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What hope for the United Kingdom? Northern Ireland, like Scotland, could soon be ruled by nationalists

Brexit upended 1.8 million lives in Northern Ireland. Credit: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Brexit upended 1.8 million lives in Northern Ireland. Credit: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images


December 30, 2021   7 mins

Shortly after the terms of the Scottish independence referendum were set, in the 2012 Edinburgh Agreement, a few of my colleagues and I were interviewed in Holyrood for a Northern Irish current affairs programme. Because of the peculiarities of their region’s politics, the show had decided to have each Scottish politician interviewed by both a unionist and a nationalist, simultaneously. As a former broadcaster, it struck me as a particularly clunky way to make television, but I suppose the programme’s flow was less of a concern than demonstrating balance on a hot topic with deep resonances in the country where it would be shown.

After my little stint on camera, I chatted to my interrogators. The politician representing the Irish nationalist community told me how closely Scotland’s referendum debate was being followed across the Irish sea. A Yes vote, I was informed, would do more for Irish unification than any bombing campaign during the troubles, or any politics since. If Scotland were to go, Northern Ireland would be next.

A decade on, UK constitutional politics is still obsessed with the Scotland question, yet events in Northern Ireland remain relatively underreported. The Stormont Assembly was suspended for nearly three years, from 2017 to 2020: a significant piece of our country’s political apparatus was broken. And barely disturbed the bulletins. Had MPs all been sent home from the Commons on full pay for three years, had Nicola Sturgeon sat around in Bute House while civil servants ran Scotland without political direction or control, news editors would have got hours of content out of it.

The almost complete silence on Northern Ireland ahead of the Brexit vote was a disgrace. All those 1.8 million lives, hundreds of businesses and millions of pounds worth of trade upturned — without discussion, dissection or negotiation, until after the fact. The imperfect patching currently underway won’t mend this constitutional tear.

A mega poll of more than 3,000 voters by Lord Ashcroft, published last week, shows the Irish Nationalists, Sinn Fein, winning the next Northern Irish election at a canter — and most people in Ulster believing that a border poll in 10 years’ time would deliver a united Ireland. It is not an outlier.

Perhaps our gaze needs to shift from Scotland — where even the sustained, bellicose sabre-rattling of our First Minister has seen her move not an inch closer to securing a second referendum in her seven years of leadership — to our neighbours across the Irish Sea. New and resurgent political parties and movements, along with the great disruptor of Brexit, mixed with some good old-fashioned political regicide, has created all the ingredients for a generational shift.

Many Brits don’t realise that the power-sharing requirement of the Good Friday agreement means that both the leading Unionist and Nationalist parties must be represented in Northern Ireland’s government, with the offices of First Minister and Deputy First Minister occupied by a member of each. The DUP has been the major Unionist force in the region for almost two decades, recording between a quarter and a third of overall votes at Assembly elections, in a five, six or even seven-party system.

The pro-Brexit party was instrumental in sinking Theresa May’s proposed EU deal, which would have avoided extra checks and red tape for goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and minimised disruption between Northern Ireland and the Republic. The protocols agreed following Boris Johnson’s deal gave no such protection, and are currently being renegotiated. But the anger in Ulster contributed, in no small part, to the defenestration of the DUP’s leader, Arlene Foster, earlier this year. Her successor, Edwin Poots, lasted just 21 days in post. The DUP’s chaotic transition has resulted in a current party leader who does not sit in the Stormont Assembly and therefore cannot be the First Minister of Northern Ireland.

To me, there is a sour, bleak, almost Old Testament defensiveness to the DUP’s unionism. And as someone who believes in the UK, and has spent all my political life espousing the positives of co-operation within wider unions (whether that is Scotland in the UK or the UK in the EU), I worry that defensive unionism does nothing but harm its own cause.

But the DUP are not the only pro-UK force in Northern Ireland.

Enter the most popular leader in the province, who has a Boys’ Own backstory to send any spin doctor into raptures. Born in barracks, the son of a soldier, he suffered childhood trauma when he accidentally shot a friend in the head with his father’s service weapon. At 16, he joined up as a boy soldier, rising through the ranks to become regimental sergeant major, and later commissioned as an officer. In Afghanistan, he was awarded the Military Cross for retaking a town from the Taliban.

There is an earthiness about the man, and a wicked humour. He passes the “pub test”, of whether voters would want to go for a drink with him, with ease — not least because he sends out plenty of pictures of himself on social media enjoying a pint of Guinness or large dram of good malt whisky. Commenting on an internal squabble between DUP MP Sammy Wilson and party leader Jeffrey Donaldson last week, he suggested a “bare belly fight to sort it out”. He has the highest approval ratings of any political leader in the country. And yet he is practically ignored by a UK political press happy to dissect every word, action, belief or motivation if the source is Keir Starmer or Boris Johnson.

But, still, Doug Beattie is the man, quite probably, who will save the Union.

Beattie took over as leader of the moderate Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) in May. In making his pitch, he said he was “able to reach out to all people in Northern Ireland regardless of what your religion is, sexual orientation or ethnicity”. In the last six months he has done just that, convincing Cllr Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston, NI’s first openly lesbian elected Unionist, to quit the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and join his party. In Autumn, Beattie was pictured smiling next to Stephen McCarthy, introducing him as the UUP’s first working-class Catholic candidate for an Assembly election. Mr McCarthy, who grew up in a nationalist household and whose grandfather was murdered by loyalist paramilitaries, says there are many “de facto unionists within the Catholic community”, and that the only way that Unionism would win a future border poll was through “reaching out to people like me”.

Beattie’s unionism is expansive, seeking to embrace groups that have often felt excluded. He also wears his unionism lightly, knowing that not everyone is as passionately entrenched as some of the representatives sent to Stormont. He seems to instinctively understand that his impeccable unionist credentials — military service for the crown, his uncle’s death at the hands of the IRA, the fact that he grew up on Union Street in Portadown — give him much greater licence to talk freely and generously about Irish identity.

He can face down hardline unionist critics by declaring, “I always viewed myself as Irish … clearly I’m British as well but my whole life I’ve identified as Irish”. On talk radio in Dublin, he’s confident enough to dive into that identity:

“I’m Irish. I’m an Irishman. .. I’m also an Ulsterman. You know, I’m British, I’m a European. I’m all of these things and I’m multilayered … God Save the Queen represents me, as does The Sash My Father Wore, Ulster rugby. But so does the shamrock, so does Gaelic games. So does Guinness. So does St Patrick’s Day. All of these things are part of my identity.”

He talks about “the union” not as an immutable object, preserved in aspic, but as a “Union of People” with all the scope and contradiction that entails. He wants little short of a complete transformation of Northern Irish politics — reshaping the devolution architecture to allow for what he calls “working power-sharing” and “power-sharing opposition” — coalitions that bring unionists and nationalists together in order to get things done, rather than (as he sees it) forcing them together in a way that means mutual vetoes often result in stasis. He wants what the rest of us in the UK take for granted: the ability to vote politicians and parties out of office, which he believes will make them work harder and concentrate on voters’ priorities over their own constitutional posturing.

And his confident, positive vision is transatlantic. In Washington DC, recently, he spoke to members of Congress, who are more used to seeing Sinn Fein and the Irish-American organisation Noraid making their nationalist case before passing round the hat. In seeking to address this one-sided view of Northern Ireland, he said: “Unless we engage, they will only hear one story. And it will not be our story.”

Beattie’s mix of statesman and soldier, parliamentary chamber and sergeant’s mess hall has struck a chord. In August, a LucidTalk poll for the Belfast Telegraph saw the UUP overtake the DUP in voting intentions for the first time in more than 20 years. Of all the party leaders in Northern Ireland, Doug Beattie was the only one to record a net positive rating of +20%. Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill recorded -16%, while the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson recorded -20%. For context, Boris Johnson recorded -70%: even if most people in Northern Ireland want to remain in the UK, they don’t think much of the person leading it right now.

With the DUP regularly dropping in the polls to half of their 2019 general election high of 31%, it’s clear that there are thousands of Northern Ireland Unionists feeling politically homeless right now. Doug Beattie’s message to them at party conference was clear: “We have self-belief. And that self-belief is contagious. The public are picking up on it and tuning back into the Ulster Unionist Party … We are confident unionists, we are positive unionists, we are inclusive unionists, we are welcoming unionists. We are the Ulster Unionist Party and we are back.”

And, as someone who believes in our union, I breathe a sigh of relief to see a modern, moderate voice making its case across the Irish Sea.

For me, the fabric of the UK is always in tension. And the “otherness” of my part of it, is, in part, offset by the “otherness” of Northern Ireland. What I couldn’t say, all those years ago, to the nationalist politician impressing upon me Scotland’s potential role in Irish reunification, was that they were probably right. I see the counterbalance that one province provides the other and can accept that Scottish secession, had it occurred, may well have helped tip majority opinion in Northern Ireland towards Irish reunification.

And if I accept that, I must push myself to acknowledge the counter may also be true. That were Northern Ireland to go, and part of that fabric in tension rip, desire in Scotland to be a northern outpost of an English and Welsh block would be less strong than desire to remain part of a four nation union.

So those who believe in the union must turn their gaze west. Scotland is no nearer another referendum than it was the morning after the votes were counted in 2014; but Northern Ireland is probably less than six months away from having its first ever nationalist First Minister. And if the Scottish example is anything to go by, a Sinn Fein victory would give the party a platform to campaign relentlessly to end the UK, just as the SNP have done.

The fight for the future of the UK is about to enter a new phase.


