Thursday 30 June 2022

The SNP cannot use a General Election to leave the UK


Sturgeon plans to hold an independence referendum next October, but she hasn’t published a bill. Yet somehow this unpublished bill is going to the Supreme Court to determine if it is legal or not. If it is legal, we will have an unofficial non-binding referendum with the same question as in 2014. If it is not legal, she plans to turn the General Election (most likely taking place in 2024) into a de facto referendum on independence.

But why does the SNP think it has the right to rerun the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?" It is obviously biased not merely because it gives the SNP the advantage of campaigning for Yes. More importantly the vast majority of Scots think that Scotland already is a country. It’s like asking people in Yorkshire if “Yorkshire ought to be an independent county?” Well of course we should be independent, we’re big Tykes now we don’t need anything from those Lancastrians.

Independence is a positive characteristic. We become independent when we grow up, become adults and leave home. So, the question in 2014 was really asking proud Scots is Scotland a country that does not depend on someone else. It’s a miracle there were any No voters at all.

A fair question would involve making it clear that Scotland would be leaving the UK and that the UK would cease to exist after Scottish secession. This is why I always write about the former UK rather the rest of the UK. There would be no UK at all, just as there was no Yugoslavia once its constituent parts left.

A fair question might be “Should Scotland leave the UK or remain in the UK?”. Sturgeon won’t use this question because she knows she would lose. But this makes her pretendyref illegitimate from the start.

If an unofficial pretendyref2 either doesn’t happen or is boycotted by Pro UK people then the next General Election will be pretendyref3. But what would constitute winning?

In a General Election we each vote in constituencies. But even winning all of the seats in Scotland does not give you a majority. There is nowhere for these Scottish MPs to sit other than Westminster. All of the Scottish MPs together cannot form a majority there. For Scottish independence to take place legally there needs to be a British Government and a majority of Westminster MPs to pass a bill to repeal the Act of Union.

Sturgeon might think that winning a majority of seats in Scotland gets her independence, but it doesn’t unless Westminster votes for Scottish independence. The Yorkshire National Party can win all of the Yorkshire seats at a General Election, but it doesn’t make Yorkshire independent unless Westminster agrees.

It isn’t enough to declare that the next election will be a de facto referendum on independence because other parties and the electorate might not agree. Scottish Labour and the Lib Dems will hope to win the election with the help of their colleagues in other parts of the UK. The Conservatives will hope to defend their majority. Some voters will be desperate to get rid of Boris, others will hope to bring about socialism, still others will want the UK to rejoin the EU. Sturgeon cannot decide what an election is about.

If Sturgeon can turn a General Election into a referendum on leaving the UK, other parties could equally turn it into a UK wide vote on the UK remaining united in perpetuity, making a manifesto commitment to abolishing the possibility of Scottish independence. If the whole of the British electorate voted for this what could Sturgeon do?

This is the problem with acting unilaterally. Amusingly it is possible at any time for a British Government to vote to repeal the Scotland Act and abolish the Scottish Parliament, thereby making Sturgeon unemployed and preventing at a stroke the SNP doing anything at all. A British Government with a majority and the will to use it can pass any bill to counter any SNP threat.

But there is a more important reason why a General Election cannot be turned into a referendum. Multiple candidates stand at an election. With a First Past the Post system, it is possible to win all of the seats with around a third of the vote.  Yes won 44% of the vote in 2014, but 44% will win most seats in Scotland when the Pro UK side is divided into three competing parties.  Sturgeon wants to rerun a two-horse race by chopping the opposing horse up in to three parts as if Yellow Nat versus a tin of dog food was a fair contest.

The SNP would need to win a plurality of the electorate at a General Election to claim any sort of mandate. People who stay away from the polls are obviously not enthusiastic enough about independence to vote for it.

But there is a further problem for Sturgeon. If we were to decide independence by means of a General Election then we would be having a referendum in each constituency. This would mean that those constituencies that voted for a Pro UK party would be justified in remaining in the UK.  If the Borders or Orkney and Shetland didn’t vote SNP, why should they be dragged out of the UK against their will?

A still larger problem with Sturgeon’s desperate plan either to try to obtain independence by means of an unofficial referendum or by means of a General Election is that Scottish voters would have no idea what we were voting for. Assuming that the British Government does not put forward a series of briefing papers explaining what it would intend to do in the event of Scotland leaving the UK, we would only have the SNP’s view about issues like currency, the border, shared debt and shared assets and the future of trade between Scotland and the former UK.

People argued that in the EU referendum voters were ignorant, but at least both sides were able to debate the issue and both the EU and the British Government expressed their views. Neither an unofficial referendum nor a hijacked General Election would properly scrutinise what leaving the UK would involve for Scotland, because only the SNP would be arguing and everyone else would either not take part or would be talking about something else.

It is for this reason that Sturgeon’s plans cannot possibly work. Scotland cannot legitimately leave the UK until the Scottish electorate has the details of separation explained in such a way that everyone knows what we are voting for and chooses it. But this can only take place if there is a referendum like in 2014 where both sides are engaged and both sides are involved.

Sturgeon needs the Pro UK side to take part if she hopes to bring us with her into an independent Scotland. She needs us to accept that we have legitimately been defeated. We would have accepted that in 2014, because it was a fair fight and both sides gave it their best shot.

But we will not cooperate in founding an independent Scotland if the SNP tries to get there by means of a ruse or a General Election where the meaning of the outcome is contested. In that case we will either leave, which would be a disaster for Scotland with a declining population, or else we will sullenly do our best to ignore Scottish independence.

I would think of myself as an ex-pat British citizen and would pay as little attention to the Scottish state as I would if I were working in Iran pay attention to the outpourings of the mad mullahs. I would merely continue to delight in the mountains and lochs that even the SNP could not ruin.

The SNP needs to bring us with it to succeed in the end, otherwise it will merely win a Scotland more divided even than it is now.  It’s not enough for Sturgeon to convince the Jacobites absurdly re-enacting the Battle of Bannockburn, she must convince us too that the process by which each side of the debate wins or loses is a fair contest rather than a rigged race.  


Tuesday 28 June 2022

The UK is not a voluntary union. It is not a union at all.


What sort of state would Scotland be if it were to leave the UK? The SNP talk little about this, but there are only really three options. Scotland could be a unitary state, a federation or a confederation. A federation is like Germany, Australia or the USA. The USA was briefly a confederation between 1781 and 1789. The Confederate states of America was still more briefly a confederation between 1861 and 1865. Its brevity was in part due to its being a confederation. The EU is arguably a confederation which is moving towards becoming a federation. Russia and Belarus signed a treaty of confederation in 2000, but Belarus’s sovereignty looks more theoretical than actual 22 years later.

