Should Unionists fear a federal UK?

The UUP is concerned about the future of the Union and has proposed that a Royal Commission be established to look at the future of the British constitution. A good idea considered the half baked and unfinished nature of reforms under New Labour and the advantages to a cross-party consensus on any future reforms such a Commission could assist in developing. However, one of the proposers of the motion, George Savage, has a concern over present plans to codify the constitution:

“I am concerned that this proposed codified UK Constitution will lead to the beginning of a federalized United Kingdom.”

It is argued that a reason Unionism accepted devolution in the early 1920’s was it expected similar arrangements across the UK. Until now federalism has never gained particular momentum in the UK despite regular suggestion. However, various governments happily established such systems in countries of the Empire and these have been a broad success. In social capital terms, key orgainsations in Unionist communities have ‘federal’ systems e.g. Loyal Orders, Presbyterian and other evangelical churches. Much of Unionist discourse over the past 40 years has essentially been objecting to a central authority over-ruling regional interest, a quasi-federalist postion. The equality of a federal settlement, as well as clearly answering the West Lothian question, would ensure what John Andrews argued was a key prinicple of Ulster Unionism:

“…equal rights as equal citizens in the United Kingdom”

It is not an alien idea to British political thought, it provides answers to many of the constitutional dilemmas of the unfinished reforms, a natural conclusion of past Unionist argument, has a cultural resonance in much of the Protestant section of the Unionist community and arguably fits values of broad Ulster Unionism. What are the grounds for fearing a federal UK?

  • What Ulster Unionism should fear is the fruition this century of Alex salmond’s political project.
    An entirley separate,independent Scotland is the end of the British poltical experiment.

    English nationalism-spurred on by the scottish Raj and the West Lothain Question- is also growing.

    Perhaps Norn Iron will be the last little bit of Britain?

  • Thanks to Alex Salmond, the United Kingdom Show is over bar the shouting (most vociferously from the empty vessels of political unionism, those who have made a significant contribution to destroying the good name, such as it was, of Britishness.)

  • Firstly an English parliament would dwarf the other 3 parliaments, unbalancing the entire arrangement. Alternatively there is no appetite for splitting England up into regions for the purpose of delivering such a system. Federalism would be rendered unworkable by these considerations alone.

    That is before we consider the weakening of centrifugal connections, undermining British identity and belonging, the diminution of Westminster etc.

  • kensei

    The difference between the UK and the other countries that employ federalism is that few of the regions of other places see themselves as “countries” in their own right.

    It is difficult to see how the internal forces don’t rip that arrangement part in the long run. Suppose England wants to go to war in Iraq, and Scotland doesn’t. If they are independent in almost every other capacity, how do you resolve the fight? England would command a majority in all federal matters.

  • fair_deal

    Chekov

    The interest of northern and southern england are pretty diverse and there is some interest in the North. There is London with its mayor and elected assembly so not a complete lack of apetite for localised structures.

    How does it undermine British identity? American, Australian, Canadian, German identity etc seem to manage reasonably well in federal systems.

    Devolution already diminished parliament somewhat. Also it could provide parliament with something of a rebirth allowing it to spend time focused on important national issues like our armed forces/reform of MoD and in particular have the time to scrutinise the raft of material from Europe that presently gets ignored.

  • FD,
    The only occasion that English regional assemblies have really been subjected to the acid test of a referendum was just about as far north as you can go in England. 78% rejected the notion in the North East. I hate to agree with Kensei, but if England had its own parliament it would dominate federal matters to an untenable extent. Regional parliaments would inevitably be competing for resources etc. The only way federalism is even a starter is if England is to have regional assemblies and some interest in the north is a long way from acceptance in the majority of the country.
    American, Canada, Australia nor Germany are subject to the lure of nationalism in their constituent parts. Although even in Germany where most people view themselves to be of the same nationality 1 in 5 would welcome the reinstatement of two separate states.

    I agree that devolution has undermined parliament. It has been implemented badly and in an ill-considered fashion and has damaged the UK, perhaps irreparably

  • The Chosen Race

    If it has to take federalism, or else the Republic of Scotland to set the 6 northeastern counties free then I’m all for it. Calling an Irish county british, who ever heard of such ridiculous nonsense.

  • Dec

    It is argued that a reason Unionism accepted devolution in the early 1920’s was it expected similar arrangements across the UK.

    Really? I wasn’t aware they had much choice, given the alternative.

