Source: Boris Johnson and Michael Gove at odds over SNP strategy
The PM is said to be against devolving more powers
Boris Johnson and Michael Gove are apparently set to hold private talks to plan a “big push” for the Union ahead of this year’s elections to the Scottish Parliament.
The stakes are high. Another victory for the Scottish National Party — with or without the support of their fellow separatists, the Greens — would see the Prime Minister come under pressure to grant Nicola Sturgeon a re-run of the 2014 independence referendum.
Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email
Already registered? Sign in
Yet there seems to be tension at the heart of the Government’s defence of the United Kingdom. Despite placing Gove formally in charge of pro-UK work at Westminster, Johnson seems to have more than once clashed with him over constitutional strategy.
In the recent clash with the House of Lords over what is now the UK Internal Market Act, for example, Whitehall sources tell me that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (or ‘CDL’) wanted to make much more substantial concessions to the devocrats’ demands than the Government ended up agreeing to.
This reinforced earlier reports that Gove was prepared to abandon the vital provisions of the UKIM Act which empower London to defend the integrity of the British internal market. He is also thought to be linked to those who produced the controversial ‘Hanbury memo’ which advised granting a new referendum if the SNP win at Holyrood, directly contradicting the Prime Minister’s stated policy of refusing one.
All of this has fuelled concerns about an ‘appease the SNP’ mentality amongst elements of the Government’s Union team — and means that a decisive meeting on the subject between the two men could be hugely significant.
Unionists must hope that Johnson, whose instincts on these matters at least seem better (if less elegantly expressed) prevails. His policy of refusing a second plebiscite is not only well-justified but, as Scottish commentators have pointed out, eminently sustainable.
Kicking it into the long grass would not only give the Government more time to develop and implement the sort of cultural and social policies will be essential to rebuilding the shared British identity which is essential to the UK’s survival, but it will also hugely increase the pressure on Sturgeon and her allies in the SNP leadership.
Without the prospect of an imminent vote to hold her warring clan together, the deep divisions within the party (not least over independence strategy) will have space to break out into open warfare. Even if the latest allegations from Alex Salmond don’t bring the First Minister down, her political mortality has never been more apparent and she is an irreplaceable asset to the separatist cause.
Finally, a longer timeline would spare pro-Union campaigners of the need to try and buy off today’s swing voters with panicky constitutional bribes of the sort offered by Sir Keir Starmer, whose recent speech combined a remarkably firm opposition to another referendum with trite posturing against ‘Westminster’ and promises of yet more powers to Edinburgh.
Johnson must grasp that no positive case for the Union can be made that denies a pro-active role for its central institutions, and no lasting victory bought through appeasing the separatists. Our classicist Prime Minister should look at where ‘more powers’ tactics have got us so far and recall his Pyrrhus of Epirus: “One more such victory, and we are undone.”
Mel Gibson has so much to answer for on so many levels.
Last time Cameron tried to appease the separatists by letting them choose the timing, bias the wording, and gerrymander the electorate, but appeasement demonstrably does not work. Next time – I hope in a generation – we should choose the timing and insist on a neutral Leave/Remain wording. And we should insist on the same electorate used for Westminster elections and the EU Referendum: i.e. no children or non-Commonwealth foreigners but with Scots outside Scotland for up to 15 years having a say.
Also, let’s stop emphasising project fear, the finances, however dire, and emphasise 400 years of shared history, family ties and greater opportunities for Scots, ever since the Scottish King took over England.
Why the 15 year rule? If you were born there, with Scottish parents and maybe longer lineage, educated there and have extant ties to Scotland then we are no less Scottish.
All completely academic of course, as most expats have a wider perspective of Scotland’s true standing in the world and can see through the delusional and irresponsible Nationalist fantasy. They know how most of us would likely vote!
Could be longer, but 15 years was the rule for the Brexit referendum and is used for UK Parliament elections.
The problem as perceived North of the border is that of ‘the elephant in the bed’. When it rolls over, anyone else in the bed (Scotland, Wales, NI) is squashed.
Taking this problem in the light of Aris Roussinos’s excellent article here: https://unherd.com/2021/01/… I suggest the answer is Yes, to devolve more, but not just to Scotland, who given an inch will of course take the whole nine yards, and which does not solve the underlying elephant problem.
