CHARLIE GREGORY looks at the independence debate from an often neglected point of view: that of the English.
I am a Unionist at heart. I see the union of Scotland with England and Wales as a marriage. A happy marriage beats all the alternatives. It is an institution that has stood the test of time.
But many marriages fail. Sometimes one of the partners finds that their role is unfulfilling. They believe that they would be happier elsewhere. There comes a time when they can no longer hide their feelings. That is when the nagging starts. At that stage, the continual bleating of the discontented partner becomes an irritant for their mate. Squabbles become quarrels. Each says the other is doing them down. The situation starts to become intolerable. They toy with the idea of divorce.
It looks to me as if the marriage of England and Scotland has reached that stage. In a recent survey, the polling firm Survation put the following question to a random selection of English voters, “Should Scotland quit the UK?” In answer to that, 40% of those English people said, “No.” But then 29% said, “Yes,” and 31% said, “Don’t Know.” Which seems to mean that 60% of English voters either want Scotland to quit the UK or do not care one way or the other. Dodgy!
It was not always like that. I remember when the English were proud of their partnership with Scotland. So, why has English enthusiasm for the Union cooled in recent years?
Well, in a marriage, the gripes of the discontented partner eventually begin to grate on their spouse. And, over the last 25 years, there has been a constant clamouring by the Scots for evermore independence. Which, put another way, is for more separation from England. At the same time, the media has continually bombarded the English with a stream of Scots, bleating about the raw deal they get. Nationalists, elected to Westminster, would announce that they were off to London, “To see what they are doing with our money.” Along with this, came the accusation of the English stealing Scottish oil. Which was very confusing for the average bloke in Salford and Plymouth, who did not realise that it was Scottish oil or that he had pinched it. He resented the accusation.
In the end, after years of complaining, some of it justified, the Scots got Devolution. The blokes in Salford and Plymouth thought that was the end of the matter. But it was not. The Scots, through that same media, appeared to be forever crying out for a bigger chunk of the cake. At the same time, they wanted the English to have less say in how they devoured the cake. From the English point of view, the Scots were a crowd of malcontents. You could never satisfy them.
Now the Scots have put their cards back on the table. They are clamoring for a divorce. The cheekier ones are even muttering about Devo Max – which, on the face of it, is an independent state funded by England. The response to that might be as amusing as the suggestion.
South of the border, a YouGov poll found that people think the Scots are already getting a better deal than the English are. They think it has already gone far enough. The English, through that same media, see spending in Scotland mushrooming at their expense. They see a Westminster government overloaded with Scots. They resent the West Lothian Question and the fact that English students have to pay to attend Scottish universities when others do not. I am sure that all these points are arguable and that the Scots can make a good case. But the English will take a lot of convincing. That is the way it goes in a shaky marriage.
So what can we do about it? Well, once a marriage is in trouble the only way to save it is by a massive change of attitude by both parties. Instead of insisting that I am X and you are Y and this bit is mine and that bit is yours, the couple must ask themselves, “What can I put into this partnership to make it work? How do we move forward as a team?” If they are not willing to do that, they might as well start discussing the divorce now. What is the point of winding each other up any further?
In my view, only a transformation in the way people, on both sides of the border, view the UK, will save it. To achieve that, the message would have to be broadcast relentlessly about the strengths of the Union and what, as a United Kingdom, we have done for the world during the last three centuries. For starters, we delivered freedom by being a major force in the defeat of Napoleon, Kaiser Bill and Adolf Hitler. We were the powerhouse that gave the world the Industrial Revolution. Through our explorers and adventurers, we developed the biggest trading empire the globe has ever known. In turn, that empire gave the world a language that has broken down international barriers. And to this day, the legacy of that empire is the biggest movement and mixing of people in history. The UK taught the world how to establish representative government. It gave them banking systems. It gave them team games and taught them team spirit. British do-gooders, together with the Royal Navy, were instrumental in defeating the Atlantic slave trade. The British Empire broadcast the idea of liberty and equality to the point where its own subjects, across the world, demanded freedom. But they did not disown it. They did not go away. They became The Commonwealth.
That idea of liberty and equality should strengthen a partnership not break it up. We need a sea change in approach. Unfortunately, the wind and tide are wrong.
Charlie Gregory is a published author and poet. His latest publication ‘The Under Manager’ can be bought online through Amazon. Alternatively, read some of his poetry on his blog. Charlie is an Englishman who, prior to devolution, lived in Wick, Caithness, for 16 years. He has a Scottish wife and three Scots-born children. He is a non-political floating voter, but does have opinions.
82 thoughts on “The wind and tide are wrong”
We know the English view Cameron gave us it yesterday and if someone doesn’t wake up that’s who will decide the referendum – Cameron & Salmond and nobody else will get a say.
As we used to say in the yards “Ootsiders are stuffed”
“To achieve that, the message would have to be broadcast relentlessly about the strengths of the Union”
OK, Charlie, what are the strengths of the union? Can you give examples of how Scotland benefits?
Population – England 50-odd million
Scotland 5-6 million
Wanna punch above your weight?
I’d prefer Scotland to take care of it’s people instead of “punching above our weight”. 1 in 5 Scots children are living in poverty and fuel poverty has hit the lowest income families the hardest, literally leaving thousands with the stark choice of “heat or eat”.