Baroness Davidson is a Tory peer and former Leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

RuthDavidsonPC

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Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

I am glad that Unherd has published an article by Ruth Davidson that as far as I am concerned genuinely is unheard. We don’t get much information about Ulster in the MSM and I had certainly never heard of Beattie.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jeremy Bray
Denis Slattery
Denis Slattery
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Here’s one piece of information you will never get in the British MSM, the electorate of Ulster has consistently voted for political parties and politicians that do not want to be in the United Kingdom.
The people of Ulster ,like the rest of Ireland , have always voted against being in the United Kingdom.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Denis Slattery

Given that historically Ulster contained 9 counties and three of them are in Ireland rather than Northern Island no doubt you are right.
I am afraid I should have referred to Northern Ireland. Given that one of my 4x great grandfathers hailed from Tandragee in Antrim and my grandfather was born in Dublin I should be a bit more precise, but I am afraid despite this background Northern Ireland has been rather noises off for me.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Jeremy your knowledge of Northern is rather scant I’m afraid. Tandragee is far from County Antrim. It might help to look at a map sometime

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

Yes, many thanks for pointing that out. Not sure why I had relocated Tandragee, My knowledge of NI is rather scanty despite my ancestral connections. I have been meaning to take a trip over to both NI and Dublin to visit family connection sites but covid has rather restricted my travel intentions recently.

sjkhayes
sjkhayes
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

All 9 Ulster counties are in Ireland. Do not confuse the Republic of Ireland with Ireland.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Denis Slattery

I’m in wonder at that claim. Actually wondering what evidence it’s based on?

Denis Slattery
Denis Slattery
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

It’s based on every Electoral returns since 1918 which repeatedly shows the unionists in a minority in Ulster and a significant minority in Ireland

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Denis Slattery

Denis, what planet are you living on?

Denis Slattery
Denis Slattery
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

On the planet known locally as Earth , third one out from the star we call the Sun .
That’s another fact for you .

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I’d never heard of Beattie either and she makes a rather biased pitch for him. Unfortunately she undermines her case by claiming that it was the pro Brexit party that wrecked May’s deal when it was a combination of Brexiteers of all stripes and Remainers (mainly on the left) who (thankfully) wrecked the deal.
She just can’t stop herself seeing Brexit through her own biased filter – thereby undermining her case for Beattie.
And as an expat Scot I’d like to see both NI and Scotland go independent – get that teenage chip on their shoulder against England sorted. But I don’t think they’ll be allowed to stay in the house again, and quite right too.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Stewart
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Ethnically the Protestant element of Northern Ireland is Scottish. Certainly my Northern Irish ancestor born in Tandragee, Antrim was a Campbell who was beneficiary of O’Hanlon lands. DNA services like Ancestry have difficulty in sorting Northern Irish and Scottish DNA for this reason. Northern Ireland should, perhaps, have been designated South East Scotland upon the independence of Ireland and joined to Scotland. The English don’t really have much of a dog in this fight if the truth be told.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jeremy Bray
Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

OK, but there are corollaries; my very Scottish, catholic, and patriotic British mother-in-law was ethnically Irish; her father was recruited from Ireland to work in the mines during the first world war.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Yeah I come from the Irish catholic side too but was brought up non catholic in an orange part of Scotland – used to sing the pro-proddy songs on the way to school and then visit my catholic relatives at the weekends who were also pro-union but anti-proddy – making visits interesting!
I agree that it’s really just Ireland and Scotland that have skin in the game and it’s all about religion, even though they’re all atheists now. England should just pass them the ball and leave them to it.

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I love this “it’s all about religion, even though they’re all atheists now”. Permission to borrow?

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Jeremy, once again your scant knowledge let’s you down. There’s also a significant element of ‘Ulster English’ around parts of Armagh & Down. In fact around Tandragee, that you keep saying is in Antrim. If you even googled Tandragee you’d see it’s in Co Armagh

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago

“If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” ~ Kahlil Gibran
But make it clear that you won’t continue to feed them or do their laundry while they are off finding themselves.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
2 years ago

Whilst I’m not anti-unionist, I’ve yet to see anyone make a case as to why England should want it. You know, the place where the vast majority of Britons live, the people that subsidise Scotland, Wales and Northern Island whilst being blamed for the mismanagement of those funds by the devolved Parliaments.

What’s in it for us?

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Yes, quite. I’m from England and am not anti-unionist as such…but over the last few years (even though I don’t live in the UK anymore), a sort of resentment has set in as regards Scotland at least. Northern Ireland was always a special case: the possibility of reunification was baked into the Good Friday Agreement so they already had the door open with a view to leave.
Even though I’ve always loved Scotland and the Scots, it is seeming more and more like the wife that constantly abuses you and bad mouths you, saying they want to go – while still taking full advantage of the spousal credit card.
If I had a friend or other half that did that, I’d be telling them where to get off, post-haste. Imagine if this goes on and then Scottish independence doesn’t happen for whatever reason. You’re stuck cohabiting in a union that, emotionally, is a corpse.
Maybe it’s time to just admit that the idea of Britain and Britishness is dead and find some way of dealing with that new reality – by either allowing the nations to decide on their own independence, letting the ones go that choose that, and then building a new house with the ones that stay (possibly a federation…but without the Barnett formula).

Michael Askew
Michael Askew
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Nicola Sturgeon clearly intends to create a sense of grievance against the English in Scotland, and annoyance in England about Scottish hostility to the UK government. The objective is to make the rest of us want independence from Scotland as well as Scotland wanting independence from the UK. Both grievances constitute a win-win for her. We shouldn’t let the troublemaker succeed in goading us.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

Sadly, I am not far from not caring. The idea of Britain and the union are seeming ever more similar to a Miss Havisham-like corpse, clad in regal Victorian garb but as dead as a doornail. Holding onto this idea and identity for old time’s sake seems sad and inappropriate. Perhaps it’s best to simply bury the whole thing and create something new. Give the SNP and old Nicola what they want and see what they make of it.

Last edited 2 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

But we did make something new! The EU! It was the best thing that happened Ireland in 700 years! Worked like a dream! Yeah a few issues among the powerful and “dead” as you call them but for the man in the street! Ab fab!

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

“We” didn’t make the EU – Ireland and Britain JOINED the EU and contributed (before one of us left). I think the Irish infatuation with the EU is extremely naive and risky…but there again you probably think the same about Brexit. Different world views and all that. Good luck to you when the euro goes down the toilet.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I think the Irish view will change now they’re having to contribute to EU funds rather than being a recipient. Add in the fact that the new tax laws prevent them from undercutting their neighbours on corporation tax to secure jobs, and if the UK gets it’s act together and makes a success of securing international trade deal I think the Irish will be much less pro EU in a decades time.
To be honest working on building sites I’ve worked with plenty of Micks over the years, and not many of those have ever been fans of the EU. Perhaps it’s more of a middle class pursuit like it was in England

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Nothing like using a pejorative slur for the Irish people you worked with. If that’s how you regarded them, then I suspect you know little about them. Support for EU membership in Ireland sits about the mid nineties in terms of percentage most of the time.

I know this is a concept that brexiteers in the U.K. find hard to grasp. But Irish people see themselves as European & modern. Perhaps largely because they’re devoid of romantic notions of imperialism

J P
J P
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

I dare say Ireland is a net recipient of EU funding whereas the UK was a net contributor and yet without much of a say. Clearly you prefer this set up!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  J P

Ireland has been a net contributor for many years. Not a problem: we’re a wealhty nation and can afford it! Our ‘say’ is well above our 2% of the EU population. Apart from our persuasive powers we are one of many small nations and so can rely on mutually beneficial support of similar sized EU states. We see all EU states as our allies not (as you did) as enemies. We prefer cooperation to bitching. We’re doing immeasurably better than when we were in the other Union: the UK. No reason to believe the canny Scots will fare any less well.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

To assume the labouring Micks as you call them are representative of us Irish is akin to us assuming you are all football hooligans.. we dont and you shouldn’t: not because it’s insulting but because it’s inaccurate.
Supporting the EU project is less a middle class pursuit and more a thinking class pursuit.
You think the Scots are crazy wanting to a Scexit from the UK but the English are so smart wanting exactly the same thing! Self determination is your God given right but wrong for Scotland (and Wales and NI!). Do you guys have any concept of “equivalence” or are you utterly blinded by your own deluded sense of “Greatness”?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

…and by the way I note one of our Micks, professor Teresa Lambe who headed up the development of the world’s first Covid vaccine has been honoured by your Queen! We built you your canals, your railways, your roads and most of your buildings so I guess it’s to be expected we’d also build your vaccine! You were hardly likely to do it all by yerselves now were ye? Seriously?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The Euro is too big to fail.. like the banks.
How long do you think your “naive” argument is sustainable before we declare the EU a success? Brexit Britain in like 10 minutes old and you’re already in deep dudu: 2022 will be a big “squeeze” (UK think tank) with every family ÂŁ1,200 worse off. Real trade controls start today: you couldn’t even manage the light touch controls up to now! You’re short on HGV drivers, fruit and veg pickers and pigs cannot be butchered: the shelves are half empty! .. and it’s only going to get worse! The Eton boys don’t give a flying f..k about you guys and are lining their pockets Patterson style laughing at you all! And you’re better off now are you? You’re living in cloud cuckoo land. Yer all doomed, doomed I tells ye!