  • Suilven

    Odd that the best hope of physical-force Irish republicanism should be a democratic nationalist, and a Scot to boot. Bit of a kick in the stones for Gerry & co if you ask me…

  • The Chosen People

    In actual fact the strongest weapon in the Irish republican arsenel at the moment is the Celtic Tiger, as the Taig seems to be buying up most of the property in the 6 northeastern counties. Now theres a kick in the stones if ever I saw one.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Suilven

    Much better than the alternative though isn’t it. Imagine the two greatest icons of Republicanism are Scots, Connolly and Salmond. I think wee Alex would like that.

    I chuckled at the suggestion that there was ever going to be a federalist system implemented in the UK in the twenties. The six counties were chopped off for completely different reasons you know. And this bit cracked me up;

    >>“…equal rights as equal citizens in the United Kingdom”<

  • ND

    Whether or not thy should they will. They fear everything at first, water water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

    I don’t know about English nationalism being on the rise but in my view Britishness is falling away. The impact of the expansion of europe will change all ideas of who “we” are by the time a million or so kids of the european union get through the school system.

    When I’m in Ireland I’d say i’m from Tyrone, when I’m out of it i’m Irish. I think most of my English peers think nothing really of their local area in terms of who they are but when abroad would say they are English generally, although in truth the British Brand still has its place in business and does carry clout with an older generation in my view.

    Those who see themselves as distinctly northern Irish/British do have a fairly challenging journey no matter how the constitution evolves in reaching a place where their narrative makes sense to themselves and the rest of us in these islands.

    Change may present them with opportunities to slay some ghosts of the past if that makes sense, but they will, it appears, unhelpfully have some of their countryman daming them no matter what they do.

    But republicans should be careful and thoughtful in a demise of the UK, should it happen it will require a lot more than triumphalism.

  • Danny O’Connor

    Perhaps i am mistaken but I believe that the average Unionist has much more affinity with things that are Scottish .British is a part of a shared identity with those in Scotland.If the Scots were to go it alone would Unionists abandon their cultural links with Scotland and seek more closer cultural links with England in order to remain British-I think not.What exactly would a British identity mean without the Scots.In circumstances where the Scots decided to go it alone it would not mean that people would no longer have those cultural ties-would the Unionist identity be more Scots -ie -continuing to maintain links with Scotland rather than the English remnant-because there appears to be growing support for Nationalism in Wales also.

  • Prince Eoghan, for the record James Connolly considered himself Irish and said so on many occassions.
    One his last recorded statements from his prison cell (to his daughter Norah) was:

    “they will probably forget that I am an Irishman.”

  • “What exactly would a British identity mean without the Scots.”

    Exactly danny

  • Dec

    Prince

    “Being born in a stable does not make one a horse.”

    Unless of course you meant Billy Connolly…

  • “Those who see themselves as distinctly northern Irish/British do have a fairly challenging journey no matter how the constitution evolves in reaching a place where their narrative makes sense to themselves and the rest of us in these islands.”
    Very well put ND, very well put indeed.

    Their Mississippi Burning belief system with the Taigs at the back of the bus is indeed headed for challenging times.

    the old British realities are melting away…………

  • Suilven

    Obviously the other part of ND’s post passed way over your head, Phil.

    ‘But republicans should be careful and thoughtful in a demise of the UK, should it happen it will require a lot more than triumphalism.’

  • Jeremy

    Fiar Deal – “How does it undermine British identity? American, Australian, Canadian, German identity etc seem to manage reasonably well in federal systems.”
    Generally the countries you mention have a strong single national identity. The Quebecois being the clear exception in Canada. A german in Berlin can relate to a German in Munich despite differences in religion and dialect. Similar for the Australians. The UK does not really match its components are actually different nations who decide to subsume identity to assume the oveall British identity. Just an observation and not a criticism of that country.

    “Odd that the best hope of physical-force Irish republicanism should be a democratic nationalist, and a Scot to boot. Bit of a kick in the stones for Gerry & co if you ask me…

    Posted by Suilven on Nov 19, 2007 @ 03:54 PM”

    Suilven – Hardly a kick in the stones for Gerry and co. They, like all other parties with their eyes open, will have seen the possibility of this for many years. Anyone who has followed scottish politics over the last 5-10 years will have seen Scotland was moving away from the union. The only question was what would be the new political dispensation – a revised union or independence. My main problem with the dissident repubicans has been that they have no ability to think strategically and would never have even factored in that the break up of the UK might be on the “mainland” and not from the 6 counties. How to manage that opportunities presented is the best way of advancing an agenda? To do that you need to be able to look at the big picture.
    Scotland moving away from the UK is not the only thing happening here. How do dissidents feel about Catalonia’s moving from Spain, the Basque independence referendum in 2008 or indeed the Flemings pushing hard for the breakup of Belgium. Do they believe that the post cold-war realignment is still continuing as many do or is that all irrelevant goings on somewhere far away.