I don’t care about being powerful on the world warmongering stage. I do care that our most vulnerable citizens are being punished so Westminster can continue using military force against civilians in other countries.
We must protect our own people first, politicians are the elected representatives of our electorate, time they remembered they work for us, it’s our taxes that pay their wages!
it’s good to see views from the other side occasionally – tae see oorsels as ithers see us. The Union has, in the main and in the past, been a force for good in the world and you can list many of things to attest to this.
However, we are now at a point where one in five children in Scotland are living in poverty and being Scottish means you have the lowest life expectancy in Europe.
To carry on your analogy of a marriage, if one partner and their children are being deceived, neglected and abused after 300 years of marriage, what is the likelihood things will improve WITHIN the marriage?
The only sure option for a safer and better life for the abused partner and children is to take charge of their own destiny and file for divorce.
Abused partner? Hmmm…
If you stay, the chances are that things won’t improve for you, anymore than they will for the other partner. Unless… unless both partners want to give a bit more to each other. That’s where improvement starts.
But, if that’s the way that you, personally, feel about this particular marriage, maybe you should look for a way out.
There can be no rigid right and wrong here.
So – go for what you see as the best life for the bairns.
And the best of British!
Read you blog with respect Mr Gregory. Unfortunately, you summed it all up with your statement “the English will take a lot of convincing” – this is always the case the bigger, stronger, wealthier partner always assumes they are right. You are right there is much argument,mainly caused by unionist, mostly unfortunately Labour, propaganda. All of their flimsy, brittle points regarding the non-viability of Scottish Independence have been shot down and they are now left supporting the policies of a Tory Government who care nothing for Scotland and little for England beyond the City of London. Scottish Labour (a misnomer in reality and technically) need to position themselves for post-independence Scotland and I hope they do but current activities suggest otherwise!
Go for it,
Your last statement is a bit of a canard.
There is no equality and also no liberty.
The domination of Westminister over Scotland
is coming to an end. The ideas of free education, free medical care, free care for the elderly and vunerable, etc. are what Scotland believes in and that is where we are going to part company with Westminister rule.
And pay for…
Hello Charlie – an interesting take on the subject, however……
…..maybe those ‘bleating’ Scots you talk about were not bleating, but were actually raising valid concerns about the state of the relationship? As for the average bloke being confused about Scottish oil, maybe they should read more than the tabloids to widen their understanding of the subject.
I need to say if a couple sat down and asked how they can move forward ‘as a team’ I would suggest their marriage is in SERIOUS trouble already! Unless of course the conversation was accompanied by a flip-chat and power-point demonstration graph showing ‘the way forward’ 🙂
Seriously though – at least you suggest broadcasting the strengths of the Union. I can’t wait, since no other unionist on here appears to have the answer (‘stronger together’ does not count as an answer)!
And it may (or may not) be admirable what the UK has done for the world (depends on your viewpoint of course) but maybe you can ask what the union, or new labour in particular, has done for the people of the east end of Glasgow, or Possil or Easterhouse?
Do you really think folk will say, ‘My God we defeated Napoleon – now THAT’S a reason to keep the union’?
Im sorry Charlie but as I read your 2nd last paragraph I could hear ‘land of hope and glory’ in the background.
So im afraid, once again, we get a speech with no substance – words and rhetoric – but nothing about what you will do NOW for Scotland.
When my two close friends got divorced a couple of years ago they both had come to realise it was invitable for some time, they sat down, discussed the break-up, and now, they get on well and are both happy with themselves! Oh, and they both agreed fair and equitable separation of property and finances.
How does that sound?
Listen Mate, I’m not against divorce. If we don’t love each other let’s go our own way.
But you do make my own point for me… “What will you do now for Scotland?”
Answer… Nothing… What Scotland gets out, should be a reflection of what Scotland puts in!
Hi Charlie. I assume you have not intentionally misinterpreted the comment made by NayLAbour when he said “What will you do now for Scotland?”
The question is clearly asking how the continued Union is of benefit to Scotland now and in the future, rather than merely over the past 300 years. If you can not outline a real advantage to Scotland remaining part of the Union, it is difficult to see why it should not return to being an independent country. I don’t see too many examples of independent countries trying to form unions with larger neighbouring countries so independence can’t be that bad!
Mr Buchan has interpreted my question correctly, and im surprised you have not.
As for ‘Listen Mate’…..! That’s a bit aggressive is it not MATE 🙂
Are you suggesting Scotland does not put enough in? If that really was the case Cameron would happily wave us goodbye instead of his pathetic ‘promise’ that he might consider giving us more powers.
The unionists seem increasingly desperate by the day to keep us freeloaders!
So I still wait for an answer to the question ‘what benefit is the union to Scotland’? And don’t worry if you can’t answer, you follow an illustrious line of fellow unionist who can’t either.
Mr Buchan has interpreted my question correctly, and im surprised you have not.
As for ‘Listen Mate’…..! That’s a bit aggressive MATE 🙂
Are you suggesting Scotland does not put enough in? If that really was the case Cameron would happily wave goodbye instead of his pathetic ‘promise’ that he might consider giving us more powers.
So I still wait for an answer to the question ‘what benefit is the union to Scotland’? And don’t worry if you can’t answer, you follow an illustrious line of fellow unionists who can’t either.
Unionists seem increasingly desperate by the day to keep us freeloaders!
