by Henry Hill
Monday, 19
April 2021
Response
07:00

The UK can’t be a secession free-for-all

The idea that the UK is a 'voluntary union of nations' is a dangerous myth
by Henry Hill
Credit: Getty

If the combined forces of the separatists secure a majority at next month’s Scottish Parliament elections, which seems almost certain, it will fall to the Prime Minister to hold the line against their demands for a second referendum.

But is it legitimate for him to do so? Is it not anti-democratic for Westminster to defy Holyrood’s wishes on this question?

There are those in the British establishment who seem to think so. Professor Ciaran Martin, the lead civil servant on the UK side during the negotiation of the ‘Edinburgh Agreement’, wrote recently that: “If there is a pro-referendum majority (and this is absolutely not the same thing as an SNP majority), there is no good reason to resist one.”

He’s wrong about that. I have previously explained how the most basic functions of the Union — redistributing cash and sharing major public investments — become very difficult to justify if one party can opt out of ‘pooling and sharing’ the moment they’re asked to pay into the pot.

But his argument raises a more interesting question about what sort of state the United Kingdom is.

Martin claims that the Government refusing a referendum “changes the Union we know, based on consent, to one that survives only through force of law” — a claim echoed by others such as the historian Robert Saunders.

But this claim is not true. Article 1 of the Treaty of Union announces that England and Scotland would be merged “hereof, and for ever after”. No exit mechanism was put in place either then or in 1801, when Ireland acceded.

Whilst a portion of Ireland has since seceded, and the Government acquiesced to the SNP testing the question in Scotland in 2014, it is a big and unjustifiable leap to go from this to the idea that the UK is merely “a voluntary union of nations” whose integrity rests on provincial elections.

As others have pointed out, it is actually a weirdly exceptionalist position. Other modern democracies, from Germany and Spain to the United States, place strong constitutional restrictions on secession bids — if they don’t prohibit them altogether. Unionists should not get memed into accepting a false conception of the British state as a sort of confederation, with less legitimate claim to its territorial integrity than its peers.

It is true that the UK has grandfathered in many divisions, in areas such as law and sport, which make it unusual. But that simply makes it even more important that its constitutional superstructure picks up the extra strain of holding the country together. You can’t pair weakness in one area with weakness in others, not if you want the UK to survive.

By standing firm on the promise of ‘once in a generation’, the Government will honour the decisive 2014 vote, protect the moral case for the Union, and defend the legitimacy of the UK as the British national state. It has no mandate, by contrast, to transform this country into the threadbare confederation envisioned by Martin.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
82 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

I think that the whole issue should at least cause a little tremor in Westminster. It is time to do something about the huge difference in wealth between SE England and the rest of the UK.
I live in Wales and every time I travel into the country from London the relative poverty hits me between the eyes. My parents used to live in Northern England and it hits you there as well. Scotland also seems pretty poor.
This difference is why whole areas have voted Left for the past 40 years, even though things have gone from bad to worse. It seems that the middle-class buffoons who rule the country could never understand life away from London and a vote for the Left seems to be a sort of reaction to gain attention. Unfortunately, voting Left has made things worse but there is still a barrier to stop people from switching to the Right because it means more policies to increase the power of SE England. So best not to vote! Then you get grey idiots like Mark Drakeford (who?) taking key positions with a handful of votes.
All of this happens because of our reliance on Europe. SE England is nearer to the markets and the only proper container port we have is at Felixstowe. Perhaps, having left the EU, we will reduce our dependence on Europe, look back again at the rest of the world and develop a west-facing container port at, say, Liverpool. Then the focus will move back to the north and the west at least. But does that solve Scotland’s problem?

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Are you kidding me? Scotland is the richest place on earth, look at all the freebies the local government throws at us.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrea X
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

With the notable exception of the New Town and few other Grand Houses it is an architectural horror show, that reeks of poverty and intolerance.
A tour of Scotland’s former medieval Cathedrals is a good place to start.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago

I was born in Yorkshire and now live in Caithness. I have a feeling that either you have never visited Scotland or never moved far away from the train station / airport.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

On the contrary I have visited just about every major ecclesiastical and secular building in Scotland, from the Roman Conquest to the Hanoverian Conquest.

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago

Must have been wearing very dark sunglasses then. Can’t understand why – we don’t get much sun up here.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

You have more daylight in the summer than anywhere else in the UK.
Sadly, rather like Donegal, Caithness has very few architectural wonders to speak of.

A Non
A Non
1 year ago

Given the scenery it doesn’t really need any.