  • slug

    “Perhaps i am mistaken but I believe that the average Unionist has much more affinity with things that are Scottish ”

    To be honest I think that link while important is over stated.

  • Danny O’Connor

    The challenge for nationalism is how it can make unionists comfortable with accepting elements of their Irish culture in a non threatening way.The politicisation of Irish culture has made many distinctly uncomfortable thus far.Perhaps some nationalists feel the need to be “in your face” but that will certainly not achieve the consensus for unity that is needed.

  • Danny O’Connor

    slug
    I am just making the point that Scottish culture seems more important than English culture.eg Ulster Scots ,highland dress,Glasgow Rangers,Scottish bands coming for the 12th,more Presbyterian than Anglican,pipe bands etc.

  • nd

    The challenge for nationalism is how it can make unionists comfortable with accepting elements of their Irish culture in a non threatening way.The politicisation of Irish culture has made many distinctly uncomfortable thus far.Perhaps some nationalists feel the need to be “in your face” but that will certainly not achieve the consensus for unity that is needed.

    Posted by Danny O’Connor on Nov 19, 2007 @ 05:59 PM

    Been thinking on this point Danny, the new europe is supposedly and i think in reality a move beyond nationalism for the member states whether we like it or not.

    Is the challenge to move beyond nationalism in Ireland? Does our evolving constitutional position have to remain forever linked to competing nationalisms? ismseses? Maybe it is fanciful but ultimately the only win win resolution will be one where “the people” reach a universal acceptable resolution and that appears to me to only be possible when we go beyond our nationalism.

    Back to the thread then, should Unionism fear federalism, it occurs to me that our entire system of government should fear a constitutional change that takes away the emphasis on our competing nationalist views and turns the focus to good effective governance.

  • ND

    Sorry to post again but I read this from old Albert somewhere and when I read slugger it always seems relevant. A bit twee for some perhaps.

    Albert Camus, “I love my country too much to be a nationalist”

  • dewi

    At least the idea has some coherence unlike present position or Tories proposals. I would be perfectly happy with a “Council of the Isles” with appropriate powers like:
    1) Deciding what side of road we all drive on.
    2) Picking the Archipelagic Lions rugby squad.
    3) ….. Sorry – can’t think of anything else.

  • Turgon

    I think fair deal’s assessment is quite reasonable. I cannot comment for Wales and Scotland obviously but I thought that there is still a long way to go before the population of either country would deliver a majority in favour of outright independence. I thought Salmon’s whole gradual project was a fairly open acceptance of this. I do not know the Scottish opinion polls but I thought they show support for independence below the 30% mark and staying there fairly consistently.

    On Wales I am sure Dewi will dissent and I will defer to his knowledge but agian I thought there was a smaller minority in favour of independence.

    Hence, I would suggest that breakup of the UK is possible but actually quite unlikely. Increasing federalism is also possible but fairly unlikely as shown in the North East of England. Incidentally, I once met a bloke originally from RoI who lived in the North east of England and was quite heavily involved in the No campaign there; something amusingly odd in the context of our preconceptions.

    In terms of the break up of the UK I could see that being a potential problem for unionists here. However, in a hypothetical Federal UK, as fair deal suggests there would not necessarily be a problem in principle for unionists; the outworkings of any such system would obviously be complex.

    On the other hand a lot of the traditional stereotypes produced by the IRA and their cheerleaders and indeed recently the dissidents often slate England preferentially rather than the UK. As such it might be some republicans with more to fear. On the thread about the recent attacks on police officers we had a cheerleader denouncing “English rule in Ireland” (http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/police-officer-shot-in-dungannon/). Certain sections of the republican movement have been so busy attacking the wicked English (which often seems to be what they mean when they say Brits; unless they mean NI Prods on a given occassion) that they might have a problem with a genuninely federal structure. Somehow being oppressed by the Welsh and Scots seems less sinister.

    Still I am sure if there was by chance a federal UK republican MOPEry would find a way to continue MOPEing, after all they have had a lot of practice. Afterall prods are Nazis and are responsible for the unfortunate need for the IRA to kill them. “Those who voice a moral condemnation of this tactic have a responsibility to spell out an alternative course by which Irish independence can be secured.” Gerry Adams http://sinnfein.ie/news/detail/21489

  • Fair Deal

    “What are the grounds for fearing a federal UK?”

    From a purely unionist point of view, plenty.
    The examples you mentioned of federalism working occur in countries where:

    1. There is (by and large) a unified national identity
    2. There is no one unit within that system which is big enough in terms of population or financial resources to dominate/bully the other units within the federation.