If Cameron cared as much about the Union as Charlie, and yesterday he claimed to care ‘head, heart and soul’ He would recognise England. Create an English Parliament and develop a Federal Union. He prefers to ignore England and bribe the Scots to stay.
Great Article, well written. I assume Scotland is supposed to be the whinging partner who has been moaning for years. I also assume therefore that the union is the selfish partner who fails to listen or acknowledge their Spouses needs.
Totally agree with the sentiment that “That idea of liberty and equality should strengthen a partnership not break it up.” Pity The UK government of Margaret Thatcher would struggle to spell equality. Pity The UK government now has a policy of taxing the poor to serve the rich. No-one stands up for the little guy anymore. This used to be the job of Labour, but thanks to Ed Milliband the relationship with the Unions is on it’s knees. To use your marriage analogy, another example of Westminster politicians failing to listen to their loved ones.
Interesting website too. Much like the Labour leader in Scotland it ignores the important Labour issues of the day, like ten councillors resigning in the last month, and instead is happy to have a pop at the SNP. Very negative and never going to get you anywhere. (Just look at he tumbleweed rolling through the comments ection of most articles. It’s like a morgue in here!)
Good luck in a new and independant Scotland when it comes. I genuinely mean that. I hope Scottish Labour post the break up of the Union can be happily divorced from London and return to “Proper” Labour Politics. Less cuts and more powers for the workers. Labour, much like Scotland has a glorious past and the potential for a glorious future, but like Scotland that future is being held in check by ties with London.
Come on Labour voters, Independence will be good for you too!
I don’t want to to have a negative pop at the SNP. If the majority of people in Scotland want to get out, great! Go for it! That’s democracy.
I was trying to have a positive pop at the union, and using marriage as a loose comparison.
I honestly feel, that if most people in Scotland want to be in the UK – or out of it – that’s the way they must go.
Thanks for taking the time to reply.
Nobody should ever contemplate a change to the status quo (whatever that may be) for fear of being labelled a “malcontent”, seems to be your message Charlie.
I don’t understand your point about Devo Max Charlie. If anything it is precisely the opposite of “an independent state funded by England”. It’s not independence and the idea is to raise all revenues in Scotland and spend it in Scotland, discounting the joint military etc. It would completely end this myth that England “funds” Scotland.
And as for the argument that “The UK taught the world how to establish representative government”? Maybe that’s a lesson we should have learned ourselves. We’ve still got a completely unelected upper house and an unelected head of state, born into a golden cage of servitude.
I tend to agree with your point about a change in attitude but I disagree totally about the form that change should take. If we are to stay in the union, I think some kind of devo max would be the fairest and best way to bring about that change. It would stop a lot of the reasons for ‘malcontent’ on either side. It should stop the English feeling like Scots in Westminster are telling them what to do, it would stop them feeling as if they ‘fund’ us. And it would stop Scots feeling as if “the English are stealing Scottish oil” or that we’re often left with unwanted Tory governments. Where’s the problem with this?
What is not a good idea in my opinion is harking on about the past. History is history, it’ll always be there, it won’t change. What concerns people and what should concern people and our politicians is the present and the future. If yourself and other unionists can’t come up with a positive convincing argument for the future, what’s the point? To use your own analogy it would be like one partner asking the other “Why do you still love me?” and the other replying “Well I used to love you, remember all the good times we had together?” When it gets to the point that we don’t know why we’re together and nobody can articulate a reason why, divorce starts looking like a pretty sensible option.
Good points. I certainly agree about the upper house.
If Devo-max was explained to the English in that way, maybe the argument would go away. Dunno though.
And, yes, don’t harp about the past – let’s look at the future.
If we don’t know why we are together, it definitely needs looking at.
I don’t know if you’re married Gordon. But I am. It’s a bit like the Curates Egg. Good in parts. When it’s good, it’s very very good. When it;s bad it’s horrid etc.
At what stage do you deck off the bus?
Can we actually get a conclusive positive case as to what the Union does for Scotland TODAY in 2012 instead of drudging up the past such as Napoleon, World War 1/World War 2. I also see in your revisionist history of the British Empire you fail to mention it’s many barbarous atrocities such as:
The famines that killed between 12 and 29 million Indians. When an El Niño drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at the height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, officials were ordered “to discourage relief works in every possible way”. The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited “at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices”. The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. In the labour camps, the workers were given less food than inmates of Buchenwald. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.
As millions died, the imperial government launched “a militarised campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought”. The money, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan. Even in places that had produced a crop surplus, the government’s export policies, like Stalin’s in Ukraine, manufactured hunger. In the north-western provinces, Oud and the Punjab, which had brought in record harvests in the preceeding three years, at least 1.25m died.
Or how white settlers and British troops suppressed the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya in the 1950s. Thrown off their best land and deprived of political rights, the Kikuyu started to organise – some of them violently – against colonial rule. The British responded by driving up to 320,000 of them into concentration camps. Most of the remainder – more than a million – were held in “enclosed villages”. Prisoners were questioned with the help of “slicing off ears, boring holes in eardrums, flogging until death, pouring paraffin over suspects who were then set alight, and burning eardrums with lit cigarettes”. British soldiers used a “metal castrating instrument” to cut off testicles and fingers. “By the time I cut his balls off,” one settler boasted, “he had no ears, and his eyeball, the right one, I think, was hanging out of its socket.” The soldiers were told they could shoot anyone they liked “provided they were black”. Elkins’s evidence suggests that more than 100,000 Kikuyu were either killed or died of disease and starvation in the camps. David Anderson documents the hanging of 1,090 suspected rebels: far more than the French executed in Algeria. Thousands more were summarily executed by soldiers, who claimed they had “failed to halt” when challenged.
