Saturday 28 November 2015

There are no safe spaces now

When did the SNP last support a war? Was it in 1314 or was it in 1745? They certainly didn’t support “England’s war” in 1939, nor as far as I recall have they supported any war since. Nicola Sturgeon might have pretended that she would listen to the arguments made by David Cameron and the UK Government, but she was listening in the same way as Nelson was seeing when he put a telescope to his blind eye and declared that he could see no ships. There was never any chance that the SNP would support Britain, as once more it looks likely that our forces will go to war. Have the SNP ever supported Britain in anything whatsoever?

The SNP may not be as vocal about it, but with regard to defence they are very similar indeed to Jeremy Corbyn. Whatever side Britain is on, Mr Corbyn appears always to take the opposite. When the IRA were attacking us, he’d have their supporters to lunch. He would have been delighted to hand over the Falkland Islands to Argentina. I’m quite sure he would have preferred being ruled by the Soviet Union as at least that would have brought about socialism. No doubt, he would prefer being ruled by Hamas than the Tory party. In order to make any and all of these things more likely he would have unilaterally given up all of our nuclear weapons without expecting anything in return. It’s the gesture, after all, that counts.

Quite a lot of SNP supporters, especially those who live in the West of Scotland have similar sympathies to Mr Corbyn. They too hate Britain and express sympathy for "militants" whether in Northern Ireland or in parts of the Middle East. This is the trouble with terrorism. Once you go down the route of supporting the cause, whether it’s a united Ireland or the destruction of Israel, you have a tendency to at least in part support the means. Mr Corbyn could never quite bring himself to condemn IRA terrorism without at the same time condemning British terrorism. The UK’s armed forces were always morally equivalent to the people they were fighting. After all Mr Corbyn shared the IRA's aims and objectives, though, of course, he deplored their tactics, or was it that he deplored the British army for provoking these tactics?

Did Mr Corbyn and friends ever condemn terrorism when it was directed against Israel? Or did they rather excuse and explain this terrorism simply by means of the fact that Israel existed. But this is our problem really. The terrorism that has been directed against Israel for the past decades is the same terrorism that is now directed against us.

When all of Israel’s neighbours decided to attack simultaneously in June 1967, they lost in six days. They tried again in 1973 and lost again. It was the failure of these military actions above all that gave rise to terrorism as a tactic. They could not defeat Israel with armies so instead they tried insurgency and terrorism.

Terrorism was rather different in the 1960s and 1970s. There were lots of hijackings. Planes would end up on a runway somewhere and there would be negotiations. This sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore, does it? There were shootings, but those who did the shooting nearly always wanted to get away. That too doesn’t happen anymore.
Terrorism in the 1970s outraged us, but both in Northern Ireland and in the Middle East it wasn’t like today. There were limits. It was almost as if there were rules. But the trouble with terrorism is that if you don’t defeat it, there is the tendency for it to get much worse.

We all remember the hostages who were taken in the 1980s. We were all outraged by the long captivity of people like Terry Waite. But the situation is incomparably worse today. If someone is taken hostage now in Syria or Iraq what are the chances of them surviving?

Terrorists today don’t hijack planes, they blow them up or crash them into buildings. That is precisely why there are no hijackings anymore. Any hijacked plane would immediately be shot down. Terrorists nowadays are not interested in negotiation and they are not interested in survival. This is the fundamental difference.

In the 1970s we were dealing with secular terrorism and for that reason the terrorist wanted to survive. Now we are dealing with religious terrorism and the terrorist doesn’t care if he survives on Earth, for he believes that he will survive and be reward in paradise. If that were not the case, suicide bombing would make no sense whatsoever.

The problem we have though is that someone like Mr Corbyn, understands and sympathises with people who blow themselves up in Israel. He thinks their cause is just and is an understandable reaction to injustice by Israel. There are many people in Britain who agree with him, at least to an extent. But here is our problem, the person who blows himself up fighting against Israel is not in any meaningful sense different from the person who blows himself up flying his plane into the World Trade Centre, who blows himself up on the Tube, or who shoots hundreds of people in Paris and dies in the process. These people will all agree with each other and think each of their causes is just. No doubt, this is because it is the same cause.

