Unionist forces begin to muster

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So it’s game on for the early rounds of the referendum campaign. The Westminster government says Alex Salmond can have a binding referendum provided he sticks to a Yes, No question on independence.   No fudging over devo max. The UK parties are uniting to save the Union, although the others would like Cameron and the Tories to take a back seat according to the Guardian, for reasons which Alex Salmond himself makes clear in the Independent. They have all but conceded to the timing of the referendum to him. But it isn’t clear where Labour and the Lib Dems stand on Devo Max. That will continue to give Alex room for manoeuvre. There’s lots of heavy stuff about the technicalities and costs of severance, Scotland’s share of the  trillions of the national debt, “Scotland’s Oil” and the Barnett formula, the RBS losses, even voting by 16 and 17 year olds.  But Peter Oborne in the Telegraph sets a tone that will strike a chord on both sides of the familiar Irish debate. Will it catch on, or will they stick to the mundane ?

Alex Salmond, that most brilliant and attractive of modern British politicians, is capable of superbly articulating the sense of nobility, romance, mission and fierce patriotism felt by many SNP supporters. Nationalism and the cry for liberty can be an intoxicating cocktail, even at the start of the 21st century. So far his opponents have produced nothing to rival it.
They have played the politics of fear, warning Scots of the economic uncertainties that lurk outside the Union. It is not a very convincing message, and it is also an unworthy one. The United Kingdom richly deserves to survive – but only if it can conjure up its own poetry and romance, and embrace the English, Scots, Welsh and Irish on equal terms.

On their own, our composite parts have always been rather unimpressive and unattractive. Together, we have been amazing. Four hundred years ago, before the Act of Union, the nations that today make up Britain were piffling little places on the edge of the world, prone to regicides, civil disturbance, internecine strife and murder.

The fusion of those nations created something quite extraordinary. Here are some of Great Britain’s achievements following the Act of Union: we abolished slavery, founded an empire, produced some of the greatest literature the world has known, stood together alone against Nazi Germany in 1940, our finest hour. Of course, we have committed some terrible crimes, and they must be taken into account – but we do take them into account, normally with far more vigorous self-examination than is shown by other nations.

In doing all this we have produced something called Britishness. Nobody can exactly say what it means, but all the world knows what it is: tolerance, a sense of fairness and justice, humour, proportion, decency and good manners. I feel certain that Britain’s contribution – its solid, thoughtful, civilising presence at the top tables, the example that is set by the country’s very existence – is more necessary than ever in a formless world dominated by the rise of China and the slow, tormented decline of the United States.

I thought you’d all enjoy it.

 

 

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  • michael-mcivor

    ” Stood together alone against nazi germany in 1940 ”

    Seeing as england ruled nearly half the world in 1940 I would hardly call it alone-
    plus they had America supplying them with weopens at that stage-

    In 1940 the free world was losing- When America and Russia began to fight the nazis 1941-42 the free world started to win-

    Englands finest hour was when they were fighting for england-their home land- it was other countrys finest hour when they shoved England out – good luck to the Scots-

  • The yokel

    Salmond’s appeal is to the heart. A referendum for a nation once again on the seven hundredth anniversary of Bannockburn;Flower of Scotland playing in the background, the skirl of the pipes; who wouldn’t vote for a free Scotland.

    Cameron will appeal to the head – the canny Scot. The realities of independence will be played on by the Unionists, an area where Salmond is vulnerable.

    Cameron’s secondary goal may be a resolution of the Midlothian question. This along with the forth coming changes in electoral boundaries would severely reduce Labours influence in Westminster.

  • Obelisk

    “The United Kingdom richly deserves to survive – but only if it can conjure up its own poetry and romance, and embrace the English, Scots, Welsh and Irish on equal ”

    The last time the United Kingdom faced this test it failed abysmally. But more interestingly

    “I feel certain that Britain’s contribution – its solid, thoughtful, civilising presence at the top tables, the example that is set by the country’s very existence – is more necessary than ever in a formless world dominated by the rise of China and the slow, tormented decline of the United States”

    This in the shadow of the Cameron veto. It’s clear that the era of Western dominance of the world which has lasted over five hundred years is coming to an end. India and China are going to keep rising no matter which way the Independence referendum goes.

    They can point to charts and graphs showing how well Britain will do, or how powerful her economy will be in 2050, but the trend is set. The UK’s best days as the power that shook the world are behind it. Appeals for Scots to stay with the Union so as to be part of a first-rate world power are appeals to a nostalgic past that is slipping away.

    And if coming together in this new world to pool our resources in the face of the new giants is the way to go, then why not pursue that goal on a European scale where you could get more bang for your buck so to speak?

  • TheUnicorn

    Abolished slavery?? Maybe so…after centuries as a world leader! Sir Francis Drake?? English hero? Slave trader extraordinaire?

    They talk about history being written by the winners, but my god…

  • JR

    “we abolished slavery,” Rather vague. Which Colonial power didn’t?

    Though the British belatedly abolished salvery in 1833 it didn’t stop them sending 3 million pounds, (equivalent to 130 million today) to the Southern states during the American Cival war because of concerns over how the abolition of Slavery would affect the price of cotton.

    Much less than was spent to prevent 1 million starving 15 years earlier in what was then the UK.

  • sherdy

    Ten out of ten to Peter Oborne for fanciful imagination and pure fictional writing.

