The case for the Union needs to be made


Two veteran commentators give instant pronouncements on the implications for the Union of the SNP landslide. Leaving aside the Northern Ireland overtones just for now (please!) Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph makes the obvious point that the essential case for the Union has yet to be put. The trouble is, the English political class can be the least qualified to make it, as their version of Britishness is so often post-imperial Englishness with a bit of multiculturalism thrown in. Either that, or they talk about the Union as a kind of taxation arrangement. Their discourse is so often deaf to other forms of Britishness in the troublesome Celtic fringes.  Even the much vaunted English toleration is ambiguous.  Coercion to prevent Scottish independence is of course unimaginable; but this liberal democratic acceptance of Scots right to secede can degenerate into a sulk: “go on then, bugger off, see if we care.”

The Tory right are similarly flakey. Rumbles going the rounds calling on Cameron to be the one to “call Salmond’s  bluff “ and hold a referendum are madness, playing right into the First Minister’s hands. All the same, Moore is surely right about the fundamental case for the Union going by default.

Two thirds of Scottish “exports” go to England. Five hundred thousand English people live in Scotland. In England, there are 800,000 Scots. We share an economy, nuclear weapons, a seat on the UN Security Council, the NHS, the BBC (God help us), and our Armed Forces and an island and a history and a future…. It is astonishing how little these facts have been articulated, how little the underlying emotions have been tapped. If you did a poll asking English people what “the Union” was, I bet they would say that it was something to do with labour relations: the very concept is so little discussed

Former Scotsman editor and sage Magnus Linklater offers the comforting version of the SNP win for the Union cause which no longer can be taken for granted.

By voting it into government, especially with an overall majority Scotland is firmly set on the slippery slope to independence.

But what happened in the small hours of yesterday morning ignores two important factors: first, support for independence remains pitifully low. The most recent opinion poll put it at less than 30 per cent, and nothing that Alex Salmond’s government has done in power over the past four years has altered that to any significant degree.

Secondly, the referendum that Mr Salmond is committed to holding before the end of his first term of office would almost certainly kick the issue of independence into the long grass for years to come.

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  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Interesting question of who will be the best advocates for the union. It’s like being good at accents – the best people at it are people who have grown up hearing different accents at home. A lot of the English middle classes who become the political movers and shakers suffer from monoglot upbringings in this respect. They do not have that instinctive sense for the boundaries between their British identity and their English identity, seeing them at times as interchangeable. Blair with his family background and Scottish education was an exception and it’s a big reason he “got” the union. Brown did too, though he was less good at the politics of it. Not so sure about Cameron …

    For all their flag-waving bluster, politicians of the right understand the union much less well than those on the left who get it (though many on the left have their own forms of Little Englander-ism). It’s because the union is best understood from the point of view of the people of the diverse regions within it. Tories tend to have a poor perspective on life outside England and in many cases, even life outside the South of England. They see the country as existing by dint of the maintenance of traditions and history, not due to the will of the people today – their view of the relationship between people and state is not fluid.

    The best people to stand up for the union are therefore those who understand it as a human construct, something of the people – and therefore politicians on the left and centre left will be the best advocates. That is, the smart centre-left, not the hard-left ideologues, who are no more likely to understand the value of the union as anything else outside their own bedrooms.

  • There’s a major thesis in this one, not just a quick blurb in a dialogue box.

    In many ways the “Union” is dead, departed and defunct. What is necessary is a new, and adult relationship to develop between the devolved administrations. In short, some form of extended federalism.

    For the Tories, the “unionist” parties in the outlying satrapies were useful as far as they maximised the Tory benches. That bluff has now been called, and across the inner circles of Toryism one hears the plea for “little England”, free from all that ethnic pollution from the fringes. Sad, really.

    Meanwhile in Wales Labour has prospered by being Welsh. In Scotland Labour holds its core 35% vote; but time and circumstances mean the non-Labour vote is percolating to the Nats, or — as they will increasingly be seen, and seemingly themselves welcome — the Tartan Tories. The current review of Labour in Scotland has now been taken “in house” by Miliband … which seems like an ummm… idea.

    As for our own backyard? That UCUNF thing went well, didn’t it? And increasingly, take away the bunting, and the DUP appear less “unionist” than “not-nationalist” — which is nowhere near the same thing. Perhaps what is happening is a genuinely “regional” interest is evolving, as in the other devolved Assemblies. If so, that is all to the good, surely?

    Essentially, though, as Mainland Ulsterman @ 12:11 pm says, whatever we get must be “of the people” and flexible. What has happened, increasingly over the last half-century since “Unionism” was in full flower is that the populace has been able to look over the hedges. As was said in a different context:

    “Reuben, Reuben, I’ve been thinking,”
    Said his wifey dear;
    “Now that all is peaceful and calm,
    The boys will soon be back on the farm;”
    Mister Reuben, started winking,
    And slowly rubbed his chin;
    He pulled his chair up close to mother,
    And he asked her with a grin:

    “How ’ya gonna keep ’em, down on the farm,
    After they’ve seen Pa-ree?
    How ’ya gonna keep ’em away from Broadway;
    Jazzin’ a-’round’,
    And paintin’ the town?
    How ’ya gonna keep ’em away from harm?
    That’s a mystery;
    They’ll never want to see a rake or plough,
    And who the deuce can parley-vous a cow?
    How ’ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm,
    After they’ve seen Paree?”