Barbarism if left unchecked leads to ever greater levels of barbarism. We know this from the conduct of the German Army in World War II. Once you go down that route there is practically speaking no limit to what men will do to other men. We have now reached a level of barbarity in the Middle East that no-one could have imagined in the 1970s. What will it be like in twenty years’ time if it is not stopped now? What new methods of torture will these people find? What new methods of attacking us will they discover? If they use Kalashnikovs today, who is to say that they will not use chemical weapons tomorrow?

Some people think that pacifism will defend us against terrorism. In this respect both Mr Corbyn and the SNP are in agreement. They think that if we leave the terrorists alone, they won’t attack us. They think that Middle Eastern terrorism is caused by injustice in the Middle East. They think the solution therefore is to address this injustice. They think moreover that it is our fault that there are terrorists. If we had not taken part in prior wars, if we had not been imperialists, then no-one would want to hurt us. They explain terrorism and to an extent therefore justify it.

Pacifism is a nice ideal. It’s easy to admire Gandhi’s passive resistance. It can work too. But what do you think would have been the result if the Soviet Union had responded to Operation Barbarossa with passive resistance? If Gandhi had tried to fight the Imperial Japanese army with pacifism, they would simply have crushed him on the first day. Pacifism only worked because Gandhi was up against a reasonable opponent, the British, who had a conscience. Does anyone seriously think that our opponent today has a conscience?

The SNP’s only response to military threat is to unilaterally get rid of our nuclear weapons and to promise never to attack anyone ever. Pound for pound we get more deterrence out of Trident than out of all of the rest of our armed forces put together. None of this much mattered before when the SNP only had a handful of MPs, but now they actually have influence.  The UK and the West in general is faced with a dangerous threat that is going to get worse if we don’t do something about it. Far too many people on the Left sympathise too much with our enemies and would do all they can to undermine Britain.  Now is not the time for division. We cannot afford weakness and break-up any more than France can.

We will not defeat terrorism in the Middle East by air strikes alone. But the fact that it will not be enough is not a reason for doing nothing. The wars we have taken part in recently have not gone well, but the fault was not so much that we fought, but how we fought. If Iraq were prosperous, democratic, free and peaceful today, no-one would remember anything else about that war. The problem is that we have lost the will to fight like we did during World War II. We have become decadent and unwilling to do what is necessary, above all unwilling to take even light casualties. In our universities some students talk of “safe spaces” where they won’t be able to hear anything they disagree with. They want to be given “trigger warnings” in case they read something unpleasant in Ovid or find prejudice in the plays of Shakespeare. Many people in the West are unable even to think or speak the truth lest it causes offence. We each have a little censor saying don't write that, don't think that someone might call you a nasty name.  

I’m sorry folks, there are no safe spaces after Paris. You won’t be given a warning if someone pulls the trigger. It is time, above all, for us to tell the truth about the threat we face.

Don’t sympathise with terrorism. Don’t try to justify or understand it. Don’t sympathise with the causes of those who hate us. Fight them.

Pacifism will not help us. Our enemies will simply laugh at our weakness. Now is the time rather to do what our enemy least wants and make him cease laughing and thinking of us as weak. It is always difficult to fight against people who don’t care if they live or die. The United States Navy discovered this in 1944. Religious fanaticism is a powerful force that can motivate and boost morale, but we have defeated fanaticism before and we can do so again.  

Scottish politics and the attempt to divide our country appear ludicrously parochial now. What would it take for Scottish nationalists to realise that there are more important things than hating the UK, Westminster and Tories? They are stuck in a 1980s time-warp endlessly debating nuclear disarmament and re-fighting the battles of the Middle Ages rather than those of today. Really what would it take for the SNP to wake up and face up to the threat of 2015 rather than 1314? If Paris isn’t enough, what would be? It's all very well being insular, but there are no safe spaces now.  Not here, nor anywhere else.