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
1 year ago

You clearly don’t know Scotland very well. Referring to its people as Scotch merely reinforces this view.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Duncan Hunter

I’m surprised you ‘rise to the bait’ so easily!

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
1 year ago

So true. But such fun!

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
1 year ago

Rising to the bait.

John Munro
John Munro
1 year ago

Why did you set it. Seems childish and stupid.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  John Munro

Just for the fun of it! No malice intended.

John Munro
John Munro
1 year ago

Yet you come across as malice personified in relation to Scotland and the Scots.

John Munro
John Munro
1 year ago

Funny that as neither the Edinburgh suburbs nor Dumfriesshire countryside that I split my time between are either architecturally horrible or poor. I have to say that a fair few places I have lived in, down south have been.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  John Munro

Really?
Dumfries & Galloway have three quite interesting ruined Cistercian Abbeys, plus a passable ruined Collegiate Church.
Perhaps six ruined castles are of some note, in particular Caerlaverock.
Which suburbs of Edinburgh do you refer to?

John Munro
John Munro
1 year ago

Colinton. Previously Linlithgow in West Lothian. It could be a lot worse. I could live in a dump in the English Midlands.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  John Munro

Yes, Linlithgow Palace is a spectacular building, even in its ruined condition.
The English Midlands are very much a Curate’s Egg I’ll grant you.

Douglas McCallum
Douglas McCallum
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Yeah, and paid for mostly by the English taxpayers but also partly by the unfortunate Scottish middle class who have to pay higher taxes than anybody else in the UK.

Paul N
Paul N
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Voting left in the North, while the South votes Right, has made things worse. It’s hard to see how things will get better for the North until the Conservatives are replaced, at least for a time.
I mean, Boris has promised to level up in the North – so at least we know that’s not happening on his watch.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul N

The obvious solution must be to dump the Jocks and spend the windfall on the North.
After all they not only need it, but deserve it ! Unlike the parasitical inhabitants of Alba.

Paul N
Paul N
1 year ago

To which the southerners might respond, why not dump the North as well, and keep the money in the south (or just London). Though, as I mentioned when we were discussing the monkey hangers, that’s not far from what is already happening with the allocation of money.
You can’t go on about the separatist enemy within, and then propose splitting up the UK, can you? Unless you’re just stirring the pot…

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul N

London, and the salubrious South East are awash with money, and have little need of more, as you well know.
Scotland however has become a luxury we can longer afford and the question of Independence should be the subject of a UK Referendum. We should also ‘grab the nettle’ and do the same for Northern Ireland. The strategic need for holding either of them is long past, they are an anachronism in every way.
Time to move on, as we have done so successfully with Brexit.

Paul N
Paul N
1 year ago

When has the absence of a need of money by those already awash with it had any influence on their attempts to accumulate more of it?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul N

As Hesiod may have said “moderation in all things”.
For myself I am content.

Paul N
Paul N
1 year ago

If only those running our large corporations and running our government (but I repeat myself) shared your moderation.
We somehow seem to have come up with a system in which the rich get richer, and the the rest… don’t.

John Munro
John Munro
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul N

He’s just a tiresome, right wing English xenophobe. Plenty of them about.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  John Munro

Oh dear, have you forgotten the adage “ manners maketh man”?

John Munro
John Munro
1 year ago

There is nothing unmannerly in making an accurate description of you.

Michael Cowling
Michael Cowling
1 year ago

didn’t you mean makyth?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Either.* Or are you a New College man?

* Wikibeast.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
1 year ago
Reply to  John Munro

He’s also a wind up merchant. In that his main purpose (here) is to wind people up. You know how kids will use rude words to attract attention? Funny first time and then they get ignored for being boring.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Ha ha!
You old hypocrite!
“it takes one to know one” as they say.

John K
John K
1 year ago

Interesting perspective, however it has been clearly demonstrated by Mr Johnson that the integrity of the Union is not a motivating political concern by allowing an effective border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
We have a farcical situation where Unionists in Norther Ireland are desperate to remain within the Union, the Scots wish to leave and the establishment wishes to deny them both! Arguing to legal precedent seems irrational given how the Government has clearly demonstrated a continued and recent disregard for them when expedient.

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
1 year ago
Reply to  John K

Does the establishment really wish to keep Scotland in the Union? If it does, it’s not trying very hard. The quickest route to independence is for the SNP to campaign for a referendum in England.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago

Labour only used to get a majority with the Scottish votes. From an electoral advantage point of view it would seem foolish of the Conservatives not to grant Scotland their independence and as quickly as possible before they get disenchanted with the SNP party and transfer their loyalty back to Labour.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Precisely, well said.