  • Fraoile

    The issue with borders and independence is a nonsense. When you strip it down to the bare bones England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (north and south) are essentially united through a banking system and the movers and shakers in the financial world.

    This was evident than when the ROI went tits up. We had spent 30 years cutting the shite out of one another up here only to find out England was still present and very much running the show in the south (did 1916 ever happen!!?)

    Rightly or wrongly money rules the world and we are all truly united through that. Talk of independent countries is just lip service to tribal nationalism.

  • The union can only survive if it goes federalist. That means restoring an English Parliament, electing an English First Minister, binning the Houses of Commons & Lords and creating possibly a 100 strong UK legislature to look after reserved matters such as defence, etc.

    Over 70% of current HofC time is spent on exclusively English matters such as Health, Education, Planning etc – an EP would at a stroke replace it – and be a hell of a lot cheaper as only representatives of English constituencies would attend. (National democracy, don’t you just love it?)

    Patience is growing thin south of the border regarding the willingness of our politicians to keep kicking the English Question into the long grass. It is no longer acceptable that England is the only country in Europe and the Commonwealth without any kind of national legislature. It is especially galling to see our Brit’ Establishment politicians swanning around the world tut-tutting and wagging their fingers at assorted despots, lecturing them about the imperatives of the democratic way.

    English democratic rights can no longer be denied because we may, by insisting upon them, compromise this so called ‘union of equals’. To be honest, I couldn’t give a toss about the UK anymore. Why should I when we in England have, since the 1998 devolution acts been treated so shabbily.

  • Framer

    I agree the DUP and SNP do have a lot in common, anti-Englsh, and statist without being socialist but a referendum is a dangerous instrument as people rarely vote on the question in front of them.

    Be assured Alex Salmond will choose the optimum moment for holding the referendum. He will consider little else. The problem is he will be able to control that moment which I suspect will be in a couple of years when the cuts really bite and another economic crisis hits the UK.

    This was always the danger of Scots devolution. It made independence a single vote away.

    Unionists exist not to be in a united Ireland so can’t be susceptible like SNP voters.

  • Zig70

    War over oil anyone? The english need the union more than the scots. How corrupt would the Tories get with a secure majority.

  • If ever there was any doubt about the ability of the Tories (eyes fixed over shoulders at UKIP) to be forward-looking, magnanimous, high-minded, and have vision above the parapet of little England, consider the posturing over not flying the Europa flag over government buildings next Monday.

    On May 9th, 1950, the French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman, went public with his “Schuman declaration” which resulted in the Coal and Steel Community:

    For peace to have a real chance, there must first be a Europe. Almost five years to the day since Germany’s unconditional surrender, France is taking the first decisive step to rebuild Europe and is inviting Germany to play its part. This will transform the situation in Europe. This will open the door to other joint activities inconceivable hitherto.
    Europe will emerge from all this; a Europe that is firmly united and solidly built; a Europe where living standards will rise as a result of the pooling of production and the expansion of markets leading to lower prices…

    In which spirit, forward to any principled debate about greater devolution

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Interesting point: not a war but there could be some real disagreement over the sea borders between England and Scotland, if Scotland went independent (in terms of who owns which bit of “EEZ” (exclusive economic zone)).

    I haven’t looked at the question for a few years, but know that Salmond in the past (and possibly still) has taken a very optimistic interpretation of what Scotland’s North Sea EEZ might cover. The problem for the Scots is the angle of the land border to the coast. When I studied international law 20 years ago, there was no completely agreed method of drawing sea borders – but the favoured ones were (1) to draw a straight line down the coast in line with it, averaging out the bumps, then go out at 90 degrees from that; or (2) to follow the general direction of the land border out into the sea. (1) favours Scotland and (2) favours England. I hasten to add my law isn’t up to date and there may now be an agreed regime, but I’d be surprised – very hard to get agreement internationally on this kind of stuff. So there could be quite a spat over the oil.
    Anyone with more recent legal knowledge, please post!

  • Wyrdtimes

    “English political class” where and who are they?

    There’s barely a soul in Westminster (or the Lords) that can utter the word England and much less a “political class”.

    You must mean the British political class and curses on every member.

    Home rule for England.

  • Michael Gillespie

    What does independence for Scotland or Ireland really mean?

    The recent election results shows the rise of the S.N.P. in Scotland and with that the rise of the issue of independence for Scotland. But what is the word independence supposed to mean? Alex Salmond and the S.N.P. are coy about this. Independence for Scotland or Ireland has two distinct meanings. In which of the two meanings can Scotland or Ireland be constituted?

