united kingdom

Home rule

Trade unionists miss an open objective by refusing the referendum on autonomy

“Obviously there is a red line, which is that we want the Union to stay united. That is very important. But otherwise I am open-minded about how we present positive arguments for the Union.

So said Sir Keir Starmer, Britain’s Labor leader, when he visited Scotland last week. It’s not a particularly new sentiment and has in fact been official Labor policy ever since Sir Keir became leader and asked former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to review UK structures and recommend a lasting solution.

The consequences, however, are widespread and could very well prove to be the central determinant of whether or not the United Kingdom remains united.

There’s good reason to believe Sir Keir will match his words with action. Labor has a history of leading people on constitutional change, rather than being led by them, the most obvious example of which is the creation of devolved parliaments and assemblies in the late 1990s.

READ MORE: Carrie Johnson? An £840 wallpaper snob or the power behind Johnson’s throne?

A fortnight ago in these pages I wrote that Labor was the true party of the Union and evidently rather upset many of my former colleagues in the Conservative offices of the Scottish Parliament. I made this point because shouting ‘no to indyref 2’ and waving union flags may be enough to carry the Tories through an election campaign, but it’s not a strategy to mend ties that unite the Union.

The Union is not in trouble because people are magnetically attracted to independence. The Union is in trouble because too few people think it works for them.

Labor seems to have understood this and exhibits the opposite trait to that of the Conservatives. They don’t have the absolutist rhetoric to gain center stage in an election campaign, but they are working on a long-term solution.

All that said, Sir Keir has to be careful not to back into a corner. On the same visit where he promised this quick and decisive handing over of more power, Sir Keir said: “We need change without a referendum”. It is a mistake.

I fully understand the reluctance towards another independence referendum from those on the Unionist side of the fence. They are scarred by what happened in 2014. They worry about the effect on society, which was unmistakably divided and not yet fully healed.

They worry about the effect on the economy – political uncertainty is bad for investing and bad for business. Above all, they are petrified at the thought of losing, after what they considered an unexpected near miss eight years ago.

By ruling out a referendum and simply enacting an overt commitment, Sir Keir (and Mr Brown, who I suspect very significantly influence this aspect of strategy) could quell the constitutional unrest in Scotland. He could push the pro-British polls up a bit and the pro-independence polls down a bit. And it could avoid another referendum on independence. At least for a moment.

READ MORE: Brain or empty head? What Choosing a Specialized Subject Says About You

However, assuming Labor wants to close the veil on this issue, lock it up and throw away the key, it is very unlikely to achieve that goal without a second independence referendum.

There is something purgative about not being involved in party politics, or even the overly emotional environment of constitutional politics. It offers a clarity that I often find lacking among those in the bubble.

It is now clear to most people that Scotland has long-term structural problems in its economy, in the way it provides public services, in its transport infrastructure, etc. And it’s also clear to me that we can’t get into these issues, or even talk about them, until we stop talking about the constitution.

And, in the final analysis, there is simply too much of the population that will need an answer to this question by way of a referendum rather than by way of overt commitment in a general election.

The question is, how should it be done? The answer lies in a multi-option referendum. Besides being, obviously, the only way to empower those who believe in independence, those who believe in the status quo, and those who believe in self-reliance (or whatever we want to call the ” devo max” previously named option) a voice, it is also the structure that is most likely to produce the kind of clear and unambiguous result that would throw away the key, one way or another.

The logical structure, which was ‘played out’ by former Reform Scotland chairman Ben Thomson, would be to have two questions rather than one.

The first question would be something like: “Do you support further constitutional changes or do you wish to maintain the current provisions?”

A majority in favor of maintaining the current provisions would render the second question irrelevant, just as a vote against devolution in 1997 would have rendered the outcome of the tax variation powers question irrelevant in this referendum.

However, a majority in favor of a new constitutional change would mean that the outcome of the second question (on which people would be entitled to vote even if they voted against a new change in the first question) would be decisive. The second question would be something like ‘Do you favor independence or self-government’, with the definition of ‘self-government’ presumably set by the Labor government before the referendum.

The separatists, they gave a strong signal last week on what could be the result of such a referendum. When Chris Hanlon, the senior SNP politician, suggested something similar to this option, he was publicly and brutally trampled on by a number of SNP figures.