    Let’s be honest, by no stretch of the imagination, do we have a unified British identity within any of the 4 constituent parts of the UK…but even taking that into consideration,has the devolution project strengthened or weakened the sense of British identity in Scotland and Wales?
    In the event of a federal UK, would the existance of an English parliament strengthen or weaken the sense of British identity in the biggest unit of that federation?

    It is not Salmond (latest opinion poll: still less than 30% favour independence in Scotland) which is presently the greatest threat to the Union, nor is it Plaid Cymru (now resorting to fighting for Welsh independence by starting to attend the House of Lords) nor even Sinn Fein. The greatest threat is an English parliament, the power and importance of which would dwarf the other three “national” parliaments. This dominance would undoubtedly strengthen the hand of the separatists in the other three parts of the UK and at the same time give an incredible impetus to that nasty wing of English nationalism who dream of the day that they give the boot to their fellow Brits in N.Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

    The present devolution system is unfair to England, they are most certainly not enjoying “equal rights as equal citizens in the United Kingdom”. But the federal solution is not the only way to solve this problem.

  • Mick Fealty

    Another question aimed at Unionists that turns into a thread about the [future] triumph of nationalism. Ho hum.

    I’ve looked at this question a number of times on the Brassneck blog and there certainly is a nationalist dialectic being played out, not least between the Tories (the English interest party) and the Scot Nats. Labour is currently looking like its been caught offside: so many Scottish MPs, yet being the only mainstream UK party advocating a deepening of the union. How times have changed.

    Unionist interventions, in what is for them a national debate, have been few and far between. Even though they could probably hold a disinterested middle ground in the wider UK debate.

    The problem is less about West Lothian, and more what you do about England. Leave it be, and it may drift further into grumbling dissent. Some advocate a slow evolution, growing the regional Assemblies by stealth until they are fully formed directly elected fora. Others believe that its time to ‘cut the crap’ and move directly to the English Assembly model.

    There would be no shortage of work to do. Neither the UK nor the Republic has enough legislative hours/manpower to ground EU regulation into the local jurisdiction. I’m not sure how a federal system would go down with the Scots Nats (though that might already be on record somewhere).

    But I guess it would tidy up the delineation between where one jurisdiction begins and the other ends. But if the Canadian experience is anything to go on, then they may consider that it is too tolerant of difference, and therefore just a subtle way of bolting Scotland more firmly into the Union. I also suspect that the price of leaving might be any substantial claim to Scottish Oil (though with 35 years supply left, that may not be have the huge it appears to have now).

    In any case, they are not going to meet the argument if it doesn’t have an intelligent advocate. With the bipartisan stand-off between Labour, Tory and the Nats, it could be the opportunity for the likes of the DUP to punch above their ‘federal’ weight.

  • Phil

    Fair-Deal,

    The elephant in the room of any federal UK will be England. As others have pointed out, there is no desire amongst the English people to see our country carved up to suit the ends of unionists, especially those unionists who are neither English nor have the interests of England at heart. To put it bluntly, we do not want to see our country sacrificed at the altar of unionism. The partitioning of your country to facilitate the political aims of your ancestors may have suited them, but there is no way that you are going to do the same to England just so that your federation isn’t dominated by my country. If unionists want a federal UK, it will be either with England as a national political entity or we don’t want to know, thanks. How power is devolved within England is a matter for the English, but it certainly will not be to the artificial “regions” imposed upon us by the UK govenment and will more likely be to our centuries old 39 historic counties, or to bodies that at least respect their boundaries, but any such arrangenent will be subordinate to the English nation and not the bogus “British” one.

    A federal UK is unlikely to happen anyway and even if it does it will soon be consigned to the dustbin of history (much like the C.I.S and Serbia and Montenegro) when conflicting interests begin to take their toll. The only future for these islands is for independent nation states working together as equals on matters that concern us all, as happens in Scandinavia today, so I would concentrate your efforts on beefing up the British-Irish councils influence as that will soon be the only archepelo-wide body for you to express your “Britishness” at.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Mick – >>Labour is currently looking like its been caught offside: so many Scottish MPs, yet being the only mainstream UK party advocating a deepening of the union.< >I also suspect that the price of leaving might be any substantial claim to Scottish Oil (though with 35 years supply left, that may not be have the huge it appears to have now).<<35 years is the conservative estimate, and as we type plans are afoot to open up the fields in the Moray firth. I don't believe that the oil will be bartered as a leaving concession, if that was your contention. plus our wind and wave potential is enormous, an energy of the future perhaps?Phil and DecBeing Scottish isnae so bad ye know. Anyway my Da reckons he's Irish, disnae mean he is though.TurgonHow's it going pal? You seem to have regressed back to no surrender land, with many of your thoughts seem built on hope than reality. Change is coming, the oft quoted 30% mark of late reflects an electorate at ease with the progress Scotland has made this last wee while. Just give us the question on the referendum paper and we will see. They are so scared that all of the English based opposition parties have united in the face of their mutual dislike/hatred to thwart any proposed ballot. Scotland is very much enjoying the can-do atmosphere generated by the SNP, would anyone seriously bet against a positive referendum outcome?