Devolve more thoroughly to the English cities and regions. Grow up. Retain defence, obviously; foreign policy ditto. But devolve otherwise as much as you can (used to be called subsidiarity). Tax locally so people can genuinely vote for their own services. Think Germany. And remove the deadening hand of the state at the same time.
A small state rather conservative principle, you’d have thought.
Whereupon London would become the elephant in the bed squashing everyone else. There’s no escaping the immense advantages of capital cities.
Strikes me Henry is floundering around for tittle tattle that will cause a storm. Well sorry old bean this rumour made up waffle is a failure, or more succinctly – garbage.
Scotland is a proud country with much to admire, sadly it is let down by a tiny number of nasty, grubby loud mouthed politico’s. Who got in probably because as my Scottish friend tell me the opposition is so spineless and weak.
Got in as a means of dispensing with Labour.
I don’t see why giving the devolved administration more powers for the sake of it is going to help at all, or indeed make any difference. They are always going to ask for more. Nothing that comes from London is EVER right. A debate with the SNP is pointless as they are zealots.
She doesn’t want to take orders from Westminster but she want’s to hand everything on a plate to the EH. Whatever. She’s trying to win the votes of those who voted to stay in the UK but also voted to stay in the EU, wagering the tease of renewed EU membership will prove palatable to those who voted against her in her last referendum.
That’s a wager she’ll lose heavily, then. The EU has zero interest in admitting another economic basket case and in any case Scotland wouldn’t meet the eligibility criteria for accession based on its structural and fiscal deficits. Albania has a better chance than Scotland.
Also, even if Scotland’s candidacy were actually to make progress there is no way that Spain or Belgium would vote in favour. To do so would be to endorse Catalan and Flemish initiatives for independence.
If the absurdity of a second referendum becomes reality – and under bungling Boris anything is possible – then the truth regarding the EU & Scotland needs to be declared up front. In 2014, Barroso had to publicly contradict and correct the mendacious Alec Salmond. It should also be made clear what currency an independent Scotland would have, along with many other crucial components that need to be known before embarking on a reckless vote for permanent penury.
If we want to fix the UK today, we need to change the devolution of Wales and especially Scotland to be local areas and cities looking after their own interests and winding down the nationalistic poison which the Marxists left behind in their attack on the Union after that near fatal 1997 landlslide which end in the “no more money” and the Gordon Brown austerity.
If there is a next Referendum no Marxist solution keep it simple:
Are you in the UK with ONE Parliament in Westminster or not
in the UK, end of the Nationalist guerrilla war we put an end to the nationalist diatribe for good.
Questions should be:
1 . Do you want Full Independence ? => ONE Parliament in Hollyrood
2. Do you want to End Devolution? => ONE Parliament in Westminster
No more nationalist guerrilla warfare against the UK from
inside. As they did last time: We will try again in a year or two ;). There
must be no more part of a 5 million tail trying to attack and wag 55 million dog all the time. The other nations deserve respect and stability and not to be constantly attacked from behind.
James VI of Scotland would have never organized the UK as the Marxists of 1997 did, that is why it lasted. Then came the act of Union etc. we got closer and closer. The Marxists, on the other hand, only left a recipe for animosity and strife. (Typical for that doctrine)
Withdrawal Agreement pre-negotiated:
In order for there to be a referendum there should be first
a negotiation on the terms for Scotland to leave the Union, so that Scots know what they are voting for as English jobs, MOD, ship building come home, what currency they will have etc.
Devolution within Scotland:
In order for there to be a referendum the Islands deserve respect and to have devolved powers, a say in their future, if they want to stay with the rest of the UK or to take part in the referendum towards separation and be ruled from Edinburgh.
If the Scots chose to stay in theend:
Then changes should be made to devolution: Any future devolution
should take the same shape everywhere.
Just like in England the large cities or areas of Scotland should be looking
after their local interests avoiding the poisonous nationalism which the
Marxists left behind smouldering for ever against England. Their dream of a
socialist Scotland for ever never materialized, to the contrary, this plan of
theirs backfired on them.
Gove wasn’t sound on the Union all through the EU talks, and wasn’t sound on fish either. He is an appeaser and would happily have gone for a Norwegian settlement without the fish. Without NI too. But he is clever and quick and hardworking so has made himself indispensable.
