Tony Blair is still deluded about devolution
The PM won't face the realities of the separatism he helped to create
The huge damage that devolution has done to the United Kingdom is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore.
Consider the abject state of the Welsh schools and hospitals, an embarrassing Scottish election, and Northern Ireland’s endless cycle of crises. They dispel any hope that devolution might deliver better, more responsive government.
Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email
Already registered? Sign in
As for “killing nationalism stone dead”, well. The SNP have a stranglehold on government in Edinburgh, while Welsh Labour is running pro-independence candidates, accusing British ministers of “colonial attitudes”, and declaring that “the UK is over”.
This explains why devoscepticism is on the rise in unionist circles. It offers a simple explanation for the dynamics at play: devolution creates a class of rent-seekers whose interests are best served by demanding money and power while shifting the blame for their mistakes onto Westminster. A weaker Union is the obvious, inevitable result.
But if you’re unwilling to accept this logic for some reason — for example, you are primarily to blame for devolution happening in the first place — your options are limited. There’s the sort of magical thinking that suggests the solution to Scottish grievances is an English Parliament and a Senate… or there’s alternative history.
'Even if the SNP win, it doesn't necessarily mean Scots want to go through an independence campaign'
Former PM Tony Blair admits to @PaulBrandITV that 'weaknesses' of devolution failed to end calls for independence in Scotland https://t.co/qLS9l9iaQN pic.twitter.com/O89FcBEFdg
— ITV News Politics (@ITVNewsPolitics) April 27, 2021
This latter is Tony Blair’s go-to excuse. In an interview with ITV, the former Prime Minister’s said that: “If the Labour Party hadn’t implemented its manifesto commitment to do devolution in 1997, the union would already be in tatters.”
Among committed devolutionaries, this is an article of faith. Which is not to say it is plausible. Without devolution on the New Labour plan there would have been no infrastructure for the devocrats, and latterly the separatists, to take over and turn against Britain. Nor would unionists have been reduced to trying to persuade voters to reject the nationalists’ conclusions while defending a system built on the nationalists’ central premise: that Britain is not a good, or even legitimate, political community.
But it is also an intellectual sleight of hand. The assertion that things would have been worse had new Labour held the line (rather than actively nudging the Welsh Assembly over the line by delaying voting) is unfalsifiable. Thus, accepting it transforms devolution from a thesis which can be tested against evidence into a premise that precedes evidence.
It’s important to remember this when the usual suspects are telling us that the only solution is yet another hollowing out of the British state. They are simply offering up the only answer afforded them by a set of beliefs whose primary purpose seems to be ensuring that, whatever happens, they never have to admit they got a very big call catastrophically wrong.
Even imprisoned by the need to vindicate his legacy, Blair remains perceptive. When he talks about the need to “real cultural ties and emphasise the enormous things that the different countries in the United Kingdom have in common”, he’s on the money.
But devolution has empowered nationalists and separatists to shrink the sphere of what we have in common year by year, and obscure much of the rest behind posturing and poisonous rhetoric. Only the British state can sustain the British nation. What we really need in common is a government.
‘devolution creates a class of rent-seekers whose interests are best served by demanding money and power while shifting the blame for their mistakes onto Westminster’
A brilliantly concise and accurate description of these people.
And yet, Westminster is far more corrupt than anything the Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly have produced. Do you seriously believe that the unelected House of Frauds is compatible with modern liberal democracy?
Does anyone seriously believe there wasn’t going to be self rule in Wales and Scotland at some point? What’s the alternative?
Another Blair creation. It was respected when it contained the hereditaries and a limited number of life peers.
A few small statistics.
There are 3 million people in Wales and 1.4 million of them live within 25 miles of the border with England. A very large proportion of these commute to work across the border, don’t speak Welsh and see themselves as British. With independence, many would move to England. About 18 months ago the Assembly considered larger than normal council tax rises and abolished the idea because they realised there would be a mass exodus.
