A friend pointed out to me in Belfast yesterday that whilst Sinn Fein has its outreach project to the south to keep it’s support engaged and happy, Unionism seems to be making very little contribution to the devolution max versus independence debate in Scotland, and more recently, London.
The Scots themselves have been out looking at other pre-existing relationships that Scotland might take up, albeit short of full independence (which is increasingly popular), in order to hammer down realistic options. The excellent Caledonian Mercury (See here for the provenance of the title)
…senior SNP strategists are delighted that someone has at last come up with a formula for “devo max” which is cogent, coherent, workable and virtually autonomous.
Ever since Alex Salmond said he wanted the option of “independence lite” or “devo max” put on the ballot paper as an alternative to independence, there has been confusion as to what this might mean.
The Isle of Man may well provide that answer. The island, as is also the case with Jersey and Guernsey, is virtually autonomous, controlling all fiscal levers including tax rates and only relying on the UK for immigration rules and defence.
Jersey and the Isle of Man have control over customs and excise, postal services, telecommunications and social security, yet remain self-governing dependencies of the British Crown.
Firming up a radical solution within the union, is a canny move. No doubt the SNP will push for full independence, but because they are close to the only party energetically framing the terms of both sides of the equation, even a loss could be seen as a gain.
One has to ask, where are the Unionists? There is some evidence that Unionism in London are showing signs of awakening to the implications of the constitutional question.
But little sign that those with the most front line experience are showing more than a detached engagement with an issue that could see Northern Ireland even further out on edge than before.