Last edited 2 years ago by Liam O'Mahony
jill dowling
jill dowling
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

without funding

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

The SNP is not Scotland and they did not win their referendum.

mel.swan2
mel.swan2
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Agree totally, the SNP did not win the referendum on independence, apparently a sizeable – 30% it was claimed – of its members voted for Brexit (EU was viewed as a bosses club that shackled the Scottish working class), yet the question won’t go away. The nationalists are really no more than a campaign group – keep trying and maybe one day they’ll succeed. Therein lies the danger.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

This sort of thing is profoundly anti democratic… the SNP do not represent the majority of people in Scotland and the endless whinging (done for the purpose already mentioned of getting independence by other means than converting the majority in argument and debate).
Scotland voted against independence in a proper and orderly referendum, by withholding loser’s consent in that vote Ms Sturgeon and her party delegitimise democracy itself. The only thing they are succeeding in separating is Scotland itself where it will take many years and decades to repair.
Britain and Britishness is worth arguing and campaigning for, alongside the narrative of Empire-as-bad, and racism down every street is the one of the country that provides an extra dimension to narrow nationalism and defensive parochialism that comes from reactionary parties like the SNP.
The Britain that alone in a world where everyone, including all Black African empires (eg Benin) , practised slavery, first abolished it and then spent lives and money enforcing, or trying to enforce that ban. The Britain which union with, enabled a Scottish Enlightenment, after centuries of being on the fringes of Europe, used as a catspaw by continental powers in their wars with Britain (Spain, then France), to put the country at the centre of world history.
Everyone around the world rates Britain and Britishness, London is possibly the world city and most diverse on Earth, yet Brits ignore and discount it, and pretend to prefer the sterile blood and soil Nationalism, accentuated under Nicola Sturgeon from the version manufactured by Alex Salmond, now himself hated by the people he once led.
Rather than teach rubbish Braveheart versions of history produced by BLM or the various nationalist parties rising history we need to teach the real history of Britain.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

How does England gain by remaining in a union with Scotland, or Wales, or Northern Ireland?

Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

One thing we all get, is the air and sea space to defend ourselves. That may not be the first thing that comes to mind but the U.K. Air Defence Ground Environment (U.K. ADGE) would be massively diminished if Scotland and/or NI left and chose not to be part of NATO, or agree some continuing use.

If unclear why this is important, get a globe and view the world from the North Cape, southwards, and imagine how much more constrained we would be without the early warning offered by the air and sea space associated with our northern and western islands.

Tim Bartlett
Tim Bartlett
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Diggins

Theres no need for the islands, borders, oilfields and area round Aberdeen to join an Independent Scotland.

mel.swan2
mel.swan2
2 years ago
Reply to  Tim Bartlett

Wasn’t that long ago that Shetland Island Council was talking of breaking away from Scotland and there are some regions that might be anti-independence. All-in-all and a bit like Ireland; this could end up messy.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
2 years ago
Reply to  mel.swan2

In the Borders many want a , ‘but we can elect to remain in the UK’ clause in any future referendum…which I don’t think will happen btw. I feel the experience in Quebec is instructive and as a truly woeful record erupts from the deep, and as (just one among many egs) the Teesside Mayor says three major inward investments will be announced in the next few months that in past decades would have gone to Scotland, not Teesside, Sturgeon appears less and less to walk on water (something still assumed by under informed people reliant only on UK Broadcast media) and more and more like a Ahab..strapped by the ties of her own ineffective policies to a great, dying whale of ineptitude.
As in Quebec the movement has started to fracture and I expect a faction to emerge, as in Quebec that will be an SNP for Scotland within the Union…while the hard core factions will toggle between Alba, and a continuity SNP-for Inde, if only because with support starting to slip, too many jobs in the SNP, and the Scottish charity, media and legal establishment have become tied to a party that can remain in power.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Diggins

I can see your point re Scotland with the Russians attacking via the North Pole or thereabouts but Wales? Where’s the attack going to come from? Your American friends? Or the mightly nuclear superpower that is Ireland?? ..Iceland? Canada? Huh?

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

It doesn’t have to, because the union is based on mutual support. However, the SNP is already succeeding in its policy if it has prompted you to ask.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Apart from an enduring sense of ‘Great’ Britain it doesn’t. In 10 years time, when the light finally comes on for those who bought the Brexit myth, that could change.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

Ahh go on! Do! We’re going to reunite with Scotland (and Wales, Cornwall, Brittany etc) to form a Federation of Independent Celtic States.. We’re gonna call ot Feics! I jest…

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

We’ll just call it the Celtic Whinge.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

That’ll do nicely:

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Ireland did vote against the EU over the Lisbon Treaty but was sent away to vote again. Since then it has been allowed to become the US multinational revenue washing machine of choice for pan EU revenues. This provides high GDP per capita, most of which never reaches ordinary Irish people, but evaporates from the air con steam coming off the American tenanted towers in Dublin.
This will end soon as both the USA and EU want to clamp down on differential corporation tax rates, the EU want to make it a QVM item and remove any vetoes and only Ireland and Luxemburg oppose this move it is likely to happen.
If it does become pointless to pay for offices offshore for the US corps then they will likely re-shore and as the to let signs go up alongside the Liffey it is not impossible that Ireland will again start aligning with the refusenik groups in the EU, which seems to be growing.

Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Askew

But why, though? What’s in it for England to deny her this ‘win’? In what way is it not cutting off our nose to spite our face?

John Macleod
John Macleod
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Fair enough but I wouldn’t say it’s through lack of trying that Scotland can’t win independence. Scottish Parliament returned a pro-Indy majority which would legislate for one if it could no? Seems to me the English PM is the block by refusing to accept that a second referendum could ever be legitimate.

It’s more like the spouse is badmouthing you but you refuse to countenance a divorce than it is the spouse is badmouthing you and also just taking advantage of you.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  John Macleod

To be honest I think Boris should allow one – just as Nicola wants, by 2023. For the life of me I cannot imagine how an independent Scotland would survive, especially now Sturgeon scotched the Cambo oilfield. She doesn’t seem to have any clue about how to achieve independence. I’d say “but that will then be the Scots’ problem”…but a failed independent Scotland would very much be England’s problem in the end.
I should also add, that – as a tax payer in a wealthy EU state which is also a net contributor – I am anything but delighted about the prospect of Scotland coming knocking at the door. For one, the EU cannot reform and so one more joining would just make the shole ship even more unstable. Also, I’m hoping that Scotland will be held to proving that it can sustain itself over a long period of time financially and at least present the prospect of becoming a net contributor. We’ve got enough financial basketcases over here as it is without Sturgeon’s Super Socialist Scotland coming cap in hand.
There are reasons why I think Scotland rejoining the EU will never come to pass even if it is independent but I’ve written about that elsewhere.

Last edited 2 years ago by Katharine Eyre
Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Like the question over the Brexit referendum, David Cameron made a monumental blunder over the Scottish independence debate.

Had he allowed the question of ‘Devo Max’ to be on the ballot paper, the Scots would have opted for this in large numbers & therefore the SNP’s political arguments should have been dead in the water for a generation.

But like Brexit, he didn’t, & the question is still alive & well.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

I’m curious: at what point does Devo max intersect with Independence.. in reality no small or even medium nation is or could be completely independent and still prosper. There will be mutual defence treaties (eg NATO), trade deals, financial deals, travel deals, spheres of influence etc etc. The notion of complete Independence belongs to North Korea and Albania. A modern, outward looking, smart country like Ireland will have a dozen ‘mutual’ arrangements with other countries and all kinds of cultural and diaspora-based ties.. Britain needs to wake up and smell the coffee!

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

I agree Cameron was hopelessly fey and complacent in both referenda…allowing a Yes/No question in Scotland, allowing 16 and 17 yr olds to be enfranchised simply because Salmond and Sturgeon felt young people would be more likely to vote for Inde, allowing the 20% of Scots (around 800,000) living and working in England to be barred from voting, but allowing any person living in Scotland (but not actually a citizen) to vote… he was useless.
In elections since 2014 Sturgeon has co-opted anyone and anything to try and get to that 60% support she feels the minimum level she needs to be at to enter a campaign.
By hijacking Remain people through flipping the SNP from anti-Remain to Remain, and hitchhiking on Labour’s bandwagon to portray Conservatives as simply evil in a Manichean sense she has managed to improve on her *Ruth Davidson* election nadir of 38%.
(That 2017 election was a disaster for the Conservatives nationally, under Theresa May, but was a different story in Scotland)

Now as the horrible reality of her record emerges from the deep her support is fraying. Her ill judged attempt to go after Salmond has created an even more extremist grouping in Alba, which attacks her with more venom than any unionist, while moderate support quietly walks as the coming reality of a business crippled Scotland becomes ever more real.

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago
Reply to  John Macleod

The UK PM isn’t refusing to accept a second referendum; he merely thinks the SNP can’t expect to hold a referendum every time it wants one, that is to say, when it loses. I’m sure there will be another, after a decent interval. Ten years? I don’t know.
But another argument against is that the last campaign was so unpleasant; one must remember that in such a referendum, it is not Scot pitched against (say) English, as Sturgeon likes to frame everything, but Scot against Scot.

mel.swan2
mel.swan2
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

The civil religion of “joyous civic nationalism” is anything but
 it has created an open wound in Scottish society and polarised many people. During the last referendum – referred to in nationalist circles as a ‘dry run’ – the use of pejorative terms like quisling and collaborator meant many were afraid to let their position be known. Ms Sturgeon often talks of having an adult conversation about independence but struggles to call off the attack dugs!

Last edited 2 years ago by mel.swan2
Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
2 years ago
Reply to  Colin Elliott

Absolutely right and whatever supposed wedge she is meant to be driving between *England* and *Scotland* is rendered insignificant by the fissures she has created in Scotland.
The disastrous entry into government of the two Green Party people Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie and their strident calls to accelerate the end of oil production are alienating even previously committed members of her own party.
The *coalition* (that had to ignore many policy areas and exclude them to even crawl into the light) was for purely presentational reasons, to be able to say we have a pro indy formal coalition (despite it’s widespread informality).
What it is achieving is to alienate large numbers of non hard core supporters in the Islands and the wider NE around Aberdeen, but not only there.
Scots are not fools and they saw how Salmond made much of *our oil* and the $113 a barrel price as a device to wash away any and every fear that Scottish independence would be fraught and far from easy.
His *easy inde* pitch spoke about no border at all, the Queen remaining head of state, and using the ÂŁ in a best case scenario of a formal currency union which was both unenforceable and never realistic.
Both the experience of Brexit and the strident arrival of the Greens have dismantled any idea it can be easy, and while the usual prominent SNP politicians, and some bloggers , continue to toe the line, many have defected to Alba (the activist’s party have some of the most vitriolic bloggers supporting Salmond), some support is beginning to drift away as the implications of the accelerating green agenda of the Greens-led SNP govt policy sectors (like Oil and Gas) become ever clearer.