Realistically Scotland could either be a unitary state, with or without devolution or it could be a federation. I have never once read about anyone giving the parts of Scotland federal powers. Arguments about federalism in the UK are only ever about the whole of Scotland becoming part of a federation, so it is unlikely that the SNP would give Aberdeenshire or Orkney a federal parliament. We might not even get devolution. But in that case Sturgeon intends Scotland to be a unitary state within a confederation the EU.

Sturgeon complains that “Westminster is taking a wrecking ball to the idea of the United Kingdom as a voluntary partnership of nations.” But the UK has never been that. The UK is and always has been a unitary state, with parts that happen to be called countries.

It is arguable whether the Kingdom of Scotland merged with the Kingdom of England to form the Kingdom of Great Britain voluntarily. There was no referendum. There was barely a democracy at all. But having united there is nothing whatsoever in what passes for the British constitution about the Kingdom of Great Britain being a voluntary union. Kingdoms throughout Europe merged, but the UK was never the equivalent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with a Scottish part and an English part. If that had been the case it would have dissolved long ago.

Until devolution was created the UK was a classic example of a unitary nation state ruled from the centre. We voted in General Elections and local elections and that was it.

A political convention developed in the 1960s and 1970s when the SNP began to win a few seats that Scotland could have independence if it wanted it. No one at the time thought there was any chance of this happening for which reason Margaret Thatcher offered the SNP independence if it ever won a majority of seats in Scotland.

The lesson from this is that political conventions can change, otherwise Scotland would have become independent in 2015.  

Modern Scottish nationalism however did not begin with the SNP it began with the idea expressed frequently in the 1980s that it was unfair that Scotland voted Labour but got Tory Governments anyway. It was this together with the decline in Conservative support in Scotland that led to the uneven devolution settlement in the UK which grants devolved powers to three of the UK’s parts but not the fourth.

Once Scotland had its own Parliament it was inevitable that it would want more devolution and then still more independence until it became a sovereign state in its own right. This is because unlike French regions or German federal states devolution in Scotland was portrayed by Labour as giving power to a country, giving it back the Parliament that it lost. No wonder some Scots wanted the independence Scotland had lost too.

The demand for secession does not affect other countries that either have devolution or are federal states, because contrary to Sturgeon it is rare indeed in the world for anywhere to allow a democratic right to secession. The UK’s position on the world stage will hardly be changed if we forbid it too. Each member of the UN Security Council would agree with us and hardly a member of the UN General Assembly would disagree with us. This is because all of them forbid secession in theory or in practice make it impossible to achieve.

Federalism works well in countries like Germany and the USA because federal powers are given equally and they each have strong central governments as well as federal states with clearly defined powers. Federalism is not remotely like “devo max”, which leaves the UK in control of very little indeed, but neither is it an answer to Scottish nationalism. Federalism requires that the parts accept that they are subordinate to the whole. You cannot have a federation of countries, because that would be a confederation.

Devolution works well in countries like France, because the parts do not think of themselves as countries in a union, voluntary or not, although the process by which they were united is historically similar to UK.

But no country in the world has a system where it is a unitary state made up of places which think of themselves as countries each of which has a right to leave whenever it pleases. Such a state would be inherently unstable, it would be looser even than the EU.

Nicola Sturgeon thinks of the UK as if it were a confederation made up of nation states. But if that were the case Scotland would already be independent. But one of the features of confederation is that each state is independent financially. It is this amongst other issues that caused difficulties in the early years of the United States. It is difficult to create a stable single currency unless there are fiscal transfers from a common central bank, but this requires a political union that goes beyond confederation and resolves itself either in unity or federalism.

If Sturgeon really thinks that the UK is a confederation of independent states with the right to leave when they please, then she cannot accept fiscal transfers from the centre. So before asking for a second referendum she should be told to give up the Barnett formula and have all public spending in Scotland paid for by Scottish taxes alone. When you have done that come back and ask again.

But if Sturgeon thinks the UK is a confederation, why does she seek independence at all, for she already has it. Either the UK is like the EU in which case Scotland is independent, but part of a union of other similar countries, so why is she not content with this, or the UK is either a federal state or a unitary state. But it cannot be a federal state because devolution only occurs in unitary states. But if the UK is a unitary state, she cannot use its being a confederation to justify independence.

The problem with the SNP argument is that always assumes what it is trying to prove. Sturgeon argues that the UK is a voluntary union of nations, but this is to justify Scotland becoming independent by assuming it already is independent.

She then complains that since 1979 Scotland has not got the Government it voted for on 70% percent of the time. But again, this is begging the question. If in an independent Scotland Orkney and Shetland on 70% of the time voted for the Northern Islands National Party, would Sturgeon give them independence?

What if the Borders voted to remain in the UK instead of joining an independent Scotland? The SNP would argue that this doesn’t matter because Scotland is a unitary nation state that cannot be carved up. But the UK is equally a unitary nation state and has been for 300 years. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have lasted a decade.

If you choose to field candidates only in Scotland you cannot reasonably complain that you never get to form a UK Government. Arguably it is the rise of the SNP that has made it less likely that Scotland gets the Government it votes for.

If the Yorkshire National Party always won in Yorkshire it could hardly complain that it never won a majority of seats at Westminster. It would be like complaining that you never win the 400 metres even though you only ever take part in the 100 metres.

In every democracy there are parts which sometimes never get the Government they vote for. This is not a fault in democracy it is a feature. The task is to persuade the majority not just to win in your area. It could equally be the case in an independent Scotland that a part might vote differently to the whole. If this would not justify that part seeking independence, then neither ought it to justify Scotland seeking independence. Whether Scotland once was an independent state or whether we think of ourselves as still being a country has nothing to do with it. Otherwise once more you are merely assuming what you are trying to prove.

The sort of state that Sturgeon wants Scotland to be is an independent unitary state in the EU. The EU at present is like the United States in its early days. It is made up of independent states, but most of them are part of a currency union and there are signs that the EU is moving towards fiscal union and political union.

But if Sturgeon thinks that Scotland is already part of a confederation (the UK), a voluntary union of nation states, why does she want to leave it in order to join another (the EU)? The UK already has a political, fiscal and currency union. We in have what the EU would like to have. We also have a common language, common culture and a population which is similar.