Saturday 21 November 2015

The glue that holds us together

Scottish politics appears trivial to me now. I find myself uninterested. Perhaps I will get my interest back. Ordinary life, after all, goes on and must go on. But the events of the past week have shaken me. Some people have responded with the usual clich├ęs and the usual complacency. Some have been determined not to do anything, not to overreact. Some have been more concerned about demonstrating how nice and kind they are. I’m uninterested in all those things. I’m interested in understanding the problem and then finding a solution.

It is purely a matter of chance, or else the excellence of our security services, that it wasn’t a British city that was attacked last week. We have been attacked before, it is highly likely that we will be attacked again. Such an attack will probably happen in one of the big English cities, but it could equally well happen in Glasgow or even Aberdeen. Who can tell? If the French president says that his country is at war, then realistically so are we. We must respond accordingly.

Morally I believe we have a duty to fight evil. Even if our country had not been threatened by Germany in 1939 at some point we would have had a duty to fight against people who were acting barbarously towards others. It is not always practically possible to overcome regimes which are acting in ways that are monstrous. But where we can, we have a duty to do so. War can be just and pacifism can be a means by which evil is allowed to flourish.

The West has made a series of strategic blunders in the Middle East over the past 20-30 years. With hindsight secular dictatorship was preferable to religious extremism. It was a mistake to support the removal of Gaddafi, Mubarak, Assad and in the end it was a mistake to remove Saddam Hussein. But were not all these dictators evil? No doubt they were, but what followed was much worse. If you don’t believe me, you haven’t been following the news recently.

So should we have left the whole region alone? It would indeed be better to leave the whole region alone, than to make it worse. But unfortunately the region will not leave us alone. Attacks on our cities will not suddenly cease if we retreat, rather they will get worse. They are getting worse. Who knows how many will be killed next time? Five hundred, a thousand? If you are against action, at what point do you act?

The mistake that the West made in removing dictators was not so much the removal of the dictators, but the failure to put anything in its place. Imagine if after defeating Germany and Japan in 1945 we had simply left them to get on with it. Would they now be the peaceful, prosperous societies we see today? These countries are as they are because we conquered them and then ruled them for years afterwards. We turned them into democrats. If we are to defeat evil in the Middle East we must do likewise. If we are not to finish the job, it would be better not to start at all.

How is it that we could defeat Germany and Japan in 1945 and turn them into model countries, yet we have a record of failure in the Middle East? The answer is obvious. We don’t fight as we did in 1945. The media watches every step we make, rebukes us whenever we make a mistake and treats the whole event as something that they have to watch impartially. Meanwhile our armed forces play with a rule book that guarantees defeat while the enemy plays to no rules at all. We defeated formidable opponents like Germany and Japan only because we could do whatever was necessary to win. We realised it was a struggle for survival and fought accordingly. No less is required this time. Not least it would be kinder to our opponents. If we had fought a little more seriously in Iraq last time round and if we had ruled with a little more authority, we might not be faced with a failed state today.

If there is the will, we can defeat evil in the Middle East relatively easily. Our opponents are not nearly as formidable as the ones we faced in 1939. But we need to put aside differences with countries like Russia just like we did in 1941. Putting aside those differences may also help solve conflicts elsewhere such as in Ukraine. Above all we must recognise that bombing alone will not succeed.  A country cannot be occupied with bombers.

The people who threaten us are in Syria and Iraq, but they are not only there. Unfortunately we have to recognise that some of them live in our own country. Some of them sympathise with our enemies. We don’t know who they are and we have no means of recognising them. But and this is very important, I would like to emphasise that our enemies are not immigrants and they are not Muslims.