Why? Because they expect, as I do, that the autonomy option will win a referendum relatively comfortably and effectively end the prospect of independence.

It’s curious, isn’t it, that the thing nationalists are afraid of – autonomy in a referendum – is at the same time something the Unionist community seems so reluctant to do.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. It would not be the first time that trade unionists had missed an open constitutional goal.

Andy Maciver is Director of Message Matters

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Self government

The Congress held debates on local self-government in Cyprus and North Macedonia, as well as recovery from Covid-19, hate speech and fake news, territorial integration, opportunities for young people, relations with the diaspora and Roma integration

On the second day of the 41st session, Wednesday October 27, 2021, the Congress adopted reports on local self-government in Cyprus and North Macedonia. The report on Cyprus was presented by Gunn Marit Helgesen (Norway, EPP / CCE) and Marc Cools (Belgium, GILD). The debate was followed by an exchange with the Cypriot Minister of the Interior Nicos Nouris. Zdenek Broz (Czech Republic, ECR) and Harald Bergmann (Netherlands, GILD) presented the report on North Macedonia, which was followed by a statement by the Deputy Minister of Local Self-Government of North Macedonia, Zoran Dimitrovsky, who also answered questions from the floor.

Members of Congress held a plenary debate on “Covid: the road to recovery?” “. The aim was to address the urgent issues facing European cities and regions: how can societies get out of the crisis when the health situation seems to be stabilizing in many European countries? OECD Deputy Secretary General Ulrik Vestergaard-Knudsen underlined the heterogeneity of the economic and social impact of the pandemic between regions. CEB-appointed Governor Carlo Monticelli underlined the role of local and regional authorities as “valuable allies when it comes to delivering high impact social investments to communities most in need”.

Local and regional elected representatives across Europe are faced with the rise of fake news and hate speech in recent years, especially on the Internet and social networks. As such, a thematic debate was organized by the Chamber of Local Authorities in order to determine the responses to be provided and the tools to be developed to meet the challenge of fake news and hate speech. The project will explore ways to detect these phenomena and possible legal and technical actions against them. At the opening of the exercise of the President of the Chamber of Local Authorities, Bernd Vöhringer, drew attention to the increase in hate speech and fake news on the Internet and the impact of these negative phenomena on the working environment for mayors and councilors.

In plenary, Hungary’s State Secretary for Security Policy Péter Sztaray underlined the key priorities of the Hungarian Presidency: artificial intelligence and digitization, protection of national minorities, environmental issues, l anti-Semitism and youth issues during his speech to Parliament Committee of Ministers.

On the same day, the Chamber of Regions debated interregional and cross-border cooperation for better territorial integration in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Congress in particular called on member states to use Protocol No. 3 to the Madrid Convention, which constitutes a legal basis for transfrontier co-operation in Europe. Congress also called for special legal provisions for “cross-border communities” with legal status, to overcome obstacles created by different legal regimes on either side of the border, as well as to strengthen cross-border governance and “horizontal subsidiarity” through the transfer of skills and operational resources to cross-border communities.

The Chamber of Regions also discussed the challenges to expand vocational training and lifelong learning for young people at regional level, shared measures and best practices to address these issues, and considered additional measures. that the Congress wishes to undertake on this subject. This was achieved through a debate on lifelong education to ensure / secure lifelong employment prospects for the younger generations, a challenge for the regions.

Members of the Chamber deepened the role of relations with diaspora communities as a contribution to regional development and regional mechanisms to engage diasporas in order to promote commercial and cultural exchanges, attract foreign investment, facilitate technology and knowledge transfer, and to seize other socio-economic benefits of diaspora ties during its third debate on Wednesday morning.

At the opening of the session, the President of the Chamber of Regions, Harald Sonderegger, called for a re-decentralization of powers and resources to the regions and their better distribution with an improved system of multi-level governance. This is because during the Covid-19 crisis, many powers were recentralized to the national executive and many decisions were taken without proper consultations with regional authorities – despite the multi-level governance that s has proven to be more efficient and flexible in responding to the pandemic. , when it was used.