If Sturgeon cannot bear to live in a union with England, how is she going to bear living in union with people who are very different from us? She might argue that the EU would be a looser union which would allow Scotland to maintain its power and its independence. But she already thinks the UK is a confederation, which is about as loose as you can get. In order to think the EU will continue to be still looser than that she must hope that the EU’s goal of ever closer union won’t succeed. Has she told them that yet? But this is to argue that the EU will forever remain a very loose confederation. But history shows us that confederations either split or unite into federations.

But this is Sturgeon’s problem. What if the EU’s aim succeeds? She thinks that Scotland is now part of a confederation, but she wants to join a new one that is moving towards becoming a federation. But in that case Scotland would no longer be independent, but rather become like Vermont, New South Wales or Saxony part of a new federal state called the EU. Scotland would be less independent according to Sturgeon’s logic than we are now.

The UK would not prevent Scotland leaving if it were clear the overwhelming majority wished to. That British political convention still exists. The UK Government has not said to the SNP that you will never have a second referendum. We are not Spain. But the referendum in 2014 did change the convention that winning a majority in the Scottish Parliament was sufficient for a referendum which meant David Cameron felt compelled to grant Salmond his wish. That is no longer the case and it is why both May and Johnson have said No, not yet even if they have not said No not ever.

But is the EU a more voluntary Union than the UK? We learned in 2015 that it didn’t matter which way Greece voted it had to do what the EU told it and it couldn’t practically leave the EU without wrecking its economy. Faced with the negotiating tactics the EU employed after Brexit few smaller countries and no Eurozone countries would manage to leave. Once federalism is achieved departure from the EU will be as forbidden as departure from the USA.

Within certain constraints and conventions, the UK while being a unitary state will continue to allow a referendum on independence, but the bar is now rather higher, precisely because a majority of Scots voted to stay a part of a unitary state and to be British only a few years ago. The SNP cannot overcome that majority by winning most seats at a General Election nor by winning a majority at the Scottish Parliament. It would have to show over a number of years that independence is the settled will of Scottish voters, which means something like two thirds support. If it becomes obvious that support is at that level, then I think the UK would not behave like the EU but rather find a way to dissolve itself by mutual cooperation.

But I fear that Scotland and Wales under those circumstances would find that life in the EU would involve rather less freedom and independence than they have at present and goodness only knows how Northern Ireland could be kept peaceful.  

But in the end breaking up the UK might be no more practically possible than breaking up the EU or the USA. The economic and political cost to ourselves and to the West in general would be such that no matter the result of a referendum in Scotland independence would not happen and we would discover that we needed each other after all.

Sunday 26 June 2022

Starmer is in Sturgeon's pocket


There has been quite a lot of comment recently about the possibility of the SNP organising some sort of unofficial, advisory referendum in October of 2023. It is right and proper that people like me comment on this. The SNP has little enough opposition as it is in the Scottish media, so the more counter arguments are made the better. But there is a very good reason indeed why it is highly unlikely that there will be an unofficial referendum next year. There could be an official one the year after.

A Conservative Government will keep saying No until it is forced to concede a referendum. This won’t happen until either a full generation has passed since 2014 or support for independence approaches two thirds of Scottish voters. We are nowhere near that now. This leaves the SNP facing the alternative of an unofficial referendum. But this is only if the UK keeps voting Conservative.

But Keir Starmer is at present favourite to be the next Prime Minister and Labour is neck and neck to win the most seats. Starmer may be dull, but he is clever and far less objectionable than Jeremy Corbyn. So long as Starmer is able to keep the extreme left quiet he will put forward a manifesto that is not too scary and will have every chance of winning the next election, not least because the Conservatives will be blamed for inflation, the cost of living and are in disarray.

But the problem of British politics is that Labour cannot realistically win an overall majority assuming that the SNP continues to win nearly all the seats in Scotland. The Conservatives would need to move from an 80 seat majority and dominance in England to a catastrophic loss.

If Labour wants to govern without the help of the SNP it must win an additional seat in England and Wales for every seat the SNP wins in Scotland. Beating the Conservatives is not enough. Previous Labour seats in Scotland must now be won instead in England and Wales. But the electoral arithmetic suggests this is impossible.

Labour could try an electoral pact with the Lib Dems, but it is unclear how voters might respond. Someone in the southern England might be unwilling to lend their vote for the Lib Dems if it was portrayed as a vote for Labour or likely to lead to a Labour Government. But anyway, if electoral pacts were so easy why don’t the Pro UK parties try one in Scotland?

The truth is that by far the most likely outcome of pacts and tactical voting at the next election is a Labour minority Government. Conservatives will argue that this will mean that Starmer is in Sturgeon’s pocket, or tucked in her bra if she doesn’t have pockets.

If the Conservatives can convince English voters that a vote for Labour or the Lib Dems is a vote for Sturgeon it will be devastating for the Labour and Lib Dem campaign. English voters will see still more money going to the Scots and people who care about the UK will see Labour having to grant a legal official referendum to the SNP.

Labour supporters have been desperate to counter this argument since 2015. Ian Smart who is by far the cleverest Labour commentator in Scotland has made a very good argument that everyone should read.

He argues that a minority Labour Government would not have to give in to SNP demands on a referendum because Labour could dare the SNP to vote down a Queen’s speech knowing that to do so would bring in a Conservative Government. The SNP did just this in 1979 and was blamed for years and lost support in Scotland throughout the 1980s. The SNP gave you Thatcher.

But let’s look at this from the SNP point of view. It will campaign for independence at the next election while pretending that it is isn’t, but however many seats it wins will afterwards be the justification for indyref2. Let’s say it wins 45 again. Sturgeon goes to Starmer and demands a legal referendum. Starmer like Johnson and May says No. What then?

Sturgeon could say to her supporters sorry, Labour said No, but we have to vote for the Labour Queen Speech otherwise there might be a Tory Government. So, there is nothing we can do even though we hold the balance of power and we have to wait another five years. No English feet held to a Scottish fire. Sorry folks.

But voting against the Queen’s speech would not automatically lead to a Conservative Government. The Conservatives would not have a majority either. If the SNP brought down a minority Labour Government before it even properly began, we would have another election.

At this point the SNP would argue that all of the English parties ignore Scottish voters and Scottish MPs and that this provides the Scottish electorate with a reason not to vote Lib Dem or Labour. It would no longer merely be the wicked Tories who say No to Scotland it would be the wicked Red and Orange Tories too.