Dr Stephen Nightingale
Dr Stephen Nightingale
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

A Federation without the Barnett formula: Yes. But I’d also split England into more manageable, and accountable, Region sized chunks, with all having equal weight, and in particular that London city and City *not* have disproportionate weight.
It is clear that today the 6 Northern Counties, Lancashire, Yorkshire and Up have more industrial heft and population than Scotland, but incredibly less recognition and fiscal autonomy. Ellsbells, we don’t even have planning autonomy, every time some corporation gets a planning refusal, they appeal to Westminster and get it overturned. (I’m more interested in the North cause that’s where I live. Others can argue for their own Regions).

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
2 years ago

Yes, this was proposed by Churchill during the debate over Irish home rule early last century.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
2 years ago

I have argued, partly mischievously, but not entirely so that instead of slavishly following the settlement of the Roman Empire on borders, we opt for the post Roman, diverse settlement in Britain, of Angles, Jutes, Saxons, Celts, pre-Celtic Brions, Dalraidic Scots Irish, the unfortunately exterminated Picts (ethnically cleansed by the Scots from Ireland) , Romano Brits, Danes (ie Northmen, thus Scandinavians) and base regions in partly federal Britain on those kingdoms.
The idea being that a London region is not the enemy of Britain, but as possibly *the* world city, most diverse and entrepreneurial alongside the Californian cities and Shanghai, it is a fantastic asset.
But it needs counter balancing, and as you point out, allowing it to dominate the dominating *Roman * entity of England, and thus in turn the much smaller entities of Scotland, Wales and N Ireland, makes any true federation along the lines of Switzerland or Germany, impossible.
So taking London’s 10 or so million as a baseline, A ‘Wessex’ of the wider South east, a Mercia of the Midlands, a Strathclyde of Manchester and Mersey and Clyde, and a Northumbria, with perhaps a wider Yorkshire, would give roughly equal sized units in a federation.
Welsh, Scottish and Irish entities with some powers in culture etc could be overlaid.
As an extra I would place some rural areas , like North Scotland, the West Country, perhaps the Borders and one or two others in a separate *rural sector* as the rural areas are all separated with larger urban areas and often see their problems and issues ignored in favour of their urban areas.

The basic point is I do favour a proper federalism as it devolves power (unlike, interestingly, an almost universally centralising SNP) but it can never be achieved unless the units are more equal in size than the 4 we have at the moment, and of sufficient number to be able to ally to fight for things over the central power, which realistically will always be *London*.

I think the country would be far more governable than either the very centralised French state, or our own present unworkable attempts at devolving power and revenue generation across the country.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Exactly what I was going to say. We’re endlessly told the union should be preserved, but the opinion that’s never canvassed is England’s.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Fair point. The other bits of the U.K. have devolved decision making closer to the people, but not for Northern England

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Power darling! Power over everything that matters!

William MacDougall
William MacDougall
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

The case is two fold:
1 – A long history together, over 400 years since the kingdoms united, so there are close ties of family, friendship, and shared achievements.
2 – That each of the four countries is strengthened by the variety provided by four very different national cultures. England without Scotland and Ireland would just be little England; with them it’s a great enterprise.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I’m a bit surprised that Scotland was a net recipient of UK funds despite the vast income from North Sea oil: wasn’t that Scottish oil? Or was it it somehow England’s oil? I’m informed the accounts are “creatively” compiled to make England look like it is the only net contributor and all the others are net recipients? Time for a forensic audit I think?

Last edited 2 years ago by Liam O'Mahony
Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 years ago

Ireland is the only EU country since WW2 to have a main stream political party with links to a private army to further its political aims. Including doing this by torturing, maiming and killing thousands of men, women and children.

Last edited 2 years ago by Roger Sponge
Denis Slattery
Denis Slattery
2 years ago
Reply to  Roger Sponge

The unionist paramilitaries , UDA/UFF/UVF, will have the final say in who leads their political wing , the DUP.
If Donaldson doesn’t do what the unionist murder/drug gangs want , he’ll be out like Foster and Poots

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 years ago
Reply to  Denis Slattery

Quite possibly. My interest living in England (although not English) would be to see how the Republic would handle the surely inevitable fighting if NI voted for unification.
And how 5M tax payers would take over from 65M people in supporting NI. (Edited)

Last edited 2 years ago by Roger Sponge
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Roger Sponge

I would guess: a hell of a lot better than you guys did! Mind that wouldn’t be difficult. Ever since the disastrous partition of our country in 1922 GB went from the ridiculous to the wicked over the ensuing 100 years with a few notable exceptions, Tony Blair being one.
The truth is neither GB politicians nor its people care a fig about NI, regarding it instead as no more than a bloody nuisance! And that’s because GB’s handling of NI was a bloody disgrace from beginning to (soon to be) end!
We will expect you to do a lot better than you did in Afghanistan btw when you do pull out!

Last edited 2 years ago by Liam O'Mahony
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

“We will expect you to do a lot better than you did in Afghanistan btw when you do pull out!”
What do you mean? Repatriate the Ulster Scotsmen and Ulster Constabulary back to Scotland to stop them being massacred by the Shinner terrorists as collaborators? Send funds in to stave off widespread starvation? Fortunately I doubt we need worry about the women of Ulster being forced to adopt the veil or dismiss from their jobs. Do you expect refugees fighting to get the last plane out of Belfast?

Anna Sheehan
Anna Sheehan
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I’m sure all the women of Ulster indeed won’t have that problem since three counties are part of the Republic of Ireland, not the United Kingdom. I think what you are attempting to refer to is Northern Ireland.

The ignorance and arrogance of the British colonial mindset never ceases to amaze.

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago
Reply to  Anna Sheehan

Who? A Dutch king William of Orange and Oliver Cromwell? Or the Norman (descended from Vikings) Richard de Clere?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

For sure the die hard Unionists will flee not from fear but so as to feel more at home. The RUC has been replaced with the more represenentive NIPA fully supported by SF for many years so no worries there.
What I meant was: having made such a mess of the North of our country and supported gerrymandering and discrimination for 100 years destroying the ability of the statelet to thrive you ought to make reparations and continue support until we can repair the damage you did. Is that asking too much?

Last edited 2 years ago by Liam O'Mahony
Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

“We will expect you to do a lot better than you did in Afghanistan btw when you do pull out”.
There’ll be negotiations, of course, which I can’t second guess. But what I do know is that 5M people will take over paying for NI’s deficit instead of being helped by 65M people. And, I would hope, NI pensions and health care currently funded by National Insurance and taxation.
Plus taking on the cost of security and dealing with any trouble from those who would disagree with the new order.
I’m a British citizen, born elsewhere, one of not an insignificant number. And, by nature of the case, you can’t include us in your accusation of regarding NI as “blood nuisance”.
I note that for most of the time that Britain ruled in the Republic, the broad mass of the people of England were poor and disenfranchised; that the ruling class treated them as badly as they did the Irish.
Most of the ancestors of the English today were not responsible for the oppression of the Irish. In any event, children aren’t responsible for their parent’s sins.

Last edited 2 years ago by Roger Sponge
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Roger Sponge

I don’t disagree with the points you make but in answer to your question about taking on the NI deficit let me pose a counter question: if we the Irish in 26 of our counties managed to do so well what makes you think the Irish in NI (in cooperation with the rest of us) cannot do the same? Do you think the NI folk are less smart, less hard-working, less dedicated etc? You’d be completely wong if you do! If anything our NI bothers and sisters are even smarter, even more hard working and even more determined than we in the ROI are! Together we will be unbeatable!
As for the die hard Unionists some with emigrate to the motherland: others will accept the new order (to varying degrees but see there is no alternative) because like the Scots they are largely decended from they’re a canny lot as well!
If you think we’ll be at each other’s throats then you dont know us! We have West Brits and Zionists and many Poles, Latvians and Lithuanians: and yes lots of English, German, American and French as well. Nigerian too. We all get along.. getting along with with our own from up the road? Piece of cake!

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Who are the “Zionists”? Where do they come from?
As for your comment about Unionists leaving for the “motherland”, I wonder why you think NI isn’t their home. Many/most have been there for generations. Some before the founding of the USA.

Last edited 2 years ago by Roger Sponge
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Having rather mockingly commented on the final sentence of your comment I wold like to ask you more seriously why you think GB policy in respect to the establishment of NI was ridiculous and wicked.
There were a number of attempts in the UK Parliament to grant home rule to the whole of Ireland and these faced opposition from Irish Unionists as well as English and Scottish Unionists. Under the leadership of the Dublin born Sir Edward Carson and Craig the Ulster Volunteer Force was gearing up to resist the establishment of an independent all Ireland and the compromise that created Northern Ireland from the six Protestant Unionist majority counties of Ulster surely avoided a bloody civil war. Why do you think this compromise was so ridiculous and wicked beyond the fact that it didn’t give Irish Nationalists all that they wanted?
Britain had just fought a war against Germany with the aid of Irish Regiments was it realistic for Britain to force the six counties into Ireland by force? Would it have benefited Ireland to have fought to enforce a United Ireland?
When subsequently might it have been propitious to drive the six counties out of the Union while there remained majority support for remaining in the Union?
My grandfather was born in Dublin and I have Irishmen in several strands of my family as well as French strands so I don’t approach the matter simply as an English Unionist.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jeremy Bray
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I’m happy to accept your bona fides from the tone of your contribution: no need to convince me further.
The best answer I can give you is to ask you to imagine an 85% majority wanting Scottish independence but a 15% minority refusing to be part of it, by force: ie ignoring the democratic wishes of the vast majority. Would the English offer an independent Scotland from say 50m north of the current border? Or tell the 15% “tough” it’s called democracy! Is subdivision of Scotland on the table in the event of a majorty Inde vote?
England threatened all out war against Ireland if we refused the partition arrangement. That would have been bloody!
The partition did NOT btw prevent a civil war: it caused one! We had a bloody civil war north and south with enormous loss of life (between those accepting the treaty and those refusing it)..
Now that the Nationalists in NI have outbread the Unionists and (despite shameless Gerrymandering) will lead the next NI Assembly will England impose a new 4 county separatist statelet, ceding southern and eastern counties (or parts) so that Unionists can have a smaller enclave? And in 50 years a 3 county statelet and in 100 years just East Antrim?
And how about say the North of England seceeding from England. They’re Vikings after all and very different from you Anglo Normans? I jest.. but hopefully you get my point. Democracy isn’t Plasticine after all, is it?