  • With the bipartisan stand-off between Labour, Tory and the Nats, it could be the opportunity for the likes of the DUP to punch above their ‘federal’ weight.

    Both David Simpson and Sammy Wilson have argued against Rifkind’s Grand Committee proposal recently…although considering both their attendance records at Westminster (they’ve managed to get over for 40% and 47% respectively of all votes in the HOC ), not sure that they’re in any position to chastise English MPs for their lack of commitment to the UK’s Parliament.

  • Boff

    Mick 8:59pm

    The problem of what to do with England was always the obstacle put forward by those who opposed devolution to Scotland and Wales. After nearly two decades of minority Tory rule, however, the demand for at least a limited form of self government, especially in Scotland, could not be postponed any longer. Ideally England could have decided what sort of political/administrative arrangement they wanted at the same time and we could have moved to a “symmetrical” federal solution at the end of the 1990’s. To Scots, however, the priority was to end the immediate democatic deficit that affected them at that time: how, at certain times during the Tory years, laws could be made for Scotland with the support of just 10 MP’s out of 72. Compared to that situation the so-called West Lothian Question is fairly trivial, although it is interesting to see how some Conservatives now complain.

  • Boff

    Phil >> The only future for these islands is for independent nation states working together as equals on matters that concern us all, as happens in Scandinavia today <

  • kensei

    “It is not Salmond (latest opinion poll: still less than 30% favour independence in Scotland)”

    I think there is some abuse of this statistic: it’s not that long ago that it was bouncing about near 50%, and a lot depends on how you answer the question.

    And the caveat that is missed, is that there is large support for increased devolution. Or to put it another way – weakening of the Union.

    Mick

    The problem for Unionists of any hue is that they like none of the solutions. English MPs voting on “English” matters creates a Constitutional mess. Federalism creates a big risk in area with separate “national” identities, and is heavily unbalanced by England. English regionalism seems a solution, except for the fact that England doesn’t want it. And doing nothing is going to lead to increased resentment.

    Devolution was brought to deal with the problems the Union throws up, but because of political expediency rather than with thought to the consequences. It has been largely successful, leading to the inevitable pressure and Nationalism with a coherent position and Unionism searching for one.

    Nothing is inevitable, and the UK is good at Constitutional fudge. However, there is no doubt that in Scotland, at least, Nationalism is in the ascendancy. Letting the SNP form a government so it could explode was one of those clever ruses that seemed absolutely destined to backfire from the get go.

    But really, what I want to ask is – if the UK ends up in a federal system with a permanent Nationalist, probably SF, component in the Six Counties, is that not somewhat of a Pyrrhic Victory? What holds that arrangement together, other than sentiment? Would Unionism really want overruled over Europe or defense by London for what amounts to the monarchy and the BBC?

  • Phil

    The Prince,

    I’m sure it isn’t. I could have asked my great-grandad, but I never knew him, but my brother-in-law quite likes it.

    Boff,

    It isn’t just Tories who are complaining, in fact it’s not only those who would describe themselves as being English either. The aforementioned brother-in-law gets a bit irrate when told by his family in the old country just how Scotland is benefiting from a government that works for the betterment of the Scottish people rather than the unelected rogue who keeps ramming “Britishness” down the throats of all who live in England, no matter what their political persuasion, and has no shame in imposing legistation upon every person who lives in England in spite of the fact that not one person who elected him will be affected by any decision that he makes on any matter that is devolved to the Scottish government. If you think that is a situation which only bothers Tories then you are way off the mark.

  • kensei

    “how you answer the question.”

    How you ask the question.

    Brain failure today.

  • Phil

    Boff,

    Sorry, I didn’t read your second post. Before I hop off to bed I agree, there is a shared identity on these islands and indeed around the world in what is now the commonwealth, I doubt you would get an arguement from any English, Scots, Welsh or even some Irish nationalists on that one. The point is, does that need to be reflected by our distinctive nations having their identities surpressed by a centralised state which likes to pretend that it too is a nation. In my opinion it doesn’t and there is no reason why we can’t run our own affairs as sovereign states with common issues being dealt with by a Nordic Council style organisation. The problem for unionists is that they will have to move away from British nationalism and find a way to express their identity through other means rather than through a bogus nation state which is becoming increasingly irrelevent. Incidently, of the Nordic Council members, Norway and Iceland are not part of the EU (but are in EFTA) whilst Denmark, Finland and Sweden are. Only Finland though has the Euro as its currency.