It would not be possible in this second election campaign to argue that the SNP had brought down a Labour Government leading Scotland to be ruled by Tories again, because the result of that election would have been decided. It could lead to a second Labour minority and the same dilemma as before.

If the Conservatives did win enough seats to govern, the SNP could argue that it was Labour’s failure to form a government with the SNP that was at fault, i.e., it was Labour ignoring Scottish SNP voters.

The idea that the SNP vote would collapse because it failed to support a Labour Government depends on the idea that Scotland now is like it was in 1979. But it isn’t. Support for independence in 1979 was relatively low and no one thought it was going to happen anytime soon including the SNP.

But if I were an SNP supporter in 2024, who am I going to be more furious with Labour who denied the SNP a coalition or the SNP who brought down a Labour Government because it refused to grant indyref2? Would Scottish independence supporters rejoin Labour, which is still just about Pro UK, or stick with the SNP?

Hypothetical issues like this are impossible to judge, because they depend on how they would be portrayed in the media and on how public opinion would react. It is possible that the SNP would be damaged by not voting for a Labour Queen speech or at least abstaining, but it is equally possible that Scottish Labour would be still more damaged for failing to give in to Sturgeon.

But even if the SNP did vote for a Labour Queen’s speech, it wouldn’t’ need to vote for anything else. The Labour Lame Duck would be able to get nothing through Parliament unless the SNP voted for it.

But ask yourself this. Is it more likely that a Conservative Government with an absolute majority would give in to SNP demands for indyref2 or alternatively is it more likely that a Labour Government dependent on SNP votes for everything?

Labour supporters won’t like this, but the Starmer in Sturgeon’s pocket argument still works. He couldn’t get anything done unless he made concessions to the SNP and at some point, there is every chance he would concede indyref2 just because English Labour supporters would accept it as the price of Labour being able to govern at all.


Friday 24 June 2022

Would there be a hard border between England and Scotland?


Perhaps the most important issue that the SNP needs to address in order to persuade Scots that independence is a good idea is the border between England and Scotland. For many centuries this nominal border hasn’t really been a border at all, because neither England nor Scotland have been separate countries in the sense that their relationship was international, but rather parts of one country. But now for the first time since 1707 there is the real prospect of a manned border with checks and tariffs. It is hard to imagine Scots voting for this once we fully understand the consequences.

The border was not much of an issue during the 2014 campaign. The reason for this was that the UK was part of the EU and Scotland hoped to remain part of the EU after independence. If the former UK and Scotland could have ended up with the same EU status then the border would have been no more problematic than the one between Austria and Germany.

The Pro UK argument therefore focussed on two issues. One, would Scotland gain immediate membership of the EU and two, would Scotland have to join Schengen. We still don’t know how easy or difficult it would be for Scotland to join the EU post independence. EU member states, like Spain might not want to set a precedent. Scotland would have to meet EU membership criteria, such as a 3% deficit, which might be difficult to achieve. Some countries have been waiting to join the EU for years. We don’t know how long Scotland would have to wait.

The accession of Scotland is fundamentally a political issue for the EU. It would like to take revenge on the UK for Brexit and would delight in pointing out that a consequence of leaving the EU was the breakup of your country. But there are potential secession issues in Belgium, Spain, Italy and others, so the EU would have to be careful that it didn’t import the issue from the UK to itself. But let us assume that an independent Scotland were offered rapid accession to the EU. What would be the consequences for the border between England and Scotland?

The SNP’s Mike Russell has suggested the Northern Ireland Protocol as a model for avoiding a hard border between Scotland and England. He thinks that


that the post-Brexit trading arrangement between Great Britain and the island of Ireland is a model that would allow “seamless” trade if it was adopted between Scotland and England.


It is true that the Protocol allows more or less seamless trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland, but Scotland would not be in the position of either. If Scotland were in the EU and the former UK were not, then there would have to be checks somewhere. There is not a sea between Berwick and Gretna, so whatever checks were required could either be done remotely or they would have to be done at the border.

The UK Government and indeed the Irish Government initially argued for remote checks using technology at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but this was rejected by the EU. It’s for this reason that we have the Protocol, which requires form filling and bureaucracy involving goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland, to the extent that many British firms don’t bother to trade with Northern Ireland anymore. If this is the model Mr Russell is proposing it has the unfortunate consequence of very much resembling a hard border.

But even the level of checking that we have at present across the Irish sea is a result of a unique situation that would not apply to Scotland after independence. The UK agreed to first the Backstop and then the Protocol, because Theresa May conceded that there could be no border infrastructure at all between Northern Ireland and Ireland. She accepted the Irish Government’s interpretation of the Belfast Agreement, because she hoped for the softest possible Brexit, which had the inevitable consequence that if checks could not take place at all between Belfast and Dublin, they would have to take place across the Irish Sea.

But there hasn’t been thirty years of terrorism involving the Scottish Republican Army and so there is no equivalent to the Belfast Agreement. A former UK might wish to keep the border between Scotland and England completely open, but it would not be constrained to do so. It would depend on how Scotland’s negotiations went both with the EU and the former UK.

There are open borders between EU member states and non-members. Norway has a more or less open border with Sweden as does Switzerland with the countries that surround it. But this is because Norway and Switzerland are both members of the EU’s single market and Schengen zone. The only hope for a completely borderless relationship between England and Scotland would be if the former UK chose membership of both. But it is precisely this that the UK electorate rejected at the General Election of 2019 and there is minimal prospect of this decision being changed.

The SNP might hope that Scotland would at least remain part of the Common Travel Area that at present covers the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. But this would depend on Scotland obtaining an opt out from Schengen. But the EU doesn’t wish to give new member states the option of avoiding Schengen or indeed the Euro. The SNP might argue that Scotland could obtain opt outs for both, but the EU might see this as evidence that Scotland wasn’t so enthusiastic about membership after all.

If Scotland needed to join Schengen, then this would necessarily involve border checks and passport controls between Scotland and England. If that were not the case then migrants in Calais would not have to cross the Channel in rubber boats, but could instead get a cheap flight to Glasgow and a bus to London. Rather less than paying people smugglers thousands of pounds.

Even if Scotland could avoid joining Schengen, it could not avoid free travel between EU member states and Scotland. This in itself would effectively give free travel between the EU and the former UK unless there was some sort of border control between Scotland and England, otherwise EU citizens could move to England from Scotland freely too.