These are just two examples of atrocities overseen and organised by the British government or British colonial settlers; they include, for example, the Tasmanian genocide, the use of collective punishment in Malaya, the bombing of villages in Oman, the dirty war in North Yemen, the evacuation of Diego Garcia.
The British Empire was FAR FAR WORSE than the Third Reich and I for one am glad it’s dead.
Do you have nightmares?
Goths… Egyptians… Romans… Moguls… Vikings… Spaniards… French… Brits…. Russians… Germans…
Tell me a painless one. Empire is what happens. It’s a form of evolution.
Tesco is killing the high streeet.
But they give you points.
When Scotland Was Unionist:
A bad beginning. Hardly a happy marriage between two consenting partners. For one a marriage of convenience. For the other, dragged screaming to the alter if we accept that the latter was represented by the People of Scotland who rioted on the streets. The Minister concerned represented by Burns “Parcel of Rogues” Cerainly NOT a happy marriage and one where an agreed divorce bis long overdue.
There is a Union of the Crowns. There was a Union of the Parliaments until 1999. There has never been a union of the peoples. There is no marriage contract between the people of England and Scotland; and given the rise of anti-Scottish sentiment at Westminster, in Whitehall and in the English media never likely to be. Independence is inevitable, but we can still be good neighbours if the English truly want that.
I must hold issue with your statement that “Devo-max which on the face of it, is an independent state funded by England” were does that come from ? my understanding of devo-max is for Scotland to use its own revenue’s to run our country, and to share the costs of the armed forces and the foreign office with England. That statement is straight out of the “YOUR TO POOR” unionist propaganda, and that does not wash anymore.
And sometimes staying together just for the sake of staying together is wrong.
That’s a point that you’ve got to push.
We English haven’t got that message.
Dear Mr Gregory
Your list of reasons about why Scotland and England had a successful marriage consists entirely of reasons that applied during the time of the British Empire.
May I explore a little more recent history? During much of the time of Empire, the ordinary British folk didn’t have it quite so good, in fact many had it very bad indeed. After years and years of struggle, the British working people managed to found a political party to represent them in parliament – the Labour Party. Of course, Labout didn’t get into power immediately, but eventiually, after the second world war, the people of these islands decided they weren’t going to be cheated again as they were after the first war, so for the first time they elected a majority Labour Government. That government introduced all sorts of measures that helped ordinary people, and I am one of the beneficieries of the measures intoduced at that time; a National Health Service and free secondary education, to name just two. That social democratic system was so successful and popular that even the following conservative governments continued it.
But not indefinitley. The Thatcher government was voted in on predominantly English votes and demolished much of that post-war consensus. These acts were much more popular in England than in Scotland, bet eventually even the English had had enough and they switched once more to Labour. We all heaved sighs of relief.
But our relief was short-lived. To our horror, Blair’s and then Brown’s Labour governments proved to be almost as right-wing as Thatcher’s.
Given that Scots, to a much greater degree than the English, want a social democracy, what can we do? When you’re in a marriage, and your partner starts to behave in ways you find abhorrent, you first try to convert them back to how you used to be.
But if that fails, as it did in 2010, what choice do self-respecting people have? Divorce and a chance to live ours lives our way is the only solution more and more of us can see.
That’s your point of view and I can but respect it.
You make an important point when you say that, if you find your partner’s behaviour abhorrent then divorce becomes the only choice.
I repeat, “If your marriage is irreparable then get out. But you have to work at it first.”
I’m probably a unionist because I, personally, don’t think we are at the breaking up stage. And when I look round the world, and I have, I’ve not come across any other country, or group of countries, that I would rather belong to than the UK as it stands.
It’s not perfect. It’s got a lot of warts. It’s not even a true democracy. But where else and what else?
With a proper Scottish labour party?
“South of the border, a YouGov poll found that people think the Scots are already getting a better deal than the English are.”
Well, they’re right. We’re getting a better deal right now because we have actually done something (albeit something as simple as electing a party to government) in order to ensure our interests are looked after. The English could do the same, but only if they were independent, and their leaders were forced by the reduction in income to give up their neo-imperial “force projection” dreams. With Trident cancelled by necessity, and the lure of the hyper-expensive distraction of “compassionate colonialism” removed, the Westminster government would be forced to attend (at long last) to the domestic needs of it’s citizens.
The Empire was always a means by which Westminster and the aristocracy (still over-represented there) could get away with ignoring the needs of their own people and the desperate plight of the average Briton, by pointing to largely self-created dangers from abroad. It could also decant it’s young and agitated (and often unemployed, ocassionally starving) populace into the army, and station them all across the world, thus lessening the likelihood of internal revolution (which should have happened long ago, as it did in much of Europe).
