The problem has been now for more than a century that proposals for a more nuanced Unionism have never gained traction and themselves frequently slapped down by the argument that “now is not the time”.
From the time of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s government in 1906 the arguments have been made that Home Rule needed to be done properly, applied in both Ireland and Scotland and with appropriate consequential codification and reform of the British constitution. Sir Henry’s death, the first World War and Irish independence successively prevented any progress in that era, nor have such arguments managed to make it into the mainstream since.
The blue face-painting stereotype is of course reflected in the equally un-nuanced Union Flag-waving stereotype. This was lampooned long ago by Rudyard Kipling in Stalky & Co (1899); in The Flag of their Country the ultra-patriotic Raymond Martin MP is dismissed as a “jelly-bellied flag flapper”.
There is an unpleasant imperialist nostalgia that remains on the Conservative benches in the House of Commons, more in evidence since the Johnsonite putsch and more capable of steering debate in unproductive channels. Just as the Nationalists need to disavow their more xenophobic, ethno-nationalist supporters, so the more moderate Unionist politicians need to distance themselves from the simplistic putdowns of which Joyce McMillan complains and show how constitutional reform within the Union might repair the current democratic deficits.
Unfortunately, too much of political life seems to have been trapped into a model where false binary antagonisms and stereotyping of opponents as extreme have become the norm and serious development of policy a rarity.
Dr Anthony Birch, Dunblane, Stirling
Unionists’ trump card
I read Joyce McMillan’s column with interest and anticipation but was ultimately disappointed.
I expected to be informed about the “same old propaganda” Unionist arguments from 2014. However, Joyce failed to mention the “Unionist propaganda” argument that still trumps all others. Currently Scotland has an unsustainable fiscal deficit. The Nationalist government relies on a £15 billion fiscal transfer from “Westminster” to fund public spending.
This is where Scotland seceding from the UK would start from. The Nationalists would have to resort to tax increases and public spending cuts to reduce this deficit.
Why do the separatists avoid asking and answering the important economic questions about their “independence” fantasy?
James Quinn, Lanark, South Lanarkshire
Nicola Sturgeon categorically states an independent Scotland would join the common travel area, which, possibly anachronistically, still allows for the free flow of people between Ireland and the UK (without Westminster and indeed Ireland's view, how she claims this with certainty is surprising, but that's another matter).
The arrangement has allowed vast numbers of Irish citizens to settle in the UK over a hundred years, particularly during long periods when the Irish economy struggled and UK economy outperformed it. It's understandable Sturgeon would seek essentially to retain the status quo since if, as many forecast, a lengthy economic downturn north of the border followed cessation, unemployed, financially-strapped Scots, stripped of the Barnett formula comfort blanket, could simply move to work in the former UK (snd remember, looking many years ahead, EU membership offers slim job prospects for almost all Scots, fluent only in English).
If a future UK government really wanted to play tough in negotiations with a new secessionist Edinburgh government, how about if it refused to allow Scotland to join the common travel area? Should Westminster's attitude be “you've made your bed, now lie in it”? Or put another way, yours and future generations’ job prospects are now limited almost exclusively to Scotland.
Martin Redfern. Melrose, Scottish Borders
Hugh Pennington’s paean to the Union’s benefit for science (Letters, 16 June) refers to a bygone age when the Scottish educational system, established prior to the Union, was far superior to that in England. At the time of the Union, Scotland had five universities compared to England’s elitist Oxbridge two which maintained very conservative curricula until the mid-19th century.
Today’s reality is that Scottish universities are suffering from the consequences of the cancellation of the Erasmus student exchange scheme and the UK’s decision to leave Horizon Europe, which is the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation with a budget of 95 billion euros.
As both Labour and the Lib Dems have given up on returning to the EU, an independent Scotland would appear to be the only way forward if we want to maintain international co-operation.
Also, until an independent Scotland returns to the EU there will be no meaningful border with England, by which time I suspect the rump of the UK will have come to its economic senses and caved in to the single market and freedom of movement, even if they don’t re-join the EU. In any event, as Scotland is one of England’s largest export markets and the rest of the UK needs Scotland’s energy supplies they can't afford to be difficult over any border issue.
Fraser Grant, Edinburgh
As ithers see us
What a fool SNP MSP Angus Robertson is. Highlighting the fact that Conservative MSPs Stephen Kerr and Craig Hoy are list MSPs he said “you had an election loser telling the government what the people of Scotland have or haven’t voted for”.
If that's the case he should reflect that his party's jumped-up referendum mandate rest on the total of 34,000 constituency votes that his six Green colleagues got from Scotland's 4.3 million registered voters.
Talk about seeing oursels as ithers see us!
Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire
It really is time the claim by Nicola Sturgeon and her supporters that the SNP has “an undisputed mandate” to hold another divisive referendum is put to bed.
Based on the voting results from last year’s Holyrood election, the figures for pro-Union v pro-separation votes are so close (less than one per cent) that no party can claim to have an “undisputed mandate”.
At the Scottish council elections this year, the number of pro-separation parties councillors elected was 488 and pro-Union parties councillors elected was 583. These figures do not include Independent councillors elected. There is no mandate and Ms Sturgeon and her followers should drop the claim.
The First Minister’s desire is for a “wealthier, happier and fairer” Scotland and she wants to hold a referendum to achieve this. She has had seven years to create a “wealthier, happier and fairer” Scotland and has spectacularly failed on each of these aspirations. The bile, divisions and rancour which nationalism/separation has created is a stain on Scotland and its people – it is not a “happy” place.
Once the real facts and figures of the SNP proposals are known – if we ever get the real facts – Scotland will see what a dire future is ahead of an independent country. After all, Andrew Wilson keeps telling us: “independence will be hard”, just how “hard” none of them will tell us – and why would any government want to make life “hard” for its people?
Douglas Cowe, Newmachar, Aberdeenshire
Life after death
Anne Witton of Solas (“Who is really going to be interested in our digital footprint after a century?”, Scotsman, 14 June) rehearses the belief of Christians that they will have everlasting life.
"Life after death” makes as much sense as “life before birth” (pace reincarnation). We live in our bodies and can't survive without them.Nevertheless, Christians live in the hope they believe Jesus gave them.
However, are they aware that the resurrected are to be sexless (Matt 22:30) and will live, not in heaven but on a reconstructed Earth where life is easy with no mountains, spending their time praising God forever? What a dismal prospect.
In truth this is a Pharisaic delusion derived from other ancient religions. Life here has no purpose other than survival.
Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh
So Boris is considering “not replacing” the ethics advisor following the resignation of Lord Geidt (Scotsman, 17 June)?
It’s not surprising, given that he took any notice of what Lord Geidt advised in the first place, that now he is changing the “rules” to get the “vitally important function” to suit his own view of what is right and wrong.
Lord Geidt as a man of honour properly quit after applying ethics to himself due to ministerial interests.
I suppose that it’s now a case of Boris changing the system to cover up oversight of what shreds of ethics remain at Westminster. If you don’t like the tune, shoot the piper.
John Cutland, Kirkcaldy, Fife
It was claimed on BBC news earlier this week that it could take several months for Boris to replace his ethical adviser.
This will clearly suit him down to the ground. The last thing the PM wants is ethical advice!
Dr SR Wild, Edinburgh
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