Only a small proportion of Muslims in the modern world sympathise wish ISIS or wish to fight a Jihad against the West. I don’t know how large this proportion is. The faith of most Muslims in Britain is as unconnected with Jihad as my Christianity is unconnected with the Spanish Inquisition. I do not deny that that burning heretics was something that Christians did, not least because they themselves believed themselves to be Christians. But it has nothing to do with my faith. It was part of Christianity at one time in history to act cruelly, but it is not at all how I understand Christianity.

Faith is a precious thing to the person who has it. It would have been awful for me to believe what I do about Christianity and see others using Christianity to be cruel. Well then I can sympathise with devout Muslims when they see their religion misused. This misuse is not their fault and no more touches them than if I had been a Christian in Spain and had disagreed with burning those who were called heretics.

Let us only fight those who are our enemies, let us not criticise those who are our friends and fellow countrymen. Some people suggest that we are up against a medieval interpretation of Islam. On the contrary, I would far rather live in medieval Baghdad than medieval Edinburgh. In the Middle Ages Baghdad would have been relatively tolerant. It would have been clean, cultured and safe. The scholarship, the art and the culture there would have been far superior to here. The problem is not a medieval interpretation so much as a modern fanaticism.

The fanatics of the Spanish Inquisition were a threat to ordinary decent Christians in Spain. In the same way modern Jihadis are a threat to ordinary decent Muslims in Britain. We can all equally be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The way to defeat our common enemy is to come together. Just as in World War II we found a unity and a morale that helped us defeat evil, so too now we must unite rather than divide.

I strongly suspect that British Muslims are, at least in part, responsible for foiling many attacks that might have taken place in the past years. They will, no doubt, continue to do so. Our safety in the UK depends on everyone feeling equally a part of our country. It is perfectly possible to have more than one identity. Someone can be proud of the country where their ancestors came from and equally proud of the country where they are now.  Someone can be Jewish and British, a Hindu and British and Muslim and British.

The great thing about the British identity is that it is open to everyone. I know people whose grandparents came from Scotland who still think of themselves as Scots though they were born and brought up in England and they speak with an English accent. Likewise I know people who have lived in Scotland all their lives who are continually reminded that they are not Scots because they lack a Scottish accent. It is sometimes possible to be accepted as Scot by committing oneself to Scottish nationalism, but for the most part a Scottish identity depends on where you are born and where your parents came from.  I wish that this were not so, but it is.

My husband is in the process of obtaining a British passport. When he does so, he will be a British Russian. That will be the only identity open to him. He lacks Scottish vowels. The prefix British unites everyone who lives in the UK in a similar way that people in the United States can call themselves Italian Americans, or African Americans. This common identity is vital if a country is to remain united.

But here we have a problem. We are rightly encouraging people whose ancestors came from elsewhere to think of themselves as Brits. We want them to share this identity with all of us and to realise that we are all in this together. But at the same time far too many British citizens deny the one thing that unites us all. In the past twenty or more years Britain has become more and more divided. Too many people think of themselves as English only, or Welsh only. Too many deny that they are British. But it is only because we are both British that I have a common identity with an Indian Sikh in London or a Pakistani Muslim in Birmingham. If I deny this Britishness, what have I in common with them other than a shared humanity?

We must stop squabbling amongst ourselves. We face a struggle that may be as dangerous as the Second World War, which may be as long as the Cold War.  We must unite in our United Kingdom. Above all we must not divide in the face of our common enemy. We live in a multi-cultural Britain, where we are all equally Brits. If you can’t quite bear living in the same country as English people, Welsh people and Northern Irish people, how do you suppose you will be able to bear living in a country with people from further afield? If you hate Brits and Britishness, you hate an awful lot of of your fellow citizens. You hate the one identity that ought to join you with them.   
Our common citizenship, our Britishness is the glue that holds us together. It will enable us to defeat our present foe just as we have defeated all those that have come before. Don’t make us come unstuck. We need everyone together in this fight.  