    First meaning— Scotland constituted as a Republic in which the U.K. constitution is abolished and the Crown as head of state removed. If Alex Salmond and the S.N.P. were to put that constitution squarely to the people of Scotland and state openly that the S.N.P. envisaged a Republic of Scotland with a president and with Balmoral sold off a referendum on that basis wouldn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding because the appeal of the Crown is too attractive. I have relatives who live in Donegal and Leitrim in the Republic and they were ecstatic about the Royal wedding. By the same token if Martin Maginess and Gerry Adams were to put a referendum to the people in N. Ireland that the U.K. constitution is to be brought to an end and the Crown and Hillsborough Castle disposed of such a referendum would be defeated in both communities.

    Second meaning—Scotland constituted as an independent nation under the Crown. This option is Constitutional Nationalism. Constituted thus Scotland would become an independent sovereign nation under the Crown similar to Australia and Canada. If that constitution were put to the people of Scotland with Balmoral retained as the Royal residence in the Scotland Constitution Act similar to the Australia Act and the (Canada) Constitution Act such a referendum would stand a good chance of succeeding. Similarly if a referendum for a united Ireland within a Federal Kingdom in the National Government of Ireland Act, Ireland being like Australia and Canada with the Crown as Head of State, such a referendum could very well succeed and unite the country.

    Alex Salmond and the S.N.P. should come clean as to what independence really means. Is the S.N.P. constitutional Nationalist or Republican? In Ireland there is the vain hope among Republicans that the U.K. constitution will go away and with it the Crown and by some political sleight of hand a Republic will arrive. This hypermetropia blurs the vision of Sinn Fein brainwashed with Republicanism as they gull the gullible with idle chit-chat about a united Ireland in an unattainable Republic. The evidence is that the constitution and the Crown are here to stay for the foreseeable future

    There is more on this theme at by typing my name into the search engine.

    Michael Gillespie Federal Unionist-Early Sinn Fein

  • Zig70

    I don’t know any Irishman who would vote for an Ireland with the Crown as head of state. To me it is as absurd as France accepting the Queen as head of state just because it hit hard times. The tax bill is high enough in Ireland without taking on those royal spongers.

  • Greenflag

    Charles Moore in the Daily Telegraph may be placing too much importance on the numbers and the ‘commonalities’.

    He writes

    ‘Two thirds of Scottish “exports” go to England. Five hundred thousand English people live in Scotland. In England, there are 800,000 Scots. ‘We share an economy etc It is astonishing how little these facts have been articulated, how little the underlying emotions have been tapped. ‘

    Indeed .

    As late as 1966 over 90% of Irish exports went to the England and 70% of imports came from England . A million people lived in England who had been born in Ireland and the number of people of Irish descent up to the third generation was estimated to have been 6 million . In the UK just a few years ago it was estimated that some 25% of the UK population had at least one Irish grandparent or great grandparent (and that was just from the Republic ) .

    At least 150, 000 people born in the UK reside in the Republic. The UK remains Ireland’s biggest single export market and Ireland remains the UK’s third or fourth biggest export market .

    To paraphrase Mr Moore – It is astonishing how little these ‘facts are articulated . In Ireland the underlying ’emotions ‘ took another route in the late 19th century and with a combination of a rise of ‘delayed ‘ political nationalism inspired by a cultural renaissance of strongly Anglo Irish origin plus the happenstance of ‘events ‘ at that time World War 1 – Ireland ( ROI ) took a different political path .

    Fast forward to Scotland in 2011 . The SNP now have devolved government probably not too dissimilar from what the Irish Home Rule party wanted during the 1880- 1918 period .

    Just like Ireland it may be that ‘outside ‘ events may end up having a greater effect on the eventual outcome than either Scottish will to ‘independence’ or English Tory ‘fibrous ‘ resistance to it as per Mr Cameron .

    Fraoile above at 2.27 pm May 7 brings in the ‘world economy context . those of us who have read the history should know that Scotland’s attempt at maintaining it’s separate Parliament was eventually skewered by the ‘Darien ‘ bubble burst of the early 18th century . The then Scottish ‘investing ‘ public were bankrupted by the equivalent of a modern day ‘ponzi ‘ scheme and had to be bailed out at a price . That price was Scotland’s then parliament voting itself out of existence .

    Ironically this time around the context of worldwide economic chaos -in the sense that nobody knows how and when the current instability will end -the Scots may choose to bid their time until the dust settles before moving forward . And although one would think that what are called ‘globalised economic forces ‘ should make ‘nationalism ‘ obsolete and in one sense 9the macro) that’s true . On the other hand people’s everywhere and not just the Scots -even the English , Welsh and Poles locally will be -and have been given reason to be more than apprehensive about the growing powers of multinational institutions -not so much in any disagreement with the ideals of these institutions themselves -but in their inability and powerlessness -just like that of our ‘national ‘ governments to reign in the even more growing power of ‘international finance ‘ to rule the world -in defiance and often against the interests of democratic peoples everywhere .

  • Greenflag

    continued from above .

    Mr Moore like Conservatives and Unionists is fixated on the past union the union of a former imperial state with a great history etc etc . He relies on that inheritance to maintain that Union in the future . A mistake imo .

    New times -new circumstances and yet all of us still want to hold on to something of the past . How we do that and still cope with the politics and economics of the present will determine the parameters of which ever future political arrangements make sense for these off shore islands .