The EU involves both free travel and free trade between member states, but this has consequences for the relationship between member states and non-member states. If Scotland were to be a member of the EU’s single market and the former UK were not, then it is inevitable that Scotland would have to apply the Common External Tarriff when trading with the former UK. Free travel between EU member states and Scotland inevitably involves free movement also with the former UK unless there is some sort of border monitoring. If that were not the case the EU would not be checking us and stamping our passports when we go on holiday to Spain. If passport checks are necessary between the UK and France now, they must be necessary between EU Scotland and non-EU former UK after independence. It’s a matter of simple logic.

The Northern Ireland Protocol does not therefore help the SNP. Firstly, there is no reason the former UK would agree to such a Protocol, not least because the British Government does not like it at present and wants to abolish it. Scotland would have no means of forcing the issue. Secondly the Northern Ireland Protocol involves lots of checks and bureaucracy and only does not involve passport checks because Northern Ireland is part of the UK.

It is very difficult to predict what sort of border would exist between England and Scotland after independence, but the only way a seamless border like that between Northern Ireland and Ireland could be achieved is either if the former UK joined EFTA or if Scotland chose to not join the EU.

The only realistic model of Scottish independence is one where Scotland has the same EU status as the former UK, hoping for a similar relationship as that which existed between Ireland and the UK until both joined the EC in 1973.

Having been part of a single country for more than 300 years it is unrealistic for Scotland to seek anything other than the closest possible relationship with the former UK. Any alternative would be too disruptive economically and in terms of trade. This is what Salmond offered in 2014.

But it was hard even then to believe that such a relationship would be an improvement on what we had unless you believed Scottish oil would make us substantially richer. Now even that has gone, leaving the idea that printing money à la Modern Monetary Theory won’t be inflationary, just as we discover that doing just that has caused inflation to reach 9%.

Scotland can have either a close borderless relationship with the other parts of the UK or it can join the EU, but the former may as well be what we have now and the latter merely substitutes one union with another. Scotland would be an independent state in the EU, but we would still have to do what our larger neighbour in this case Germany tells us and there is every chance in the decades ahead we would be a mere region in a country called the EU.

Scots may hate England and the Tories, but geography, history and population mean we must either follow them in which case we are better off being fellow citizens or decisively break with them in which case we cannot complain if there is a border. It is typical of SNP dishonesty that it does not clearly explain the choice.


Monday 20 June 2022

Perhaps it would be best to just ignore her


In Britain we all know what a legitimate election looks like. We also know what a legitimate referendum looks like. The problem with the SNP’s latest ruse to achieve independence is that it looks like neither.

It may or may not be legal or even possible to hold an advisory referendum in Scotland asking a question such as “Should the Scottish Government enter into independence negotiations with the UK Government”. But this is all rather beside the point. Such a poll would not remotely resemble what happened in the years leading up to the independence referendum in 2014 and so would lack legitimacy even if it were legal.

The referendum in 2014 was agreed jointly by the UK Government and the Scottish Government and both sides promised to abide by the result. The campaign involved each putting forward their argument with official documents and debates. If the SNP had won everyone expected that Scotland would become independent and that the UK Government would cooperate and do all it could to help that happen. It was for this reason that so many turned out to vote.

But compare and contrast an unofficial referendum taking place next October. There would be no Edinburgh Agreement nor promise that both sides would abide by the result. There would be no official publications from the UK Government explaining its position on the various aspects of the debate. There might not even be an opponent for the SNP to debate.

It is unclear how Scottish Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives might respond to such a poll. Each would think about party interest and what independence would do to their own party fortunes. If they cannot even work together at elections to further the UK interest, then it may be that they would be unwilling to form a united boycott against the SNP’s poll.

The Pro UK boycott might be complete or only partial. There might be someone standing up against Sturgeon in debates. Pro UK opinion might be divided with some arguing that we should try to win the poll, while others like me arguing that we should ignore it.

But this would merely all add to the confusion and the contrast with 2014 would be all the clearer.

Let’s assume that the SNP wins its poll and claims a mandate to enter into negotiations with the UK Government. But there is an immediate problem. It takes two sides to negotiate, but the SNP’s poll would have been unilateral.

When Napoleon defeated the Russian army at Borodino in 1812 and afterwards captured Moscow, he assumed that Tsar Alexander would enter into peace negotiations. This is how everyone else in Europe responded to defeat on the battlefield. But Alexander merely ignored Napoleon’s envoys and as Moscow got colder and food became scarcer Napoleon was forced to retreat from Moscow. So too might Sturgeon find herself on the Berezina in a snowstorm with no bridge to independence and her army eating the horses because of starvation.

Countries can become independent in a variety of ways, but it depends on public support being strong enough to withstand whatever difficulties are put in its way.

The Scottish Parliament could declare independence tomorrow and if enough Scots agreed and were willing to do what it takes to reach that goal independence would be achieved. It doesn’t matter if next years poll is legitimate or not. It doesn’t even matter if the Pro UK side boycotts it and the media ignore it. If it became clear that the overwhelming majority of Scots wanted independence the UK Government would begin negotiations and would cooperate.

But the SNP are not going to be in that position. It would have to win the majority of the whole electorate if the poll was boycotted. It would need polls suggesting that two thirds of Scots want independence. But it cannot even consistently count on 50%.

Ten to twenty percent of support for independence is soft. If you ask these Scots whether they want independence if it involves ceasing to use the pound or a hard border or even the loss of a few hundred pounds you find them dwindling like Napoleon’s army on the retreat from Moscow.

Sturgeon simply does not have the numbers to force the UK to negotiate. Her poll would have no legitimacy, because the UK Government had not agreed to it. Nor would it have international support, because no one would want to set a precedent. Worst of all Scots would have voted for negotiations with no idea about what we were negotiating.

In 2014 we had a reasonably clear idea what independence would have involved, but what would it involve if the UK Government did not even put forward its view for debate. No one would know. This would fatally undermine the legitimacy of any poll. We would only have the SNP’s view about currency, the border or any of the other issues.

But let’s imagine somehow the SNP achieves its goal of entering into negotiations with the UK Government. Would that mean that independence would be achieved? No. Because the SNP’s poll would not have asked Scots whether we wanted independence. The whole point of the legal ruse is that it does not ask that. But then it must be possible that one result of the negotiations would be that Scotland remained part of the UK.