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

You have asked me to imagine an 85% majority in Scotland voting for independence. But were those actually the numbers in Ireland in 1921? The 1926 census of Northern Ireland indicated a population of 1.256 million and the population of The Irish Free State seems to have been just above 3 million and falling. 
Decolonising is never easy to achieve in a bloodless fashion where there are separate communities willing to fight to defend their position. In the case of Ireland the militant Unionists were concentrated in the six counties. They were militantly loyal to the Union and were willing to fight to avoid being incorporated in an Irish Free State. 
I am not saying the solution adopted was ideal but it was clearly not evil then and since. It recognised the harsh realities on the ground. It has endured for many years and Wikipedia suggests the fighting in NI was effectively over by August 1922 the last killing taking place on October 1922. (Until the subsequent Troubles).
The fundamental problem was the original settlements which effectively deprived the original inhabitants of large tracts of land in Ireland. That was more worthy of being regarded as evil but was a matter of history by 1922. When do you think the UK government should have reversed this compromise against the wishes of the majority of NI population? You know full well the UK has no interest or intention to carve NI into any further subdivisions particularly as the situation is no longer as fraught as it was in 1922. If NI votes to join Ireland the UK will be happy to accommodate them – although unlikely to continue paying money to NI as you suggest above.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

To add to my previous postI, Boyd Tonkin’s article today reminds me of the comparable situation in Algeria.
The death toll in the struggle for Algerian independence that was resisted by France and the pied-noirs was estimated by the FLN at 1.5 million although later estimates suggested it was something under 1 million. In any event the death toll was incomparably larger than in Ireland, and France received an influx of something short of 1 million fleeing from Algeria. Again there has been no such disruption as a result of the Northern Ireland compromise.
Algeria may have achieved complete independence rather than being balkanised but at what a terrible cost. In the circumstances do you not think the solution to the problem of Ireland’s pied-noirs was less evil than the outcome of Algerian independence? The pied-noirs of Algeria had been in Algeria a fraction of the time Ireland had been settled by incomers. I can understand an Irish nationalist being disappointed by the compromise solution of Northern Ireland but as a humanitarian does not the pragmatic compromise achieved represent something of a triumph of British pragmatism? When Northern Ireland is eventually absorbed by Ireland it will be peaceful and without major loss of life and rancour.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Just a blood nuisance that costs them ÂŁ15Bn a year

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

As long as ex Forces, stray dogs and The Cats Protection League get priority nobody cares.

mel.swan2
mel.swan2
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Without getting tribal about matters, did the UK government not grant the Free State government a sizeable loan on decent terms a short while back? In fairness, fully paid back. But the point is that both countries are on decent terms irrespective of what the MSM might suggest (Ulster remains great coverage). Meanwhile, in the North if Ireland, ordinary people get on with their lives; thanks, in no small part, to the peace process. It’s by no means perfect but I’d rather argue with someone face-to-face than throw a petrol bomb at them.

Another problem with Scottish independence was that the nationalists suggested cutting corporation taxes to tempt in business and cited Ireland as an example of where this policy had worked. (Maybe the loan allowed this to happen; I dunno’!) The response to this suggestion was that, if businesses threatened to move to Scotland, the Irish government would cut again. Win-win for big business and a squeeze on the State finances of whatever country the businesses decide to park their caravan; probably Romania or Hungary next year but I digress. I’m also unsure how many of the associated jobs are well paid or if they’re limited hours, minimum wage etc. However, I can’t imagine there are too many final salary pension schemes on offer.

I’ll leave the matter of an independent Scottish economy having access to European markets to another day. Now where is the port in Scotland that could handle all of her exports; and would the pesky English tax to use their ports? So many questions.

Last edited 2 years ago by mel.swan2
Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Roger Sponge

That’s a valid point Roger. Clearly there would have to be an international element to any settlement that would bring funds to support a transition

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

True. And the arguments could be loud and long. For example, I suspect that many an English reaction would be “If you want it, you pay for it.”

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Roger Sponge

I presume you mean NI? What you describe occurred in a war torn, 2-sided terrorist run statelet that is a part of the UK.
We had no such events occurring in Ireland (RoI) thank God, apart from some Unionist thugs planting a bomb in Dublin.

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

It’s disingenuous to suggest that Sinn Fein in the Republic has no connection with Sinn Fein in NI.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

The Republic is just a bit further down the road Liam. Your bombing & shooting (and civil war) was a century earlier.

Alexander Morrison
Alexander Morrison
2 years ago

Ruth Davidson is absolutely right here on at least three counts: the politics of Northern Ireland are shamefully neglected in the British press and at Westminster; the future of Northern Ireland and Scotland are intimately linked; and Doug Beattie is perhaps the most impressive Unionist politician to be seen anywhere in the UK at the moment, whether in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh or London. I highly recommend his memoir, An Ordinary Soldier, not just for what it tells you about the man, but for its understated but eye-opening revelations about the shoestring nature of the unsuccessful British attempt to bring peace to Helmand province. Suffice to say he was tasked with recapturing a large town (Garmsir) from the Taliban with a grand total of eight British soldiers (at one point reduced to two), about sixty Afghan policemen and National Army soldiers, and two land rovers.
And Beattie is surely correct about the future of Unionism. The whole point of Britishness is that it is part of a layered, not an exclusive identity. It should be possible to be English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and British.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

The problem is that the English don’t distinguish between “English” and “British”. Yes, I know if I asked they could all give an exhaustive definition of each, but they don’t actually take it seriously. To them, it’s like the distinction between curtains and drapes; they’re just regional terms for the same thing.

Alexander Morrison
Alexander Morrison
2 years ago

Unfortunately you’re right, as a general rule – and if the Union dissolves then English nationalism will have played a major role (just as Russian nationalism did in the collapse of the USSR). I think though that there are still a lot of people in England who think of themselves as British, both those of mixed English/Welsh/Scottish/Irish heritage (of whom there must be many millions) and more recent immigrants, who on the whole find it easier to assimilate to Britishness than to Englishness.

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 years ago

I suggest you will often see the Queen described as the “Queen of England” in foreign media. That mistake can’t be laid entirely on English people.

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago

We are the United Kingdom – united politically but also personally. My family are of Irish descent and since then a proportion of descendants have married into every other UK nation – and so on and on it goes down the generations..

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

All you have to do is add a H to your name and sure you’ll be Irish won’t ye now!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Only in your opinion. In fact, if you want to look at who really doesn’t distinguish between England and Britain, try the rest of the world. The French consider themselves to have been defeated at Waterloo by les anglais, the Germans sang Wir fahren gegen England, there’s a Spanish departmentstore called El Corte Ingles..

This simply reflects the fact that the heft in Britain has always been England; the fringe provinces have never been of much account. Other nations recognise this simple fact, and take little notice of what they see as English regions noted for their sectarian football and their Semtex, if even that.

Resentful little separatists in these unimportant backwaters are angered by this evidence of their insignificance. Of no account to anybody, they resentfully seek to make the English the source of their grievance, as though England has any say over how others see us and the dependencies.

So really, be on your way. Talk to the hand. England doesn’t need you and foreigners will continue to use Britain and England interchangeably, like they always have. For this I guess you will have to learn to blame Dublin, or Brussels, or something.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Wow. Like…two world wars and one world cup, oy music and bovver boots wow…

David B
David B
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I’d lay the blame firmly at the door of BB King, and his meeting with the Queen of England in “Better not look down”. Such an influential and widely respected musician must surely be held responsible…

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago

I think thats unfair: there’s the English and the English-governed! Quite different old boy!

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

Rubbish. In my opinion, ‘the English’ I know are perfectly aware of these things. The blurring comes primarily from foreigners, and sometimes from past references. I never use the term ‘English’ to describe someone here deep in England, because the person is as likely to originate from Scotland, or Wales, or Ireland, or Asia, or East Asia, or middle East, etc., or Channel islands, for that matter. If they have a passport, it’s probably British, never English.
I have often winced when Nelson’s famous signal ‘England expects every man to …etc’, but I believe that was down to the fact that use of signal flags forced him to be brief.

Last edited 2 years ago by Colin Elliott
Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Ruth seems to be selling us this view that politics is a matter of popularity rather than competence. Sturgeon is popular but apparently incompetent. The same seems increasingly true of Boris. We all have at least feet of clay but what if political office reveals legs of clay?
Devolution has proved a disaster, the Covid responses in the 4 nations making that clearer. I would be intrigued to know what interest there is in the UK as a whole for scrapping devolution altogether!
PS Ruth conveniently forgot to mention that May’s deal would have locked the whole UK into EU controls on our trade.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

And wouldn’t that (May’s deal) have been immeasurably better than the disastrous slide you now have? A trade deal is just a trade deal after all. Who cares whom the officials report to – unless you guys wanna cheat? Now you don’t want to do that do you?

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

No, Liam, nothing like a trade deal where each country respects the other’s rules and operate equivalence recognition. May’s deal was asymmetrical with us having to have EU standards without any say in their creation.
Enda Kenny was working on a tech solution to the border which would have worked fine. Then Varadkar took over and played hardball with the EU. The EU has no respect for anything other than itself. May was duplicitous.

