointment.

Adam Huntley
Adam Huntley
3 years ago

I think the option of further devolution of England into roughly the old Anglo Saxon kingdoms into Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex may have merit. This would be current North and Yorkshire centres (N) East and West Midlands, Anglia and London Centres (M) and South N&E centres. (W)There would be three major police forces, NHS and school administrations with the benefits of economies of scale that would bring, whilst also meaning closer democratic involvement and control.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
3 years ago
Reply to  Adam Huntley

Can we then devolve Scotland into its old kingdoms?

Edward Andrews
Edward Andrews
3 years ago

When was that? Scotland actually is one of the oldest kingdoms of Europe dating from about 840. The problem with many English people is that they seek parallels between Scottish and English History the problem there aren’t

Ralph Windsor
Ralph Windsor
3 years ago
Reply to  Edward Andrews

Well, arguably the “problem” was that the Romans never quite managed to incorporate Hibernia into Britannia with the civilising benefits that brought to thd rest of the island. At least until c.400 AD. By 840 we were all deep into the post-Roman Dark Ages regardless of who the local kings or warlords were.

Adam Huntley
Adam Huntley
3 years ago
Reply to  Ralph Windsor

This is all no doubt true but there remains a general sense of being a “northerner”, Middle Englander and “southerner” though, with voting patterns that reflect that. It may be due to how transport links developed more than ancient history though

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  Ralph Windsor

Don’t you mean Caledonia? Unless you really are referring to Ireland.

The Romans ultimately concluded it wasn’t worth the bother – too far away, hostile tribes, cold & wet and a limited economy.

Just as the EU are likely to centuries later…

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
3 years ago
Reply to  Edward Andrews

Most of our problems with Scotland arise from the Scots lack of knowledge of their own history too much Braveheart and not enough 1707 with a bankrupt country throwing in its lot with its prosperous neighbor.

Edward Andrews
Edward Andrews
3 years ago
Reply to  David Uzzaman

Sorry Scotland was not bankrupt. Scottish state had no investment in Darien. The magnates were hit, like the South Sea Bubble. Scotland was forced into the Union to protect the Protestant succession to the throne look at the Aliens Act 1705.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago
Reply to  Edward Andrews

Depends what you mean by forced, by circumstances of their own creation perhaps rather than an external force

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Adam Huntley

Oh yes more bureauprats as per 9 local mayors £185,000pa PCC on similar salaries NO more politicians..

Rob Alka
Rob Alka
3 years ago

The very description United Kingdom” could be viewed as an oxymoron, in that “United” begs the question, suggesting disparate parts that are united rather than a cohesive whole, a patchwork rather than a whole piece of cloth and, in the case of Scotland, patchwork that was ragged from the outset.

Devolution is just someone else’s (deliberately) misnomer for evolution. My argument here is that the removal of an impediment to evolution can just as reasonably describe devolution, in both cases a step-by-step process to a new improved state of affairs rather than a revolution.

I am persuaded by Ruth Davidson’s argument that Scotland’s yearning for independence is an emotional rather than entirely rational aspiration. I am also sure it has gained credibility and righteousness as an evolutionary process towards independence once idiot England allowed Scotland a significant amount of autonomous self-rule rather than local area government with local responsibilities and freedom permitted but not enshrined by Westminster.

I have no doubt that a significant, perhaps even majority of Scots, are emotionally, romantically, historically attached to independence from English rule. Don’t misunderstand, this doesn’t mean striving for independence from the EU; instead they see that as a cooperative of equals rather than going from an English frying pan into a federalised European fire.

I cannot think of a more infantile approach than Westminster using scare tactics to tighten the united chain that binds Scotland to England. The hostile contrariness of Scots would be better negotiated by an English government that can learn to stop exercising its natural imperialism of yesteryear, which only serves to heighten Scotland’s belief that the marriage was loveless from the start.

Once Westminster conveys being genuinely sadly reconciled to “losing Scotland as an integral part of what put the Great into Britain”, the pendulum of discordance and animosity becomes practically entirely in Scotland’s court, for them to ruminate and do some political soul searching and heaven forbid, write themselves an economic-business plan with a S.W.O.T-analysis.

Unless the Scots have become stupider than the English government (hard to imagine) and realise the danger of cutting off their own nose to spite their face, I reckon they will delay their decision to break off from the UK until they see next year how Britain is doing after leaving the EU without a deal.