    There are no guarantees -not for the Union – not for the Republic and not for NI either .

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Zig,

    The Queen receives no salary.

    In 2006-2007 the revenue surplus received by the Treasury from the Crown Estates was £200 million. Since 2001, The Queen receives a set amount of £7.9 million per annum. About 70 per cent of the Civil List expenditure goes on staff salaries. It also goes towards meeting the costs of official functions. We also separately contribute to the cost of the upkeep of the Royal Palaces. But they’re state owned so we’d be doing that anyhow.

    Meanwhile, Mary MacAlease gets about €250,000 salary plus the big house, staff, travel, etc. And how much exactly does she bring directly into the country?

    What country do you think gets the better deal?

  • Michael Gillespie

    The Irish should take a leaf out of the Australian and Canadian Constitution when it comes to independence

    Australia and Canada like Ireland and Scotland was once a British colony. The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 changed that for Australia and gave Australia a measure of independent government. The Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 made Australia a de jure independent nation and the Australia Act 1986 severed the last remaining links between Australia and the United Kingdom with the same person Queen Elisabeth II as the monarch of both nations the monarch treating each nation as separate and apart. In the 21st century Australia is a sovereign nation with its own federal government, its own distinct flag, anthem and passport, its own Australian citizenship and the Australian government is in control of the Australian army, navy and air force and police force and is represented at the U.N. Simply Australia has all the Hallmarks of a sovereign nation. Australia retains the option of becoming a Republic by democratic means. The constitution of Canada is similar to that of Australia due to the 1982 Constitution Act of Prime Minister Trudeau. This Act patriated the constitution from the control of Westminster to the Canadian government.

    A Constitution for Ireland and Scotland similar to the Australian and Canadian is feasible if the political will and intelligence can be found to change the U.K. constitution to the Federal Kingdom constitution of the Sovereign Nation of Ireland and Great Britain or vice versa with a reformed elected Crown as Head of State for all Ireland, the Crown treating the sovereign nations of Ireland and Great Britain as separate and apart. With this Act Ireland would have all the hallmarks of a sovereign nation. The option of a democratically agreed Republic of Ireland can be included in the National Government of Ireland Act. Scotland would require The Scotland Constitution Act. This would be a welcome change from those lunatics who would ram an Irish Republic down the throats of those who reject it, by murder and by blowing the place up.

    There is more on this theme at by typing my name into the search engine.

    Michael Gillespie Derry Federal Unionist-Early Sinn Fein

  • Greenflag @ 11:49 am:

    While not greatly demurring from that account, two points —

    1. Everything has an obverse. Half of all UK “food” exports is accounted for by … Scotch Whisky.

    2. The Darien Scheme of 1696-99 is cited as a main “reason” for the Union. Curious then that it had provoked such widespread anti-English feeling across Scotland. As the Scots saw it, a prime cause of the Darien disaster was that William III forbade any help from the American colonies or the West Indies to the enterprise. Would it be fair to find comparison between that with the recent “rescue”, and expatriation to London, of RBS (previously ornamented by one Alexander Elliot Anderson Salmond) as a similar blow to Scottish pride?

    No, Union is post Darien, but not therefore praeter hoc (except in schoolrooms looking for a quick and dirty answer to a complex sequence of events). It ignores an interim of a very busy decade.

    Along with Darien, there’s the outbreak [1701] of the War of the Spanish Succession, which for a dozen years dislocated Scottish trade with France. As is usual in these events, when England plots a military disaster, it’s always the Scots, Welsh and Irish in the front line: the Cameronians were carved up at Blenheim, the Scots Greys at Steenkirk. In response, the Estates passed an Act Anent Peace and War to give the Scots parliament (which was getting stroppy that guid Scots lads were being sacrificed to English policy) the right to declare war or peace. Queen Anne and her Whigs became agitated, particularly when they so conveniently “discovered” the “Scots Plot”.

    Consider also the incident of the Worcester, which involved its Captain, its mate and the master-gunner being executed on the sands of Leith.

    The retaliation was to have all Scots not resident in England, Ireland and the colonies, or not serving in Queen Anne’s army, declared aliens with effect from Christmas Day, 1705. As far as I can see Wales didn’t qualify. The Alien Act, which so offended Defoe, was another form of blackmail on the Scots to accept the Hanoverian succession — which was the real issue at stake.

    The single factor which determined the outcome of the negotiations over the Succession and the Union was a bottomless slush-fund. The Duke of Hamilton had his debts settled, an English dukedom, the Garter and the Thistle, and nomination as Ambassador in Paris. When he led his support out of the assembly, that allowed Queen Anne’s Whigs to appoint both sides of the negotiators. Similar persuasion b(r)ought Queensberry @ £12,000+ of the £20,000 on tap + £3,000 a year + and English title.

    Why should we not expect a parallel intervention by those well-heeled Tories of the City of London, now they no longer underwrite the anti-AV campaign, in any independence referendum?