Take away the Union, take away Great Britain, take away what remains of “our” imperial might, and we will all be forced to grow up a bit and look towards putting our own houses in order and taking care of our children’s futures, at long last. Which would be nice.
you are no doubt a gentleman, so would you not agree that a marriage is effectively over when the man uses fear to control the woman ?
If the woman decides she can’t take being treated so badly and bullied any longer, the man will often begin to beg her to stay and make wild offers that he will start listening to her and paying more attention to her.
If the woman gives these bullies another chance what happens ?
IT ALWAYS REVERTS BACK TO TYPE !!!!!
SAY YES OR WE WILL BE SORRY !!
(Scotland is always the woman, in all these analogies)
A very beautiful woman indeed.
But I don’t follow your bullying and fear analogy.
While your views are obviously heartfelt most of us in Scotland have moved on from defeating Napoleon and Hitler, if that was ever a coherent argument for the union.
We are now looking to the future in Scotland, we are asking Scots to vote for the future of their children and grandchildren, not the past of their father and grandfather.
Socialists in the twentys and thirtys grabbed the future with both hands because they saw something better going forward. They did not say we better stick with the Wiggs and the torys because we defeated Napoleon together, they saw something better and made it work. Pity todays socialists, if there are any left, do not have the same vision.
The future is what really matters.
A lot of people have criticized my use of history as an argument. And that’s fine by me. I was only trying to quote the past as a foundation on which to build, if you see what I mean.
But, sticking with the subject, it means that we have to forget Bannockburn too. In which case, why do the SNP want the referendum in 2014?
There are very few people in Scotland who did not know that the referendum would be in the second half of the five year parliament. Alex Salmond mentioned it in just about every interview he gave prior to 5th May.
The newspapers came up with the story that the vote would be on June 24th 2014 to coincide with the battle. That is where the Bannockburn myth came from.
Salmond mentioned it in the final TV debate. How is that EVERY interview before May 5th?
The whole Bannockburn thing is something which has been concocted by the newspapers. I haven’t seen one mention of Bannockburn by anyone in the SNP.
Scotland being subsidised by England – solution: independence
Scotland subsidising England – solution: independence
Scotland getting free this, that and the other – solution: independence
Scotland “forcing” Labour governments on England – solution: independence
Scotland being forced to have Tory governments – solution: independence
Scotland providing unpopular PMs and a Scottish Raj – solution: independence
Scotland causing resentment in England – solution: independence
The marriage metaphor is wearing thin as David Cameron tries to present himself as an honest broker but resorts to reverse psychology to tug at the heartstrings. Did he really say things would be “fairer” in the union ? Do his allies in the other Unionist parties agree ?
The United kingdom ‘marriage’ in four stages:
1603 – Scotland and England move in together (Union of Crowns)
1707 – Scotland and England get married (Treaty of Union)
1999 – Scotland moves into the spare bedroom (Devolution)
2014 – Scotland decides to move into a house of its own (Independence) but wants to stay friends so chooses to live next door.
I love this ‘we will still be great friends’ line. When it suits we are told that Scotland is ‘bullied’ and worse by our ‘future friends’. When is suits we are held back and abused for ‘our’ oil.
If you continue to throw abuse at our current friends and neighbours they will not wish for us to be their friends in future.
The simple reality is this:
You will not achieve a happy divorce unless both sides believe it is in their interests. If one walks away after throwing mud at their partner then it is not an amicable divorce now is it? If you talk up future friendships and create grievances on both sides of Hadrian’s wall then both sides will see divorce as the best solution as you have tried above.
The SNP are clearly trying to push this agenda; that we would both be better off because we are holding each other back. Nonsense. However it is their clear tactic to drive a wedge between the countries by cultivating grievances.
Just so our resident nats are aware: this is a NEGATIVE political tactic.
It is not inclusive, it does not create friendships and tolerance but rather breeds contempt and in some cases hatred.
The union has survived for so long, not because the big bad English have been able to keep us down for so long. No. It is because we have prospered and grown as a part of that union, as equals in its history and in many cases, the major architect of its future. The referendum in 2014 will give us the opportunity once more to shape the future on these islands and I beleive we will decide to shape that future together for another 300 years.
The proff of the pudding is in the figures
Denmark’s population has risen 100%
Norway’s population has risen 100%
New Zealand’s poulation has risen 300%
UK’s population has risen 40%
England’s population has risen 45%
Irish Republic’s population has amost doubled
Scotland’s popualtion has risen 7%
Stronger together, my arse
I like the marriage comparison, but I see it more as a couple who have become so familiar with each other that they have lost sight of the significant strengths each brings to the marriage.
Together, as Charlie points out, Scotland and England have – quite literally – changed the world. And often for the better. Our shared legacy should be a source of pride (Though, yes, there are things we should look at with sorrow, too).
Our Union is the most successful in history, but we are all so accustomed to it that we have lost sight of the many virtues, which allows those who would divide us to exploit the flaws.
There are differences of opinion in any successful marriage. Each partner brings their own unique talents and outlook and – in the best relationships – the resulting partnership is far greater than the whole.
Should Scotland (Or England) choose to secede from the Union, I do not expect either country to suddenly vanish into failure or destitution. Our economies are so entwined it is doubtless impossible to accurately predict what would happen, but it would not surprise me if we both continued to flourish in our own way.
The Unionist argument will be won, IMO, not by trying to create fear of the possible result of secession, but rather by saying “The two of us together have punched far beyond the capabilities of either of us apart for centuries now, and there is no reason we cannot keep on doing so.” Which, to me, is the absolute truth.