Ralph Windsor
Ralph Windsor
3 years ago
Reply to  Rob Alka

Scotland is not “ruled” by England and there is no such thing as an “English” government. Scotland is not a colony of England but a valued and valuable part of Great Britain. And have you forgotten how many of our prime ministers and other leading figures in politics, industry, science, culture and elsewhere in British life have been Scottish or of Scottish heritage? This hardly sits well with the nationalist rhetoric that Scots are groaning under some sort of English colonial yoke.

Rob Alka
Rob Alka
3 years ago
Reply to  Ralph Windsor

What are you, a PR consultant to Scotland’s devolved government? Why don’t you just post a website of Scotland’s heritage and its influence on British thinking and achievements?

Leaving aside your nitpicking*, do you have any better or at least alternative hypotheses that might explain Scotland’s ambivalence over independence and what might persuade them to remain in the UK?

* Of course Scotland’s ruled by England. Or do you think it’s ruled by Northern Ireland or Wales?

charleshart5
charleshart5
3 years ago
Reply to  Rob Alka

What are you talking about? How does England rule Scotland? The English are the only nation of the U.K. without a parliament or assembly of its own. Billions are spent on Scotland. The north of England looks on, in astonishment.

Rob Alka
Rob Alka
3 years ago
Reply to  charleshart5

I’m sorry, I must have been on holiday at the time and not paying attention to home news. So remind me, when did Scotland become independent? Or do you think self-rule is still possible when you allow or expect others to pick up your tab? Is that a Scottish thing?

charleshart5
charleshart5
3 years ago
Reply to  Rob Alka

Don’t be facetious, Rob. Scotland ruled the British empire for centuries. Now it’s shaking down the City.

Rob Alka
Rob Alka
3 years ago
Reply to  charleshart5

I can’t tell from our respective Q&A’s whether we are agreeing on anything or enlightrening one another. That’s the trouble with Smartphones

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  Rob Alka

Scotland’s heritage and its influence on British thinking and achievements?

If it weren’t for lockdown, I’d suggest getting out more. At the very least, get out from under the rock in the remote cave in which you’ve clearly been confined!

Just one hint: David Hume?

charleshart5
charleshart5
3 years ago

The coalition of malcontents which propels the Scottish separatist threat is partly comprised of hooligans who wish to Partition the U.K. in revenge for what they perceive its role to have been in the tragic and bloody history of Ireland.
It is indeed disastrous that this tiny, rebarbative minority has been allowed to threaten our country with decapitation for years.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago

Regarding making England several provinces in a UK federation, there are a lot of people who believe that a federation is undermined if it is dominated by one of its provinces. I am not sure that is true. Czechoslovakia had a good run, even though the Czech Republic was dominant. Serbia was more dominant in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia than England is in the United Kingdom and might well have survived if it weren’t for NATO doing everything in its power to get Montenegro out of it. But if you did want to make England less dominant you would only need to split it between North and South England with London as a city province and no one region would be dominant. I can see the arguments both ways, but I would let the people decide. In 1905, Alberta and Saskatchewan were admitted as Canadian provinces when the people there would have preferred to be admitted as the province of Buffalo. The Wilfrid Laurier government in power at that time were afraid the single province would be too powerful, and insisted on the split. On hindsight, it seems to have been a bad decision, and has helped make Canada one of the most overgoverned countries in the world.

henrysporn
henrysporn
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Baldwin

whether or not there was Alberta and Saskatchewan or just Buffalo would not have changed the basic federal structure of how Canada is governed. It just means there would have been one less province.

Andrew Thompson
Andrew Thompson
3 years ago

Missing you already I say. Bye.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

“…Blair’s intention…” is a creation of Thatcher’s Tory Party.

Graham Laird
Graham Laird
3 years ago

I take a Burkean view on institutions – how they evolve, the dangers in unnecessarily dismantling them, and the resultant carnage if demolished.

The Scottish Nationalists have failed to produce an intellectually honest or coherent view of what independence actually entails, other than a childish loathing of “the b*****d English.”

To be candid, “the b*****d English” have every right to implore them to go forth and multiply. I would and I am of Scots heritage.

Z
Z
3 years ago

Reading this from the US, I am sad that things have come to this. I have a lot of good will towards the UK, and regret that you are going through this pain and even hatred of each other. As you well know, we in the US have our own serious problems maintaining unity, tho it hasn’t seriously manifested as secession (last time didn’t go well). Nevertheless, the society is gradually framenting, and there has become far more emphasis on differences, than on common values or interest. To me it appears that the center is not holding, here.

And it’s depressing to see a variant of that bitter division happening in the UK as well – with Brexit and now this.