Posted by: secretperson | July 26, 2008

This is The Way the Union Ends, Not with a Bang but a Whimper

Following Labour’s embarrassment at the hands of the SNP there is much speculation on the future of the Union.

In the Mail on Sunday (worry?), Peter Oborne (and relax) comments that a largely SNP Scotland and Conservative England would leave the Union vulnerable (hat-tip Toque). In order to retain the Union Cameron’s allies have apparently been in talks with Salmond, offering what sound like massive concessions:

In domestic terms, a Scottish administration would be entirely self-governing and have complete command over economic policy.

And yet the union could be maintained through the retention of shared armed forces, and foreign policy, and the monarchy.

In other words a federal system, with the proviso that only 10% of the population live in one of the ‘states’ and the rest remain under the federal government.

But let us be more realistic and practical about this. Any massive increase in Scottish powers would lead to a demand for more powers from Plaid, who could by this stage also be riding high in Wales. I think it is likely they would want, and have a good chance of getting, powers equivalent to those currently held in Scotland. In Northern Ireland a Conservative backed UUP would probably be less keen to claim more power, but NI is always a special case.

Which just leaves the Anglophant in the room. Any increase in Scottish powers increases the injustice of the West Lothian Question, but fiscal independence removes the issue of the Barnett formula, and frees up legislation to be easily defined as Scottish or English (or Welsh or English and Welsh, the same arguments apply). And the Tories would accompany this no doubt with some form of English Votes on English Laws. The near redundancy of Scottish MPs would be exposed for all to see.

Charles Moore in the Telegraph defends the Union. Opposing nationalism (English, Scottish, divisive, bad) and supporting patriotism (British, inclusive, good) and making spurious comparisons with Nazism and genocide. He admits English grievances and wants the Tories to come up with a solution within the Union, but makes no suggestion. He does add that:

Any prime minister who brought an end to the British state would find himself with time for nothing else, and would not be thanked for it.

which brings me to my original point.

Cameron will not bring an end to the Union, but if he agrees anything like this suggested deal with the SNP he will move it on its way to dissolution. It seems unlikely any major political party will support an English parliament, but as more powers drift to Scotland, with Wales close behind, Westminster will become the English parliament. If we get EVoEL, any more power passed to the devolved bodies means less work for their MPs until they are simply pointless. If the Union finishes it will be through this gradual process, not a dramatic event. Until it is simple and easy just to stop MPs from Scotland and Wales turning up at all, and there we have it. No more Union.

I over simplify of course, the EU and oil being the noticeable issues to be sorted. But I do not believe there will be one cataclysmic event ending the Union.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.



  1. So I suppose you are pro-devolution?

  2. Only equal devolution, with England included, so I would support a proper federal system. Really I am pro-English independence, but I recognise that has limited support. I would assume from your name you wouldn’t agree!

  3. We Scots are having a great time at the moment giving what is perceived as the jobs for the boys party (Labour) a good kicking. That aside there seems to be very little debate at the moment about England’s position in the union, we are far more concerned about our own position. Frankly I don’t really see this debate in terms of the Barnett formula or the West Lothian question it’s not about physical independence but rather about independence of action unfettered by the far away and apparently little interested Westminster. I don’t think I have ever met a Scottish supporter of independence who did not believe that the English were as entitled to as much freedom and independence as Scotland. I also believe the West Lothian question will become irrelevant in about 18 months at the next general election. If things continue as they have been recently for the Labour Party it is likely we will have a Tory government in power and if they return more than two or three Scottish MPs I will be very surprised, I can’t see Scottish votes on English questions being an issue should that happen. I also agree with a point you made in an older blog regarding the Barnett formula and the difficulty in deciphering the true figures, if you are a Scot it is easy to believe that oil revenues far exceed the grant, however as no one seems able to give accurate and honest figures who knows.

  4. Well, yes and no. I am fully supportive of a union, but I would prefer to see a centralised government restored. However, I am completely in support of English MPs having say over English-only laws (very Conservative of me as a Labour member lol)

  5. *As in if there has to be devolution, then it should apply equally throughout all the states.

  6. The least obvious but perhaps most important change I have noticed since devolution is an altered mindset amongst the” whingeing Scots” (I am allowed to say that as I am a Scot). The mindset has changed from continually blaming what was termed “the English” when in fact any fault lay at the door of Westminster Parliament, to now believing we can take responsibility for ourselves. The playing field in Scotland has changed, I believe for the better and I therefore believe that a similar change would benefit the English as much. It may just be part of a movement to decentralisation, so whether our English cousins would want regional administrations or simply an English parliament has to be their decision but the benefits would come to all the four home countries.

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