Also on the agenda is the Dosta! -Congress Prize awarded to municipalities in Portugal, Greece and the United Kingdom for initiatives aimed at integrating Roma and Travelers. The first place went to the Portuguese municipality of Torres Vedras, which has drawn up a unique plan strengthening cohesion between local communities and the Roma. The second place was awarded to the Greek municipality of Argostoli for the improvement of the living conditions of the Roma community, the conditions of school attendance of children, as well as for housing and health care support for the population. rom on the island of Kefalonia. British Salford won the 3rd prize for the implementation of an educational exhibition.

The Chamber of Local Authorities elected John Warmisham (UK, SOC / G / PD) and Oksana Derkach (Ukraine, EPP / CCE) respectively 6th and 7th Vice-President.

Videos of the proceedings: Plenary session | Chamber of Local Authorities | Chamber of Regions

*** 41st Congress Session ***

Agenda – Documents: ENG | FRA | DEU | ITA | RUS
41st session webpage: live stream, photos, videos and useful links

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Home rule

The story of over a century of Home Rule debates in Scotland

I VERY rarely plan months in advance and often start this column on a Monday morning without a clue of what I’m about to write – no doubt many of you will have noticed. So the other day, when a piece of Facebook comedy was brought to my attention by a reader, I felt that there was more than just a kernel of story there.

I first saw “A Warning from Ireland” on Facebook in the run-up to the 2014 referendum, but it was re-posted the other day. He states: “Between 1889 and 1914 Irish Home Rule was debated 15 times in Westminster and there were four Home Rule bills. Nothing has changed.”

How many Scots know that between 1886 and 1900 Scottish Home Rule was debated seven times in Westminster? How many Scots know that in 1894 and 1895 the Commons voted for a Home Rule resolution but ran out of parliamentary time? How many knows that in 1913 the Scottish Federal Government Bill was introduced in the House of Commons and the proposal was supported by 204 votes to 159? Only the outbreak of World War I stopped its implementation or we could have had a decentralized Scottish legislature a century ago.

Almost a mythology developed about how Scotland always adhered to the Incorporated Union that was inflicted on us in 1707. Yes, there was a long time, say after the Jacobite Uprising of 1745 until ‘in the 1850s, when Scotland took the building of the British Empire to heart and is doing quite well, but as I have shown in recent chronicles, the Union has not been a great success in the start.

During the first half of the 19th century, Westminster was very happy to be decentralized in many of its functions, and the councils and boards of directors largely dealt with matters of governance, so the Scots were content to take care of business.

With Sir Walter Scott in the foreground, however, as the turn of the 19th century wore on, many people began to worry about the loss of Scottish citizenship – and this was also not based on the class, because the workers and the middle classes worried about this cultural and political creep. intimidation.

The National Association for the Defense of Scottish Rights was formed in 1853, but was short-lived and had little political impact. But her main complaints – that Scotland was under-represented in Parliament and that Scotland did not receive sufficient income for the huge sums it contributed to the Treasury – sparked heated debate, but it fizzled out in 1856.

The Liberals controlled Scotland for decades, but by the 1880s the party was struggling with its Home Rule policy for Ireland, and as a result of this question a Scottish Home Rule Association was started in 1886, the same year that Keir Hardie and others started their labor movement and the following year the Scottish office was founded in support of the Home Rulers.

It is extraordinary to remember the great debate on Scottish Home Rule in the House of Commons that took place in 1889 – the first time it was fully debated in parliament, and a rather astonishing event, frankly, which almost been forgotten.

MP Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham said on this historic day, April 9, 1889: “In view of the great pressure that will soon be brought to bear on this House by social causes on the part of the Scottish electorate, we have not come. here with a frivolous or stupid proposition as we, for the first time, tried to lobby the Scottish Home Rule cause in the House of Commons. ”

Dr Gavin Clark, Member of Parliament for Caithness, proposed to the House of Commons the resolution ‘that, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that arrangements be made for the provision of the Scottish people, through their representatives in a parliament national, management and control of Scottish affairs.

He said: “I have no desire to abrogate the Union between England and Scotland, and I think the Union has been mutually beneficial – a good thing for Scotland, but a better thing. for England.

“I frankly admit that while my motion is primarily based on practical considerations, there is a sentimental basis for the growing Home Rule movement in Scotland. We Scots are all proud of our country and its history.

“An attempt is made here to ignore Scottish nationality. We hear about the English government, and the minister is not called to order for expression. Well, just the other day the Secretary of War talked about the British troops he was sending to Egypt, the Scottish Borderers. ”

So far so familiar even nowadays.

