Union futures after Glasgow East

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.

  • kensei

    Brian

    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.

    That’s a gross exaggeration. There is little danger of the SNP’s brand being majorly tarnished by a large swing that doesn’t come quite close enough. They would of course love to win, but in the long run laying down a largish marker in a safe Labour seat will make Labour MPs and MSPs twitchy, in the short run it keeps Labour firmly under pressure.

    At best a win gives Labour some breathing space and an opening. No more.

  • Dave

    “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.”

    That’s a bit like pulling a dead rat out of a Lucky Dip, since NI is the entity that the English want out of the existing union. If Scotland goes, then I can’t imagine English nationalism being suppressed in the interests of a union that includes only Wales and NI. Most likely they’ll cut all loose – and the same with the EU. We will, of course, be delighted to offer the citizens of NI a home. However, it’ll definitely be a takeover rather than a merger. 😉

  • culligan

    even montenegro left in the end…

  • Seeing as we’re in the realm of what-ifs:

    In the scenario of a UK break-up, surely some of the infrastructure of the UK in terms of the armed forces, UNSC seat, monarchy etc. will remain under some kind of federal system. What if the ROI rejoined the commonwealth? Would the natural home for NI be with Eng, Scot & Wales, or with ROI? Particularly given that British (or England at any rate) staying in the EU cannot be guaranteed.

  • Greenflag

    ‘then I can’t imagine English nationalism being suppressed in the interests of a union that includes only Wales and NI.’

    If Scotland left the Union this does not necessarily mean that Wales or NI would also .

    ‘ Most likely they’ll cut all loose ‘

    Other than South Africa and Nazi era Germany no State in history has ever of it’s own choice expelled a large number of it’s citizens to other jurisdictions .

    ‘We will, of course, be delighted to offer the citizens of NI a home’

    They have a ‘home’ . It’s called NI. Until a majority there vote otherwise . As for ‘paying’ for it – Let’s see what the next twenty or so years brings and in the meantime HMG can continue to pay for the privilige of seeing their taxes keep the NI lads in the manner to which they ae accustomed . The Republic’s Government will be preoccupied with ameliorating the financial mess brought about by the Wall St financiers as they plundered and thieved their way through the American middle class overe the past 20 years or more under the guise of ‘free markets and financial deregulation’

    There’ll be no money left over for buying out the Northern malcontents of either tribe nor the political will to listen to the same old antediluvian shite that passes for politics in NI.

    Bertie put up with it for 11 years . Cowen won’t .He has already told FF to pull back from further involvement /participation in NI. There are more important items on his agenda.

  • Greenflag

    culligan ,

    ‘even montenegro left in the end’

    That was Serbia /former Yugoslavia 🙂 The UK was never a Serbia well not for the past few centuries anyway .

    Anyway Northern Ireland is not a ‘black mountain’ more of a ‘black hole ‘ at the end of some economic and political universe into which everything is sucked once it’s been denominated by religion,sexual preference , flag colour , sport , and ‘national ‘ identity . More a Kosovo /Bosnia than a Montenegro .

  • Conquistador

    ” What would happen if the Conservatives win England and power but fail to carry a single seat in Scotland?”

    I don’t think we’re going to find out. The tories already hold the Dummfriesshire, Clyde and Tweedale seat and are very close to gaining Dumfries and Galloway (a 5000 majority in the equivalent holywood elections).

    The might also win seats in Southern Edinburgh (maybe Darlings), Mid Scotland and East Renfrewshire.

    In Wales they currently have 3 MPs, and won 5 Constituency AMs with two near misses and potential in Brecon and Radnorshire.

    Devolution in Wales did give the tories something of a platform to build on, although in Scotland it benefitted the nationalists most of all.

  • Dewi

    Very good opportunity of knocking out Lembit in Montgomeryshire also….

  • percy

    However, it’ll definitely be a takeover rather than a merger. 😉
    That’s a good one Dava AKA …..

  • Occassional Commentor

    How do NI unionists self-identify?:

    Irish
    Northern Irish
    English
    Welsh
    Scottish
    British
    Northern Irish British

  • Delta Omega

    OC

    Personally I’m Northern Irish first, British second, Irish 3rd

  • ggn

    OC,

    You left out ‘Ulsterman’ (i.e. Ian Paisley) and Ulster-Scots (i.e. Nelson McCausland).

    Surely an off topic and utterly random question?

  • Conquistador

    On paper I’d say not Dewi but of course this Lembit Opik we’re talking about.

    Does anyone remember a time when we used to actually like him?

    His high profile and lots of media coverage, good appearances on HIGNFY, and irrational fear of asteroids.

    Once his party stabbed charlie in the back he did say he’d stand at the following leadership election but Cleggy boy and the other very similar chap didn’t have the pleasure of defeating him.

    But maybe the electorate will

  • Conquistador

    In reponse to how do unionists self identify I’m not clear whether we’re to choose one option or use STV and rank them in preference order.

    Here goes:

    1 Irish
    2 British
    3 Ulster-ish/man

    I am irish and comfortable with the fact. To me Irish does not mean playing gaealic, hating ‘prods’ and shouting up the ra, as it sadly has become synonomyous with.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    The Tories in Scotland are missing a trick. The only truly right of centre party we have currently are the New Labour. Breaking the shackles from London and actually campaigning on some of their more sensible proposals, especially on law and order would find favour at the moment. I quite like Annabell Goldie personally and feel that she is an honest type. They really need to stop trying to represent a foreign countries interests ie. England’s interests in Scotland.

    Anyhow Dewi I’ve finally bit the bullet and believe that we can do it tomorrow. I’ve put a patriotic tenner on at 9/4.