Careful Rosie. Never forget he is a back stabber and none of his parliamentary colleagues trust him as far as you can spit. He is tolerated.
I’m bewildered by the embedded apparent assumption that the UK wants Scotland in it. There’d be a huge economic dividend to England from ditching this loss-making subsidiary. If anyone thought the Brexit deal was bad, imagine how bad the Scotland EU access deal would be. The EU will want all Scotland’s fish and all Scotland’s oil and gas – what other cards does Scotland have to play to get in, given that it will be a surefire net taker-out of funds?
And indeed the Joxit bill from England, Wales and NI will be interesting. Nats always assume that existing oil and gas fields will somehow be gifted to Scotland, but ownership of these was assigned to the UK in 1965 and post-Joxit the UK will still exist so will keep those fields. At most, Scotland will be arguing with England over who owns new finds and fields, and with the EU over how much of whatever is Scotland’s the EU will graciously let Scotland keep.
There’s the argument that you don’t want a border with a failed state, but we have that now, so it wouldn’t really be any worse.
As I posted above, there’s virtually zero likelihood of Scotland either being invited to (re)join the EU, let alone qualifying. This is a fantasy that could easily be demolished by pro-Unionists but curiously – perhaps because it is so self-evident – noone makes the case.
As for the oil & gas, two things: first, the SNP exaggerated the proven reserves of both in 2014. Irrespective of ultimate ownership, predicating the economic future and self-sufficiency of an independent Scotland on a dwindling asset base is just plain bonkers; instead of over 50 years’ reserves 7 years ago, most analysts agree the figure to be well under half that duration. Second, for a party that trumpets its supposed green credentials (aspirations) with tiresome frequency it comes across as odd to incoherent that its independent future is so dependent on imagined fossil fuel reserves.
Time has become the enemy of the SNP, which is why right now there is a hectic pace of increasingly crazy announcements on a daily basis, and because of the independence obsession, almost an equivalent number of yet more policy failures and scandals.
The reputational threat in the current Holyrood inquiry into whether Ms Sturgeon *misled* the Parliament over meetings with her predecessor in 2018 about the growing problems of the allegations concerning his corecive sexual behaviours towards staff, and others, is large.
Larger still is the the threat to her reputation if her present story that she knew nothing of Salmond’s behaviours and habits at the time between the SNP coming into Government in 2007 and 2014 when Salmond was forced from power by his defeat in the regerendum, should also unravel.
That she was Salmond;s protoge in many ways, he her mentor and closest colleague, and with her husband, the shadory Peter Murrell, chief of the party machine (a situation that itself is fraught with constitutional danger) and yet they knew nothing of things that were known to many journalists in Scotland seems questionable.
The hypothesis that if she, and her husband, and Angus Robertson, who has admitted knowing about allegations by Ediburgh Airport of being unable to have female staff alone on duty when Salmond was in the first class lounge but maintains he said nothing to other two, did know what many others did, but chose to do nothing (thus in effect enabling the behaviours to continue until the 2014 referendumO) would be difficult for the FM to survive.
2008, 2014 are not so far away foreign country of the past where things were done differently, and Salmond has admitted them in his own mitigation testimony under oath at his trial.
Of course he was not found guilty of criminality but since eyes were turned away from his behaviours the #MeToo phenonemon has massively upped ths stakes for a woman whose parties sole asset is *trust us…we’re better than them* which is embodied largely (given the fact of Salmond’s behaviours) is embodied in Nicola Sturgeon herself.
The idea of progressive, female promoting civic ideals would be destroyed if her story of complete ignorance were to unravel.
That, and the indreasing disaster area of actual policy outcomes in Scotland could see the Nationalists vote fall to where it was in 2017, when it went down to around 38%, from the 44.7% it had been in 2014, in what was a hapless Conservative campaign in general.
The idea of some unstoppable ratchet in which Salmond’s 25% core rises to 44.7% and none of the late converts show the slightest doubt in the project is obviously risible.
In 2017 around 6 basis points of that support found reasons to turn away in an otherwise awful Conservative campaign .
I feel the murky doings of Salmondgate, the increasingly poor realities behind the Wizard of Oz style SNP posturing, and the receding of *Brexit* as an issue (which Strugeon has used as a camouflage, smokescreen and proxy to prevent discussion of the realities of independence for 4 years) all mean that the SNP support is likely to recede.