The choice for the Scots people should not be seen as a choice between success and failure, but rather as a choice between success alone or a greater success with the continuation of the most successful Union of nations in world history.
I don’t like the marriage comparison. Scotland is married to England and also Wales and also Northern Ireland? All at the same time? Lol. Is that even legal? We’re not Mormons!
But leaving that to one side, in the modern world most marriages are a partnership of equals. The days when most wives were reliant on their husbands to hand over a set amount of housekeeping money each week and the only autonomy they had was deciding how to spend the housekeeping are long gone. But that is the basic relationship that Scotland has with Westminster isn’t it? Just not sustainable whichever way you look at it. Whether people favour fiscal autonomy within some kind of enduring Union or whether they favour full independence the status quo is just not viable any more than a marriage which followed the norms of the Victorian era.
The United Kingdom is actually the union of the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland. The rest don’t actually count, as horrible as that sounds. You might consider Wales & NI the in-laws, I suppose! 😀
Your point is well made with the partnership of equals, though. I think the main difference between the Unionists and Nationalists may even be on this point: Unionists see us as equals; Secessionists (If I may coin the term) see a huge imbalance in favour of one nation.
But the Scottish Parliament and Westminster (and their respective governments) are not equals Elliot. That’s not really debatable surely? If the Scottish Parliament and Westminster had an equal level of power then we wouldn’t be having this debate. Independence wouldn’t even be an issue, would it? If the Scottish Parliament was sovereign what would people want independence from – or for? But it’s not. That’s the whole issue.
My apologies. I was obviously unclear. I do not mean that the Scottish and British parliaments are equal – of course they are not. The idea of the British parliament is to make the rules that govern the entire UK, after all.
I meant that I see Scotland & England as equal partners within the UK – which is to say the peoples, not the governments.
Scottish secessionists tend to argue that Scotland is subsidising the rest of the UK and getting a raw deal in return (Or just the raw deal part), while English secessionists argue that Scotland is being subsidised by England and that the English have a raw deal because Scotland has their own parliament to speak for them while England does not.
So there are two competing claims for who is subsidising who, neither of which seems entirely unquestionable. I prefer to put that aside, as I don’t think the question is so easily answered, anyway. There are areas within both England and Scotland that are far richer or far poorer than others, after all.
With both Scots and English feeling they have a raw deal because the other is getting more advantages than they are, something clearly needs doing to find out exactly where the truth lies and what can be done to deal with any actual problems.
But the idea of splitting the UK when no-one can seem to agree on where any actual inequality lies seems a little… well, precipitate, I suppose…
Yes Westminster has other powers. We send MPs there to represent us on the issues reserved to Westminster. I thought this was understood?
Oh wait… you’re implying that our voice isn’t listened to at Westminster aren’t you? We’re not equals because Holyrood doesn’t control everything that Westminster does?
It’s not where power lies that is important, it’s how it is used and as I said, we send MPs to use the powers held at Westminster and we send MSPs to Holyrood, Councillors to the Town Hall and MEPs to the EU Parliament to administer the powers held there.
Absolutely SPOT ON!
I see no need whatsoever to end our Union. To quote one of our members: ‘If it ain’t broke, why fix it?’
Nigel, the problem is that it’s very broke. And switching it off and back on again ain’t going to fix it this time. We need a complete reboot, with a new operating system and everything that entails.
Scotland is moving to Linux! Microsoft Windows is way too intrusive, and tends to monopolise everything.
“………….and what, as a United Kingdom, we have done for the world during the last three centuries.”
That says it all. The Union is history. Lets end it now and go our own seperate ways!
One thing that must be said about Charlie’s article, he is one of the few people who have came on the comments section and engaged with the people making comments and attempted to answer questions.
Thank you Charlie. If only the labour politicians who have recently posted on this sight, had your integrity.
It’s funny. You think you don’t count. But every little wave in the sea is pushed by the wave before it and feeds the wave in front. So speak your piece.
It would be nice if we got answers to questions when put to the nats on here rather than the usual:
I like the marriage theme.
If your partner beats you up after a few pints, do you try to talk to them in the morning, or tell them to f**k off?
We tried the talking method.
By raising the subject of abuse to women, i wasn’t trying to drag any Glasgow Labour party members into the discussion.
How have we been beaten up?
If you weren’t trying to make that point, as you claim, why mention it? Were you trying to be funny?
I suggest you retreat to your home under that stone over there –>
The only reason the English want rid of the Scots is they think they are subsidised, a view from westminster and the media that is out of hand.
If the English knew the real picture on debt and surplus and what the loss of taxation revenue would mean they would be scared.
As long as the Beeb in England and the Daily mail are their source of info a rational discussion on whether McCrone is still relevant today will never be had.
I do wish labour would come out in support of devo Max before May, it would save a gubbing. Keir Hardie would not be supporting the status quo, that is for sure.
If it is true that Lamont voted against devolution in 79 as the bill was so awful and the Tories promised a better one soon then she needs to make sure she does not fall for the same lines again as that can be used in a campaign aand might annihilate her.
A solution to what happened in Glasgow and Stirling so that the lunatics are not seen to be running the asylum would also be appreciated.
