Friday, 25 July 2008

Glasgow by election: Time for unionists to wake up

O’Neill has subjected the failures which led to Labour’s Glasgow East by election capitulation to rigorous scrutiny over on Unionist Lite. His thoughts on the inadequacy of the unionist response to Scots' nationalism are instructive. Labour’s caning at the hands of the SNP, and indeed the general trend which propelled the nationalist party into power at Holyrood, are indicative of disillusionment with the government, rather than a genuine desire for Scotland to become independent from the rest of the United Kingdom. However, the intricacies of motivation leading the Scottish electorate toward a nationalist party are increasingly irrelevant.

That party are on a roll. They are increasingly popular, mainstream unionist parties are failing to capture the imagination of Scottish voters and without any need to specifically endorse the dissolution of the Union, it is being incrementally damaged and the cause of Scottish independence is being strengthened by default. The Conservatives have only a slender foothold in Scotland and as O’Neill remarks, they seem to lack the stomach to unambiguously oppose nationalism. Surely as David Cameron attempts to bolster his party's regional and unionist credentials, it is time for his party to make a stand? The Liberal Democrats have similar problems. Labour has traditionally been Scotland’s biggest party and as voters turn against Brown and his government, the SNP appear to many to offer the only viable alternative.

This is a lamentable situation, because that party are in a position to do untold damage to Scotland and to the Union. They offer short-termist, populist solutions to intractable problems which will be impossible to reverse once in train. As economies undergo a downturn it is an observable phenomenon that the certainties of nationalism, accompanied by its cousins, xenophobia and racism, prosper at the polls. O’Neill points out that the new SNP candidate for Glasgow East has form in this regard, chastising a Glasgow school for displaying too many English George Crosses in a classroom display.

The Labour Party’s problems are largely of its own making and it is difficult to muster much sympathy for Gordon Brown’s predicament. Unfortunately its demise in Scotland could have far more serious consequences than simply bringing about a change in government. That is why it is necessary for unionists to galvanise in opposition to the separatist, Balkanising, xenophobic, nationalist menace represented by the SNP. The consequences are otherwise too serious to contemplate.

8 comments:

Aidan said...

From my knowledge of Scotland and Scottish people I just do not think that the union has the emotional connection that it has for NI unionists. The SNP has not arrived overnight either, remember that they had 34% of the vote back in 1974.
I don't think Scottish people who vote for Labour or the LDs are voting 'unionist', there are probably 'nationalist' votes going to those parties. Equally some 'unionist' votes are going to the SNP as protest votes. That's why a referendum is the best way to determine this issue. For NI unionists surely questions should be asked about which union is desirable going forward, is it with the Irish Republic, Scotland or England/Wales?

Anonymous said...

LOL, not so fast Aidan. Many Irish are in no hurry to end partition. The Irish have a veto on unification.

Aidan said...

I only said they should think about the best union for them should the UK split up, something they cannot control. In all honesty I think that unionists would reject any arrangement with the Republic no matter how beneficial it was.

Anonymous said...

Aye, we're agreed, Aidan. They'd cut off their own noses to spite their faces - which is why many Irish wouldn't have a lot of time for them to be honest.

Chekov said...

"That's why a referendum is the best way to determine this issue. For NI unionists surely questions should be asked about which union is desirable going forward, is it with the Irish Republic, Scotland or England/Wales?"

Aidan repeated opinion polls show that the vast majority of Scottish people do not wish to dissolve the Union at this time. There is no inevitability to Scotland's departure from the Union. The Union which is desirable going forward encompasses Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England. There is no need for counterfactual speculation before the game is lost.

As usual the motor of nationalists in Scotland, as elsewhere, is the idea that a strong Scottish identity must be linked to political separatism. That is manifestly not the case.

Aidan said...

"The Union which is desirable going forward encompasses Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England."
Of course that is the union NI unionist want but it is a bit ostrich like not even to consider the second best option. Surely it merits some thought to consider the 'what if?' scenario now rather than wait until the game is played out.
English people may well see value in a union with Scotland and Wales but don't see what they are getting out of union with NI. Scotland, on the other hand, has far closer geographical, cultural and historical links with NI so I would say that is the partner NI unionists should be cherishing.
I am convinced that a referendum in Scotland would see them leave the union. I may be wrong but I think that it is unusual that NI unionists are not willing to contemplate this and have a fall-back strategy.

Chekov said...

“Of course that is the union NI unionist want but it is a bit ostrich like not even to consider the second best option.”

Aidan, look at it like this. We are unionists. We believe that the United Kingdom is the optimal form of governance for the countries / regions within it. The majority of people within those countries / regions presently want to retain the Union. Obviously the priority of unionists must be to promote and defend that union, rather than submitting to nationalist ‘wisdom’ that the Union is over and it is best now to look beyond it. It would be defeatist to do otherwise. The Union may change. It may be diminished. It is unionists’ job to arrest that decline – but it will survive in some form for the foreseeable future, even if Scotland does gain greater independence. I’d point you toward Arthur Aughey’s articles on ‘endism’ on Our Kingdom.

“English people may well see value in a union with Scotland and Wales but don't see what they are getting out of union with NI. Scotland, on the other hand, has far closer geographical, cultural and historical links with NI so I would say that is the partner NI unionists should be cherishing.”

Firstly the Union does not exist for what English people can get out of it. Unionists don’t view the Union as submitting to the rule of England. As I have stated before, whether Scotland increases in independence or not, severing ties with the rest of the UK completely is not something that is mooted even by the SNP. Ties will survive, even if they amount to little more than allegiance to the crown, a loose confederation or whatever. So in my view, even in the worst doomsday scenario for the Union, the choices you view as unionists’ options make little sense. If Scotland aspired to loosen its ties to the Union, if it wished to seek independence, on what basis would Northern Ireland seek a Union with Scotland? Would there be any constitutional or historical precedent? No Northern Irish unionist worth the name would seek to align themselves with an independent Scotland. The only possible basis for such a ‘union’ would be a perception that Northern Ireland has unique cultural and historical ties with the Scottish people, or that our people spring from a common ancestry. In other words the only reason to seek such a ‘union’ would be crude ethnic nationalism.

“I am convinced that a referendum in Scotland would see them leave the union. I may be wrong but I think that it is unusual that NI unionists are not willing to contemplate this and have a fall-back strategy.”

I think you are wrong. Every opinion poll suggests otherwise. Scotland may become more independent, but it will be a gradual process by which Westminster cedes various powers. Unionists need to wrestle with the constitutional contradictions which now beset the Union and attempt to resolve them. I don’t believe we need to play some counterfactual game, picking potential suitors, in the mistaken assumption that the UK will spontaneously disintegrate into free standing parts.

Gary said...

I really don't think Nationalists truly understand the term Unionist. They just don't get it. It is that old assertion that the unionist people will somehow come to their senses and realise that they are puppets of the British Establishment, are not British at all, are true sons of Erin and will throw off the shackles of Brutish rule in Ireland. Fortunately we will continue, indefinitely IHMO, to disappoint.