Let’s say the UK Government decided to see if Scotland really wanted independence by treating it as far as is possible as being independent while actually remaining part of the UK. One way of doing this would be to say to the SNP negotiators that Scotland will immediately cease to receive any money from the UK Treasury. Only taxes and revenue raised in Scotland will stay in Scotland and the Scottish Government will have to live within its means.

The UK Government could then say when you have got used to living within your means, you can come back and we will introduce trade barriers and a hard border. After that you can use the pound unilaterally and then join the Euro.

It may be that the majority of Scots would accept whatever difficulties arose from the negotiations valuing the prize of independence so much that they were willing to eat horses like Napoleon’s army.

It would be necessary for the UK Government to be careful not to enflame Scottish opinion to the extent that it grasped independence out of spite. But carefully managed, gradually showing the consequences of separation might make Scottish opinion turn on the SNP negotiators.

Sturgeon must appease the fanatical wing of Scottish nationalism that is impatient. But these people make up only a small section of the SNP let alone Scottish opinion in general. She hopes to force the UK Government’s hand, but her own hand is weak. She knows that Scotland would struggle without they money we get from the Treasury and we would struggle more if the relationship with the UK were to be severely damaged by independence. We need the cooperation of the UK because the disparity in population between England and Scotland will remain whatever happens.

It is for this reason that unilateralism is not going to succeed. Her unofficial poll is really the equivalent of a unilateral declaration of independence and would have no more legitimacy.

We learned from people like Sturgeon in 2016 that a referendum was merely advisory even if it was legally sanctioned and everyone during the campaign assumed that it was decisive.  We also learned from those like Sturgeon campaigning for a people’s vote, that we could keep on voting for as long as we liked until we got the Remain vote that she wanted. But if that were the case for a legitimate referendum, how much more would it be the case for an illegitimate one where there was no proper debate and no one knew what they were voting for?

Even if the SNP were to win its advisory referendum on beginning negotiations and even if such negotiations were to begin, it would still be the case that the only way Scotland could legally become independent would be for a vote in Westminster to agree to it. But this gives the UK Government all of the cards in the negotiation, because it could merely say to the SNP if you don’t agree we won’t give you independence, which will leave you going down the unilateral route with no recognition from us or anyone else.

At the very least the SNP negotiators would have to agree to a confirmatory people’s referendum on the result of the negotiations. The UK Government could negotiate like Barnier and the EU with the hope that if they made the negotiations nasty enough Scotland would decide to Remain.

If the vast majority of Scots wanted independence and were willing to accept the consequences, then a unilateralist unofficial referendum might succeed. But if there were this vast majority, the UK Government would grant a legitimate referendum. It is because there is not that it says No.

The SNP strategy is to hope that an unofficial referendum so enflames public opinion and massively increases support for separation. The best way to prevent this happening is to ignore it.

An SNP delegation arriving for negotiations would not represent a sovereign state, it would merely represent a part of the UK. It would lack therefore the legitimacy to negotiate anything.  It’s only on the assumption that Scotland is already an independent state that the SNP could claim a mandate to negotiate on behalf of it.

Sturgeon’s negotiators backed by an illegitimate referendum on an issue outside the control of the Scottish Parliament would therefore have nothing to negotiate and so would not even be negotiators.


Thursday 16 June 2022

Chopping off the Scottish branch


The SNP apparently wants “independence in the modern world” as opposed to independence in the ancient world or indeed in the world of the distant future. It wants Scotland to be wealthier, happier and fairer, but these would be changed little by independence.

My wealth depends on the job that I do, what I inherit or my luck in winning a lottery. It therefore depends on my ability, my education and how hard I work. My wealth only depends on the Government if I depend on it also. Some people are born more intelligent than others. They are more likely to get better qualifications and better jobs, but the SNP cannot eliminate this unfairness and nor can make everyone earn the same unless it plans to create a Scottish Soviet Socialist Republic.

One person can be happy with few material possessions, while another can be depressed while owning millions. Scottish nationalists would be happier if Scotland were independent, but the rest of us at least for a while would be unhappier. But Governments don’t make us happy and nor for that matter does political independence. A fulfilled life, with family and friends will do more for your happiness than Sturgeon can ever do whether you believe in independence or not.

While Pro UK people are continually accused of being negative about Scotland, Scottish nationalists are allowed to be negative about the UK. The SNP compares the UK with a variety of small European countries such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Austria and lists the ways in which the UK does worse. The implication is that if only Scotland were to leave the UK it would immediately and rather magically become like them.

But this depends on statistical slight of hand. On some measures the UK does perform worse than places like Denmark, on the other hand the UK has the second largest economy in Europe behind Germany. Large economies have certain advantages and disadvantages as do small economies.  

Gibraltar has a higher GDP per capita than the UK, but this does not mean that if you give a peninsula with a rocky outcrop in the West Highlands of Scotland independence that it will become Gibraltar complete with monkeys.

Germany has a lower GDP per capita than Denmark, but to suppose that if Germany split into its formerly independent states such as Saxony, that they would automatically become like Denmark is preposterous. No account would be taken of the costs and disadvantages of breaking up Germany.

If the UK is doing worse than some of our neighbours, this is an argument for introducing economic policies that will allow us to make more, sell more and work more efficiently. It’s hard to imagine that partitioning Britain and creating an international border where none previously existed will contribute to this goal.

Each European country has strengths and weaknesses, but these are a matter of their history. Poland is less wealthy than the UK because it endured decades of communism. Switzerland is wealthy because of its unique political structures, its low government spending as a percentage of GDP and the quality of its banking. But the idea that Scotland could reproduce Switzerland without having Switzerland’s history is like saying Scotland could produce wine without having a climate like France.

If the UK is not doing as well as it ought, this is as much the fault of Scotland as anyone else. If four alcoholics are sitting on some steps drinking extra strong cider and they see a rich man going to work, it would be ridiculous for one of them to say I’m poorer than him because of you three I’m off and that will immediately make me rich.

There is no obvious way in which independence would immediately make Scotland richer.  We might decide to join the EU, but while that would allow us once more to be part of the Single Market, it would take us out of the UK’s Internal Market and create a regulatory and tariff border between England and Scotland.

The SNP has no obvious plan to make Scotland more competitive by lowering taxation and cutting public spending, because those are Tory policies. Instead, it sees independence as an opportunity to make Scotland more left-wing. This is supposedly the motivation of independence supporters rather than nationalism.

But neither being part of the EU nor increasing public spending has made Scotland wealthier before, so why would they make us wealthier after independence?

