With Clare English. Where next for the UK’s future? English said, “Since union 1707, 300 years ago, there has been a largely stable relationship?” (Mmm really? Apart from riots, rebellion, hangings, clearances, deportations, battles,
“In 2014, Scots rejected indy by 55.3%. what now is the settle will? Scots have little affinity with Johnson’s government.” Questions: between votes and the law; what is the UK? Move away from union; control over indy vote; Constitutional chess.
Ciaran Martin: Civil servant, Oxford Professor, constitutional director for the Referendum 2014 and from Northern Ireland. We need trusted and impartial government. progressive unionism.
Tom Devine – Eminent Scottish historian asked, How has the nation changed; concede nationalists? Is threat of nationalism receding. We need cool heads and rational thinking.
*Ciaran Martin – ‘Remaking the British State,’ He said there is now a lull but there will be soon be constitutional chess games. Holyrood will request a Section 30 request which will be refused and end up in court. Scottish government will loose. There will be stalemate and a clash of mandate and law, an existential crisis. Something has to give.
He asked, what is the union? There is a lack of consensus and understanding, and a lack of any constitution. He recommended Michael Keatings book, State and Nation in the UK. There is two competing sovereignties, and a contested Scottish narrative – one the source of authority; the other multi-national with Scottish nationalism considered self-indulgent.
With union, Martin claims Scotland retained a strong sense as a nation, and never became a region. After Ireland left, Britain has allowed itself to break up. Northern Ireland agreement 1998 allowed to vote to leave. Most “countries” will not allow any break up. (BUT is Britain a country, surely it is a state?) Serious ministers will block any meaningful path to break up and the union will be based on force of law. Still unclear, struggle between mandate and law. The stakes will then be tested in the court of pubic opinion. Union an imagined construct: a political construct first.
Poll supporting Scottish indy show 48% support is a serious threat. Over the decade 2011-2021 shows an increase of 10-15% in indy support. Long way to go, but there will be an existential reckoning. Votes not laws. He discussed the health of the nation and how to expand support for the union. George Osborne and his Project Fear treated Scotland as a possession and worried about loosing face on the world stage, is not an enduring policy.
1. Muscular unionism – British nationalism, cultural pageantry, views devolution as a disaster. The internal market bill and taking back devolved powers and the Scottish hubs, means a marginalization of Scottish voices. But don’t forget who is paying for the UK.
2. Federalism - Is not achievable with the dominance of England. After Brexit there is no desire to spate into smaller pieces.
3. Progressive unionism - The English want to preserve status quo. Best of both worlds slogan 2014 – is devolution settlement still viable - BBC, NHS - ways of dealing with tensions. Does Westminster support devolution? Even Wales feels London is hostile to devolution settlement. A British state remade?
May Elections 2021 – “The union is in greater peril than at any time in my life time,” Gordon Brown. Devine says, “ The union is in greater peril since Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his Jacobite army invaded England to remove Hanoverians and to break the union!”
August 2021. London press and media’s conventional wisdom is that Scottish nationalism is on the ebb. That the Scottish government is parochial and incompetent, on ferries to drugs, so how can they run a sovereign nation? There has been a slight decline in the Pro indy polls (vaccine bounce?)
There is a state of Armistice at present with no battle going on, a truce – no judgement. What is the long term for the constituent parts. I'm not sure this is entirely true, as the Unionist are plotting heavily how to undermine Scotland Devolution settlement of 1997. Scotland has always retained control of its education, health, laws and kirk.
The UK, under the spotlight. Historians look at the long term view, the demographic one, shows 2020, those under 40, 70% regard the union as over.
The Grim reaper is on the side of Scottish national party. Two major issues, one is the Brexit vote – the first time Scottish opinion on major issues was denied. The other is a demographic one 2020 – because of the under 40s, 70% regard the union as over.
Sadly Devine’s time was cut short, while he did cover other issues in the Q & A session and he was keen to allow time for that. Martin asked, what other country allows itself to be broken up? What does this statement mean? Ireland considers itself a nation with a long history and distinct culture – as does Scotland and England. But Britain is a state much like Scandinavia and not a nation!
Tom Devine and Ciaran Martin: Our Nation’s Future EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL BOOK FESTIVAL 2021 - https://www.edbookfest.co.uk/the-festival/whats-on/ciaran-martin-with-tom-devine-where-next-for-the-united-kingdom