    Nighty night all.

  • Boff

    Phil

    I’m not defending the current arrangement, just that Scotland’s situation pre 1997 was a lot more serious. For example, the vast majority of Scotland’s MP’s were in favour of some form of home rule but were overruled time after time by the votes of (mostly) English MP’s following their particular party’s position.

    My contention is that the “West Lothian” question was not sufficient reason to block devolution to Scotland, it could always be sorted out later. Now that the English public are realising that there is a problem they can take steps to arrive at a solution – after all they can follow the route the Scots took: protests, campaigning, numerous rejections, constitutional convention etc (takes a few decades mind).

    I still think the looser form of association you put forward could be the way to proceed, and I can see it happening long term. Each country/state running its own affairs with some sort of Council of the Isles overseeing matters of common interest.

  • Boff

    Phil

    Damn, wish I’d have seen your next post too.

    Yep, I tend to agree with a lot of what you say. I have no problem with Britishness in itself, although for me it can be just a easy way of saying I am mostly Scots with bits of English, Manx and Northern Irish mixed in. Presumably, the Swedes, Norwegians, Finns etc are proud of their individual identities but are quite happy to be known as Scandinavian.

    As you have pointed out, though, the political structure of the UK is definitely creaking and piecemeal solutions are tending to create new problems. The big problem for those of us that prefer a “Council of the Isles”/separate states solution is that the union still commands sufficient support for it to survive.

    Maybe Ireland needs to show the way. Can the two states/entities/traditions/nations, whatever you want to call them, create a shared space/economy/culture whilst still maintaining and strengthening what is important to each?

  • Harry Flashman

    *Suppose England wants to go to war in Iraq, and Scotland doesn’t*

    Reverse the countries and you’ll find it has already happened.

    A Scottish Prime Minister, backed by his Scottish second in command at the Exchequer, with legal advice from a Scottish Lord Chancellor and with a Scottish Foreign Secretary, using his majority of Scottish MPs in the Comons invaded Iraq (with as usual a disproportionate amount of Scottish troops) against the wishes of the vast majority of the English people.

    *Their Mississippi Burning belief system with the Taigs at the back of the bus*

    Ah yes those bad old days when I was made by law to sit at the back of the bus like er, never.

  • kensei

    2Reverse the countries and you’ll find it has already happened.

    A Scottish Prime Minister, backed by his Scottish second in command at the Exchequer, with legal advice from a Scottish Lord Chancellor and with a Scottish Foreign Secretary, using his majority of Scottish MPs in the Comons invaded Iraq (with as usual a disproportionate amount of Scottish troops) against the wishes of the vast majority of the English people.”

    Blair is only considered Scottish when people when people want to make some ill considered point. The Iraq vote was not carried only by Scottish votes – the Tories represent huge parts of England and in Parliamentary terms there was a massive majority of English votes. And, IRC, England was more evenly split on the issue at the time.

  • fair_deal

    Oneill

    “The examples you mentioned of federalism working occur in countries where:

    1. There is (by and large) a unified national identity
    2. There is no one unit within that system which is big enough in terms of population or financial resources to dominate/bully the other units within the federation.”

    Canada copes with the Quebecois and Alberta and British Columbia certainly try to bully the others.

    Perhaps another example is Spain which has a range of strong local identities.

    Federalism does not mean the end of an over-arching identity and the need for a over-arching/unifying identity and its promotion can be included in any federal deal.

    Phil

    So far there has been no interest in regional parliaments but the same can be said for an all-England parliament.

  • Harry Flashman

    Maybe so Kensei but I suspect that in the unlikely event that Scotland ever does declare independence (and boy haven’t we been waiting for that world shattering event for a long time now!) the Scots will attempt to rewrite history and will make it appear that as regards Iraq “it was nothing to do with us guv, it was all the fault of them English”.

    At least let us be clear right from the start who was to blame for what.

  • IJP

    FD

    The reason Unionists accepted devolution in the 1920s was it was the only option.

    Here in the 21st century, I do not understand the basis of the Ulster Unionist argument.

    Underlying the Unionist argument seems to be that we need to protect and strengthen the Union by stopping federalism.

    In fact, federalism is the only way in which the Union can survive.

    Methinks Unionists are still back in the 1920s. Continue that way, and they may be in for a shock in 2020s…

  • IJP

    oneill

    by no stretch of the imagination, do we have a unified British identity within any of the 4 constituent parts of the UK

    Well then what’s the point of the UK?

    If Scotland goes its own way, there’s frankly bugger all George Savage and David Burnside are going to be able to do about it!

    Whatever happened to “The Future, not the Past”?