Why don’t some Unionists start by explaining the outrageous behaviour of Westminster politicians who concealed from Scots for 30 years the explosive content of the McCrone report which identified in 1975 that an independent Scotland would be one of the world’s wealthiest countries. Perhaps Mr Gregory could read it here and comment on it’s findings http://www.oilofscotland.org/mccronereport.pdf. Perhaps he could the read another similar report of concealment and treachery, also hidden away for more than 30 years which highlighted the effect on the UK treasury in the event of Scotland gaining it’s independence.
I have no doubt that there will be committees inside the Treasury at the present time preparing equally secret reports which, in view of the profligacy of successive UK government’s in the past 30 years will be even more explosive and which we will not see in our lifetime. I look forward to a response from Mr Gregory.
We ARE one of the world’s richest nations.
Charlie Gregory has hit the proverbial nail on the equally proverbial head with his well thought-out contribution. The failure to eradicate the terms Scotland and England is the main reason for the present constitutional crisis. We are British and I have, like Gordon Brown, always considered myself to be a North Briton. Unfortunately there are far too few people north and south of the border who are prepared to follow our lead. As long as they continue to call themselves Scottish or English, the Union wil just exist on paper and not in the hearts of North and South Britons. We in the Labour Party in Scotland committed the cardinal error of choosing the ‘Scottish Labour Party’ for the ballot papers, thereby distancing ourselves from a Union which is in desperate need of our support. The North-British Labor Party would have been much more appropriate, especially in the present climate.
Nigel Ranter, it is a shame that the West Britons and North-West Britons across the North-West British sea are getting so little input in this debate – for are they not every bit as British as the rest of us?
I think the whole issue of people in England believing that Scotland is subsidised is a perfect example of unintended consequences. Because politicians have never actually said that to people in England. But for decades and decades it has been the staple argument of unionist politicians in Scotland who have said don’t be crazy, Scotland can’t be independent, we wouldn’t survive without the subsidies that come from England. And some English people have been listening to that and so the idea has stuck.
How many politiciancs have said what you suggest? A handful I’m guessing. So a handful of politicians in the last 30 years have said something as stupid as you suggest and we should break up the union? Are you so thin skinned?
There has been 7 parliaments at Westminster in the last 30 years and thousands of MPs. It seems to me the majority of MPs have made no such remarks as it is foolish.
The line about ‘too poor, too weak etc etc etc etc ‘ is only ever brought up by nats. You LOVE that phrase as it is your way of attacking any argument that doesn’t suit your agenda. You don’t take the argument on and disprove it, you merely shout ‘scaremongering’ and the like. Somehow anyone who disagress is ‘anti-scottish’ or calling Scotland ‘too poor etc’.
Why don’t you stop using this line as no-one believes it.
As a new commenter and having been neutral but now swaying towards the Independence arguement, I would like to compliment you on the quality of debate on your article. This is something sadly lacking on many sights. On the SNP dominated pages, eg NNS, I was getting fed up wading through the shortbread and irn bru looking for answers to important questions. This I feel is the same frustration that many others have.
As I say, I am tending to come down on the side of the arguement for independence and wouldn’t dare to contradict some of your very knowledgeable contributors. I would however like to voice opinion on the future. As I see it, unless there is a killer tactic from the unionists, Scotland will become independent and that is when the real work will begin. Parties with any political ambition in Scotland should be planning now for this inevitability as, although many people are happy to follow the SNP banner for the moment to achieve independence, they will soon be looking for a viable opposition and different outcomes. My worry is that the dunderheids in the present alternative parties are no match for the mighty Eck now or in the future.
Your comment re the quality of the debate on Labour Hame. The cynic in me suspects that this is because by asking Charlie to write his article more comments than the norm are allowed.
I do agree with you however about reasoned arguments on both sides, and would congratulate Charlie on both his article and his measured responses to all sides of the debate.
Long may it continue.
There have been countless posts that reach over 100 comments so I don’t get your point.
Sorry, Charlie your views reinforce the People of Scotland’s views that the union is indeed past it’s sell but date. Your idea of a happy marriage is that of a dominant male treating your partner as a chattel. It has only ever been happy for England. You have ALL the misconceptions that stink of overlordship. Your claim the SNP were claiming, “The English are stealing our oil”, exposes your mental state that England & Westminster are one and the same. It is Westminster stealing the oil not the English. Again you view “DevoMax as, “an independent state funded by ENGLAND”. England has no parliament, no treasury and is funded with uncapped funds as, “THE UK”. Not only that but we Scots are subjected to exactly the same tax regime as the English taxpayer. In short, on a per capita basis, we are taxed the same. Perhaps you should learn a little basic arithmetic? When you do the sums you must identify the Expenditure and the Revenue, then balance the one against the other. By confusing England & the UK you cannot get a true answer. Here is a true answer. For 5 of the last 6 years the GERS, (Government Expenditure & Revenue, Scotland), figures prove that Scotland got less out than she put in. In that time the UK, as a whole, has racked up a national debt of £3 Trillion. We Scots are subsidising the WESTMINSTER treasury. You have other errors of confused thinking of England as the master. Fact is, The Westminster Parliament IS the de facto English parliament. That is why your perceived, “Happy Marriage”, has only SEEMED happy to those with that same misconception who lord it over Scotland.