The Assembly also considered large tax rises for the ‘rich’ but shelved the idea when they calculated that with the proposed new tax on 150 ‘rich’ – yes, 150 people -, would be equivalent to an extra penny per pound for the rest of the population. So, the 150 people would leave Wales and …. disaster.
It is known across Britain that the NHS in Wales is the pits. The Assembly is proud of its policy of free prescriptions for everybody.
In the west, where there are very few people, most have government jobs and are proud that they can speak the language. Three Plaid Cymru MPs come from these areas every election.
Recently, Adam Price, the leader of Plaid Cymru was in a televised debate and he was asked where the money would come from after independence. He said, “I think we should just give it a go.”
I am totally dedicated to Wales. I have worked in Welsh industry for 45 years. My wife and children speak Welsh. Those who want independence are dreamers; they think all they have to do is speak the language and all will be fine (government workers with fantastic pensions); the normal people would not vote for independence because they know all about stupid politicians.
Malta is tiny and manages to be a successful democratic Member State of the EU. Iceland has the same population as Newcastle. Do you seriously believe that Wales cannot be successful as an independent nation? As part of the EU, or as part of a pan-Celtic alliance, Wales is entirely viable as a fully autonomous nation state.
Malta? Malta! Ask Daphne Caruana Galizia how that worked out. Oh, yeah, you can’t because she was murdered by corrupt government ministers.
Malta has not been a good example to Wales. Malta is like Al Capone time.
You make many good points and, quite obviously, you know Wales and its problems, vices and virtues far better than I ever could. But one point in favour of independence is that Wales (and, of course, Scotland) would have to stand on their own two feet. With a bit of luck this would involve cutting back all the public sector leeches and moochers as, without a constant stream of funds from England, they would be unaffordable. Alternatively, the new administration(s) would be forced to unleash the private sector in order to generate the taxes necessary to support the public sector leeches and moochers.
Quite right. The only logical case for Welsh independence is a free market one.
This is true. 100% agreement. So who would you vote for?
Yes, I agree with you from my industry background but, probably, very few would agree with me. There is a party in the coming elections called ‘Propel’ and they say that the old mining areas are effectively beds of natural gas and methane and that the gas could be used to power Wales and to sell for years ahead.
Just about every other party is talking about ‘green jobs’ but I don’t actually know what that means. There is also the plan to plant a Forest of Wales. All of these plans are more government jobs and you know what that means – jobs for the boys.
A huge amount of the population of Canada live near the border with the United States. Can’t you think of some better points?
These are not my points. I am quoting a report from Cardiff University, commissioned by the Assembly in 2019. The report was about possible opportunity for extra taxation revenues. This is exactly what the report said and the Assembly decided not to go ahead with the tax hikes.
What’s the relevance of people living near the border with England determining economic success?
As I said, not my report. See ‘Welsh Taxes’ a report by the Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, 2019.
This was commissioned by the Assembly and explains about the population issues and raising council taxes and income taxes. These are not my conclusions, so don’t blame me for reporting them.
As I say, if you believe in independence that is fine but to me, having researched the issue, it is just wishful thinking.
My point is that the Assembly believed the report because they didn’t raise council taxes above the UK recommendation, they didn’t tax the rich 150 people.
The report suggests instead a land value tax, which I think the Senedd is looking at now.
Apologies I thought you were making a rather silly point about geography and not taxes. My mistake. I’ll have a look the report.
Good. You’ve realised the need to stop digging.
There are reasons other than jobs that most of the population of Canada does so: climate, history and geographical features. Most of the towns/cities developed where farming took place. In Ontario and Quebec you have the Precambrian Shield which limits farming to the southern parts of the provinces . You do have towns such as Sudbury which developed because to mining further north. Go further west and the major towns were developed along the railway; the rush to build the railways and settle the west was a response to American expansionism in the 19th century. Northern Canada cannot, at this time support agriculture (permafrost). Global warming may change that putting more of Canada under the plough
Canada is not in a union with the US.