Last edited 2 years ago by Peter LR
Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
2 years ago

Yuck

“passes the “pub test”, of whether voters would want to go for a drink with him, with ease — not least because he sends out plenty of pictures of himself on social media enjoying a pint of Guinness or large dram of good malt whisky.”

His social media profile portrays him as a suburban dull midwit, a beige bland identikit politician. He even whores out his own grand daughter for a few cheap social media likes.

God be with the days when Ian Paisley railed against the devil’s buttermilk (guinness) and called the Pope an antichrist.

I’m an Irish nationalist. I’ve more in common with the values of DUP these days than those of the Shinner scum and the SDLP trans black women of colour. At least the DUP still seem to be believe in something

I mean what does the below even mean?

“I’m Irish. I’m an Irishman. .. I’m also an Ulsterman. You know, I’m British, I’m a European. I’m all of these things and I’m multilayered 
 God Save the Queen represents me, as does The Sash My Father Wore, Ulster rugby. But so does the shamrock, so does Gaelic games. So does Guinness. So does St Patrick’s Day. All of these things are part of my identity.”

I’m surprised he didn’t mention tayto crisps and Barry’s tea as well.

There will be a united Ireland in the coming years, but I couldn’t care less anymore. What’s the point in being a 32 county colony of the EU with Silicon Valley values

Last edited 2 years ago by Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago

I note you admire people “who at least stand for something” – I’m assuming you meant to add: “irrespective of what that something means”?
If you look at the history of the “great” men who had that same view you’ll be numbered among some very unsavoury characters indeed!
Doesn’t that bother you? Is a Liberal, balanced outlook not a better approach for a Christian?

Last edited 2 years ago by Liam O'Mahony
Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
Annemarie Ni Dhalaigh
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Ah stop. Liberalism is what has us in this mess: male sex offenders in women’s prisons and so on. The great men and women I admire include Pearse, Connolly and the Countess. Stop pretending the great men of history are all Hitlers, Stalins and Maos

Julie Blinde
Julie Blinde
2 years ago

Excellent

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago

YOU are the one lauding the single minded illiberals not me! There are two definitions of “Liberal” the modern (stolen) version and the classical one. I referred to the latter.

Last edited 2 years ago by Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

..of the 3 you list I would support only one wholeheartedly, one to a degree and the third not at all.. you can work out which yourself if yer of a mind to!

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago

It won’t be a united Ireland in the sense that militant republicanism wants.

Time has moved on.

The Ireland of the future will be a more representative modern place.

The new Ireland will have new institutions, new politics.

The lesson from the last 100 years is that you can’t try & shoehorn a community of people into a state they have no allegiance with.

How republicanism thinks flipping the coin & shoehorning unionists into their version of an ‘united’ Ireland could succeed is beyond most of us.

As someone from a unionist background I want a new Ireland. One beyond orange & green or political parties with their roots in the Irish civil war.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

And you shall have it, guaranteed! You underestimate SF. The old guard are dead and gone.. even among those it has always been a desire for that kind of United Ireland you hope for: Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter. Many of the much lauded (by SF) Nationalists of the past were CoI or Presbyterian.. nobody is interested in the colour on the map. Everybody wants Peace and Reconciliation: a unity of minds not land. Both traditions can be accommoded but not both aspirations.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

The union’s death warrant was signed fifty odd yeas ago, and by the Tories. It happened when they abolished the old Scottish Unionists and folded them into the Conservative Party. Toryism never had much purchase in Scotland, but once that happened, small c social conservatives were forced to vote for what is a quintessentially English party.

Ironically, what’s actually holding the union together now is the maniacal authoritarian, puritanical leftism of the SNP. If you read the most prominent nationalist bloggers in Scotland, the profound and total contempt they have for social conservatives quickly becomes apparent. They actively don’t want the votes of social conservatives. Yet without them, there’s not going to be an independent Scotland.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

The current situation in Scotland suits the Tories very well. Labour can’t win a GE without its 50 rotten boroughs in Scotland so would have to rule in coalition with the SNP. The prospect of such a coalition guarantees defeat because the English will not tolerate rule by anyone who hates and plunders them, as the Brexit vote showed.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Not this nonsense about Labour needing Scottish seats to win, again. Blair won three elections without them. In the entire history of the Labour Party, there have only been two elections where Labour needed Scottish seats to govern, and of those, the 1964 government only lasted 18 months and in 1974 they also needed the support of the Liberals anyway. Labour has NEVER needed Scotland. It’s a myth.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

I find the idea that one part of the Union detaching will cause some sort of psychological domino effect, and the whole thing will unravel, rather childish – as silly as those Brexiteers who hoped the UK leaving would trigger others into leaving. I’m not going to rehash all the arguments, but I am a Brexiteer because I believe the EU is not good for the UK, and I don’t care what effect leaving has on other nations – they can make their own decisions based on their circumstances, as they see fit. The case for staying or leaving stands or falls on it’s own merits, and is nothing to do with how others might behave in reaction.

Ultimately, the Northern Irish, the Scots, the Welsh are free peoples, and can choose to leave or stay as they please. And if they want to make each others choice a factor in the decision, it’s their choice, bizarre as that choice may seem to me. We can make the case that the Union is a great thing but if they choose to believe otherwise (and Scotland very clearly is standing on the precipice) it’s their free choice, and as such I wouldn’t even say it’s a matter for regret. The rest of the Union (or even England on it’s own) will be just fine, as will an independent Scotland, or a re-unified Ireland.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The population of Scotland and Ireland are similar in size and Ireland has flourished as an independent country and so there is no reason to think Scotland won’t. They might have to recover their reputation for tight-fisted canniness to do so, of course, as I don’t imagine the Barnet formula involving substantial funds being transferred North would survive Scotland’s independence.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

We’ll see how Ireland goes in the near future now that it has lost its ability to operate as the EUs tax haven

stephen archer
stephen archer
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I once hoped that Scotland within the EU could break free of the London-centric Westminster government and utilise its resources (oil, tourism, energy, SME inovation, education output) to prosper. I realise now how naive I was, that it was never on and will never happen and I can give you at least five reasons why this is so: socialism, incompetent politicians, massive social problems, immigration policy, lack of vision and initiative, geographical location on Europe’s periphery, pie in the sky dreaming/planning, lack of investment in “substantial” industries/services, education system a shadow of what it was. That’s nine and I could go on. Then there are the fiascos exemplifying this: Queensferry Crossing, Ferguson Marine, Rest and be Thankful, Calmac ferries, Prestwick Airport, Glasgow School of Art building reconstruction, drug problems, small-minded management of Covid-19 pandemic, etc. I’ve been all over Europe in the last 50 years and seen what’s happening in terms of progress and development, then come back to Scotland and not a lot has changed, some things for the better but not a lot more.
Scotland will never get back on track while under the control of Westminster but unless the country is prepared to and able to reverse the negatives, there is no viable alternative. Throwing socialism out the window and enduring austerity, financial prudence and a radical change in policies and mentality are not issues which I feel the population of Scotland would be so keen to adopt.
It’s a pity Ruth Davidson chose to throw in the towel and take a cushy (comfortable) number in Westminster. She won’t achieve a lot there or by writing columns like these.

Julie Blinde
Julie Blinde
2 years ago
Reply to  stephen archer

I gradutaed in Glasgow and worked in Edinburgh and raised 2 kids there.
The humour is great. The profligacy is staggering. The drugs flow freely. I didn’t stay

rodney foy
rodney foy
2 years ago
Reply to  Julie Blinde

Interesting. I came to Edinburgh from N. Ireland, and am delighted to remain 🙂

Alexander Morrison
Alexander Morrison
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I quite agree that the Union can only survive by consent – but I disagree when you say that the departure of Northern Ireland or Scotland would not cause the whole thing to unravel. It is a delicate political structure, the last surviving early modern composite monarchy left in a Europe of unitary nation-states. It has more in common with the Habsburg Empire or the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth than with France – and we know what happened to the former two. I want to see it survive, not just for personal reasons as an Anglo-Scot, but because the zero-sum logic of nationalism is so petty and limiting, and the Union in its eccentric way allows us to work beyond those limitations. Its dissolution would leave all its constituent parts poorer, weaker and more vulnerable to the sharks that are currently circling in the international system, namely China and Russia.
All that said, the respective relationships of Scotland and Ireland to the Union are quite different. Scotland joined – indeed created – the Union voluntarily as an equal partner in 1707, and benefited from it disproportionately. Ireland was forcibly incorporated in the Union in 1800, and was always treated as a colony, ruled through a largely Protestant aristocracy and settlers. It was the Scots who first created and promoted the idea of Britishness, and who were primarily responsible for colonising Ulster with Protestants. This is what makes the ‘Hibernianisation’ of modern Scottish nationalism and its claims to victimhood so specious and historically inaccurate.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

A fine response, thank you.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

Good to read here someone who is aware that it was Scotland, made nearly bankrupt from a failed imperial adventure, which was desperate for union with England.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

How would the departure of Wales, Scotland and Ulster, all heavily subsidised by the English, make England worse off?

Julie Blinde
Julie Blinde
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Access to bagpipes and leeks perhaps ?
The additional funds would cause obesity ?
(haggi are made in Norfolk)

Last edited 2 years ago by Julie Blinde
Richard Goodall
Richard Goodall
2 years ago
Reply to  Julie Blinde

As a scot I know haggi are born and not made.

peter barker
peter barker
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Ultimately, the Northern Irish, the Scots, the Welsh are free peoples, and can choose to leave or stay as they please.”
What about the English – are we free to chose? My view (and I think the majority) would be: we’re stronger together but if you want to go, then go. However, there’s been so much anti-English feeling from Scotland that I suspect a fairly sizable chunk would be happy to see Scottish independence (but not the same for Wales/ N Ireland).