Clark continued: ‘We have confusion, lawlessness and chaos in mixed jurisdictions in Scotland, due to the outrageous state of our Public Health Act, but the House never had time. to deal with this subject, and therefore anarchy continues. There are thousands of preventable deaths every year in Scotland due to our shameful Public Health Act.

“Everyone, even the old Tories across the way, has to admit that change is needed. So what is the cure to be? It must, I think, take the form of a devolution.

The word had been spoken… and it wasn’t until 1889.

William Hunter, Liberal MP for Aberdeen North, seconded the motion, correcting the record:; but it is remarkable that since then there has been no sustained agitation in its support by public meetings or in the press.

“Sir, having decided that Home Rule for Scotland would be good for the country, I then decided to explain my point of view to my constituency in Aberdeen. I had no idea how they would receive it, but I found out very quickly that the constituency was ahead of me, and that the mass of the people had strived for Home Rule to a point that I did not. would not have thought possible. Indeed, I think we won’t have 10 members returning to Scotland in the next general election unless they are committed to Home Rule for Scotland. ”

Sir Hugh Shaw-Stewart, Old Etonian Conservative MP for East Renfrewshire, rose to oppose the motion:. It would be centralization in its worst form.

He added: “I think the spirit which animates my honorable friends is embodied in the advice given by an old Scottish radical to a young man about to enter Parliament: ‘Be asking, and when you get something, be complaining that you can’t have May ‘.

The National:

UP raised the Grand Old Man himself, William Ewart Gladstone (above), former and future prime minister and Liberal leader: question on his merits.

“The principles applicable to the solution of this question are, however, by no means obscure or difficult to understand. I believe that Scotland and Ireland are precisely equal before England as regards their moral and political right to assert before the Imperial Parliament any claims which they may regard as arising out of the interests and demands of these respective countries. They are precisely equal in this right, so that if I am to assume a case in which Scotland, unanimously, or by a clearly casting vote, asks the United Parliament to be treated, not only on the same principle , but like Ireland, I couldn’t deny Scotland’s title to make such a claim. Further, I am obliged to say that I have a perfectly firm belief that if such a claim were made in the manner which I have described as the clear and deliberate statement of Scottish opinion, Parliament would accede to it. ”

What a principled debate, but the vote wasn’t close – 79 yeas, 200 nays, and that seemed like it. But as the Labor movement grew and young Liberal Scots arose, the question of Home Rule for Scotland did not go away, and it preoccupied many minds at the turn of the 20th century.

In 1913, parliament was ready for another Scottish Home Rule debate and William Cowan, Liberal MP for Aberdeenshire Eastern, put it in place with his Scottish Government Bill.

He said: ‘You cannot take a Scottish newspaper today with a good chance of not finding any reference to this burning issue.

“I don’t care who is going to Scotland today, if he talks to someone, if he goes somewhere, if he consults the people, he will find out that it is the most absorbing political subject by Scotland.”

The SNP contingent at Westminster will acknowledge their forthcoming statement: “The English members will be conspicuous by their absence, or be represented by gentlemen who, having shootouts, fisheries or deer forests in Scotland, imagine themselves to be experts in business. and insist on wasting our time and theirs by interfering in the Scottish debates.

He concluded: “Is it any wonder that Scotland is tired and demands its own parliament? That it requires its own legislation for land, for the alcohol trade, for education, for housing, for fishing, for ecclesiastical affairs, for 101 matters of purely local interest?

You can read both debates in Hansard. You will find many sadly familiar points.

In the very unlikely event that Boris Johnson reads this column, I would like to end with a few words from his great hero, Sir Winston Spencer Churchill. Speaking in his then constituency of Dundee on October 9, 1913, Churchill said: “You will recall how last year I spoke at a meeting in Dundee on this subject (rule of the House). I made it clear that I was speaking for myself. I made it clear that I was not talking about the immediate future, but … raising an issue for reflection and discussion rather than quick action. I have spoken of the establishment of a federal system in the United Kingdom, in which Scotland, Ireland and Wales, and, if necessary, parts of England, could have institutions legislative and parliamentary, allowing them to develop, in their own way, their own lives according to their own ideas and needs in the same way as the great and prosperous States of the American Union and the great kingdoms and principalities and states of the Empire German.