John K
John K
1 year ago

Ultimately that would be the end of the United Kingdom. If Scotland leaves it would be next to impossible to retain Northern Ireland.
The immediate question would then be does England want to continue to sustain the financial support of Wales? Great Britain ceases to exist.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  John K

It would still exist in some form because of family ties-my parent’s families were Irish and Scottish but we lived in England and one of my brothers married someone Welsh.I wouldn’t imagine there would be the full armed guard/show us your documents beloved of cold war dramas where someone has to crash their volvo through the barrier just so they can obtain their favourite full strength irn bru and get to see their granny

John K
John K
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Well yes, of course the places would still exist and we’re likely to have relatively minimal travel restrictions, but the United Kingdom would join the Ottoman Empire as a footnote in history.
As for border guards, I do still remember being greeted by armed soldiers when flying from the Republic of Ireland to England prior to the GFA, give the discontent this is likely to cause I don’t thing it’s an impossibility to see it return.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  John K

Its the Scottish who keep voting SNP even though they had a referendum. What is the rest of Britain supposed to do-give all 5 million of them £1 million each with an individual card begging them to stay?

John K
John K
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

Mr Hill seems to suggest that England simply say no, secession is not legally permissable, Scotland is part of the UK and if they don’t like it what do they think they can do about it?
The problem is there are a lot of people in Scotland that see themselves as British citizens first and foremost. Even if SNP won a vote for independance it wont be by a wide margin. Does the UK abandon these citizens or does it continue to act on historical precedent and deny Scotland it’s independance. Either way hard choices to make, Tyranny or Betrayal, no?

Paul N
Paul N
1 year ago

I have some sympathy for where Henry Hill is coming from. But the UK is not a voluntary union?
Mr Hill seems to have forgotten about the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, which establishes exactly that. It provides that if the Secretary of State believes it is likely to succeed, he must call a referendum on whether Northern Ireland should leave the UK.
Besides, for Scotland , Indyref1 would seem to have conceded the principle that the merger is not  “hereof, and for ever after”.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul N

This is a card Sinn Féin are playing very strongly and the demographic balance in Northern Ireland is tipping. Whereas I don’t believe Northern Ireland will opt for a United Ireland as soon as the Catholic population hits 51%, this will not be a static figure. Within a few years, the majority will be greater and a referendum would be more likely to carry (there are several factors at play here with favour a Catholic/nationalist majority in the medium term: relative migration/immigration rates; returning immigrant rates; greater likelihood of Protestants to opt for places in English and Scottish universities and to commence work there; older age profile in Protestant/unionist community). From that point of view, an early referendum may well be more in the interest of the unionist community in Northern Ireland.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Does the Republic really want to be saddled with the putrefying Albatross that is Northern Ireland?

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
1 year ago

Not so long ago I would have said no. In fact sometime after the GFA, many politically active people in the south (especially within Fianna Fáil, which would be the more polemical of the parties in the Republic on the topic of the North) got very nervous on realising that Irish unity was becoming a possibility. However, I see two factors at play in the Republic right now – one is the expansion of Sinn Féin south of the border and the other is fact that the idea of unity is popular in polls among students and young people generally. In the event of a referendum on Irish unity south of the border, what might happen is that though many will think exactly as you put the question, it will be politically impossible for any of the parties to make the case against unity (in this case Fine Gael might apply the whip against their members who would want to, so they won’t be seen as a “unionist” party). So the dynamics are more in favour of the advocates of unification. Of course, I have nothing scientific to offer here other than personal impression, but I think that making a case against unification in the Irish republic would be a very difficult thing to do politically, even though there are a great many political, economic and purely practical arguments against.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Thank you for that erudite answer. From my own limited observation I had come to the same conclusion, despite the pitfalls you refer to.
Frankly, but for the fact that Herbert Asquith was both weak, and irritatingly diverted by lusting after the voluptuous body of Venetia Stanley, this should have happened in July1914

William MacDougall
William MacDougall
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul N

The GFA created an exception for Northern Ireland, and this exception was one reason some opposed it. But there is no such exception for Scotland.

Paul N
Paul N
1 year ago

Henry Hill writes that it’s “important that [the UK’s] constitutional superstructure picks up the extra strain of holding the country together.”
It’s not clear how he thinks this should work, except perhaps through legislating against independence – and for Northern Ireland the UK’s treaties enshrine the opposite principle.
SO, how might a “constitutional superstructure” hold the country together? More federalism? More democracy? Consultation with the regions, or less concentration of resources in London? I’m curious.

