Only a ‘good’ Brexit can stop Scottish independence - by Professor Robert Tombs for The Spectator

Updated: Nov 19, 2020

Professor Robert Tombs is an emeritus professor in history at the University of Cambridge and begins his article with these words:

Victimhood has always been the core of nationalism. We are oppressed by Them: if We were free, our problems would be solved. This has been the lure of nationalism, and the reason why it is invariably disappointing once achieved. Scottish nationalists have their own myth of victimhood, but it has to go way back into the mists of time: to William Wallace (died 1305), Robert the Bruce (died 1329) and the Declaration of Arbroath (1320). More recent and relevant history does not so easily fit the victimhood bill. After all, the Stuarts had their eyes on the throne of England at least as much as the Tudors fancied theirs. Mary Queen of Scots was willing to assassinate Elizabeth to get it. Her son James actually succeeded. The Scots muscled their way into English politics during the Civil War. Even Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Highlanders were aiming to seize England with the help of a French invasion, not for a separate Scotland. Most Scots were happy with the Union, which gave them vast economic, cultural and political opportunities. It was the English who felt aggrieved at what seemed a Scottish takeover. But in the end both sides became at least reconciled, and even happy, with their marriage.

Professor Tombs ends with this pertinent comment with which I entirely agree and needs to be heeded by all:

In 2014, it was everyone over 16 on the electoral register in Scotland. How could this be justified on principle? Scottish nationalism is by definition based on status as a nation, and a nation is not a place but a people. This is such a special status that the rest of the United Kingdom accepted that four million Scottish voters (6 per cent of our total population) had a unilateral right to break up our shared polity, with profound consequences for the other nations. Whether rightly or wrongly, we have conceded this extraordinary privilege to a historic nation (and nearly all European nations today were already recognised as such in the 15th century). No such privilege belongs to a mere geographical area. I can see no defensible basis for giving it solely to those who happen to be resident in an area at the time of the vote, as was done in 2014. Today they include over 130,000 EU citizens registered to vote. On the other hand, some 850,000 Scots now live in other parts of the kingdom. Their Scottish identity is unquestionable, and their fundamental rights are at stake. Furthermore, we accept that having one British parent confers a right to UK citizenship; so, by analogy, British citizens with a Scottish parent (who would surely have the right to citizenship of an independent Scotland) should also be able to register to vote on independence.

For the full article you can read it in this pdf file:

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We enclose a rather pessimistic analysis of current voting trends on Scottish Independence from Jeremy Warner in this week's Daily Telegraph and the importance of urgent action from the Cabinet down to ensure this does not become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

He writes:

"Boris Johnson and his cabinet must urgently begin anew making the case for preservation of Britain’s 313-year-old union with Scotland, if indeed they think it still worth preserving, because if there was a second referendum on the matter tomorrow, they would lose it.

The future of the union may seem the least of the Government’s problems right now, but merely refusing another referendum in the hope that this particular fire might burn itself out is no kind of a long-term solution. It is almost as if the Prime Minister has resigned himself to the union’s demise, but is going to make damned sure it doesn’t happen under his watch. Let Keir Starmer take the heat for that one."

Here is the article in pdf in full >

Our union with Scotland is dying and we
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We enclose a copy of John Redwood’s diary entry of 16th October because it raises some longer-term constitutional questions in England and Scotland as a result of the pandemic. Covid may turn out to be the catalyst that accelerates devolution across the UK.

On the vexed question of Scottish independence, the author remains unconvinced of the merits of a devolved Scottish Parliament.

“I argued that setting up these [devolved] bodies would not create a happily united UK in the way Labour envisaged. It was more likely that nationalists in Scotland would use the excellent platform the Scottish Parliament offered them to campaign continuously to move from devolution to separation.”

[BiB Ed begs to differ: mass unemployment of the early 1980’s which saw much of Scotland’s industrial landscape decimated by monetarist economic policies and a perceived misallocation of North sea oil revenues away from Scotland to other areas of the UK in tax cuts left the Union hanging by a thread. The imposition of an untested and unpopular poll tax with Scotland as its guinea pig was the last straw. Devolution became a political inevitability.]

The author acknowledges that local decision-making may in the end be the best solution.

“Today we see the results of managing the CV 19 response when the devolved authorities of Scotland, Wales and some City Mayors wish to be involved and wish to differentiate what they do.… I think a good case can be made for more local decision taking on this issue. After all the virus spreads at very different rates and at different times around the country. Hospital admission needs and death rates are very variable. Local circumstances over testing, hospital capacity and Care home management are different.”

Here is his diary entry in full in pdf >

John Redwood Diary I opposed the creatio
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And as a concluding piece on the subject, we enclose the Editor's thoughts. "As an emotional and instinctive Unionist," he writes, "we should do all we can to preserve [the Union] because I believe we are immeasurably greater together than we are apart.."

His thoughts are laid out below >

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