Saturday 14 November 2015

We need to integrate or else build fences

Out of all Eastern Bloc countries the most multi-cultural was the Soviet Union. In Russia today, there are also many different linguistic, ethnic and religious groups. This has been the case for centuries. The Russian Empire, after all, expanded from its historical heartland of Kievan Rus’ and expanded gradually northward, southward, westward, but above all eastward. Eventually this empire stretched across a continent, embracing many peoples who certainly had not been Russian a thousand years ago. It can be described as a form of colonisation without having to travel overseas.

When the Soviet Union collapsed the former Russian Empire lost many of its peoples, but it kept many more. Thankfully Russia itself has been able to remain intact. If Russia were to fall apart, there would certainly be conflict. The various peoples who live in Russia are very mixed and there are frequently no clear boundaries between them. Thankfully also there is little desire for secession. The conflict in Chechnya was the exception. Who knows, perhaps there is desire for secession and independence elsewhere, but we’d all better hope it doesn’t amount to anything. If Russia became one hundred and eight-five countries, corresponding to the ethnic groups who live there, the whole region, perhaps the world would descend into chaos.

For the most part however, people in Russia get on with each other well enough, no matter whether they can also speak a language different from Russian, whether they have a religion different to Russian Orthodox Christianity and whether they are from a different ethnic group.  The Russian Empire was a melting pot. But it must be remembered it took centuries for this melting pot to melt the differences and to a great extent they are still there. Ivan the Terrible captured Kazan’ in 1552, but the Tatars are still there. They are citizens of Russia, but they are still Tatars.  They are not usually even called Russians, nor do they think of themselves anything other than Tatars.

Multi-cultural countries are certainly possible. Russia is one, so is China, so is India. There are many more. But there is always the danger of conflict. There is always the possibility that one group or another might decide to seek separation. No-one thought the Soviet Union would break up, but it did. Who is to say that there is no possibility of another multinational-nation breaking up?

While the Soviet Union was a multi-national, multi-cultural country, the rest of the Eastern bloc for the most part was mono-cultural and has since the breakup of the Soviet Union become, if anything, still more so. Most Eastern European countries are dominated by one linguistic, religious and ethnic group. The south Slavs decided that they could not bear to live together any longer even though they all spoke more or less the same language. They fought a vicious war and split up into Serbia, Croatia et al. Likewise, Czechs and Slovaks decided that they could not endure living together. Their divorce happened almost by accident, but it happened none the less even though to an outsider the Czechs and Slovaks seem more or less the same.

The point is that in recent historical memory most people in Eastern Europe have experience of multi-culturalism and this is therefore something that they now reject. The Austro-Hungarian Empire after all was a multi-national, multi-cultural country, but eventually it could not hold together due to the fact that it contained too many nations. Likewise Czechs and Poles remember the consequence of living in a country which has German minorities. After the war they made sure there were no longer any Germans living in their country. It was vicious the way the Germans were driven out at the point of a bayonet, but the issues that caused such tension in the years before 1939 have gone with them.   

This is our problem. Just as the Tatars of Kazan’ remain Tatars 500 years later, so the Germans who had lived in Poland remained Germans and the tendency was for them to wish to turn Poland into Germany. The Eastern European countries that are most diverse now are places like Latvia and Estonia, with large Russian minorities. But it is an uneasy truce. The Latvians and Estonians would prefer that there were no Russians there. The Russians, no doubt, would prefer that Latvia became part of Russia again.

It is the experience of the difficulties of multi-culturalism that makes the present day Eastern Europeans so reluctant to accept immigration. Hungary has a population that is more than 95% Hungarian. They want it to stay that way. The reason for this is two-fold. Their own history tells them of the difficulties of multi-culturalism. But furthermore they look at the experiment with multi-culturalism in Western Europe and they don’t like what they see. Who can blame them?