  • dewi

    I don’t bet anymore Tony as Sammy cleaned me out on the summer rugby – but I’m getting good vibes – Alex always brilliant but Nicola has impressed me in the campaign also. First time I’ve really studied the Scottish media in any depth and you are right – big problems there – very little on the truth behind Marshall’s resignation – and the BBC pretty pathetic all round. Some fairly shoddy opinion polls also. Despite all that I think we’ll win by a thousand.
    On a more general point turning Glasgow is the critical SNP project over next two years.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    >>Alex always brilliant but Nicola has impressed me in the campaign also.< >very little on the truth behind Marshall’s resignation<

  • percy

    good luck prionsa
    I fear the smaller parties ( tories/libdems ) will steal the majority needed for the SNP to take it/
    I hope I’m wrong.
    If the vote is anything like only around 1000- 2000+ to Labour it’s a good result.
    3000-5000+ for Labour is a bad result for us.

    Go SNP or as like to call them Irish Republicans by proxy 😉

  • ggn

    Dewi,

    This ones for you!

    Talking of Glasgow, I remembered Ibrox … wait for it …

    Gaelic, Ath Bruic ‘the badger’s ford’

    There is an accent on the A but I could mangage that at the minute!

    Great isnt it!

  • Oilifear

    “Irish does not mean playing gaealic, hating ‘prods’ and shouting up the ra …”

    … a lesson that will have to be learnt before any merger (sorry, Dave) of the two jurisdictions on this island.

    (And, yes, I don’t think that a United Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland is plausible. There is simply no basis for it. Without Scotland the Union ends. “Ireland” in any shape or form doesn’t figure in Brown’s foggy vision of “Britishness”, and, to most English, it is a foreign country.

    I do think a role for the Republic – or a future confederate Ireland and Northern Ireland – in a maintaining a some form of “union” on the archipelago is likely (and indeed this would have a basis in the various national ideologies – never mind history and pragmatic reality – of these islands. The basic structures are already in place through the British-Irish Council and the inter-parliamentary body (or British-Irish Assembly as it will soon call itself). I think Bogdanor argued something along these lines also. Though, I would imagine that Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland would be more interested in it than England – which would, of course, keep the Security Council seat … and stay in the EU.)

  • Conquistador

    “Despite all that I think we’ll win by a thousand.
    On a more general point turning Glasgow is the critical SNP project over next two years.”

    Interesting use of the word ‘we’, are you SNP or Labour Dewi?

    I imagine the former.

    I once read that SF considered standing in Govan in 1988, does anyone know if there was any truth to that rumour?

  • Conquistador

    Joe Austin visited the Glasgow Central constituency in the late 80s-it wasnt the Govan by-election.
    It was, apparently, considered as a ploy to subvert the broadcasting van.

    In the end the idea was dropped.

    Mike watson,Later Lord Watson won the by-election for labour.

    I think he has been released from prison.

  • Occassional Commentor

    ggn:

    The reason I ask is that Scottish independance might break up the UK union.

    If that is the case, what of NI? (Not to mention Wales.)

    If put to a vote, the self-identification might be an indicator of what happens next.

    If Scotland goes independant, would it then qualify for EU and UN membership? And an independant Wales? Independant NI?

  • OC-Scottish independence-if it does happen-is a very long way off imo.

    More of a process than an event.

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    >>Mike watson,Later Lord Watson won the by-election for labour.

    I think he has been released from prison.< >OC-Scottish independence-if it does happen-is a very long way off imo.

    More of a process than an event.< >The reason I ask is that Scottish independance might break up the UK union.< >If Scotland goes independant, would it then qualify for EU and UN membership? And an independant Wales? Independant NI?< >Interesting use of the word ‘we’, are you SNP or Labour Dewi?<

  • Dewi

    Political betting

    “Just back after a few pints with two leading SNP politicians. We spend most of the day canvassing in Easterhouse. After that we went to Ladbrokes and put £100 each on the SNP at 9/4.

    Either the people are taking the piss or the SNP are going to win convincingly.

    That’s my first ever bet. On anything.

    by Am Balach July 23rd, 2008 at 11:25 pm ”

    That sounds encouraging….Tony – I’d have loved to have got up there honestly….very best of luck !!!

  • Oilifear

    “If Scotland goes independant, would it then qualify for EU and UN membership? And an independant Wales? Independant NI?”

    “All of the other countries would of course be eligible for UN and EU membership, including England.”

    EU membership would be virtually automatic. UN membership would be simply run-of-the-mill sort of stuff.

    “An independent NI is an absurdity and not going to happen.”

    Not going to happen – we had a trial run 1922-72 that failed, and that is never going to be tried again – but not an absurdity.

  • Dewi what does the turn out look like?

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    >>Tony – I’d have loved to have got up there honestly….very best of luck !!!< >Not going to happen – we had a trial run 1922-72 that failed, and that is never going to be tried again – but not an absurdity.<

  • Prionsa Eoghan

    should be “up” 60 odd percent

  • Phil

    Best of luck, Prionsa. I’ve got fingers, toes and any other part of my anatomy which can be crossed for you. Even if Labour manage to persuade their voting fodder to come out in force I still think that a close call in what has been historically one of their heartlands can only bode well for the future. The silver lining should Labour win of course will be that the SNP’s greatest recruitment sergeant will keep his job at number 10 for a little longer!

  • Dewi

    Very best of luck – got the alarm clock on at 1.00am – see you thrn….

  • Here is hoping that Glasgow East-a neglected,taken for granted labour ghetto finally bites back.
    My memories of trudging those streets in 1987 are still vivid.
    If ant politcal establishment deserves to be kicked out then it is labour in Glasgow