Friday, October 26, 2007

Gracchi on the demise of the Union

Brilliant post by Gracchi on devolution and the Union. He sets out how the "uncomplete and incomprehensible" structure set up by the "ad hoc opportunists of Millbank" could lead to the Union's ruin. Scottish politics becomes ever more militantly anti-English as leaders seek to differentiate themselves and offer a narrative to their new nation. He doesn't mention the other side of this, the English feel steadily more aggrieved and will prove unwilling to pay bribes to keep the Scots onside.

This post comes about as close as Gracchi gets to real anger. His rage is well placed. Inspired leadership could bring about a renaissance for the Union yet but it now seems probable to me that it will not make its 400th anniversary. Those ministers responsible might well be dead when the United Kingdom passes into history but they will still bear a shame with only a few dismal historical parallels. They will have destroyed one of history's great nations.

It is almost unfashionable to really love the Union these days. Most English men and women will react with indifference or hostility if you tell them their loyalty should be to a United Kingdom. However, while I do increasingly feel English myself I still find the decline of the United Kingdom unutterably sad. Three hundred years of matchless achievement; of glory, genius and creativity; of a unique presence in the world, would be over. The nation that built the greatest Empire the world has ever seen might die.

The most recent historical analogy I can think of is 1453 when the Byzantine Empire made its last stand. While the Greeks would revive later, as I trust the English will, the Roman Empire was gone. While the role of Constantine XI, the leader who presides over his nation's death, is not yet filled the role of that nation's destroyer is clearly played by the "ad hoc opportunists of Millbank" who set up a federalism of such inequity and imbalance it cannot last.

If all this comes to pass and blame is laid where it is deserved the names of Blair, Brown and the rest will attain a genuine and lasting infamy. History will judge them harshly.


Gareth said...

There's nothing inevitable about the demise of the Union, separatism still isn't over 25% even in Scotland.

What's for certain is that the current imbalance will increase resentment.

I'd rather retain the Union but my personal preference is an English parliament and executive, and hang the consequences. But even if an English parliament was impossible for the Scots to live with I don't think we'd ever see the end of Britain.

Britain would still be a space that people inhabited in their minds. And I find it highly unlikely that the Scots would quit £Sterling, ditch the monarchy, set up their own passports/ID/Military.

There's no sense in 'independence' - we're all interdependent these days anyway.

Anonymous said...

i entirely agree , disagracefull and given how difficut northern ireland is the notion we're been to assume this break up will go peacefully is absurd.

and what if other ethnic minorities start irreditalism movement?

i thk there are diffences between norht and south korea toque -and even between tehe Czech republic and Slovakia

having said all this let's have some hope- the union's not dead yet thank god!

Vino S said...

An interesting post, Matt, and I thought I’d raise a number of points regarding it.

Firstly, I am not sure the UK is likely to break-up. I think for it to do so in the medium-term would require a number of coincidences to happen. Firstly, Alex Salmond would have to remain popular and win re-election convincingly in 2011 (with 40%+ of the votes, perhaps) and find Lib-Dem or Green coalition partners. Additionally, the Tories would have to get elected in a 2010 election and have an overall majority in a UK-wide parliament with next to no MPs in Scotland (that is not that likely as any Tory surge is likely to bring them some more Scottish seats). And, thirdly, the Tory government would have to decide to go on a collision course with the Scottish Executive and vice versa. Unless those three things all happen, I can’t see 50%+ of Scottish voters voting for independence.

Re the general point that you right-wingers make re the devolution settlement being inconsistent, I have never seen it as much more inconsistent than the pre-1997 situation. After all, back then, Scotland had its own legal system and yet did not have its own legislature. As Donald Dewar pointed out, that itself is strange and no other country or national sub-unit in the democratic world has a situation like that (for example, Louisiana, with its part-civil-law system does of course have its own state legislature to regulate it). People are concerned about England’s lack of its own parliament. That can be remedied, if the people wish it in a referendum, by establishing an English Parliament. It is not a case for getting rid of the Scottish one. Also, it always strikes me as inconsistent how Tories are now suddenly concerned re local democratic representation when they virtually unanimously agreed with Thatcher re centralisation and abolition of the metropolitan counties in 1986. After that, London lacked its own democratic voice at a city-wide level until 1999 and yet I don’t recall Tories being outraged about that.

To my mind, the Scottish parliament is a good example of how, when the political will is there, politicians can start rolling forward social-democracy with measures like free nursing home care and free university tuition, and reverse the ratchet effect of increasing marketisation of society that has been taking place since 1979. I hope that a future English parliament or English regional assemblies will follow the same path.

Re your historical analogy, I find it a strange one. The Byzantine Empire collapsed completely, it did not leave a successor state. Why is the UK similar to that, since it is not being conquered or annexed by any other empire?

Surely, if the UK does end up losing Scotland and this is seen as the continuation of the process of ‘losing’ the Empire [a view which I would disagree with, as there is a difference between decolonisation and an integral part of a country with full democratic rights choosing to leave it] then the rump state of England and Wales (and possibly Northern Ireland) will be more like the Austrian and Turkish states that succeeded the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empires or Russia succeeding to the USSR’s international position in treaties etc.

Anonymous said...


decades of clashes over issues and griang of more power can lead to indpence as surely as one big conflict inthe next decade-i'd be amazed if scotland is independnt ina decade- and relived if it's not wihtin a century

The point is differntial representation Vilno -ie the GLC was abolsihed but londoners were not disadvatnaged realtive to the rest of the country. tHe point is Scotland has powers for its democratic assembies whilst at the same time having a share in the power over England for analogus activiteis. This is differnet from having a separate legal system or an established church- which is why such is reflected in the Act of Union! The's a fundal democri deficit separate from degree of localism/ devolution