Saturday, 3 September 2016

The Disunited Kingdom of South Britain and Northern Ireland

There are an awful lot of British citizens at the moment who are at best indifferent to the fate of our country or at worst hostile. The most vocal of these are Scottish nationalists, but they are not alone. There are Welsh nationalists too who somehow think that Welsh independence is a realistic prospect. It is odd enough to suppose that it would be sensible for European countries to go back to the borders they had in 1707, but it is something else again to think we should re-establish boundaries that haven’t existed since the 13th century. Then too there is Northern Ireland which contains a significant minority who would like to join another country. One of the main motivations of Scottish nationalism sometimes appears to be helping this to happen. By a very warped logic I keep coming across Scottish/Irish Republicans who think uniting Ireland is a worthy goal just so long as it can be done by partitioning Britain.

It still remains the case however that the majority of people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland want our country to continue to exist. In the only campaign that mattered Scotland rejected independence decisively. Welsh nationalists are a small minority. Most people from Northern Ireland want to be part of the UK, not least because the present arrangement gives everyone some of what they want. I also strongly suspect that the Republic of Ireland would be wary of actually trying to unite Ireland, because it wouldn’t solve the problem it would just import it. The British people in Northern Ireland are going to be British no matter what. They are not suddenly going to become happy citizens of the Republic. We have reached equilibrium in Northern Ireland and the situation is a lot better than it was. Does anyone really want to throw a stone into the pond just to see where the ripples end up?

What worries me most has always been England. When I studied in Cambridge I found England to be the least nationalistic place I’d ever been. English people routinely thought of themselves as British. Being patriotic and wishing to keep your nation state intact is, of course, not a form of nationalism otherwise the word “nationalist” would have no meaning as it would apply to practically everyone in the world.

English people supported any of the home nations at football or rugby if England wasn’t playing. They were delighted if Scotland was able to defeat Holland at football or France at rugby. They simply would not have understood the mentality of someone who said “anyone but Scotland”. I encountered very mild banter because of my Scottish accent and never came across hostility to Scotland or Scottish people. The contrast with Scotland was astonishing and also rather liberating.

Mild Anglophobia is a part of everyday life in Scotland. At school I saw children with English accents taunted and made to feel that they had been cursed with the worst luck of being born in England. People in Scotland routinely said things about English people that they wouldn’t dream of saying about any other place or people in the world. Our fellow citizens were often described as the “Old enemy”. I never experienced something similar when I lived in England and it made me feel ashamed that I and my fellow Scots were so full of prejudice.

As John Hartigan points out in his book The Betrayal of Britainthings have been going wrong for some time. I don’t normally write reviews, but I was very kindly given a copy of this book to read and can highly recommend it. He makes the point that we have forgotten our country. We’ve forgotten Britain.

I once saw an old Broons cartoon from just after the Second World War. There was some sort of party, perhaps celebrating the safe return of Hen and Joe or maybe just the end of the war. But anyway there were British flags all over the room in which the Broons were celebrating. I imagine that this would have been a matter of routine all over our country at that time. It didn’t matter where you came from in those days, we all fought for Britain.

But somehow that idea has gone into decline. In Scotland even in the 1970s few of us had much of a British identity. The situation is obviously still worse today. Nearly everything is prefixed with the adjective Scottish and covered in a saltire. Hardly anything is called British. Even those things that once were called British, like the British Legion, have dropped the British prefix. It’s uncommon to find a Union Flag on anything. It’s pretty obvious why. Unless everything is called Scottish and has a saltire on it, the Scottish nationalists complain or boycott. A British, let alone an English, flag might hurt sales.

It’s an extraordinary situation when compared with that of France or Germany. No one would dare show such disrespect to the French tricolour or fly the flag of Saxony without also flying the national flag. These symbols obviously matter, which is why the Scottish nationalists make such a fuss about them. It’s time for Pro British people to start a fightback. Anything that is paid for by the British tax payer as a whole should have a dirty great Union Jack stamped on it. Anyone who doesn’t want the Union Jack should do without whatever it pays for.