Niobe Hunter
Niobe Hunter
1 year ago

Well, I don’t want to force the Scots to be in a union with me. I’d personally prefer not to be in a union with them, actually, and keep English tax cash to spend on English needs ( and would it mean we could finally move onto the same clock as Europe, please
But no one is going to ask me. No taxation without representation?

John Munro
John Munro
1 year ago
Reply to  Niobe Hunter

Please go for it if that’s the way you feel. You and Mr Stanhope should campaign to get rid of we Scotch parasites.

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago

Besides, the SNP was, they claim, legitimate in refusing the release of the legal advice on the Salmond fiasco, despite the parliament asking for it. Twice.
What is good for the goose…

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrea X
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Is Professor Martin a case of “the enemy within”? He hails from Omagh, Northern Ireland and can hardly be regarded as ‘neutral’ in this controversy.

Last edited 1 year ago by Charles Stanhope
Paul N
Paul N
1 year ago

He seems pretty establishment, and has contributed to our security through the National Cyber Security Centre. But maybe you’d like to go down the Chinese route, and start jailing enemies of the people, like Prof Martin, for sedition because you don’t like their advice?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul N

So was Sir Roger Casement in his day.

Paul N
Paul N
1 year ago

I suppose if Prof Martin starts gunrunning for militant Scottish separatists and becomes a fully fledged revolutionary, you might have a point. As it is, labelling him as the “enemy within” seems a bit hysterical. It’s the sort of thing that poisons political debate – look what happened with Brexit.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul N

As regards “enemy within”, I asked a question and did not state a fact.
Your ‘Chinese’ response struck me as hysterical at best and stupid at worst.,

However as his nomen indicates Martin is a Northern Irish Catholic from a staunchly Republican town, Omagh. He was educated at the Christian Brothers Grammar School (CBS). Born in 1974 he grew up in what the Irish euphemistically call the ‘Troubles’, He would have been 24 when the IRA blew the heart out of the town on the Remembrance Day bombing.
Given that background, and leaving aside for a moment the dubious record of the so-called Christian Brothers it is a perfectly valid question to speculate where his true loyalty lies, is it not? Either way he should not be involved in any way whatsoever with Scotch Independence debate
Finally I think you may have mixed up Erskine Childers with Sir Roger Casement. It was Childers who was the gun runner, albeit on a very modest scale it must be said.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
1 year ago

Erskine Childers was indeed a gun runner; but if Sir Roger Casement had managed to land the 20,000 Mauser rifles and a million rounds of ammunition which were aboard the Aud in Co Kerry on Good Friday 1916, the Easter Rising might have been a very different affair than it turned out to be.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Yes it would have evened up the score after the 25K landed in Larne by Crawford and Spender in April 1914..
However I doubt it would have changed the outcome of 1916. It would just have been considerably bloodier.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
1 year ago

From the Kaiser’s point of view, it might have impacted the outcome of the First World War. But 20K Russian rifles would have meant the Easter Rising would have been longer, more spread out across Ireland, and, as you say, bloodier. And more British troops would have had be diverted to Ireland at the expense of the Western Front to deal with it.

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
1 year ago

Omagh indeed has a Catholic, nationalist majority and the Real IRA bomb in 1998, appalling as it was, dealt a killer blow to any traction Republican dissidents may have had in any part of Ireland. One presumes that given the background Professor Martin has, he would have been vetted prior to receiving a civil service appointment. Any of his peers opting for a career in the Civil Service in Dublin (as many do) are checked out by the Special Branch of the Civic Guard first (as indeed are applicants coming from within the Republic of Ireland, all the more so in relation to the Irish Defence Forces or the Guards themselves). As for a natural sympathy with Scottish Nationalism, the Irish community in Scotland have historically tended to vote Labour. Common cause between nationalists in Northern Ireland and Scotland is tactical in the main.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

Burgess, Philby, Maclean?

Peadar Laighléis
Peadar Laighléis
1 year ago

Dublin is obviously more paranoid than London.

Last edited 1 year ago by Peadar Laighléis
Paul N
Paul N
1 year ago

Thanks – I suppose – for clarifying your ad-hominem. But do you really think that the good Professor has wormed his way into our security services in some sort of deep plot to undermine the integrity of the UK?

“Your ‘Chinese’ response struck me as hysterical at best and stupid at worst.”

