Gloomy musings about the future of the Union on the eve of the Glasgow East by-election. What would happen if the Conservatives win England and power but fail to carry a single seat in Scotland? Tristram Hunt in the Guardian and David Goodhart in the seminal magazine Prospect are among commentators hedging their bets.
P.S. Not a mention of course of what would happen to Northern Ireland if the unlikely happens. If pressed, many pundits state the obvious: merge with the Republic. One very academic friend says NI could stay with England as the ur-Union. While Cameron and the Conservatives pay-lip service to the Union, the momentum would tend towards wee England and separation. Preserving the Union is down to Labour and Gordon Brown’s ideas for citizenship and Britishness, whenever he gets around to fleshing them out. Meanwhile, some of the wisest words come from top politics professor Vernon Bogdanor ( once Cameron’s politics tutor incidentally but much more than that). Without the power to raise taxes,
Devolution, far from cementing Scotland’s place within the Union, could actually fuel the separatism that it was supposed to prevent. The flawed fiscal arrangements could lead, therefore, to political disaster, rendering devolution, as its critics predicted, a slippery slope on the path to break-up.
And Conservative notions of an English Parliament would wreck the Union:
On any issue that unites them, English votes will predominate. The English have no need to beat the drum or blow the bugle. If they do, they will strain the devolution settlement, which rests fundamentally, as the Union has always done, on a sense of restraint by the dominant nation in the UK.
In the by-election Labour is the bookies’ favourite to win, even though SNP First Minister Alex Salmond is staking his government’s reputation on the result.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London