The biggest problem however, is that English people too are now beginning to reject the idea of Britain. I keep coming across English people who show signs of English nationalism. Granted they are a minority, but it has become much more commonplace to see people flying English flags. What’s worse hostility to Scotland has markedly increased.

It is of course a natural response to rejection to feel hurt and respond with a similar rejection. If a woman loves his husband, but he seeks divorce, it is natural that she should cease loving him. The same thing happened during the Scottish independence referendum.

There are two brilliant ideas in John Hartigan’s book that really deserve more attention than they have received up to now. The first is that the Scottish independence referendum lacked the consent of the British population as a whole. Constitutional change should only be made if the British people consent to it and the only way they can consent is if someone puts it in a manifesto at a General Election and then goes on to win that election. Too often recently huge changes that would affect all of us have been made by politicians as if on a whim. This was best demonstrated by the so-called Vow. No party ever put this in a manifesto and therefore there was no consent from the electorate. We must continually remind our politicians that they cannot act like absolute monarchs, but that they require our electoral consent with regard to matters that would change all of our lives.

Personally I don’t think there should ever have been a referendum on Scottish independence. Few countries in the world would allow themselves to be broken up in this way. There is no universal right to secession especially when you live in a Western European democracy. There is not another country in Europe that would allow a part to secede by means of a referendum. Why on earth should we? To suppose that this is anti-democratic is to suppose that France and Germany, which likewise are made up of parts that once were independent countries, are undemocratic. However, I accept that my view on this matter may not be held by the majority across the UK. Let us therefore have a debate about this issue. Let parties put it to the electorate and let the whole British electorate decide.

I’m sure all Scottish nationalists and even some Scots who support the UK would disagree with me and argue that Scottish independence is a matter for Scotland alone. But here once more John Hartigan is very good indeed. If Scotland had voted for independence, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would have ceased to exist.

When Germany was partitioned after the Second World War we commonly called the parts West Germany and East Germany. Well similarly we would have had to change the name of the UK. Great Britain includes Scotland and so clearly that name would have had to be modified. But also we could hardly have continued to call ourselves a United Kingdom when we would so obviously have been divided. Therefore the United Kingdom would cease to exist if Scotland became independent and would become the Disunited Kingdom of South Britain and Northern Ireland.

If Scotland had left the UK it would have affected ever British citizen, not only Scots. I would have lost my country and so would everyone else in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Nation State in which I was born would have ceased to exist and would have been put in the dustbin of history along with Prussia, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. It is for this reason that such a momentous decision should have required the consent of everyone not only Scots.

Here too is why I find it foolish when I come across English people who have become so hostile to Scots that they even support Scottish independence. I understand why they feel this way. If I lived in England I too would be tempted to say good riddance to Scotland, just so that I didn’t have to see Nicola Sturgeon on the television any more. English people have a just complaint that Scotland receives more money from the UK Treasury and then uses that money to fund services that are not available to people in England. It is obviously unjust that British students from outside Scotland in effect pay for Scottish students to study for free.

Over the years there has been injustice added to injustice, but worst of all the Scottish nationalists bite the hand that feeds them. John Swinney fought very hard indeed so that the Barnett Formula should continue and indeed increase, even though Scotland has been given the power to raise and lower our own taxation. The SNP therefore are desperate that the UK should continue to subsidise Scotland while maintaining the right to immediately leave when it suits them. But this clearly isn’t a fair arrangement. Why should the UK Government invest in Scotland if there is no guarantee that Scotland will even remain and provide a return on that investment? The UK Government has bent over backwards to give Scotland new powers, but it’s all been for nothing. On the first occasion the SNP didn’t get what it wanted, it once more began agitating to leave. Did any of these new powers help then?  Have they made the UK even a little bit more secure? On the contrary we have simply been helping the SNP take little steps on the route to independence and we have been feeding their insatiable desire. I can fully understand why English people might be sick of this.