  • Michael Gillespie

    It is agreed with Zig 70 that it would be absurd for the French to vote for the Crown as the Crown has no historic connection with France. Ireland Scotland Australia and Canada have such a connection. There is a strong body of Loyalists in Scotland and over a million Loyalists in Ireland. More over the recent Royal wedding was viewed with enthusiasm by tens of thousands in all Ireland. Zig70 has a blind spot when it comes to Ireland. For him Loyalist Ireland doesn’t exist. For him a true Irishman is anti- Crown. Why can’t a true Irishman be pro-Crown?

    Michael Gillespie Federal Unionist-Early Sinn Fein.

  • Congal Claen


    Ireland and Scotland are not British colonies. These islands have been British long before the UK was dreamt up. Both elect MPs to the UK parliament. Unlike the States, Canada or Australia. Hence, the cry “no taxation without representation” during the American War of Independence. And of course George Washington had no personal gain with him being the largest landowner and taxpayer.

  • Well, stripe me pink and call me Candy: Ireland and Scotland are not British colonies. These islands have been British long before the UK was dreamt up [Congal Claen (@ 2:16 pm].

    And there was silly old me trusting the Oxford English Dictionary which could find only one citation for “British Isles” before the seventeenth century, and that by John Dee attempting to translate a Byzantine neoPlatonist.

    It implies here that the earliest political use of the term was Cromwellian (a Thomas Jenner, complaining of official neglect of fisheries: not much changes), and less than supportive of Congal Claen‘s assertion: This State is now almost absolute Commander of all the Brittish Isles, and hath also enlarged their Dominions over a great part of the Western Indies.

  • Michael Gillespie

    According to the dictionary a colony is a territory that is under the political control of a distant country. A colony is also described in the dictionary as a dependency. In past history Ireland and Scotland were territories under the political control of England so Ireland and Scotland can correctly be described as colonies of England. Also the opposite of being a dependency as a colony is to be independent as a nation. Ireland demanded independence from England for centuries; Scotland is now demanding the same. Both demands are just.

    Following on from the dictionary definition of a colony there is the well known lines by Pope written in the early 18th century: –

    “Here Britain’s statesmen oft the fall foredoom
    Of foreign tyrants and of nymphs at home
    Here thou great Anna whom three realms obey
    Does sometimes counsel take and sometimes tea”

    And also

    “One speaks the glory of the British Queen”

    It is clear in these lines that the realms (territories) of Ireland and Scotland are under the political control of England and had to be obedient to Queen Anne so Ireland and Scotland were according to the dictionary, colonies. As for the term British—Modern British constitution begins in the18th century and all inhabitants of these islands were then constitutionally British. This is clear in the lines of Pope quoted and the identities Irish and Scottish and English were constitutionally suppressed. Pope described himself as British but earlier writers like Shakespeare and Donne were English. In the late 18th century The United Irishmen asserted an Irish identity in defiance of British Constitution. The S.N.P. are doing the same for Scottish identity as of now.

    Michael Gillespie Federal Unionist-Early Sinn Fein

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Malcolm,

    I suggest you look a bit harder…

    ” In the 1st century BC, Diodorus used the Latin form, Πρεττανια (Prettania) from Πρεττανικη (Prettanike), Strabo used Βρεττανία (Brettania), and Marcian of Heraclea, in his Periplus maris exteri, used αἱ Πρεττανικαὶ νῆσοι (the Prettanic Isles) to refer to the islands. Historians today, though not in absolute agreement, largely agree that these Greek and Latin names were probably drawn from native Celtic-language names for the archipelago. Along these lines, the inhabits of the islands of Pretanike were called the Πρεττανοι (Priteni or Pretani). The shift from the “P” of Pretannia to the “B” of Britannia by the Romans occurred during the time of Julius Caesar.”

  • Michael Gillespie @ 8:12 pm:

    The publication of The Rape of the Lock, which you selectively quote, was 1712 — significantly after the Act of Union. The poem is, of course, a satire; and should be read as such (as is patently obvious from your reference).

    I see irony, if not palpable contempt, in most English uses of “[North] Britain”, when referring to Scotland, down to the Victorian period (by which time Walter Scott has performed his alchemy). Smollett, for example — forty years after Pope, has Mr Melopoyn narrating his sad history of literary failures (Roderick Random, II.xlii):

    “I was afterwards persuaded to offer myself as a translator, and accordingly repaired to a person who was said to entertain numbers of that class in his pay; he assured me, he had already a great deal of that work on his hands, which he did not know what to do with; observed that translations were a mere drug, that branch of literature being overstocked with an inundation of authors from North Britain; and asked what I would expect per sheet for rendering the Latin classics into English… “

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Michael,

    Can you then think of another “colony” that elects members of the colonising country?

  • Congal Claen @ 8:45 pm:

    Yep: got all that. Some echoes of a classical eddikashun (courtesy of the High School, Dublin, and TCD) yet linger.

    The problem is that Old Welsh Priten, which — arguably (let’s get that qualified before the professional etymologists and philologists pile in) — is a possible ultimate source. One rendering of that, from Welsh pryd, suggests it means no more than “Nice place we’ve got here”. Another approach is to go hunting among the Semitic languages — all those Phoenecians, y’know — to find words for “tin”: (there’s one use of pretan in demotic Egyptian and πιθραν in Coptic). Now consider that the archipelago (© Slugger O’Toole) is elsewhere named in Greek as Κασσιτερίδες νήσοι, the ‘tin islands’.