“I will take the risk of prophecy and tell you that the day will most certainly come – many of you will live to see it – when a federal system will be established in these islands which will give Wales and Scotland control. within the proper limits of their own Welsh and Scottish affairs.

Of course, the real reason there will never be a Federal United Kingdom of Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland is that Scotland will first go its own way and will regain its full independence.

Let’s face it, the majority of the British want independence from us, Wales and Northern Ireland. The lesson of history is that federalism will never be enough and that we must all go our separate ways.

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Home rule

‘Inevitable’ Tory Gov will reject your Home Rule plan, says Drakeford

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Prime Minister Mark Drakeford. Photo by Welsh Government.

Mark Drakeford has been told it is “inevitable” that the Conservative government will reject his home rule plan.

Plaid Cymru MS Rhys ab Owen has asked the Prime Minister to ‘consider’ what he is going to do when it ‘happens’, and Westminster is ignoring his requests.

The Plaid member Senedd was referring to Drakeford’s recently published plan to prevent the UK from breaking up, called Reforming Our Union.

On the Senedd floor, he suggested that “throughout the centuries” Westminster had “ignored the cries of Home Rule until it was too late and the inevitable happened – independence”.

Rhys ab Owen said: “I don’t doubt your sincerity and the sincerity of the Attorney General at all, but your calls for autonomy will be rejected by the Westminster government, a government obsessed with centralizing powers.

“Over the centuries and across the Continent, Westminster ignored the cries of Home Rule until it was too late and the inevitable happened – independence – the de facto position of nations in the world now independent.

“And I echo the words of my colleague Jane Dodds that independence did not come off the ballot. Prime Minister, you know candidates within your own party who are pro-independence. ‘independence.

“The Prime Minister will be aware, walking around Cardiff West, of houses with a YesCymru poster and a Labor poster on their window, and Jane Dodds’ comment about the interest of many young people.

“This plan does not go far enough, Prime Minister. It should take into account welfare and also what happens when the inevitable happens and the Conservative government refuses your plan. Could you please consider this?

“Developed further”

The Prime Minister said: “Listen, he makes an important point about how this plan can be developed further, what could be added to it, and I look forward to hearing from him further on these things.

“I don’t think he will advance his own cause, however, if he is not prepared to face the very direct choice that was presented to the people of Wales in May, and in my opinion, it was the clearest- put choice in the whole history of devolution.

“As I said, I was standing in television studios, and next to me was a man who wanted to plead for the total abolition of decentralization, to abolish the whole Assembly, and he pleaded for the cause of the Welsh people.

“On the other side of me was someone who wanted to persuade people that Wales needed to be removed from the UK completely, and he put this issue at the center of his campaign.

“And Plaid Cymru lost ground – he didn’t gain ground, he lost ground in this election, and I don’t think I could have been any clearer, time and time again, on the shows , in leaflets, at every opportunity I had , to say that the Labor Party represented a powerful devolution in a prosperous United Kingdom.

“And in the end, that’s where the people of Wales made their choice, and I think the people of Plaid Cymru have to be ready to – ‘Blinkers,'” Rhun ap Iorwerth said as well. in a world without blinkers, I think we have to think about that too.

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Self government

Congress monitors the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in the UK

A delegation from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe followed the application of the Charter in the United Kingdom from 21 to 23 June 2021.

The delegation was composed of the co-rapporteurs Vladimir Prebilič (Slovenia, SOC / G / PD) and Magnus Berntsson (Sweden, EPP / CCE). They held meetings with local and national authorities in the UK to assess the implementation of the Charter. The previous monitoring report and recommendation on local and regional democracy in the UK were adopted in 2014. All meetings were held remotely due to the current health crisis.

The rapporteurs had an exchange of views on the latest developments in the field of local government in the UK with officials from the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government as well as with the Chairman of the Housing Committee, communities and local governments of the British Parliament. Remote meetings were also scheduled with the Statutory Deputy Mayor of London and representatives of the Greater London Authority.

The delegation had also scheduled remote meetings with officials from the Scottish Department of Social Security and Local Government, the Welsh Parliament, the Assembly of Northern Ireland and the Office of the Secretary of State for Wales.