You don’t see how demands for ideological purity and agreement with a party line can be problematic?
Would you have been happier with a comparison to the Macarthyite persecution in the USA, if right wing excesses are more your thing?

Last edited 1 year ago by Paul N
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul N

“But do you really think that the good Professor has wormed his way into our security services in some sort of deep plot to undermine the integrity of the UK?”

Again you are going too far, which is quite revealing.
No, the good Professor should not be placed in a position where his ideological loyalty maybe compromised. Surely we have enough Civil Servants not to require his input on this vexed matter?

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
1 year ago

Back peddling are we? Not like you.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago

I hope not.

Claire Olszanska
Claire Olszanska
1 year ago

Me too. I’d be very disappointed.

Damian Grant
Damian Grant
1 year ago

What, exactly, is the point you’re trying to make, Charles?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
1 year ago
Reply to  Damian Grant

Martin should not be party to these discussions.

Andrew Eccles
Andrew Eccles
1 year ago

It’s a Union of quite different cultural and economic parts. What holds it together – and has done over the years – is a nuanced understanding of just that. What will push it apart is the remaking of the concept of the Union in the image of England – which appears to be the Johnson approach. It’s enough to give pause to the idea it’s perhaps a deliberate tactic for political gain, given the man is not notably strong on principles.

William MacDougall
William MacDougall
1 year ago

Hear hear. Excellent argument. Just say no.

Graeme Laws
Graeme Laws
1 year ago

Treating Northern Ireland and Scotland as similar cases is just daft. Scotland was a recognisable nation state for centuries before the Act of Union, which post dated the union of the crowns by over 100 years. Northern Ireland was split from the Republic in a messy compromise. Much of the motivation of the then Unionists apparently had more to do with religion than with love of the Union.

Northern Ireland is not seeking recognition as an independent nation state.

The problem we have is that we have no proper framework for referendums. We produce them out of a hat when we hit a political brick wall (EU) or when the party in power thinks one will help them to stay in power (devolution).

If there is a separatist majority in the next Scots Parliament, it is bound to lead to a referendum, authorised or not. The result will be a close call, far too close to decide such a momentous question. Just like another referendum we had not long ago.

Perhaps we need a proper constitution, which would not, for example, allow a Welsh Assembly to be set up with the support of barely 25% of the electorate

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
1 year ago

I wasn’t aware of that “hereof and forever after” clause. Henry may be right that the UK has a legal right to reject Scottish independence if that is what most Scottish people want, but I don’t think that gives him a moral right to do so. As Scott Reid argued in his 1992 book “Canada Remapped” generally the will of the people to remain in a country or to break away from it should be respected. However, whether Alex Salmond said “once in a generation” as what he believed in or what he thought the Conservative government was willing to concede, I believe it is a sound principle. There should be at least 20 years between sovereignty referenda, and maybe 25 years would be better. The idea of having a redo of the Brexit referendum just a few years later was madness.
Although Brexit was decided on the 50% plus one principle, it would be better to proceed based on a qualified majority. In the Clarity Act that Liberal PM Chrétien passed after the second referendum on Quebec sovereignty narrowly failed, a qualified majority was stipulated without being specifically defined. So its definition was essentially left to the nine judges of the Supreme Court of Canada. To my mind, it is a mistake to leave up to judges what legislators should decide, although there are arguments that can be made both ways. The sovereignty referendum on Montenegrin independence required a qualified majority of 55%, which was barely achieved. Arguably, this was too low and a threshold of at least 60% would have been more reasonable.
Why should there be no second Brexit referendum until at least 2036 if ever, when it passed by a very narrow margin? Because, once the rules of the game are set, one should abide by them, even if they were foolishly set. Otherwise it brings democratic institutions into disrepute.
In the first leaders debate in 2015 when Justin Trudeau was just the leader of the third party in the House of Commons, Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair asked him to say, if he didn’t believe that 50% plus one was good enough for Quebec separatists to win a referendum on sovereignty, what number he had in mind. Since it was Trudeau who had brought the Clarity Act up in the debate, he should have been prepared with a ready-made response. Instead, he was like a deer caught in the headlights, at a loss for words. No one can claim that Canadian voters weren’t warned in advance what they were getting into when they made Trudeau their Prime Minister. He certainly gave everybody advance warning that he wasn’t up to the job.