    Going down that path, one way or the other, these “British Isles” are either the property of the Welsh or the Cornish. Neither way does it establish an aboriginal assertion of all-embracing “Britishness”.

  • Congal Claen @ 8:48 pm:

    Well, (refer to any € note): those French départements d’outre-mer, the most recently (2011) added being Mayotte?

  • Zig70

    I enjoyed the wedding, a fine spectacle. If the Irish wanted royalty would it not be an Irish monarchy, not an English one? Why would you want a monarch from a different country? Spongers really isn’t the issue, one family retaining a privileged position is just unfair, immoral and archaic. I’d favour a yearly lottery draw to win Queenie for a year, would bring in even more revenue. Great history lesson though, high quality blog, I feel I’m bringing the tone down a bit. apologies.

  • Greenflag

    Malcolm Redfellow,

    Thanks for the clarification re Darien . Of course Darien can also be interpreted as Scotland’s attempt at an ‘imperialism ‘ of it’s own . Which should’nt be a surprise as all the Atlantic coastal nations from Denmark to Portugal were expanding horizons across the Atlantic following the relative demise of the Hanseatic league as the pre-eminent world economic trading bloc . New markets -new products and new technology and the new ‘sciences ‘ all helped to push nations and their leaders outward .

    ‘Why should we not expect a parallel intervention by those well-heeled Tories of the City of London, now they no longer underwrite the anti-AV campaign, in any independence referendum?’

    The main difference between now and the ‘Darien ‘ period is the fact of universal suffrage and much more freedom of information . That and the intervening history and our now ‘global economy’ which is still asking questions re the ‘relevance and role of what is called ‘national sovereignty ‘ . Most Scots and most English are literate and better educated in the 21st century than in the 18th .

    I would think that the Tories would be well advised to let the Scots do the pushing re the future make up of the UK . In any event they should leave it to Scottish ‘unionists ‘ to make the case . Major intervention or what’s perceived as the City pushing it’s power behind the anti -independence response to any move towards political separation will probably have the reverse effect imo.

    Early days anyway I would think .

  • Greenflag

    ‘Why can’t a true Irishman be pro-Crown?’

    What’s a ‘true ‘ Irishman anyway ? One who tells no lie ? One who’s ancestors arrived along with Milesius of mythic fame or one of the sea coast stragglers who paddled across here from Scotland and England and Wales and France and the north coast of Spain several thousand years ago when all the latter nations neither existed or were even a dream ?

    Truth to tell I suspect that most Irish are anti monarchy as their history provides sufficient evidence that our local would be monarchs could never get their act together long enough to be able to defeat outside ‘monarchs’ who looked upon Ireland as just another piece of real estate to add to the family holdings .

    Some of also remember the great contribution made to European civilisation by the degenerate and inbred monarchs of late 19th and early 20th century Europe who ‘presided ‘ over the bloodbath of WWI in which 37 million soldiers were killed or wounded so that the Tsar and the Kaiser and the Hanoverians and the Hapsburgs could continue their ‘dreams ‘ of more imperial glory etc etc .

  • Drumlins Rock

    Zig, the current Royal line in its most ancient form can be traced back to via. Scotland to the ancient Kings of Dalriada, ie. an Irish Royal line.

  • Dewi

    Ynys Prydain is ours. We made a tactical error in inviting others in. But I like English people. Taking on the might of the German army with an umbrella – can’t beat it!

  • DC

    In NI terms, it’s 12 billion.

    Still think that even if Scotland were to go sovereign NI would remain unaffected. All politics is local.

    Mind you I sense that many Scots would be cold shouldered in England, probably in spite. Relations would be cold for a while, particulalry if Scotland went tax-lite like Ireland does on company tax etc.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Malcolm,

    Are you not underlining my point? France now considers Mayotte an integral part of France and therefore they have the same status as any other part of France and send MPs to parliament. Mayotte is no longer a colony as they send MPs.

    On the British thing I really don’t see your point. These islands have been described as British for millenia. Therefore, if you even consider Ireland or Scotland to have been colonies they wouldn’t be British ones. You could possibly argue for English colonies. But even then that’s a stretch…

  • Michael Gillespie

    It is irrelevant what the Greeks and Romans called these islands. What is relevant is the name in which these islands are nowadays constituted i.e. The British Isles. As already noted in a previous comment modern British constitution begins in the18th century where it is clear in Pope’s Rape of the Lock that all inhabitants of these islands were constitutionally British and all other identities were suppressed. For example in the 18th century it was unlawful to use the words Ireland or Irish in writing. To get around this,. Irish writers used the pseudonym My Dark Rosaleen or Cathleen Ni Houlihan cf James Clarence Mangan My Dark Rosaleen and Yeats harks back to this dark period in the poem Cathleen the Daughter of Houlihan.

    As far as Ireland sending M.P.s to Westminster is concerned so what? Ireland was still a region under the political control of England and that makes it a colony according to the dictionary.