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

The unstated assumption embedded in claims that NI would follow Scotland is that Scotland, an insolvent and incompetently managed country, won’t instantly fail and turn into a colder, rainier and more violent version of Greece. For my money, that’s precisely what would happen, and therefore it should be implemented as soon as possible.

If you want an idea of how that plays out, the best guide is South Africa. The reason there are suddenly so many white South Africans no longer there is because they don’t want to live in poverty in a failed state. Much the same trajectory would follow Scottish secession.

Whether the EU will want this basket case will depend on how soon everyone abandons their green energy lunacy and realises that the future is natural gas.

Julie Blinde
Julie Blinde
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Dankie Meneer

Denis Slattery
Denis Slattery
2 years ago

I don’t have a dog in the Scottish independence fight but here’s a novel idea why not split Scotland up into two separate political entities based on the which region votes Yes or No. Just draw an arbitrary line anywhere and to hell with the consequences for future generations
ï»ż Oh hang on that was tried before and what a success that turned out to be. If there’s a Yes vote can the UK government reorganise the Black and Tans to put those uppity Scots back in their place ?

Anna Sheehan
Anna Sheehan
2 years ago
Reply to  Denis Slattery

Judging by this comments section, I doubt many here even know who the Black and Tans were, let alone the sordid details of their own colonial history.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Anna Sheehan

Were they the ones who planted Semtex bombs in bins to murder children? Or were they the ones who sent a message of sympathy to Germany on the news of Hitler’s death?

Anna Sheehan
Anna Sheehan
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

No, they were not. Perhaps you are referring to the IRA, a shameful terrorist organisation.

The Black and Tans were a British constabulary whose primary aim was the suppression of rebellion in Ireland. They had limited training, were trigger happy, renowned for their brutality and took it upon themselves to burn homes and business with impunity.

Denis Slattery
Denis Slattery
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

They were the ones who terrorised the population of Ireland by murdering men ,women and children. They were the ones who burned Irish cities,towns and villages on the orders of their political masters in London
That’s who they were

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Denis Slattery

And when did murdering people become not OK in Ireland? The IRA did it for decades, protected and excused by people like you. Why was that OK? Are you sure you haven’t just, you know, made them up?

Anna Sheehan
Anna Sheehan
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Who said that was ever ok? I think you will find most people in the Republic, certainly those who remember the Troubles, find the IRA abhorrent. They are a terrorist organisation and they have certainly not been absolved. But it cannot be denied that it is an organisation born of suppression and the resulting frustration with a vicious land grab. None of this is okay but it is the complex reality.

Last edited 2 years ago by Anna Sheehan
Michael Askew
Michael Askew
2 years ago

Beautifully written and an important contribution to a story largely unheard in the UK.
Just two beefs:
that Scottish cessation, had it occurred” should read “Scottish secession”
“I see the counterbalance than one province provides the other” should be “counterbalance that”.
Pedantic, I know

Peter Elstob
Peter Elstob
2 years ago

Never heard Scotland called a province before.

Ferrusian Gambit
Ferrusian Gambit
2 years ago

The idea that the UUP has returned as a credible force in Unionist politics in N. Ireland is an entirely risible fantasy.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ferrusian Gambit
Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
2 years ago

This is most encouraging.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago

This one can be filed under the same banner as the eccentric Kilkenny man written about in Unherd a few months back.

MATTHEW HISBENT
MATTHEW HISBENT
2 years ago

Ruth Davidson must dread walking out in the wind. She gets blown in any direction by the slightest breeze. I am almost tempted to cancel my subscription on the basis you give this political chancer a platform. Holyrood not working to her liking and needing more time with her family? – she takes the ermine and rakes in the daily allowances. And she has the temerity to say “The almost complete silence on Northern Ireland ahead of the Brexit vote was a disgrace. All those 1.8 million lives, hundreds of businesses and millions of pounds worth of trade upturned — without discussion, dissection or negotiation, until after the fact.” She didn’t seem too bothered by the fact Scotland voted firmly against Brexit. By all means seek alternative viewpoints, but from people with a shred of credibility please.

Julie Blinde
Julie Blinde
2 years ago

She is a politician, that’s what most of them do

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago

The sooner the gulags of Scotland, Wales and NI stop feeding off the English teat’s ÂŁ25 billion and disappear into insignificance the better. My father said Ireland should be cut off to float away into the Atlantic. “To where?” I said. “Who cares?” he said.

Alan Robinson
Alan Robinson
2 years ago

An excellent article from a thoughtful politician.

Anna Sheehan
Anna Sheehan
2 years ago

Yes, like divorcing a wealthy and generous spouse with whom you were forcibly married, and instead marrying a partner of your choosing. Lol indeed.

Last edited 2 years ago by Anna Sheehan
Anna Sheehan
Anna Sheehan
2 years ago
Reply to  Anna Sheehan

Julie, dear, Scotland may have asked for the onion, but Ireland certainly did not.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Anna Sheehan

I have used a different marital metaphor for Brexit.

It’s more like the middle aged chap who’s a bit bored & convinces himself that the buxom barmaid who winks at him down the pub is a better bet.

So he leaves his wife & kids, has a fling with the barmaid.
When reality dawns & he’s sitting in a dingy flat but still paying the mortgage on the nice house his (now ex) wife still occupies, instead of seeing his mistake, he continues to blame his wife.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

Surely it’s the buxom barmaid who is the EU, to be left when commonsense returns?

Colin Elliott
Colin Elliott
2 years ago

Thank you for an intelligent and articulate article, devoid of the cliched and insincere sentiments too often written by politicians and journalists.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

The unionists overall may well desire home rule, or self-government, from Belfast, but they did not want it for the island of Ireland in 1912 (with the signing of the Ulster Covenant) when the proposed arrangements for it by Asquith’s Liberal Party would still have resulted in the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland (as the UK was officially known for decades, as seen on many old English pub commemorative jubilee plaques from Queen Victoria’s time). An armed uprising by unionists would have occurred had not WW1 intervened.
The ardently religious streak still appears to run through Northern Ireland, unlike in Scotland. (The Covenant hasn’t gone away, you know). To such an extent that nobody, from whatever tribe they are from in Northern Ireland, apparently looks upon the other as a fellow Christian. Even the Presbyterians and the Anglicans don’t see eye to eye. I don’t believe they sing the same hymns. And among those who get worked up by flags and the viability of a united Ireland, patriotism for Christ becomes secondary, even if they claim otherwise.
A new covenant based on Christian values needs to be signed up to by all Irish patriots, north and south. Even nationalists can be patriots. The Protestants can be Irish patriots, too. It might not matter then which nation’s flag is fluttering above, post-border poll or none.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

England should get a shot at a referendum to rid itself of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is only fair.

Michael Rawle
Michael Rawle
2 years ago

Please forgive this very late posting. After reading Ruth Davidson’s article and the comments thereon, I would recommend that all of your commentators and readers should read the recently republished “The Idea of the Union – Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, edited by JW Foster and WB Smith (Belcouver Press ISBN978-0-9935607-2-9) for a well-informed Unionist view of the current situation.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Michael Rawle

I find the concepts of “well-informed” and “Unionist” incompatible: the Unionists must be the least well informed group on the planet! They listen to no one but their most bigoted, biased, discriminatory and backward looking members from their own narrow-minded, one-sided ranks! A bit like asking a staunch Trump supporter to pronounce on democracy in the US today!

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

A neat little hyphen ought to go between “backward looking” because what you have there, sir, is a compound noun (as in: backward-looking members). Indeed, a hyphen ought to go between “well informed” as that is another compound noun (as in: well-informed group). All your other hyphens are present 
 and correct! Compatible, they are, my man. No hyphen, no compatibility, however.

Michael Rawle
Michael Rawle
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I am disappointed to receive this response from Mr O’Mahony. All that I am asking him to do is to broaden his mind by reading the book, which I have recommended above (The Idea of the Union – Great Britain and Northern Ireland) before commenting further.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

It’s an unquestioned assumption that England is sustaining Scotland financially, but I know of no pound for pound chart or assessment which shows exactly how much each country is putting into the union and how much each is taking out. Westminster is extremely cagey about how the figures are presented. Just something to bear in mind.

Julie Blinde
Julie Blinde
2 years ago

But what do YOU think ?

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Julie Blinde

I don’t know. I just don’t make the default assumption that England is carrying Scotland, not absent hard numbers.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago

I must admit I too know little of nothing about Doug Beattie: mea culpa. indeed I’ve lost all interest in the UUP since they have been in decline for many years thanks to the DUP ‘grabbing’ the great bulk of the Unionist vote. And sure hasn’t Sinn FĂ©in done the same to the Nationalist vote. The others hardly count, surely?
No matter how impressive Beattie is it seems unlikely he will achieve anything other than split the Unionist vote closer to 50:50 an outcome that would spell disaster for both the DUP and the UUP as it would ensure SF candidates will be even more successful in the next election?
But I may be missing something? I have to admit that, like most average GB people most average Irish people have switched off NI since the GFA.
It’s a great pity that NI Unionists treated the minority RC/Nationalist population so unfairly for so many years as it will make the inevitable reunification more difficult than it would be otherwise. As a CoI person living in the Republic’ I can attest to zero discrimination (apart from some positive discrimination to our benefit). I believe thd vast majority of all faiths would say the same: but then we had no desire to reunify with GB! That history was also a very unpleasant experience..
Personally I would like to see us all form a Federation of independent states, several steps beyond devolution btw.. oh, hang on: we have one already: it’s called the EU!

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I also know very little about Doug Beattie. He reminds me of Paddy Ashdown – decent, honourable etc, but is unlikely to unseat the DUP anytime soon.

We should also remember that we too would be trapped within our tribe if we lived in the north (assuming most in here do not).

Harry Briggs
Harry Briggs
2 years ago

Ruth Davidson you write so well.
Thank you for this enlightening piece.