But let’s be clear about this. Britain is our country. Britain is what our ancestors have fought for these past centuries. It is as Britain that we have succeeded and achieved greatness. It is downright unpatriotic to want to see our country broken up. It is foolish too, because it would diminish every single one of us.

Do you really want to live in the Disunited Kingdom of South Britain and Northern Ireland? Perhaps you’d prefer that this country should still further divide into Wales, England and Northern Ireland. That sounds rather disruptive to me. What if we ended up with an independent England? What would be to stop London declaring independence? After all London subsidises the rest of England. Perhaps alternatively the South of England would find it much more profitable to ditch the North. Once you begin seceding it’s not always easy to know when to stop.

What sort of place in the world would we have if our country became dismembered in this way? How would other countries view our armed forces if we couldn’t even hold our own country together? It would appear unlikely that they would respect us all the more. Would they take us seriously at all? What would happen to our country’s reputation as a place that people wanted to visit or do business with? How do you react to countries in the world that start splitting up? Do you really want to import that sort of instability into Britain?

At present one of the most dangerous disputes in the world is over some uninhabited islands claimed by both Japan and China. There are other such territorial conflicts all around the world. Argentina has maintained a long standing claim to the Falklands even though no-one who lives on the Falklands wants to be part of Argentina. Spain has long wished to take back the tiny peninsular of Gibraltar even though the people there don’t want to be part of Spain. Why is it that other countries care so much about tiny pieces of territory while some people in Britain appear indifferent to losing a third of our territory? If you think you would be indifferent to losing Scotland you should think again. You would lose everything. You would lose your country and what’s more you would lose much of what you take for granted.

We need the whole of the British population to reassert that we are all British and that we want our country to remain intact. I would like to see an organisation set up with the task of bringing unity to our country so as to counter the propaganda of those who hate us and those who would divide us. But I am just one small voice. I can do nothing on my own. I have no power and no influence whatsoever. I know no politicians. I sometimes tire of the task of writing so regularly with small reward except insults. I’m not the sort who can organise anything. It’s a challenge for me even to send a text message on a mobile telephone.  But we need such an organisation tasked with promoting Britain and countering separatism. It could campaign for ever more things to be done together. The Olympics has shown what Britain can do as a team. It would be better if all international sport was done only as Team GB.  Not only would this help us develop a common identity it would help us perhaps to win. 

It is irrational for international sport to take place between places that don't have an international relationship. Why should Britain have four football teams while Germany only has one? After all Germany was made made up of two independent sovereign nation states until as recently as 1990. Those people who can’t bear the idea of losing the English, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish team should reflect on how having these separate teams helps nationalism and how not having them would help unity. 

Let there also be schemes which encourage people to live in different parts of the UK. Let there be citizenship ceremonies where we are all express our commitment to our country. Let there be television programmes that celebrate what we share rather than what divides us. The UK Government should realise that until and unless we defeat nationalism our country will always be under threat. Investing a tiny amount of money into an organisation tasked with promoting unity would be money very well spent. What is the point of spending billions on defence if our country could be destroyed from within? It’s time for the UK Government to start helping ordinary Brits to defend our country against those who hate it and who hate us.

I will do all I can and I’m grateful for the support I’ve been getting, but it’s not enough. People who love Britain must join together. It doesn’t matter what your politics is, people from the left, the right and the centre can all work together for Britain. Ordinary Brits must not let nationalism divide us. That is what the SNP want. Our task is long term, but if we work together we will succeed. We must banish separatism from Britain and we must put Scottish, Welsh English and Irish nationalism in the rubbish bin where they belong.   