  • DK

    “Each country/state running its own affairs with some sort of Council of the Isles overseeing matters of common interest”

    At last a use for the House of Lords!

    But lets assume that Scotland votes in some way for Independence and a decision is made to dismantle the UK – what would happen to us in Northern Ireland. Here are the options as I see them….

    1. Bolt Northern Ireland onto whatever state will take us: Proceed as normal with the local assembly but with whatever the other state is being respobsible for the retained matters, as is the case now. This state most likely to be England, with Scotland and the Republic of Ireland as alternatives.

    2. Subsume Northern Ireland into another state and forgoe the local assembly. Most likely state is Republic of Ireland, but Scotland and England also possible.

    3. Become an independant state in the same manner as Scotland, England and Wales.

    Personally I see option 3 as the most likely, and probably politically the most acceptable to all sides.

  • Phil

    “So far there has been no interest in regional parliaments but the same can be said for an all-England parliament”.

    Now, now fair deal, I would have thought that a clever person like you would be aware that all recent polls show that not to be the case:

    http://www.thecep.org.uk/OmEnglishParliament.pdf

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=GGPDYPVO2UBMHQFIQMFCFGGAVCBQYIV0?xml=/news/2006/11/26/nunion26.xml

    Have you not heard of the English Constitutional Convention either?

    http://www.englishconstitutionalconvention.com/

    I think you may have been listening to the likes of Charlie Falconer and Robert Hazell a bit too much. UK politicians are hopelessly out of touch with English public opinion and whilst the Tories “English votes on English laws” policy is an attempt to resolve the issue and would no doubt satisfy the concerns of many English people its fundamental flaws are obvious to all and it will inevitably all end in tears. There are sadly too few English politicians who are willing to make a stand for England’s democratic rights, but there are a few notable exceptions:

    “I hope to still be around when we see an English parliament established because that is what voters want and what justice demands.” Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead

  • Boff

    DK

    I agree, Option 3 is probably the most feasible alternative should the union end, although the other states would continue to have legitimate interests, for example, in its stability and the treatment of national minorities.

    The trouble with 1 and 2 would be deciding which state, possibly leading to pressure to split with certain areas pledging allegiance to the different states. Should this unfortunate scenario come about, can Scotland please have the area David Healy is from 😉

  • Dewi

    “nor is it Plaid Cymru (now resorting to fighting for Welsh independence by starting to attend the House of Lords)”

    …the struggle takes many forms….

  • “”by no stretch of the imagination, do we have a unified British identity within any of the 4 constituent parts of the UK”

    Well then what’s the point of the UK?”

    Despite Brown’s increasing desperate attempts to tell us otherwise, there isn’t and shouldn’t be a single definition of British identity; a second-generation British-Asian living in Tooting will have a different sense of Britishness compared to, for example, someone living in Dumfries, Wrexham or Ballymena.

    The United Kingdom is the means by which all these diverse forms of Britishness are brought under one multi-cultural umbrella.

  • “…the struggle takes many forms….”

    I wouldn’t get too hung up on the capitulation Dewi, it’s only a question of time before they’re joined by Lord Adams of Ballymurphy;)

  • Prince Eoghan

    >>Blair is only considered Scottish when people when people want to make some ill considered point.<

  • Shawn

    Fair Deal
    As for the Canada question you missed the biggest bully of the lot, namely Ontario. If we were to corelate Canada to the UK it would be something like Ontario = England, Quebec = Wales, the West = Scotland and the poor cousin of the lot nIreland = the Maritimes.

    Ontario views itself as the center of the universe and thinks the rest of the country should accede to their demands

    Quebec while more vocal in their demands for independace then the welsh, is economically and I would say politically incapable of independance. They just use their suposed quest for independance to squeeze concessions from the Federal government

    The West has over taken Ontario as the economic engine of Canada due to the high world demand for energy and rescources, something the west has in abundance. There is an occasional transient support for independance in the west but over all we are happy to remain Canadians. We could discuss the 4 western provinces independantly because there are differences but I think I have provided a realistic over view of the situation

    The Maritimes consists of the 4 eastern provinces the base of which is british immigrants in centuries gone by, but like nIreland their biggest export and contribution to the economy is people moving to other provinces in search of meaningful employment

  • fair_deal

    Phil

    I appreciate the poll data. I hadn’t seen it. Although the question seems to be a ‘push’ question to me.

    Second the English could have voted for such arrangements by voting Tory in 2005, they didn’t.

    Third, regional assemblies had similar levels of support once too, 63%.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/1883944.stm

    Shawn

    True i did forget about Ontario. Probably focusing on the recent rows about equalisation payments too much.