One claim….. about the awful Trump and his buffoonish handling of Covid19 creating enormousl and unnecessary deaths …. and one fact.
The USA 394,724 deaths
Sturgeonland (adjusted population to US number 462,240
Over 67,500 higher than the *abject Trump administration*
Johnson is right as regards no more powers. Giving away even more powers is in line with the genii who said a Scottish assembly would ‘kill nationalism stone dead’.
The economic arguments are powerless against the emotional tie that people have to their ‘Nation State’; this was amply demonstrated in 2014 when all of the economic arguments were simply ignored by those who felt being independently British was more important – the same thing goes for the Scots and Scotland.
At some point HMG has to accept that the raison d’etre for the SNP is independence, and that the boil must be lanced.
FWIW my strategy would be to give the Scots a referendum (even a Brexiteer can accept the material change since the last one) in 2024 based upon a specific negotiated deal; that gives both sides three years to set out their stall.
Meanwhile HMG and the Scottish MSPs could horse-trade over; the question, who gets a vote, which nation owns what/owes what in the deal, what currency is to be used, what the border will look like, what is done about citizenship, etc., etc., when the pin drops. That way the Scots would know exactly what they were voting for, when the time comes.
This strategy would remove the uncertainty of will they/won’t they should we/shouldn’t we. It would allow the whole thing to be out in the open for all to see, and for all to campaign on, BUT most importantly it would flush the SNP fox from its ‘independence’ cover; currently the opposition parties in Scotland (who won the majority of the votes) are disconnected over national policy. The independence issue, however, would enable them to work together (for or against independence), and give the people of Scotland a real choice of an alternative to the SNP.
Then, when the votes are counted; we ALL accept the result in PERPETUITY.
Just a thought.
All the best.
Surely even politicians are bright enough to realise that the road to an independent Scotland began as soon as a Scottish Parliament was elected and powers were devolved to it. It is inevitable that Scotland will become an independent nation sooner or later.
There was a time when if you made a list of British scientists and engineers, and a list of Scottish scientists and engineers, they’d be almost the same list. Not any more, and the decline of Scotland’s punching above its weight in those areas coincides pretty exactly with the rise of Scots nationalism.
Scotland can become an independent nation or it can join the EU, but it can’t do both. There are no independent nations in the EU.
If Scotland thought it was ignored as unimportant at Westminster, wait till it gets a load of being ignored at Brussels.
Either Scotland should clear off, or, after they lose another independence referendum, England tells the Scots Nits that the counter-revolution is happening. Scots integration into the UK then deepens, starting with the abolition of that stupid parliament and of the Barnett formula.
You are awfully tense dear boy have you tried milk of magnesium?
Steady on old chap, or you’ll trip up over those shoelaces!
It’s not as black and white as you describe; for a start, there’s no chance of Scotland being even invited to let alone permitted to join the EU.
As for the perceived iniquities of the Barnett formula, presumably you’d advocate a reset for N. Ireland, the NW and the NE of England as well?
If they care about the Union as much as they insist in Westminster, making a calm and coherent argument in its favour ought not to be that difficult if the sloppy mistakes of 2014 aren’t repeated.
For sure the SNP has shamelessly used increased devolved powers to further its one cause (as opposed to running the country moderately competently), but the real poison in the well has been the complacency and utter lack of involvement of the two main parties in Westminster.
Interesting that this article should coincide with the resignation of the frankly anonymous Richard Leonard, but the negligence of Conservatives and Labour has created the vacuum into which the SNP has been able to insinuate and dominate. Cameron just assumed the status quo would prove irresistible, while Johnson shows a typical lack of interest or focus.
Even if the folly of a second indieref were indulged, learning from the mistakes of 2014 and insisting on everything being negotiated and agreed to up front (e.g., currency, share of national debt (& assets), defence, role of the Queen, bifurcation of all national institutions such as the Post Office etc) would make it anything but inevitable that Scotland would wish for the type of abject penury and dependence that independence would imply.
Can’t the UK just give Scotland a five-year trial with independence? If they don’t like it, make it easy for them to return, but only under condition that once readmitted, the question of independence ends once and for all.
What a wonderful idea, except that we are not dealing with rational human beings here, but rather with self obsessed fanatics.
Join the discussion
To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.
Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.Subscribe