    Michael Gillespie Federal Unionist-Early Sinn Fein

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Michael,

    It’s hardly irrelevant when I said these islands have been described as British for millenia. That is correct.

    “So what?”

    So that means it’s not a colony. It’s an integral part. Likewise, England is controlled by the British parliament. Not a English parliament. By your definition England is also a colony of the British parliament.

    Colony is used by nationalists to give the impression that Ireland is separate from the rest of the isles. Whereas in reality the Irish Sea has been the glue that bonded these isles.

    Incidentally, Malcolm is it OK to refer to that sea as Irish or are you going to have the same fit as when the Isles are referred to as British?

  • Greenflag


    ‘The current Royal line in its most ancient form can be traced back to via. Scotland to the ancient Kings of Dalriada, ie. an Irish Royal line.”

    So? The eh world has changed somewhat since 200 BC or thereabouts . I believe if you traced your own ancestry back that far in the direct line just parents and their parents then around the time of Shakespeare you would have had 16,384 ancestors who would have contributed in a timely and successful manner to your eventual appearance here on Earth . Go back to Magna Carta days and your direct line ancestors would number 1,073,741,824 (over a billion ). By Dal Riadan times approx the time of Christ the number of people on whose cooperative horizontal efforts your existence depends would number
    1,000,000,000,000,000,000 which is several thousand times the total number of people who have ever lived .

    You most likely have more ‘Dal Riadan ‘ ancestors than Queenie herself . Ironically you may also be a descendant of William the Conqueror and the Emperor Constantine . On the other hand you may number in your ancestors Barabbas or even Jesus Christ if one is to give any credence to some of the gnostic writings . So go ahead and put in a claim for the monarchy as you have justs as many if not more ancestors in the direct line back to Dal Riadan Days as the Hanoverians 😉 I’d put in a claim meself but I can’t -not being a monarchist ye see

    BTW I missed an opportunity to wish you well in the council elections . I don’t know whether you won or lost but well done for trying either way . I’m sure the direct experience of ‘democracy ‘ in action may have caused you to reconsider the prevalence of the many foibles of all our human natures .

  • Greenflag

    continued .

    BTW the number of yours and everyone else’s ancestral antecedents is taken from Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Everything ‘ pp 397-398. Bryson is one of those who credits the planet with being at least 4.3 billion years in existence and not 6,000 years as some prominent NI politicians maintain as part of their eh ‘faith ‘ . Alas Bryson does not take his direct ancestry numericals back to Upper Paleolithic thus I can’t claim to have a numerical majority of ancestors over the Pentecostalists and the Seventy Day Adventurers and others who make the 6,000 year claim . Shame that eh 😉

  • Michael Gillespie @ 9:59 am:

    That’s the lowest level of tortuous and unconvincing argument I’ve seen here in a while (and Sluggerdom creates new limbo records almost daily).

    Presumably, on terminology alone, “British Columbia” should be repatriated; and the penguins of the British Antarctic Territory enfranchised to defend the “Union”.

    Now can we have a rational debate, please.

  • Michael Gillespie

    Malcolm Redfellow
    Before going off the deep end I would advise you to study Trudeau’s Constitution Act. With that Act British Colombia is now an historical anachronism as in Post Trudeau Canada, Canada is Canadian not British. The Irish and the Scots should take a leaf out of the Australia Act and Trudeau’s Constitution Act when it comes to identity and independence. If you can’t understand that I can’t make it any simpler.

    Congal Claen

    You fail to understand what I’m writing about which is the British/Irish constitutional problem which began in the 18th century not with Julius Caesar. I have said what I’ve to say about that and I’ve nothing further to add except this. A parallel to the British/ Irish constitutional conflict can be found in the Spanish/Basque constitutional conflict. The Basque people are constitutionally Spanish and constitutionally the Spanish and the Basques are one people and being under the political control of Spain the Basque territory is a colony of Spain in strict dictionary terms. The Basque people are unhappy with this constitutional set-up and in the 20th century the Basque people have asserted a Basque identity and have demanded separation from Spain. This has resulted in violence just like the British/Irish constitutional conflict which continues in violence in our own times. It is my thesis that this conflict can be resolved by changing U.K. constitution to a Federal Kingdom Constitution

    Zig 70— An Irish Royal Line and an Irish monarchy. An Irish Crown is a huge complex constitutional issue but this is dealt with fully and in depth at and can be found by typing my name into the search engine.

    Michael Gillespie Federal Unionist-Early Sinn Fein

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Michael,

    I do get your point. I just disagree. Bringing up the Basque point actually highlights the issue as I also don’t regard the Basque region as a colony of Spain.

    Like nation, state or country I don’t think there is a one size fits all definition of a colony. I believe those who use it in the context of Ireland, Scotland or Wales, or indeed the Basque region, do so to inflate difference out of all proportion to that which exists.