It was possible in 2014 to argue that Scotland would benefit from a greater share of oil revenues, but the SNP cannot benefit from oil that it refuses to drill for whether in secret oil fields or not. But what other resources are there in Scotland that would suddenly make us wealthier? The resources we have we are already using to generate wealth. It is not obvious how leaving the UK would increase them or make them generate more.

But the SNP argument is not really about wealth, or happiness or indeed fairness. Despite claims to the contrary, it is about nationalism. It is about why not Scotland?

This argument is similar to the “independence is normal” argument. It points to all of the independent countries in Europe and says to Scots if they can be independent why can’t we?

We are all fortunate to live in the UK. It could be more successful than it is. But it is still one of the wealthiest countries in the world with a higher standard of living than most of Europe. We have a long and successful history in which Scots as much as anyone else have achieved great things. Why would you want to destroy that? To become Luxembourg?

You might just as well become one of Europe’s poorer countries that the SNP ignores such as Armenia, Moldova, Portugal or Romania.

The disadvantages of leaving a post Brexit UK are now so obvious that only a nationalistic argument could justify it. Why would anyone want a hard border between England and Scotland with trade barriers except for a nationalistic argument?  Scotland would have to start life outside both the UK and the EU, which is more likely in the short term to turn us into Chad than Denmark.

But independence is normal and “why not Scotland?” keeps chipping away at the Scottish psyche and dares us to leap into our pot of gold if only the sun will keep shining through the mist and the showers.

But the independence is normal argument is completely false. There are 27 members of the European Union. Why couldn’t Scotland make 28? But each of these 27 states is itself made up of formerly independent countries. Sometimes dozens of them. It is perfectly normal for the former Kingdom of Burgundy to be part of France. It is equally normal for East Germany to be now part of Germany.

If it were normal for formerly independent states to secede, then we would have an independent Vermont, a Free Territory of Trieste and a Free City of Danzig. We would also for that matter have a Kingdom of Strathclyde and the Lord of the Isles.

It is as normal for a Burgundy to be now part of France as it is for France to be independent. While the SNP might ask “Why not Scotland?” this same question could be asked equally logically of Prussia, Fermanagh, Sicily or Alsace.

Scotland in European terms is not remotely unusual. We should not be comparing ourselves with Denmark or the Netherlands. We have not been like them for hundreds of years. We have been part of a whole and have evolved with it. It would damage both France and Burgundy if the latter were to leave, not least because they have been intertwined for centuries. To suppose that Burgundy could become like Denmark by leaving France, would appear to people in Dijon as downright peculiar. It would be to ignore how the economy of Burgundy is so interconnected with the rest of France that to pretend to their being benefits from separation would be like supposing chopping of a branch would help its leaves to grow.

Chopping off the Scottish branch of the UK tree would damage the tree, but it would be as nothing compared to the damage to the branch on the ground hoping that it can now grow Danish leaves.

Tuesday 14 June 2022

O Brave new Scotland


Nicola Sturgeon thinks that If Scots could have predicted what would happen after 2014, we would have voted for independence. In that case we would indeed have been wealthier, happier and fairer, but not for the reason she thinks. We could have bought Bitcoin when each one cost less than a pound. We could have predicted the winner of the Derby and bet the whole of Scotland’s GDP on the winner. We could have bought only shares that were going to rise and dumped all the shares that were going to fall. You don’t need independence to be wealthy if you can predict the future.

Many Scots were indeed disappointed by Brexit and Boris Johnson’s Government. But we were pleased indeed to receive furlough and billions of extra funding during the pandemic. We were grateful for the vaccine that was developed because the UK had left the EU and because the British Government decided not to join the EU’s programme as the SNP at the time wished. This meant that the UK was one of the first countries to vaccinate its population, which saved many lives.

So, a Scottish voter looking into the future in 2014 would have needed to figure out how an independent Scotland just a few years after separation would have dealt with the pandemic. Would Scotland have been able to borrow at a similar rate to the UK Treasury and if not, how could we have afforded to stay at home? Not every country even in Europe could afford such generosity.

The present cost of living crisis is mainly a result of Covid and the war in Ukraine. In addition, over the past decades the UK has not done enough to secure its own energy supplies by digging coal, drilling for oil and gas, fracking and building nuclear power stations. If we had done so, we would not now have to rely quite so much on expensive imports.

It was inflationary for people to sit at home watching TV while the Government borrowed money to pay them. But Nicola Sturgeon did not oppose this at the time. Instead, she wanted Lockdown to last longer and for furlough to be more generous. Every time the British Government decided to allow people outside or go back to work or cease wearing masks, Sturgeon delayed. So, if she had been in charge of an independent Scotland, inflation would have been worse.

The SNP also opposes drilling for oil in the North Sea. It opposes fracking and building nuclear power stations. So, it is entirely unclear how  Sturgeon thinks an independent Scotland would have cheaper energy than we do at present.  

It is in part because of the UK Government’s desire to be green that it failed to make Britain self-sufficient in energy, but Sturgeon far from repudiating this strategy would have gone further and faster in the drive towards Net Zero.

Things are more expensive and we have less money to buy them because we have forgotten the basic lessons of the past. The route to wealth is through working harder, spending less, producing more, lowering taxes and increasing private ownership.  

But Sturgeon would like people in an independent Scotland to work less. She wants them to be paid a universal basic income so that they can choose not to work at all. Every problem that ever existed she thinks is to be solved by higher public spending funded by increased taxes. Far from wanting to increase private ownership she wants to nationalise failing industries and subsidise them with public money.

Newly nationalised Scotrail will thanks to Sturgeon pay its employees even more, which will mean fares will either have to go up or be subsidised by the tax payer. But how will giving in to trade unions make Scotland wealthier any more than paying shipyards not to build ships?

It’s easy for Sturgeon to predict that Scotland would be wealthier, happier and fairer, but we don’t need a crystal ball to see that the problem is not so much what currency Scotland would use or how it would deal with a hard border caused by Scotland being in the EU while the former UK was not.  These problems and others are bad enough, but they are nothing compared to having the SNP running everything rather than merely a devolved administration.

The first election after independence would almost certainly see the SNP returned to power. If he had won in 2014, it is unimaginable that Alex Salmond would not have been the first leader of Scotland. But in subsequent years Scots may have chosen someone else. But Scottish Labour would be indistinguishable from the SNP after independence. The Greens would be even more Left-Wing and Scottish Tories are so wet and wibbly they are in need of an airing cupboard and a hair dryer as much as a backbone.