Or, to put it another way, the US is not subsidising Canada to the tune of £2,500 per annum.
Can’t you think of some relevant points?
Aren’t you missing the big picture here, though? Tony Blair has now revealed his true identity as the Anti-Christ.
i think biden has him beat
Devolution merely created more opportunities for local political bandits to establish themselves. Not much better than the ones in Westminster and in some cases, noticeably worse. I am sympathetic to the desire for independence, but really now, it’s not like Wales and Scotland are pillaged and oppressed for the good of Englishmen. As for Wales, well, I’m not sure they even have an identity apart from Not Being England. Their choice of course.
But we will have border controls. And Welsh citizens will not be able to simply move a few miles into England to reap the benefits of the English economy and various other goodies. Ditto Scotland.
‘As for Wales, well, I’m not sure they even have an identity apart from Not Being England.’ – arrant nonsense. Wales has a very clear identity as a nation, embodied in particular in their excellent language. You are merely parading your English hubris and lack of knowledge of Celtic culture.
Go independent then, poppet. I have no interest in understanding Welsh culture, nor am I obliged to be interested. I wish your nation all the best, but truly I just don’t care.
His party is consistent and is incompatible with England itself. Some of its member sing about keeping the red flag flying and are ashamed of our “fascist” Union flag.
For example: The Blair Devolution was made against England, it was not universally the same, not around local populations everywhere, but England was given special treatment. England was not represented and was split and those other “nations” which could unite against England were kept intact and united. It is a recipe for disaster and nationalism, and the more it continues the less it will be possible to rescue the nation which was mistaken enough to vote for the Marxist Party, the same party which also broke up and destroyed the Empire after 1945. So many successful colonies are now failures with their populations in little boats on our shores. Labour seems to operate under the moto: “if it works, break it”.
The British Empire unlike Marxism, and any other Empire or ideology, religious or political designed by men our Empire built real paradises to which people from other cultures and states would be prepared to die with their children to try and get in, NO OTHER IDEOLOGY can show anything like that, specially Marxism, so why are the young being taught to aspire to Marxism, it is incredible how successful the Marxists have been in turning the entire culture around.
That yes, the Marxists left the Marxist Empires of Russia and China intact of course! I can’t understand how we can’t see what they have been doing to us.
Some of the colonies were successful but not ready to be independent (like the former “breadbasket of Africa” Rhodesia which today can’t even feed itself!). Today we are confronted with an Empire recreated internally in our country, thanks in great measure to Blair! That “internal Empire” too will fail because of the Marxists using “critical race theory” or whatever the Marxists can lay their hands on to break us up again and again. To destroy our State.
This shouldn’t be happening in the UK (as in France). Marxist Parties like Labour are a catastrophe for England, the 2019 Marxist objective was to brain wash the English kids against their greatness, split England and let anybody in to the country. It is hard to understand how this Marxist party of Blair can be a main UK party after the amount of damage which it has done.
“Marxist Parties like Labour are a catastrophe for England, the 2019 Marxist objective was to brain wash the English kids against their greatness, split England and let anybody in to the country. It is hard to understand how this Marxist party of Blair can be a main UK party after the amount of damage which it has done.”
Even harder ‘to understand’ is why, a long time ago, Blair’s ‘security team’ (funded by the taxpayer) was not replaced by a Firing Squad? Once upon a time, that was the ‘normal’ reward for self-aggrandising, money-mad, traitors.
So why was Blair twice re-elected??
So why has Labour never won an election since?
Duh. They radically dialled down the Marxist rhetoric while keeping the ideals essentially unchanged. They switched from economic Marxism/working class as their primary focus to cultural “equality”, which some sweet white working class folks thought included them. They know better now.
Perhaps the options available in the next referendum should be a) full independence within 12 months or b) removal of the Scottish parliament to be replaced by city Mayors and full integration back into the UK with control from Westminster.
Your ‘full integration back into the UK with control from Westminster’ would set off a train of events similar to those of Dublin in 1916. Are you prepared for that?
