Thursday 4 August 2022

How to ignore Sturgeon


The United Kingdom has various serious problems at the moment. Some of them are short term primarily caused by our response to Covid, others are more long term. Many of us will struggle to heat our homes or drive our cars, because of long term failures in our energy policy. But the greatest threat to the UK and the greatest long-term problem is the one caused by Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats arguing that because Scotland didn’t vote Conservative, we needed a devolved parliament.

This decision has fuelled nationalism not only in Scotland but also in Wales, which just barely voted for devolution by 50.3% in 1997.  Encouraged by the success of the SNP and the independence referendum in 2014 there are now upwards of 30% of Welsh voters who support independence, which a generation earlier would have been considered as preposterous.

In the 1970s almost no one thought that there was the remotest possibility that the UK would break up, just as no one thought there was a chance that the United States would become fifty countries. The UK was as permanent as France Germany and Italy. We happened to call our parts countries and they played international football with each other, but this was merely a quirky British thing like driving on the Left.

Devolution changed everything. It led directly to Nicola Sturgeon attempting to organise an independence referendum without permission with the back up plan of turning the next General Election into a de facto referendum. The next step would be a unilateral declaration of independence.

Of course, this may all be some sort of game to keep SNP supporters happy, but it is a very dangerous game none the less. There would be a very serious constitutional crisis if an unofficial referendum was to take place and the SNP claimed that it gave them a mandate to negotiate independence. There would be a similar crisis after a General Election. There are countries that have fallen apart due to such crises in the past fifty years.

It is for this reason that Liz Truss’s comments about Sturgeon are to be welcomed. It is of course provocative to call her an attention seeker who should be ignored. What is important about these comments however is that they perhaps show that Truss grasps the nature of the problem of devolution and is willing to do something about it.

The outrage from Scottish nationalists is that they view Sturgeon as the democratically elected First Minister of the Scottish Parliament. How dare you ignore Scotland?  But this is the whole problem. Scottish nationalists and some misguided “unionist” commentators view Scotland as a separate country that is equal to the United Kingdom. So much for being a union of equals they say. But the UK is not a union of separate countries. Only Scottish nationalists and unionists believe this.

The UK is a unitary sovereign nation state just like France. It came about because of the Act of Union in 1707, which gave us the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Act of Union of 1800 which gave us the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. There is no union between Scotland and England that exists today, rather they have been part of the same kingdom since 1707. There is a union between the Kingdom of (Northern) Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain, this is why people who support this in Northern Ireland are called unionists. It was support for this union with Ireland that gave us the Conservative and Unionist Party. Unionism has nothing whatsoever to do with Scotland because everyone until recently viewed Scotland, Wales and England as having merged centuries ago.

The UK is not a marriage, but rather the result of a marriage, a child. You can no more split it than Solomon could split the baby in half. Companies that merge do not remain two, but rather become one, the same goes for countries. The countries that formed France do not still exist after they merged to form France. For this reason, France is one unitary nation state just like the UK.

The problem is that politically everyone treats the UK as if it were four countries. This used to be harmless. We played each other at football, because it was invented here. But the key to defending the UK is to tell the truth. The UK is one country just like every other nation state in the world. From this follows everything.

Once you accept that the UK is one country, not four, then it becomes obvious that the argument for Scottish devolution was false. It is no more unfair that Scotland votes Labour, but the UK as a whole votes Conservative, than it is that any constituency votes differently to the whole. There is no reason to treat this part differently than that part if we are really one country. So too it matters not one bit if Scotland voted to remain in the EU, while the UK as a whole voted to leave. Scotland was not a member of the EU, because we were one country that joined and one country that left.

The assumption that it was unfair if Scotland voted differently to the UK, which was the foundation of devolution, assumed that Scotland really was a separate country, but this is to concede the argument to the SNP. Once you assume that Scotland is a separate country, then you have already broken up the UK, because then we are four separate countries like France, Germany, Poland and Spain that happen to share borders. To suppose that the UK is like this is to assume what you are trying to prove.

What is a devolved parliament? It is a parliament with certain powers that were devolved from the UK Parliament. The UK Parliament however remains sovereign over the whole of the United Kingdom. The Scottish Parliament is not sovereign. This is what was voted for in the 1997 referendum.

I don’t know what Truss meant when she talked about Sturgeon being an attention seeker who ought to be ignored, but I hope that it might be this. The Scottish Parliament has the right to rule on certain issues that are devolved, but it has no right to rule on issues that are reserved. If it tries to rule on those issues, it will be ignored.

The consequence of this is as follows. If the Scottish Parliament attempts to organise an unofficial referendum, the result will be ignored. If the SNP attempts to hijack a General Election by turning it into a de facto referendum, the result will be ignored. There will be no negotiations on Scottish independence even if the SNP wins 100% of the vote. If the SNP strays into foreign policy matters or any other matter outside the remit of the Scottish Parliament, the British Government will advise its international partners that the SNP is acting outside its remit and therefore should be ignored.

Truss should explain very carefully to Nicola Sturgeon that the British Government will cooperate fully with the Scottish Government when it is using the powers that have been devolved to it, but if it abuses those powers or attempts to go beyond them, it will not hesitate to amend or even repeal the Scotland Act. If you act unilaterally, we will act unilaterally and then Nicola Sturgeon you will neither have a parliament nor a job.

Truss, I believe may be a radical thinker who has the courage to assert by means of law that although the United Kingdom is popularly supposed to be made up of four separate countries, this is merely a matter of football and not of legality. After this the British Government should assert legally that because the UK is a single sovereign nation state, its parts do not have the right to secede any more than the parts of Germany, France or indeed almost anywhere else in the world. There will be no more independence referendums, not now, not ever.

This is not fascism as some ignorant Scottish nationalists suppose unless they are willing to assert that Germany, France and the United States are fascists, it is merely to deny what Scottish nationalists falsely assume.

If a devolved politician in the formerly independent kingdom of Burgundy attempted to have international relations with the EU, or the USA, he would be ignored. If this Burgundian tried to re-establish the kingdom of Burgundy, he would be considered mad. If he tried to organise an unofficial independence referendum, he would be locked up. This is exactly how we should respond to Nicola Sturgeon.

We will ignore you. Do your worst.