So, Sturgeon thinks that after giving up the free money Scotland gets every year from the UK Treasury and leaving the UK’s internal market even though we trade more with the UK than anyone else, we will be wealthier by electing a Scottish Government so Left-Wing that it thinks the solution to every problem is to pay Scots to do nothing while nationalising everything, increasing public spending and paying workers not to build ships. Even the Scottish Tories would be telling Sturgeon to spend more, increase benefits and abolish private property, because it’s theft.

Scotland might indeed be fairer with every one of us on a universal basic income locked down whenever someone sneezes with the flu, but we would be equal in our poverty. Why build anything when Sturgeon pays you just the same to not build it? Why be more productive when Sturgeon pays you more to drive empty trains than full ones?

There isn’t anyone in the Scottish Parliament at present who favours any policy that would actually lead to wealth creation. There isn’t one of them who wants to spend less, tax less and work harder. Not one of them wants to get rid of regulations that hinder business or lower tariffs so we can trade more freely. But if no one in Scotland is in favour of the free market policies that might actually lead to wealth creation how do they expect with such people in it that their Brave new Scotland would be wealthier?

With modern monetary theory paying us all to sit at home shooting up Buckfast the only people making any money would be the monks.  


Tuesday 7 June 2022

Alas poor Boris


It is hard to imagine that Boris Johnson will recover from winning his confidence vote. 211 for 148 against has to be too small a margin. I can’t see how he can lead the party into the next election, he may not survive the week. But if that is the case then we must conclude with MacBeth that “If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly”

I have been willing to forgive Boris much. The fundamentals of Scottish politics were changed by Brexit and we would still be in the EU today if he had not decided to campaign for Leave.

Subnational nationalism is made too easy by EU membership and it is only because independence referendums are forbidden by EU members states that the problem is not more widespread.

The UK has a different political tradition and crucially views itself as a country made up of countries in a way that that no one else does. It makes us vulnerable to the SNP argument from 2014 that Scotland could have independence while retaining much of what we like about living in the UK.

If Scotland and the former UK were both in the EU then we would retain free movement, free trade, the right to live and work and open borders. An Austrian and a German barely notice the border between them. They have the same currency, the same rights and are both ruled by Brussels. It matters little that one is called Austria and the other Germany.

The SNP argument was that we could be an independent country, but in most other respects we would still be part of the UK because we would still be part of a greater whole. The EU. They were correct.

Of course, if this logic were played out all across the EU there could be fifty or more new countries, but it wouldn’t be. Spain bashed a few heads to stop Catalonia seceding and the EU looked the other way, because if Spain cannot keep itself together how can the EU? But Spain will stay together because it will prevent secession by force if necessary and the same goes for every other EU member state. If Silesia tried to go back to Germany it’s hardly likely that Poland would give it a referendum.

But a British Government will not ultimately refuse if Scotland really wants to go, in which case remaining in the EU was a long-term risk, because it made sub-national nationalism possible by allowing SNP cakeism. You can separate from England but still essentially be part of the UK. You would barely notice the border.

Boris changed that. Leaving the EU was unpopular in Scotland and gave the SNP a short-term boost, but Scottish nationalists have not even begun to address the difficulties involved in Scotland being in the EU while the former UK is not.

The alternative of being outside both the UK and the EU would leave Scotland initially at least without a trade deal either with the UK or the EU and perhaps without the right to live and work in either. After all, if leaving the EU deprived us of our European Passport and the rights that went with it, why should we expect to retain these if we left the UK?

The former UK could treat Scots favourably and probably would, but it would not have to. It could make us choose between a British and a Scottish passport and could decide that Scots were no more welcome than Russians. The UK wide welfare state with free healthcare wherever you live or visit could cease and with it the UK wide NHS that the SNP pretend to protect.

It just needs a British Prime Minister to say sorry Scotland if you choose to leave, we will make life as hard as possible for you for Scots to realise what secession would really mean. We will check every lorry that wants to travel through England in exactly the same way that the EU does in Northern Ireland. We will make you fill out forms to visit and make you queue at the border, just like Brits are queuing to get into Spain. The SNP argument then becomes :They wouldn’t do that would they? But if the EU can do that to the UK why couldn’t the former UK negotiate in just this way with the SNP?

So, Boris changed the argument. Leaving the EU made him so unpopular that Remainers waited six years for revenge, but it fundamentally made it much more difficult for Scotland to leave the UK.

The risk of course is that Scots are so blinded by nationalism that the majority do not understand the fundamentals. But the SNP argument amounts to this: We will be better off if we

1 Give up the subsidy from the UK Treasury

2 Use the pound unilaterally, set up our own currency or join the Euro.

3 Create a hard border between England and Scotland

4 Decide to be in a different trading bloc (the EU) to our greatest trading partner (the UK)

Only people so blinded by nationalism that they disbelieve there is a subsidy, could possibly think this would increase Scotland’s standard of living.

Scottish nationalism is not really about independence or it is only nominally. There is an element of flag waving about the desire to leave the UK, but the motive is not primarily about sovereignty. Scottish nationalism is an anti-Tory movement. It grew out the 1980s when Scots resented being ruled by Thatcher while we voted Labour.

Boris is unpopular in Scotland because of Brexit. He made the SNP goal harder. But it doesn’t matter how much a Tory Government spends or gives, nor indeed how centrist it is. Many Scots voters vote tribally. They were part of the red team that hated Tories now they are part of the yellow team. If the Conservative leader were Karl Marx, they would still argue for independence so that Scotland was free to create socialism.

The Conservative task is this. Make Britain as wealthy as possible. Do so by spending less and taxing less. Remove all of the rules and regulations that hinder business. Trade freely with as many countries as possible. Thatcher was hated, but she made Britain more prosperous. Do the same and we won’t have to worry about separatists as even if they want theoretically to leave, they won’t because they would miss what they have here.

I have been largely supportive of Boris, but hugely disappointed. If he has to go then let him be replaced by free marketeer who believes in Brexit and is willing to maximise its potential. Stand up to the EU and make clear that it cannot depend on the UK to defend it while treating us as an enemy. Security and friendship must go together.

But where are we to get a reforming leader who understands that prosperity depends on making the state smaller and our citizens freer to make things and sell them. I thought once that Boris might have done so, but the man who was elected in 2019 somehow survived only a few months before Covid killed him, Carrie married him and Cummings deserted him.

What was left looked like Boris, but somehow it was as if he had ended up in an iron mask somewhere with his double ruling over us.

Alas poor Boris.