Douglas McCallum
Douglas McCallum
1 year ago

Hill’s basic point is quite correct, in terms of the historical-legal basis of the Union and of the political structures of most of the world. Come-and-go unions simply do not exist, and the UK most certainly has not been set up as one.
Equally, it is quite erroneous (as shown by the Breixt vote) to be guided by a majority of persons voting in a referendum. It is a widely, virtually universally accepted (outside the UK) principle that fundamental constitutional changes should only proceed with the support of a majority of the population (not those voting) and/or a super-majority of those voting. The SNP and its lap-dogs the Greens have never commanded votes equal to 50% of the electorate – seldom even 40%.
The same was true, of course, for the hopelessly bungled Brexit referendum: we wrenched the UK out of the EU on the basis of a vote in which far less than 50% of the electorate supported Brexit. Stupid, stupid…..

Michael Upton
Michael Upton
1 year ago

Mr. Hill is right.
One overlooked aspect of the matter is that not everyone in Scotland is Scottish. There is loose use of language on both sides of the border, which refers to everyone living north of Berwick as Scottish. I was born and have lived my whole life in north Britain, and neither by parentage nor culture nor accent could anyone mistake me for a Scot, and there are hundreds of thousands like me. We are British and no one has the right to take our country or our nationality away from us so as to force us to live in a foreign Scotland as stateless people.
Those who believe otherwise had their lifetime opportunity in 2014 and they lost. They merit our sympathy, but if they are fair, they will accept the result. The only alternative would be an independent Scotland wracked every seven years by the internal hostility of a new referendum – or are only separatists entitled to neverendums?

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
1 year ago
Reply to  Michael Upton

I don’t think anyone has suggested your UK citizenship would be revoked if Scotland became independent. You could retain your UK nationality and have democratic rights in Scotland as long as you live there. If Scotland did join the EU you’d have additional democratic rights and freedoms there, too.
I agree about the loose use of terminology – I think the SNP tends to use Scotland’s Citizens or People of Scotland rather than Scottish or Scots.
When you use the term north Britain do you mean Scotland? I know North Britain or North Briton was popular in 19th and early 20th Centuries as a euphemism for Scotland or Scots but clarifying your own language would be helpful here.

Michael Upton
Michael Upton
1 year ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Thanks Mark. Yes; exactly: north Britain is the part at the north end of Britain. One of the best parts of a simply wonderful island. And, forgive me, but the name lasted longer than you suggest: some of us started our working lives as waiters in Edinburgh’s largest hotel, the North British. But we may fear that the speculation that one might (or then again might not) still be entitled to hold a British passport when there was no Britain, would seem about as worthwhile as hold a Ruritanian one.

Michael Upton
Michael Upton
1 year ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

It seems reasonable to doubt whether South Britain would agree to continued U.K. citizenship for people in an independent Scotland, for the practical reasons discussed at https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/independence-would-spark-a-citizenship-crisis-in-scotland-and-the-uk

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago

The Scottish case for Independence is strong in two ways, economically and ecologically. Firstly, it is one of few nations that is in ecological credit and secondly, hypothetically it has the potential to strengthen its economy and increase its prosperity with increased economic freedom. However to achieve a stronger economy it will need to increase its population which will tip it into an ecological debt.

These are two areas where the Union is a hindrance especially in terms of brain drain to England and its loss of the EU single market.

However, a potential weakness for Scotland is cultural since Scottish independence will also mean English independence and the loss of the Union Jack. This means there will no longer be a Great Britain nor a United Kingdom so Britishness will cease to formally exist.

This is a potential problem because it might cause a multicultural crisis in that the vehicle for multiculturalism has always been Britishness, not Englishness or Scottishness.

In contrast, Englishness and Scottishness are far more essentialised as identities compared to the natural multiculturalism of Britain which naturally aligns with the Bioregion of the British Isles, including Ireland and has since the Caribbean diaspora been extended to embrace multi ethnic minorities.

As such, do Scottish separatists realise that they may well be invoking a new level of culture wars as English and Scottish essentialists resist the inevitable dilution of their national identity to accommodate globalised multiculturalism as a result of the British identity suddenly being null and void.

The big question for Scottish and English separatists is whether their Scottishness and Englishness is adaptable enough to reinvent itself whilst being willing to shed its current cultural symbols of European whiteness. My feeling is that they aren’t unless both Scotland and England essentialists devolve into more anachronistic regional identities.

Michael Upton
Michael Upton
1 year ago

I was told today that 75% of people in Scotland have never voted for the Scottish Nationalist Party. Does anyone know a good psephologist who can say if that is correct? It doesn’t include me, but I then stopped – after being taken into a corner at a Nationalist gathering and told that people with an English accent like me were unwelcome.