  • Boff

    Prince Eoghan

    If only…

    Italy played how they always do in those situations, soak up all the pressure then hit the opposition on the break. We are almost there, though, and what a fantastic campaign. We just need to learn how to put middle-order opposition away on their own turf. It was against Georgia that we really came unstuck. Still, it wasn’t that long ago that I was sat with my son, in a less than half empty Hampden, on a miserable Wednesday night, watching a dire performance against Romania. Now the only problem is we just can’t get tickets.

    My take on the English parliament campaign is that, although English people may express a desire for a parliament when asked, it is not their biggest priority. After the 1992 general election, a Scottish parliament became THE number one political issue in Scotland.

    Phil

    I’ve looked at your links and basically the arguments used are similar to those used by Scots in the 90’s. One major difference, and no disrespect intended, is the type of people involved. A quick look at patrons and supporters confirms that they are not exactly the “movers and shakers” of England. At the time of its success, the Scottish campaign had support from amongst the most powerful and influential people in the land. The English campaign has got to get to the situation where any ambitious mainstream English MP, for example, just has to be associated with the issue. I said in a previous post that anyone campaigning for an English parliament should look at how Scotland achieved its goal and I was being serious. It was a long road with dead ends and many disappointments but ultimately, after many decades, one that was successful.

    Anyway I’m aware that I’ve moved away from the theme of the thread. Should Unionists fear a federal UK? Surely any form of federalism would need a written constitution that would safeguard the position of NI within the union as well as the rights of its people. So, although a federal UK isn’t likely for reasons already pointed out in this thread, no there shouldn’t be any fear. It comes down to the usual issue though: no matter what the structure, unionists have to get out there and persuade people of the union’s value.

  • Suilven

    Shawn,

    Surely Scotland would the parallel of Quebec in your example? i.e. Nationalist government but never enough votes for independence?

  • Dewi

    Suilven – never is a long time.

  • Phil

    Fair-deal,

    The poll that you linked to was from 2002 and with respect, I think that things have moved on considerably since then. There are many other polls that have shown a significant increase in support for an English parliament in recent years and I think that the politicians will inevitably have to start taking notice of public opinion. BTW, most of the English electorate DID vote Tory in 2005! Not that it would have made any difference if they had formed a government as their answer to the English question has always been a bit woolly to say the least.

    Boff,

    I appreciate your comments. I have always maintained that we should be looking north for help to achieve a fair settlement for England and I for one have welcomed the imput that Canon Kenyon Wright has put into the English Constitutional Convention for example. I am first and foremost an English nationalist, but I believe that by extension I am also a Scottish, Welsh and Irish one too and that our goals of self-determination are best served by working together to achieve those ends. I don’t think we are too far away from a breakthrough from a mainstream Tory politician coming out in favour of an English parliament by the way, especially when Malcolm Rifkind’s proposals get ripped apart under closer scrutiny.

  • Shawn

    Suileven
    On straight terms of the drive for independance yes Scotland would be more correlated to Quebec. However I equated Quebec with Wales because it is highly unlikely that Quebec could survive with out Canada and just as unlikely Wales could survive with out England and therefor the dirve for independance no matter how strong is really just a stone cold bluff.

    However the Canadian Version of federalism could well work for you as well, the federal and provincial governments have clearly defined roles in the system and generally what ever role they have they have exclusive jurisdiction over. For example the federal government is the only level of government capable of passing and enforcing the Criminal laws of Canada and as such criminal law is universal in Canada and the only power the provinces wield in it are the matters of selective enforcement. Conversly every province is soley responsible for their education systems and the federal government is not allowed to interfere, though they have been known to affect policy through fiscal inducements

  • Prince Eoghan

    >>but never enough votes for independence?< >a Scottish parliament became THE number one political issue in Scotland.< >Surely any form of federalism would need a written constitution that would safeguard the position of NI within the union as well as the rights of its people.<

  • RepublicanStones

    great a federal uk, more fear to feed the colonial siege mentality of our orange brethern.
    if they fear that, when ireland is united it should be good craic.

  • Boff

    Prince Eoghan

    >> And also copper-fasten any future 50% + 1 scenario? <

  • Harry Flashman

    “>>Blair is only considered Scottish when people when people want to make some ill considered point.<

  • dewi

    I reckon Wales could survive very well without Canada.

  • fair_deal

    Phil

    “The poll that you linked to was from 2002 and with respect, I think that things have moved on considerably since then.”

    I realise the poll is old but it shows the danger of solely relying on polling data. It was polls like this made Labour think they would win the referendum in the NE and they got tanked.

    “most of the English electorate DID vote Tory in 2005!”

    No they didn’t, the Conservatives outpolled Labour by about 60000 votes but the majority of people in England did not vote Conservative.