The only way to make mass immigration work is to have a melting pot. But the melting pot takes centuries and even then it does not always work. Ukraine and Belarus’ split from Russia though they all had the same origin and had been part of one country for centuries. We have not completely melted the difference between Scotland and England, Catalonia and Spain or else there would not be the demand among some people for independence. But if Scots and English people cannot bear to live in one country, though there is little to distinguish us, how can we all live in harmony with people who are very different indeed? If we cannot fully integrate Scots and English people so that they think of themselves as one people, how can we expect to integrate those who are in every respect different except sharing a common humanity? The reality is that it is a part of human nature to wish to live together with those who have similar beliefs and speak the same language. If that were not the case we would not have countries at all.

Hungarians want to live with Hungarians. They too once were immigrants. They migrated to the land that is now called Hungary some time over one thousand years ago. No-doubt they fought their way there and drove out those who were there before them. It may be unfair that they who are quite literally a nation of immigrants want to keep out others who are also immigrants. They probably would be willing to accept some. But above all they recognise that there is a limit. The character of Hungarian society would radically change if twenty or thirty percent of the population was not Hungarian. Who knows what problems that would store up? It is for this reason that they build fences. It is human nature that they should do so. Who am I today to tell them that they can’t?

It’s time to tell the truth. No more platitudes. The Hungarians were right. I bet today they are all very grateful for their fences. 

Saturday 7 November 2015

EVEL is not evil

When I was a student in England, I never once came across an English person who was demanding an English Parliament or English devolution.  Likewise no-one ever complained that England was outvoted by the other parts of the UK. Of course, given England’s population such a result is unlikely, but it has happened and it may well happen again. The point is that everyone I knew viewed the UK as a whole and accepted the majority view that prevailed in the whole. If you don’t take that view, then you are already siding with the nationalists.

I opposed devolution and I still have mixed feelings about it. But it’s here and it’s here to stay. The crucial thing then from a Pro UK point of view is to make it work for the benefit of all the parts of the UK and the whole of the UK viewed as one thing. Of course, this is not how the nationalists see the purpose of devolution. For them it serves as a route to independence. It’s above all for this reason that they don’t want it to work and work fairly.

We are still in the very early stages of the process of devolving still more power to Scotland.  Lots of SNP supporters have complained that the Scottish Parliament has not been given enough powers. This is natural enough, after all they don’t want devolution. They want independence. But even some people who support the continued existence of the UK, have been arguing that we have not been given so called “Devo max”.

Words like “Devo max” and “Home rule” are frequently used without anyone quite knowing what they mean. Well assuming that they are not just substitute words for independence, they must mean devolution within the context of a continuing UK such that this is at the maximum level possible. If devolution were given to such an extent that it caved into independence, this would not be “Devo-max”, but rather independence later.

Home rule is about controlling those issues that only affect Scotland, while the UK parliament controls those issues that we share. But this is pretty much where we are now, or at least where we soon will be. Scotland already controls most of the issues that only affect Scotland. The only things we don’t control are macro-economic policy, defence and foreign relations. Which area of policy that only affects Scotland is still controlled by Westminster? I can’t think of one. Shared institutions like the BBC are not controlled by Scotland, precisely because they are shared.

Scotland will soon have many more financial powers. Of course, there is a limit to these powers. If there were not, Scotland would be independent. The UK can only control macro-economic policy if it can, at least in part, influence the economic activity of the parts of the UK. For example, a macro-economic policy of reducing the UK’s deficit depends on cooperation across the UK.

The reality is that Scotland will have really quite extensive new powers very soon. Why isn’t the UK getting any credit for in effect giving Scotland “Devo-max”? The answer is obvious. When did the SNP, or independence supporters in general, give the UK any credit? They don’t want devolution to work.

None of us really know how these new powers will work. It’s all very well reading about them in government reports, but remember we only really discovered how devolution worked from 1997 onwards by living in a devolved Scotland. Let’s at least see how these new powers work out, before complaining too much. There is no point moaning about wicked Tories if you yourself have the power to raise taxes, but fail to do so. Better by far to take responsibility for your own actions instead of continually blaming the neighbours.