  • Michael Gillespie

    Hi Congal

    We’ll have to agree to disagree on what a colony is. For me that is an issue of no importance. A major issue of importance is the historic British/Irish constitutional problem which still causes bloodshed and violence and has resulted in the cruel murder of Ronan Kerr and a host of others in our time. As I see it the Irish/British problem is a constitutional problem and can only be resolved constitutionally. As already noted in a previous comment the resolution of this violent problem lies in the reform of the U. K. constitution to the Federal Kingdom constitution of the Sovereign Nation of Ireland and Great Britain. A Federal Kingdom Constitution might even bridge the divide between the Basques and the Spanish. This form of resolution fully recognises the close similarity between the British and the Irish and because of that a written constitution for all Ireland can be drafted expressed in the National Government of Ireland Act making the Crown the elected reformed Head of State in Ireland. This written constitution could be made as acceptable to the Catholics of Kerry as to the Protestants of Derry.

    I thank you for your replies.

    Michael Gillespie Federal Unionist-Early Sinn Fein

  • separatesix

    Framer you claim unionists only exist to keep out of a united Ireland I don’t believe that’s true, perhaps for “little ulster nationalists” but not for a proper unionist.

  • separatesix

    Can never understand Irish republicans supporting Basque separatism surely it goes against everything they stand for, a northern region of Spain declaring itself a country and all, surely republicans would believe in a united Spain, maybe they’re too willing to support every international sedition group no matter if it conflicts with their own dogma.

  • Michael Gillespie

    Some Comments on what I’ve written in Slugger stick out in my mind as humorous such as — No Irishman would vote for the Crown. A friend of mine who read my novels on the British/Irish problem remarked that— No one in Ireland would vote for anything with the word Kingdom in it. These people ignore the over one million loyalists in Ireland who are loyal to the Crown in varying degrees of intensity. They are also ignorant of the fact that loyalty is a praiseworthy human attribute be it loyalty to spouse, family, church, organisation or the Crown. The expression of loyalty is a basic human right which cannot be suppressed as loyalty to the Crown would be in a Republic. In the 26 county Republic the expression of loyalty to the Crown has been trampled underfoot and crushed out of existence so that loyalists are now as scarce on the banks of the Shannon as Sioux Indians are on the Banks of the Mississippi.

    In my view all of this is due to the widespread misconception in Ireland that the nature of the Crown is bound up with Queen Elisabeth’s genes. That is not the case. The nature of the Crown is determined by definition drawn up in Acts of parliament over the centuries. Since the nature of the Crown is definitional and not genetic it is feasible in the Proposed National Government of Ireland Act to give a definition of the Crown in relation to Ireland that is acceptable to and doesn’t offend the sensitivities of the Irish. This task can be looked at in the suggested National Government of Ireland Act which can be designed as a written constitution for Ireland within a Federal Kingdom. This suggested Act which is over 20,000 words in length, has the same intent as The Australia Act and Trudeau’s Constitution Act for Canada and can be found at by typing my name into the search engine.

    Michael Gillespie Federal Unionist-Early Sinn Fein.

  • JR

    I looked at this thread when it was first posted and tried to comment without making reference to Northern Ireland. I can’t. I would say there isn’t a nationalist within Northern Ireland who doesn’t wish the Scottish well in their bid for indipendance or a Unionist who wouldn’t prefer them to remain in the union.

    All this crap about the crown is nonsense. The referendum will come down to Scottish confidence and the level of their own self belief. I think the Scottish have always had an inferiority complex. Believing deep down that they have an inabilaty to look after themselves. That they need the english to take their taxes and natural resources then deal it back to them in Infrastructure spending and welfare.

    Whether or not Alex Salmond can manage to inspire the Scottish with a level of self belief that they have not had in generations remains to be seen.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi JR,

    The difference though is that should Scotland go independent or remain in the union there won’t be a rump of citizens totally opposed to the point of armed conflict. I’m no expert on Scotland, but I’ve heard that some of the SNP’s main support comes from “Orange” voters. Inconceivable here. I think that should demonstrate to Irish nationalists that that is the way to change things. Ironically enough, 1916 has partitioned this country for the forseeable future.

  • JR

    Agreed Congal,

    The Dumfriese and Galloway Voulinteer Force (DFGVF) dosent have the same ring as the UVF did.

  • Michael Gillespie

    Hi JR

    You seem to say that loyalty to the Crown doesn’t matter in Scotland. I don’t agree. It does. If an honest referendum was put to the Scots asking them if they are loyalist or Republican the vast majority would say Loyalist. A referendum that doesn’t take that into account will be a constitutional disaster in an independent Scotland just as an independent Republic of Ireland that would crush Loyalists out of existence proved to be a constitutional disaster in Ireland. However what will probably happen is that some sort of S.N.P. muddle will be put to the people of Scotland and we will have to wait to see the outcome of the muddle.

    IN my judgement a clearly stated fair referendum for Scotland would take the following form: –

    Do you wish Scotland to be: –

    (a) A sovereign independent nation with a Republican constitution?

    (b) A sovereign independent nation under the Crown like Australia or Canada with The Scotland Act as its constitution.

    A nation must have a constitution. Such a referendum would place a clear rational choice before the people of Scotland for a constitution for an independent Scotland irrespective of the psychological characteristics of the Scots whatever those characteristics may happen to be.

    Michael Gillespie Federal Unionist-Early Sinn Fein