Anna Sheehan
Anna Sheehan
2 years ago

While the Lord Ashcroft survey in NI indicates that a border poll in ten years would deliver unity, people in the Republic of Ireland are not overly enthusiastic about the steps that would have to be taken to achieve that, with voters registering “a lukewarm commitment to achieving a united Ireland” (https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/majority-want-united-ireland-but-there-is-resistance-to-steps-that-need-to-be-taken-1.4752294). A nationalist government in NI is no guarantee of a united Ireland any time soon.

Douglas H
Douglas H
2 years ago

Thanks, really interesting article.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago

You could live to eat those words dear brexiteer. My prediction is that an impoverished Britain (it won’t be great) possibly without Scotland & NI will reapply to join the EU in 40-50 years time.

Even within the first year of Brexit, Volkswagen has overtaken Ford as the number one car brand.

Imagine the indignity, in brexit Britain people still prefer cars made in Germany to ones made at home.

Zorro Tomorrow
Zorro Tomorrow
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

Focus and Fiesta are built at Saarlouis, Germany. Dagenham is a diesel engine plant and Transits are made in Turkey. Typical remain mentality. Never let the truth and facts get in the way of quisling obsession with a dying moribund creature.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

Ruth Davidson and Gordon Brown both make a well argued case for retaining the UK.
In an ideal world, cooperation is always better than competition, joining in surpasses opting out. Unfortunately we do not live in that ideal world.
What Davidson and Brown both want can never come to pass as long as England fails to deal with the colonialist reliquary that is its present government and state structure. That means radical change in outlook on the part of the English public that continues to vote for it. So long as the English psychosphere continues to opt for the old, the out-of-date, the nostalgic, the power-and-control and world-beating domination that used to be but is no more, so long does it fail to face up to the reality of the now.
As in marriage, so in the nation. There comes a point in breakdown of relationship where divorce is the only positive, peaceful way forward.
As to the possibility of small new nations like an independent Scotland succeeding, the proof is in the pudding. Look no further than Ireland to see what wonderful, positive things happen when the colonialist shackles are thrown off and a people regains its freedom and self-respect.
Nothing is forever. Unfortunately, from where we stand now, it really does look like the English are incapable of change and may indeed go on in their stubborn stuckness forever. They appear to the rest of the world to be a lost cause. So divorce is not only preferable, but inevitable.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

This is like a piece of propaganda from abroad that would not have looked out of place back in the 1930s. The “English psychosphere”, moreover, is the sort of pompous high-falutin’ phrase that would have been dreamt up by a minister of propaganda from that time. A tinge of gloating comes through your observations, too.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

Why is your consciousness focussed on the 1930s?
I am actually a researcher in human futures

And no gloating from me; just horror and disgust and despair and deep sadness.
And I am English by birth.
How could you have got it so wrong?

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago

..or, alternatively, you might have addressed the substantive points she made: assuming you have the capacity to do so. Snide remarks are so easy and so reminiscent of your inability to change. QED.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Or the early 1940s.

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Are those living in England (56M) being stubborn in paying NI’s deficit, health and pension costs? Or its internal & external security and defence? (That includes the cost of security in dealing with those unhappy about the new order.) Or do you think the Republic (5M) can take that on?
Are “the English” incapable of change” in contributing money for the RAF to defend the Republic’s air space?
You claim that the rest of the world sees England as a “lost cause”. But you don’t say how you know that.
In damning the English, you don’t note the many who want to live in England. These, of course, include those paying a great deal of money to risk their lives crossing the Channel. And Scots and Irish from the Republic.
I can only wonder what you would make of the Middle Eastern lady wearing a veil who burst into tears after my citizenship ceremony, “For the first time in my life I feel free,” she explained.
As a researcher in human futures (whatever that is), you seem unaware of the many who choose England as a place to find a welcome, tolerance, freedom and a good life.

Last edited 2 years ago by Roger Sponge
Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Roger Sponge

Indeed there are a great many good things to say about England (but past colonialism is not one of them). It is a land of opportunity for the desperate for sure largely because the English will neither work at menial tasks nor reproduce to ensure future pension contributors! But you cannot have it every which way. Leaving the EU was a monumental error and you now have a government of Eton eejits flushing your good country down the drain.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

One gets the impression that it is a matter of supreme effort for you to have a record by an English band in your collection. The Scots abound, no problem. I imagine.
Could you care to list just a few of “the great many good things to say about England”? Would generosity be one of them? I would have thought being “a land of opportunity for the desperate for sure” is one of them. America, the New World, had been a land of opportunity for the desperate Irish for many years. The only one, really.

It is surprising to read of a worry about the tens-of-millions English failing to reproduce themselves sufficiently. I did not know another citizen of the EU would be so concerned! So ready to scold the English on this point! Does that reveal something about England’s smaller surrounding countries’ real but hidden fears about Brexit: that it would lead to uncontrolled migration around the Isles? To the fed-up and desperate seeking even greener pastures? To the realisation of the reality of globalisation in our lives?
Perhaps the first countries to ease lockdown restrictions would be viewed by the world at large as less narrow-minded. More open and generous. It’s a good guess anyway.

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I’m sure you do have English bands in your record collection. That is 
 if you do have one of those things.

Roger Sponge
Roger Sponge
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Immigrants do menial tasks in UK because they’re better paid than at home. They also accept poorer living conditions to get what, to them, is better money.
Since Brexit, employers have had to pay higher wages to get British workers. It’s for you to say why that’s unreasonable.
Suggest you look at demographic reproduction projections for, say, Italy and Germany before suggesting anything unique about the UK’s birth rate.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Roger Sponge

A middle eastern woman who wears a veil in modern Britain either wears it because pressure from her family and culture force her to, in which case she is not free, or she wears it out of an immature defiance of the norms of the prevailing culture, in which case, like the teenage boy who finds endless ways to defy his parents in the process of trying to find himself, she is not yet free either.
Confused and mistaken understandings of multiculturalism have seen the establishing of a divided and dividing education system where children are now educated in silos in total ignorance of either the validity or the inauthenticity of the ways others in the country live. This comes from an inability on the part of those in power to think through the problem and come into a new approach.The colonialist “divide and rule” mindset still dictates the thinking of those making decisions today. Nothing new here.
Britain is no longer a welcoming place. Current refugee policies are proof of that. Its rulers have a very poor track record of judging the nation’s capacity to absorb illiterate non-white immigrants from peasant tribal backgrounds en masse. Current immigration policy is reactionary in that it is simply reacting to the failures of past policy. That is, the headset is still stuck in the past. Nothing new to see here.
And finally, the fact England is still subsidising Northern Ireland to such an incredible extent is indeed evidence of its stubborn colonialist refusal to let the province go. Forking out those sums to prop up an unviable regime is evidence of a lack of flexibility. It is a fact that most English people couldn’t care less about NI. Facing the future means the Westminster government facing up to a United Ireland and doing its best to facilitate a peaceful transition.The NI economy is a wreck now for the same reasons republican Ireland’s economy used to be a disaster zone: the damage done to a people’s self-respect by colonialism, which inhibits healthy development—taking responsibility for oneself, exercising one’s creativity, proactively planning one’s own future. So nothing new here either.
England is stuck in the past.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

You put it perfectly!

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
2 years ago

..except that the Westminster powers greatly exceed those of the EU as regards ordering national affairs. Although with more and more devolution Scotland will soon be so devolved it might as well be independent?
So it’s more like divorcing a control freak and marrying a liberally minded person!
The best bit os you don’t have a lying, self-enriching (at voters’ expense), crazy braggard of a leader! Imagine having BJ for a husband? OMG!

Lord Rochester
Lord Rochester
2 years ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

I’ve got Sturgeon as it is and she’s a lying, self-aggrandizing, crazy braggard. How’s that better?

Denis Slattery
Denis Slattery
2 years ago

Unionists have a unique concept of what forms an electoral majority. They had an in built majority in the creation of the 6 county, gerrymandered, sectarian statelet that became known as Northern Ireland.
When they lose that majority in the 6 counties then according to Unionist logic you just create another statelet of 5 counties where they have a majority or 4 counties and so on until you end up with East Antrim , North Down and east Belfast. And call it North Eastern Ireland or whatever
And for Ms Davidson’s information Ulster consists of 9 counties, the majority of the electorate in these 9 counties have consistently expressed the wish that they do not want to be part of the United Kingdom over the past 100 years

Last edited 2 years ago by Denis Slattery
Denis Slattery
Denis Slattery
2 years ago
Reply to  Denis Slattery

In reality, the only thing that has ever mattered is that the extended English state of Great Britain/ UK overthrew the wishes of the majority in Ireland in December 1920, established a gerrymandered British statelet rooted firmly in a settler-colonial mentality and funded and internationally defended the entire thing ever since. That reality, and that alone, is what we should judge the real English attitude upon not these incessant English claims of impartiality. Nothing could be further from the truth.
ï»żThat entire statelet would collapse if English money and international support were removed. We all know it, so let’s stop trying to make the English state out to be some harmless bystander. Spinning their propaganda is complicity in a big lie. They can go, whenever they want and they are very, very well able to look out for their own interests.

Denis Slattery
Denis Slattery
2 years ago
Reply to  Denis Slattery

In reality, the only thing that has ever mattered is that the extended English state of Great Britain/the UK overthrew the wishes of the majority in Ireland in December 1920, established a gerrymandered British statelet rooted firmly in a settler-colonial mentality and funded and internationally defended the entire thing ever since. That reality, and that alone, is what we should judge the real English attitude upon not these incessant English claims of impartiality. Nothing could be further from the truth.
ï»żThat entire statelet would collapse if English money and international support were removed. We all know it, so let’s stop trying to make the English state out to be some harmless bystander. Spinning their propaganda is complicity in a big lie. They can go, whenever they want and they are very, very well able to look out for their own interests.