  • Reader

    JR: Though the British belatedly abolished salvery in 1833
    Belatedly? Compared with who?
    And, since you’re counting the cost, how much blood and money did Britain spend trying to eliminate the Atlantic slave trade from 1807 onwards?

  • http://www.banuanlae.org/ Ulick

    “Belatedly? Compared with who?”

    Simon Bolivar? The Liberator was abolishing slavery in various parts of the Americas from 1820.

  • HeinzGuderian

    1Seeing as england ruled nearly half the world in 1940 I would hardly call it alone-
    plus they had America supplying them with weopens at that stage-’

    Half the world ? Really ?
    How many Spitfires did the USA supply ?

    ‘In 1940 the free world was losing- When America and Russia began to fight the nazis 1941-42 the free world started to win-’

    The Battle of Britain was probably the most decisive battle of WWII.
    Where,pray tell,would the D-Day Landings have embarked from,if not Britain ?
    Or maybe you think Mother Russia would have liberated Europe by Herself ? It would have. Eventually.Only trouble was,Uncle Joe wasn’t really into ‘liberation’.

    “In doing all this we have produced something called Britishness. Nobody can exactly say what it means, but all the world knows what it is: tolerance, a sense of fairness and justice, humour, proportion, decency and good manners. I feel certain that Britain’s contribution – its solid, thoughtful, civilising presence at the top tables, the example that is set by the country’s very existence – is more necessary than ever in a formless world dominated by the rise of China and the slow, tormented decline of the United States.”

    And who,save for *the usual suspects*,could argue with that ? ;-)

  • JR
  • michael-mcivor

    Heinz Guderian-

    ” How many spitfires did the USA supply ? ”

    The old freedom spitfire would have found it hard to fly without the fuel that america give- and lets not forget all those non-english who flew for the R.A.F in 1940- im sure there were also plenty of scots who fought to keep the nazis out of england-

  • Red Kangaroo

    So they “stood alone against the Nazis”? So all the ANZAC’s, Canadians, Indians & other “Empire” forces don’t count?

  • Reader

    michael-mcivor: The old freedom spitfire would have found it hard to fly without the fuel that america give- and lets not forget all those non-english who flew for the R.A.F in 1940- im sure there were also plenty of scots who fought to keep the nazis out of england
    During the battle of Britain, it was “america sold”, not “america give”
    And can you explain why you see “England” when everyone else is talking about the UK or Britain?

  • michael-mcivor

    Reader-

    ” america sold ”
    Some are still sore that england did not stand alone against the nazis in 1940- and thats what the english mean about the battle of britain- they think it was just them against the nazis – how sad are they-

  • Coll Ciotach

    Slavery was made illegal in the UK on 06 April 2010 – just for the record

  • Munsterview

    This ‘Scottish Question’ may not be as intractable as it appears. So not all of Scotland wants to break with the Union ? There is a solution to that too provided the ‘Unionist’ counties are adjacent to each other and at least one has a city of some significance.

    1) Based on the 1975 ‘old county’ situation, Scotland has 33 counties, one more than Ireland.

    2) If in an election say 29 of these vote for a break with England and full Independence, that do not mean the remaining four need be made accept the will of the overwhelming majority.

    3) Four counties may be a bit small region wise to ‘go it alone’ so the obvious answer here is for the four to just annex another say two counties, preferably at least one of which has another large city.

    ( Some democratic purists will of course be quick to point out that you cannot opt out of a larger unit, claiming a democratic right to do so, while simultaniously annexing the other two counties against their democratic wish, there is no answer to that, just silence and ‘brazen it out’, in time it will ignored )

    4) The pro-independence majority in the two annexed counties and the significant support areas for Independence need not produce an insurmountable problem, a creative re-drawing of constituency boundaries that ignore natural or community geographical demarcations and instead concentrate in parcelling these majorities into smaller appendixes of pro-Union constituencies. Admittedly it will not look pretty in a map nor can it be logically explained to democratic purists, but as long as it achieves it’s purpose, who cares if the rest of Scotland is shouting gerrymander ?

    5) Have a positive discrimination for the Pro-Union majority: some blatant anomalies will arise from time to time, such as say in housing when a pro Union single person is given a public house where an anti-Union married couple with a large family are denied housing, but this is the exception, normally the discrimination, once established and bedded in, will pass for the norm and excite little or no protest.

    6) Enhance the pro-Union populace natural feelings of superiority at every opportunity, make sure that like the majority of the politicians, the Civil Service, the Judiciary, the Main police force ect is of a clear pro-Union majority , while including sufficient of a compliant anti-Union minority to make it seem that there is ‘parity of opportunity’

    7) Project ‘normality’ at every opportunity, Ranger supporters for instance could be organized into a special force, issued with uniforms’ armed and send to ‘patrol’ the anti-Union areas. That both provides employment and gives State direction to what otherwise would have just been random acts of sectarian violence.

    8) It is not perfect or pretty but who knows with a bit of luck and regular coercion and suppression of the anti-Union minority, such a little Statlet could be good for a half century or so.

    This scenario is not just hypothetical or necessarly as absurd as it appears, there is, if I correctly recall, an actual political precedent for it, I must look it up when I get time and see what the outcome was!

  • latcheeco

    MV
    Did you just argue in favor of partition?

  • latcheeco

    I didn’t know Kerrymen did sarcasm?