The Congress delegation met with members of the UK National Delegation to Congress, the Local Government Association (LGA), the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA), the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), as well as members of Edinburgh. Belfast City Council and Mayor.

The resulting report will be examined by the Monitoring Committee at one of its forthcoming meetings.

The UK ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1998. Countries that have ratified the Charter are bound by its provisions. The Charter requires the implementation of a minimum set of rights which constitute the fundamental basis of local self-government in Europe. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe ensures that these principles are respected in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.


Stephanie POIREL, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities
Secretary of the monitoring committee
Telephone: +33 (0) 3 90 21 5184
e-mail: [email protected]

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Self government

The Congress followed the implementation of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Spain

A delegation from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe followed the application of the Charter in Spain, from 18 to 20 May 2021.

The delegation is made up of rapporteurs Bryony Rudkin (United Kingdom, SOC / G / PD) and David Eray (Switzerland, EPP / CCE). They held meetings with local and national authorities in Spain to assess the implementation of the charter. The previous monitoring report and the recommendation on local and regional democracy in Spain were adopted in 2013. All meetings were held at a distance due to the current health crisis.

The delegation met the Spanish National Delegation to Congress, the national associations of local and regional authorities, the Parliament, the Ombudsman, the Ministry of Territorial Policy and Public Administration, the Ministry of Finance, the Constitutional Court and the Court. accounts. They also met the mayors of Madrid, Ohanes and Valladolid.

The resulting report will be examined by the Monitoring Committee in autumn 2021.

Spain ratified the European Charter of Local Self-Government in 1988. The countries which have ratified the Charter are bound by its provisions. The Charter requires the implementation of a minimum set of rights which constitute the fundamental basis of local self-government in Europe. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe ensures that these principles are respected in the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.


Stéphanie POIREL, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Secretary of the Monitoring Committee, Tel. : +33 (0) 3 90 21 51 84,
E-mail: [email protected]

See also:

Interview with rapporteur David Eray

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Home rule

Drakeford’s Home Rule plan ‘wouldn’t solve the problem of conservative governments’, says Adam Price

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Mark Drakeford. Photo CPMR – Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CC BY-SA 2.0) Photo by Adam Price by Plaid Cymru.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has accused the Prime Minister of ‘looking back not forward’ on the subject of Wales’ constitutional future as he was asked to support independence for Wales Wales.

Challenging Mark Drakeford at today’s FMQs, the Plaid Cymru leader said it was independence – not Home Rule – that would solve Wales’ ‘democratic deficit’.

Last Friday, Mark Drakeford called for “home rule” for Wales within the United Kingdom.

But Adam Price said it would not solve the problem that Wales never voted Conservative but had a Conservative government in Westminster “two-thirds of the time”.

He pointed to comments by Indy Wales Labor leader Bob Lloyd, who said that “for the last 100 years Wales have voted for a socialist party in national elections but have not got what he asked for”.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price MS said there was no reason to think Wales’ situation would soon change without independence.

“The prime minister describes independence as a 19th century answer to a 21st century problem, proposing instead self-rule, itself an 1880s idea,” he said.

“The problem is that Home Rule will never solve the Welsh democratic deficit – only independence can.

“Westminster has never seen itself as Wales’ partner in constitutional terms. Independence will ensure that all decisions relating to Wales are made in Wales and will enable Wales to become a better, fairer and more equal nation.

“Radically redraw”

Earlier, Mark Drakeford had described the rift over the UK as a “real and present danger and a solution is urgently needed”.

“A sustainable and modern UK is one where our prosperity and life chances are increased by the practice of solidarity, not reduced by division and attempts to recreate a union where its component nations are expected to take the helm from the center “, he told the National.

“Independence is a 19th century answer to a 21st century problem – it’s a slogan not a solution. It asks the people of Wales to start with a conclusion without evidence, risking the well-being of those that our party exists to support.

“Wales’ future is best secured by a sweeping overhaul of the UK’s constitution to recognize that it is a voluntary association of four nations.

“An association where power is dispersed, not centralized, where, as far as possible, decisions that affect people’s daily lives are taken as close as possible to people, but where there are fiscal and financial mechanisms to pool resources and share rewards.”

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America’s system of self-government is miserable and okay

Eeveryone today is unhappy about politics, or at least it seems. Our system is down, it’s sick, it’s dysfunctional, etc. I certainly agree that our government has its share of problems (and then some!). But going against the grain that I am, I think our misery is actually a sign that she is still doing at least a few good things.