  1. Scotlanmd needs to wake up. Really, so do England, Ireland and Wales. We stood up in 1939 and fought for our nation, yet now when the peril is perhaps greater as it comes from within, we sit back and ignore it. Scotland is one part (an essential part) of a very small island. Our culture, our belief system, our values are the same as those of England and Wales and Ireland. Our people are the same people. Britian is probably the fairest, most decent, most democratic and most intrinsically safe places to live in the entire world. What we have is beyond price, and in a world which is becoming more dangerous and unstable daily, we MUST fight to keep that. Not smash it up for some woolly-minded nationalism based on something which never did exist. And to anyone who doubts the priceless safety and security of Britain, I suggest you go and live in a Middle Eastern country for a couple of years, then come back and fall on your knees in gratitude for this country, her fairness and justice.

    1. Our people aren't the same people though, are they? Similar, yes. Inter-related, yes. Bound by many and various ties of history, language, culture and society, yes. But the same; No. Many of the things we share are shared with people everywhere, some with sub-sections of the world's population.

      Of course Britain has much to be proud of, just as it has much to be ashamed about in its long history; the same could be said of virtually any modern nation state, particularly those with a long history of colonial expansion and contraction. It's true that our society has an enviable reputation in many respects, but that shouldn't blind us to its problems, nor the fact that it has been overtaken by many countries which are fairer, more equal, richer and more tolerant. Interestingly many of those happen to be small liberal democracies elsewhere in Europe.

      Sadly for your rose tinted view of Britain, many of us no longer share it, believe in it or want any part of it. The reason we want independence is because we see that as the best (possibly the only) means of promoting fairness, justice and stability; it certainly hasn't come about to the extent it should as part of the UK.

      We don't want to fall on our knees in gratitude for the UK; we want to stand on our own two feet and walk hand in hand toward the shining beacon ahead of us thanks!

    2. "promoting fairness, justice and stability"

      How does independence support stability?

      "we want to stand on our own two feet and walk hand in hand toward the shining beacon ahead of us"

      Rose tinting fail.

    3. Long term it's my belief it does; more equality promotes more stability. Plus given brexit the britnat affectation that remaining in the UK (& thus we were assured the EU) was the stable option. How's that worked out again....?

      Rose tinting to you, achievable aspiration for us. Certainly preferable (with all its attendant risks) than staying with rump UK post hard brexit.

    4. That shining beacon will certainly not be from an oil field will it?!

    5. No, of course it's not as if there are 24 billion barrels of untapped reserves or anything.


    6. Sorry but we don;t want to be part of this British nationalist uprising that is essentially just anti immigration disguised in a Union flag.

      Scotland having its own government is entirely natural and its no threat to anyone. Why does it get painted as such.

      Seems its OK for little Briton's to talk about self determination and going their own way from Jonny Foreigner but if Scotland tries it we're seen as somehow seditionist.

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  3. "There is no universal right to secession especially when you live in a Western European democracy. "

    The "right" to secession at all under international law relates in general to post colonial situation; the qualifier about Western European democracies is therefore redundant. International law (such as it is) has unsurprisingly been mostly concerned with post colonial situations since 1945; it has little if anything to say about situations like Scotland, Quebec or Catalonia. More importantly, international law contains no prohibition of secession. There is however a right to self determination under the UN charter. I understand that you don't accept that Scotland is a "real" country, or even perhaps that Scots qualify as "a people" , but in that belief you are profoundly out of step with most Scots, even many who do not want independence.

    The bottom line is that the question of whether Scotland (or Catalonia, or Quebec...) become independent is entirely a matter for the peoples of those countries. There is no international precedent or justification for making the decision contingent on the "permission" of the larger entity; that's just not how self determination works. Not only would such a plan be profoundly undemocratic, it would in the end be counter productive. Scots independence isn't something to be bestowed or graciously allowed by the rest of the UK; no true democrat could maintain otherwise.

    This point has been made to you before, but you fail to engage, as you are in the end talking to yourself, and a dwindling band of "bitter einders" who believe as you do. Your plan to have Scottish independence vetoes by an English majority is as fanciful as your notion that Scots would uncritically accept the dissolution of their presence in international sport (which would be next I wonder, the separate Scottish legal system, the reformed Church, the Holyrood parliament itself...?), or that they would lend their support to your faintly sinister plan for a pan-British movement to promote the dissolution of a Scottish identity and deny her people the opportunity to decide their own fate.