This tendency to complain is becoming really rather unattractive. Moreover it annoys the neighbours. I think this is the purpose of it. Scottish nationalists think that if they can annoy England enough, it brings them a step closer to their goal. It does. For this reason Pro UK people ought not to join in. We must think of the UK as a whole and do what we can for it to remain a reasonably harmonious whole.

How much power would Scottish MPs have in a UK parliament if England had its own parliament with the same amount of power as Holyrood? If this English parliament controlled, health, education, law and order etc., Scottish MPs would have no say whatsoever on these issues. This at present is the case with English MPs with regard to Scotland. They have no influence whatsoever on what goes on at Holyrood. Nor should they. Do they complain about this lack of influence? Do they think of themselves as second class MPs because they can’t control Scottish health and education policy?

Who amongst us thinks that Scotland has a right to its own parliament, but England doesn’t?  But as it happens most English people don’t want their own parliament. They think it would be expensive and add another layer of politics that is unnecessary. But given that they don’t want their own parliament, does that mean England should have no devolution at all? Well they could have regional parliaments. But it’s clear that English people don’t much want these either. There are lots of ways of giving English people a little devolution, without setting up expensive parliaments and employing lots more politicians. You could have days at Westminster where only English matters were discussed and only English MPs voted. You could devolve to a local level in such a way as to bypass national parliaments. Alternatively you could have something like English Votes for English Laws (EVEL).

Again let’s see how it works out before complaining too much. EVEL amounts to a veto that English MPs will have on matters that only affect England. How often will it be used? Probably very rarely. Indeed EVEL gives English MPs hardly any additional power at all. They will have far less additional power because of EVEL than Scottish MSPs will have because of the new devolution powers coming to Scotland. EVEL will not allow English MPs to raise or lower taxes. It will not allow them to do initiate policy. It will only allow them once in a while to say No.

We must be generous to our neighbours otherwise they really will get sick of us. We have been given very extensive devolution. But we cannot expect to control both Scottish education and English education. That’s not fair. On issues that are devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there must now be a majority of English MPs. A government that lacks a majority in England, cannot expect to push through, for example, a health policy that is opposed in England.

The main objection to EVEL is selfish. It comes from people on the Left who worry that a future Labour party government could not rule in England. The reality is that the Labour party cannot expect to form a government at all unless it wins in England. It very rarely happens that a party that wins in the UK doesn’t also win in England. This is a matter of numbers. A Labour party that lacks a majority in England will now, in theory, only control those matters that are not devolved to Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland. But in practice, they will probably control much more. England is so large that there will often be a case for saying that English matters affect everyone else too. In order to run macro-economic policy any government will have to control to some extent at least spending in England.

Devolution at present is unequal. It has been unequal from the beginning. This is simply untenable. English people have reacted to what they’ve heard during the independence referendum. They didn’t want any devolution years ago and they were willing to accept the will of the majority. But this was only tenable when everyone else played the same game. Now the SNP want to run both Scotland and England. It was this above all that won the Conservatives the election. EVEL may just be the one thing that gives Labour a chance again in England. Insofar as it removes the threat of the SNP ruling England it helps Labour. It may no longer be possible to run a poster campaign with Corbyn in Nicola’s pocket. 

We need to make the UK fairer politically. Let’s see how things work out. EVEL is not a threat to the union. It may not be ideal, but it has the virtue of costing nothing and being easy to implement. It gives the English very little. It gives them far less than we have. But it’s symbolic. It gives them something.  If you support the UK don’t keep complaining. “I want more, more and still more while  you’re not getting anything”, is childish. We in Scotland who support the UK, must become better neighbours. We must try to see things from their point of view, not just our own. If we don’t, there will come a point when England demands independence whether we in Scotland wish it or not. Where would that leave us? Imagine if we lived in a country made up of only Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We wouldn’t even have a common border.  Best not to annoy the neighbours too much, they are the glue that holds us together.