It must be great to know everything, like you.
Guess you are very rich, what with being able to place bets on things that you know are going to happen.
I’m dead jealous.
Shame that this decline for the past 14 years at least has been wholly self inflicted.
If independence was voted on in a referendum UK wide for Scotland, Wales and NI, then (England being the most populous country) all 3 would be leaving
Maybe Blair (and others) should stop talking about “different countries”. I had to stop and think what countries he was referring to.
Scotland is older than England as a unified, independent polity. England is a relative newcomer. on the island of Britain.
Well, Mercia is older still, or the Kingdom of Fife, or if you want to go further back, the Roman Empire or maybe the kings of Rome: maybe we should use those as a metric of what should happen today?
Aquitaine could be independent and Galicia and the papal States and so on and so forth. European geography would be real fun, then.
Or perhaps we should break up Germany and Italy as they are newcomers to
Thank you Andrea, smug pseudo-historians are a stock in trade these days.
“We wuz there first!” – of course you were Johanna sweetheart, of course you were.
For centuries, culminating in WWII, people from all parts of the UK served together, fought alongside each other, built the Empire together, knew each other. With the end of National Service, this mixing has gradually dwindled.
Whether by accident or design, the decision to give Scottish students free university places has accelerated this growth of mutual ignorance and led a generation growing up with the great majority having no personal experience of, nor sympathy with, people from the rest of the UK. Hence the polls showing a marked minority of young Scots thinking of themselves as British.
I’m not sure this trend is reversible.
The point of about Welsh schools and health service being poor and devolution creating a class of politicians who won’t take the blame is well made. But can the author of this article put forward any plausible alternative scenario where Wales and Scotland would have accepted no form of self government in the 21st century?
Once Northern Ireland had it’s own devolved parliament in 1920 devolution for Wales and Scotland became inevitable. I’m reminded of Mountbatten saying Churchill wanted the British to rule India forever or Thatcher thinking British rule in Hong Kong could continue after 1997. Some things are just inevitable.
Perhaps, but it has cost a lot of money and accomplished zilch.
Perhaps if Wales and Scotland were cut loose. They would make better decisions.
The fact that Wales and Scotland now have poor schools, drug problems ect.
Isn’t really an argument against self rule. One could argue that the Congress parties rule of India was pretty disastrous but nobody is asking for the return of colonialism.
This is an interesting discussion. As I said, I believe in Wales (I have done a lot of work for Welsh industry) and my wife and children speak Welsh. They believe in Wales. BUT… they can see that speaking a language doesn’t make a country. You have to think beyond pride because you are committing 3 million people for ever.
Another statistic – there are annually 11 million tourists coming to Wales, of which 10.1 million are from England. Given independence, given membership of the EU, there will be a hard border with passports, Wales will be forced to have the Euro. Will this affect tourism?
My point is that the politicians should be discussing these things and not just appealing to pride.
Good to speak to you.
Thanks Chris, and that’s just the problem though isn’t it? Speaking a unique language is a great marker of a nation, but is it enough? Maybe, but are there great native works of literature being published? Science papers written in Welsh? Are there all Welsh school where all subjects are taught in Welsh, except English Language of course…Are there any uniquely and loved Welsh religious works, and are new arrivals induced to learn Welsh? Serious questions all.
Take back India – neither nor desirable for a multitude of reasons.
Wales/Scotland – ridiculous comparison to India on every single level, demographic, linguistic, geographic, religious, economic, historical, cultural.
I think we have already seen that they do not make better decisions (though I personally support their ability to do so ON ONE CONDITION – we have a hard border with each of them if they go independent). We will not have dual citizens or cretinous whiners switching their home address between Wales/ Scotland and England to suit their momentary financial needs. If you’re Welsh, you stay in Wales unless you get a proper visa. And no Mr Scotsman, you may not use our currency. Other than that, I say go for it.
Dear God, PLEASE, yes. Just go.
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