Monday, 15 September 2014

On Scottish (and Welsh) independence

Scotland goes to the polls for an historic referendum on independence in just a few days and an important question arises: What will the future of the UNITED Kingdom be?

I've mostly avoided politics on this website and keep this focused on writing, which was always my passion. I used to run a politics blog for five years, After leaving politics in 2005/6, I now try to avoid politics, particualry as I was foolish enough to support a mainstream UK political party at the time, but from time political issues still creep into our lives, and it's time to comment on it, for which I apologise for getting political.

I should state for the record that I am currently a unionist. Currently.

I'm going to post some text from 2007, when I outlined my ideal vision for a future of the UK.

Please note: these are my personal opinions only, and are not and may not be representative of any organisation, entity or body I am or have been associated with.
Firstly, I believe that more powers to the Welsh Assembly would be a good thing, on a par with the Scottish Executive.
Secondly, I believe wholeheartedly in the Monarchy and the Union. It is a United Kingdom in which we live, long may it remain so. Welsh independence is a folly that as a Unionist, I do not entertain.
I believe that England should also have an English Parliament, all with equal powers in line with Stormont, Edinburgh and Cardiff. The devolution experiment has worked, apart from the neglect of including England in the experiment. Placing the English Parliament in one of the heptarchies outside the SE England region may also help generate (or where needed, regenerate) the economy for the region. Furthermore, if regionalisation is to occur in England, let it occur along the lines of the old traditional heptarchies, not along imposed European regional lines such as the disastrous Labour campaign for a NE England Assembly (although though I don't forsee much call for a Wessex Parliament, or a Mercian Assembly).
Each of the respective nations would have their patron saint's day off as a Bank Holiday.
All of the United Kingdom would have God Save the Queen as the first anthem, followed by their relevant regional anthems, such as in Wales Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. As England doesn't have an anthem itself, the traditional hymn Jerusalem could be implemented as such.
Now the devolution experiment is firmly entrenched in the society of the UK, the constitution needs a rethink. As outlined above, I would propose four regional governmental bodies, that of N. Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and England, each with their own respective First Ministers (or whatever fancy title they'd get). Westminster would take on a new identity, that as the supra-governing body of a Federated and United Kingdom, under a Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, under the monarch. Perhaps it would be going too far to call it a United States of the British Isles, but I'm sure you get a clearer idea if I said that.
And that was my viewpoint in 2007. My idealistic goal would be to keep things like that, but things may desperately change, however, as Scotland goes to the polls in the next few days, on 18 September 2014, precisely 700 years after the independence-ensuring Battle of Bannockburn.

In just a few days, we are faced with the very real prospect of the break-up of the United Kingdom. I live in England, so I don't get a vote, but I have been following the debate closely. I personally am not seeing a strong enough argument put forward from the camp I support, the No to independence camp, and strong nationalistic tub-thumping from the Yes camp, There are talks of greater devolution being proposed by the No camp, the so-called "Devo Max" as a sweetener to persuade people to vote no, but still there is not enough clarity. There is great uncertainty in choosing independence, but the No campaign should be throuoghly ashamed of themselves in not actually presenting the positive arguemnts in preserving the Union, and instead focusing on scaremongering about the prospect of having independence.

I have given up trying to keep track of opinion polls, Yes up here, No up there, No down here, Yes down there, everywhere undecided. The result will come and it will be what it will be. If  on the morning of the 19 the choice is no, then talks have to begin to publicly clarify what the reward/sweetener of Devo Max will be. This will have drastic consequences, as the Cornish (a protected and recognised minority) will rightfully demand greater autonomy, just like Scotland and Wales, and Wales itself inevitably will want to follow in Scotland's footsteps.

But without Scotland, I feel, the Union is finished. I am sensible enough to recognise that if Scotland goes, there is no point in continuing to support the Union. In the scenario where Scotland has says yes, we can look at how it may affect Wales. Wales currently has an overwhelming majority of those polled who would say no to Welsh independence, but in the event of Scottish independence, a role model would be created for Welsh nationalists to base their Welsh independence model upon. I would hope the Scottish independence model would be successful; I would not wish any ill or Scotland or bear a grudge should Scotland vote yes. It would allow nationalist movements such as Plaid Cymru (the Welsh Socialist Nationalists) or Plaid Glyndŵr (the anti-EU Welsh Nationalists, a bit like UKIP but with dragons, I suppose) to gain ground across Wales. Sentiment amongst the mainstream three parties (Welsh Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats) could also change. There are noted Labour Party members in Scotland joining the Yes camp at the moment.

Where Scotland goes, Wales inevitably follows, so without some fantastic deal (Devo Max Wales?) given to Wales to persuade the Welsh electorate to stay part of the union, Wales will likely also become independent,

As for Northern Ireland, that's a hot potato that would be a whole different story. How a potential break-up of the Union would affect Northern Ireland would be an extremely difficult thing to analyse in a short time, but I fear further violence and more "Troubles" could be involved if the Union were to break up.

What does this mean for me personally? Let me firstly qualify my current situation. I am Welsh, and I live in England. I should say that when I first wrote that sentence a few minutes ago, I wrote instead "but I live in England". That "but" may suggest I should apologise for leaving my homeland. I shouldn't and won't apologise, because I am happy living here, and I moved here for love and work. I should hope I am an integral part of the community and economy here in Worcester, England.

I have come to the firm decision that until the results are announced, my ideal for the United Kingdom would be a Federated United Kingdom (FUK; unfortunate initials, I know, but never mind) as outlined above. Should the result be No, I will continue to support the ideal of a FUK.

If the voters of Scotland destroy this dream on September 18, I am sensible enough to know that the dream of a FUK is dead.

Therefore, if Scotland votes yes, I will pledge support greater autonomy for Wales (I'd support greater Welsh autonomy anyway, regardless of the Scotland result), support the free movements of the peoples around the British Isles (I'm happy here in Worcester; I don't want to be ejected on the grounds of the place of my birth), abandon support of a United Kingdom, and should a Welsh independence movement become popular, it would gain my support. I of course remain loyal to whichever land I call my home, which would be England, and to my native land of Wales.

So vote NO to Scottish independence, or I'll have to eat humble pie and start campaigning for Welsh independence.