    1. Come now if there was a danger of our culture being extingished they would have tried before now......oh wait...

  4. If a referendum for Scotland to leave the UK should require the permission of the UK electorate, surely our recent referendum to leave the EU should have required the permission of the people of Europe.

    1. The two are different so like for like comparisons do not fly. The UK is a nation state, the EU is not.

    2. The UK is a political construct as is the EU. It may be older and more mature but their roots are the same.

  5. No, because Europe isn't a country.

  6. I'm guessing you are not a big sports fan, Effie, so you may be unaware that the first international matches played in both football & rugby union were between Scotland & England over 140 years ago.
    I am confident that any attempt to move to UK teams would be massively unpopular across the political spectrum. If it had any effect on the independence debate, it would be likely to increase support for Indy.

    1. Effie seems to have a bit of a tin ear when it comes to the actuality of contemporary Scottish society; it's actually quite a talent for one who purports to be from the North East. Suggesting that Scottish teams in football and other sports be scrapped is one of her favourites; one wonders if she has actually asked anyone other than her closest ideological followers what they think of the concept?

      I have a feeling it stems largely from her "gut" feeling that Scotland isn't really a country, and should stop such pretentious forthwith. To Effie and her band, Scotland really is just North Britain; a glorified county with a more romantic history.

      For one supposedly so educated, her grasp of Scottish history seems superficial at best, and just plain wrong at worst. Similarly, her devotion to latter day "Empire loyalism" (which even she has admitted is relatively recent) looks increasingly fervid and out of step with all but a small minority of Scots. Few if any convinced No voters I know would countenance scrapping the Scottish football and rugby teams, still less join some over-arching civic British Legion organisation aiming to dissolve the very concept of a separate Scottish identity to inoculate us against the dangers of nationalism.

      We're used to an element of faintly unhinged discourse from Effie's echo chamber, but this must be a new low even by her admittedly fairly dire standard!

    2. "I am confident that any attempt to move to UK teams would be massively unpopular across the political spectrum"

      Did you miss Rio? Team GB 'massively unpopular'? Perhaps in China yes but in the UK no.

    3. It might be news to lots of our britnat friends, but many Scots are at best luke warm towards TeamGB. I'd far rather see Scottish teams at the Olympics, as would many others. In the meantime I'm quite happy to cheer on Scottish and other UK participants in TeamGB until we achieve independence.

      As the opening ceremony demonstrated, there are quite a few non nation states represented.

  7. I grew up in High Wycombe near London. I experienced mild bullying due to my Scottish accent and then the reverse (over my now anglified accent) when I moved back to Scotland in my teens.

    It always amazes me when anyone takes something as simple as xenophobia and prejudice and assigns it to a specific group. Just think what you are doing here. Seriously. It is an unfortunate aspect of 'humanity' and nothing else. It exists everywhere and in every country.

    Your anecdotal experience of Cambridge is of no less value than my own of course. Perhaps if you had studied in a Scottish university as I have. You would have found a distinct lack of 'nationalism' there too. I can't help but wonder if your experiences have been coloured but then again, if in doubt, do not rush to make a hast generalisation instead remember. People are the same the world over. Its such a ood rule to live by.

    England is the least nationalistic country you have lived in you say.

    My second problem with this sentence is the word 'nationalistic'. The word annoys me because its double meaning (like islamaphobia) confuses debate. So lets take each meaning at a time.

    Are the English seperatists? Probably not as much as Scotland no. The UK is nothing but a vehicle im which they are the drivers. Some in England like the company of their fellow passengers. Some find us rather an irritant. Mainly we are not important enough to care.

    Patriotism. Are the English less patriotic. As someone who has lived in England a lot. No way! Like I have said before people are the same all over.

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