I didn’t say that I perceived a Happy Marriage. I said that a happy marriage beats all alternatives.
Then I went on to say that many marriages fail, and then the situation becomes intolerable.
Then I said that England and Scotland seem to have reached that stage. i.e. The squabbling and quarrelling stage. That’s not happy.
Then I simply quote what I have actually observed over the years.
Maybe I’m a one off. I dunno.
As for your facts and figures, I can’t argue. I don’t know them. But, when England and Scotland get their independence, if they ever do, We’ll find out for sure.
No Indy, the marriage was only between England and Scotland in the Treaty of Union 1707. The explanation is that The England of that time included the English Princilality of Wales. The Prince is his parents subject, (or the English Monarch wore that crown too). As for Ireland, an act of the Irish Parliament, long before the treaty, place the Irish Crown on the English Monarchs head. Thus, when Jamie Saxt ascended the English throne to unite ALL four kingdoms at the Union of the Crowns, (1603), that formed the United Kingdom but with Scotland remaining with an independent parliament. The reason that the Union of the Monarchy had not united His/Her Majesty’s Parliaments is quite simple when you know why. \in England, Wales and Ireland the monarch is sovereign, (in fact is she still often called, “The Sovereign”, but in fact she is NOT the sovereign in Scotland. So uniting the crowns did not unite the countries into one country called England as joining the Welsh and Irish crowns had done. Since the Declaration of Arbroath the people of Scotland are sovereign and the Monarch is appointed by us as our Protector of our Sovereignty.
Two swift points in response to this excellent article. One is: a marriage leaves a lot of sadness if it ends. Noel Foy’s post makes a good point: whoever ends up winning this referendum surely has to make the effort to avoid triumphalism before or after, since a LOT of people are going to be seriously upset whichever way it goes. That point should be recognised by everyone, and I think that means folk putting themselves into the public sphere — including bloggers/commentators — need to speak and act responsibly.
Second point: I did notice in the papers yesterday that an SNP spokesman said that there should be no surprise if folk in NW England are envious about policy-decisions north of the border. That gave me pause, and maybe it should others. Many of the attacks above and elsewhere (e.g. by Indy) are on *Westminster*, not England per se, in a way which reminds me of attacks on Washington in US elections. Would it not be a better approach — in terms of solidarity — to stick with the brothers and sisters in the north of England rather than leaving them in the lurch to the tender mercies of the south-east corner? — and *help* push for greater devolution across the board? That is why I am a strong devolutionist (though I have to say I would prefer a better term than ‘devo-max’). And that would allow for us to develop a truly new social union, somewhere in which folk are all comfortable with multiple identities and can come together easily when they need to. I rather like the sound of that. It may even be positive!
J I’ve been saying this for a while. The setup of the union is not set in stone. It has evolved, grown, reduced, reserved power, devolved power and more thoughout its history.
We should refute the claims made by those opposed to solidarity, community and fighting for a common goal, that say the union is an old institution that has gone beyond the use by date. The facts are the union is a living thing that adapts to the times. When people ask what the union can do for us now we see a very recent example of what we can achieve within the union. In 1997 we voted to change our relationship with the rest of the union. This change was huge and the union survived it as it is able to adapt.
I want us to continue to change the union to make it fairer to the people who live within it. We can make a fairer Scotland, England, Wales and NI by working together to reform the UK and make it fit for the challenges that face us now.
You say “We can make a fairer Scotland, England, Wales and NI by working together to reform the UK and make it fit for the challenges that face us now.”
And when do you expect the ConDem Government at Westminster to start that ???????
A query, Davy: do you anticipate the “ConDem” government being there for ever? (It only appeared in 2010!) Can those of us who don’t share ConDem values not work TOGETHER to ensure that it doesn’t?
Unfortunately, the Labour Party appear to share and support the values and actions of the ConDems, if the views expressed by it’s leaders are anything to go by. Listen to Balls and Milliband. They ARE ConDems.
Folk really have to ask themselves about the how realistic Labour Party MPs are. Here is a quote frim “What’s Next for Labour?”
WILLIAM BAIN MP
“we must make global markets fairer and more resilient and transparent, we must show long-term leadership on the form of a sustainable diet which promotes better public health and environmental outcomes, and provide consequential subsidies in innovation and research that solve the conjoined challenges of increasing food production, but cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and taking care of the scare (SIC!!) resources of water and energy. If we do so, we can be confident of securing justice for this generation, and those to follow us.”
Hm. But, even if we accept Bob D’s argument (I’m not sure I do), then is it still right to leave our comrades in the many depressed parts of England in the lurch? Please do remember that England isn’t synonymous with Westminster.
Think about this: the NHS, rightly prized by Scots, was invented by a Welshman and put through under the government of a party, founded by a Scot (representing a Welsh constituency), whose PM was English. Can’t that kind of collective creativity and solidarity *ever* be found again? Or is that a single national identity, accompanied by arguably worrying claims about a particular nation’s exceptionalism, always trumps collective humanity? I find that a very depressing, negative analysis.
A positive and creative approach would be to develop an empowering localism within a rebuilt and cooperative union, emphasising solidarity and being comfortable with multiple identities. That is what devolution within the union means to me, and I think many folk would find such a vision attractive. Unionism has changed repeatedly and creatively over the last 500 years (it long predates 1707); it can do so again, if folk find the will to engage with it.
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