Think about the Brexit vote a few years ago. It was a huge popular plebiscite in the UK on whether the nation should separate from the European Union. The vote to “Leave” obtained a narrow majority which was very divided according to geographic, socio-economic and age criteria. Since then, the process of leaving the EU. . . didn’t go so well, as we all know.

Something like Brexit never would, could never happen in the United States. We do not have national plebiscites, on the one hand. But more importantly, we don’t give so much power to narrow majorities.

It comes down to the distinction that is often made that the United States is a republic but not a democracy. This notion is imprecise, but it reveals a key idea. The founders were committed to the idea of ​​popular government, as opposed to government by unelected monarchs. But they were deeply skeptical of the power of the people. They had good reasons for both opinions. The period between the end of the French and Indian War and the American Revolution taught settlers that a king without sympathy for his subjects is indeed dangerous. But the period between the declaration of independence and the ratification of the Constitution has taught them that popular majorities can be even more dangerous than any king.

So the drafters came up with an ingenious solution: the people would have full power to choose their governors, but in the absence of large, lasting, and substantial majorities, their rulers would find it difficult to adopt major changes. They are betting the future of the American republic on the assumption that the larger the majority, the more it represents the interests of the whole nation and the more capable it should be to govern.

This is why Brexit could never happen in the United States, at least not the way it did in the United Kingdom. The Framers would likely be appalled if 51.9% of the nation could impose its will at 48.1% on such a fundamental issue.

Now imagine that the United States struggles with its own version of Brexit, with no hope of a popular referendum and with the practical need for an overwhelming majority to support its passage. The two sides would be locked into a long, passionate and ultimately virulent debate that would make them both. . . wretched. But at least neither side could impose itself on the other.

It is, in its own way, the genius of American self-government. Without a decisive majority, both camps would be stuck in an impasse where they would make themselves unhappy. But it is the compromise that must be made, lest one party succeed in imposing its views on the opposition.

It’s not perfect, that’s for sure. The left is understandably frustrated that Donald Trump wields so much power when he did not win a majority in the 2016 election. But then again, note that the sheer extent of presidential authority is quite distant from the point of view. original founders. Ditto for the authority of the courts. It developed later.

I would much rather take power away from the executive and the courts than make our system more ‘democratic’, at least in the sense of the term Brexit. I’d much rather be miserable than live under the sweeping decisions of a faction that just happens to equal a numerical majority for a brief moment. And the reason is that I believe the Founders were fundamentally right. Majority rule is an essential quality of Republican government, but it is also its greatest threat – for majorities can be narrow-minded, short-sighted and even vengeful.

The corollary to this is that we should stop looking for individual meaning and purpose in our politics. We will never find him there. Our policy is a policy of Federalist 10 and 51, where a multiplicity of fundamentally interested factions fight each other through an incredibly complicated process, and perhaps craft a compromise that no longer or less makes anyone happy. It is not satisfactory. It is often lamentable. But this is how our government has stood for two centuries and more.

More National Review

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Self government

Are the English ready for autonomy?

“The alleged aptitude of the English for self-government,” writes Bernard Shaw in his preface to Androcles and the Lion, “is contradicted by every chapter of their history. Shaw was, of course, parodying British imperialist rhetoric and his insistence that lesser peoples – including his own nation, the Irish – were not ready to rule themselves. He was villainously provocative, which only the most irresponsible commentators would dare to be in these dire times.

But there is still an element of truth in his words. The ability to be self-governing is not what comes to mind when you look from the outside at what was going on in Westminster last week, when, as Tom Peck so brilliantly put it in London Independent, “the House of Commons was a Benny Acid Hill Race, traversing a Salvador Dali painting in a spaceship en route to infinity.”

Let’s just say that if Theresa May was the head of a newly liberated African colony in the 1950s, Britain’s Tories would have pointed, half sadly, half happily, in her direction and say ‘You see? I told you – they just weren’t ready to rule themselves. At least another generation of guardianship by the mother country was needed.

There is a kind of surreal logic to this. If, as the Brexiteers do, you imagine yourself to be an oppressed colony separating from the German Reich aka the European Union, you may find yourself with a pantomime version of the struggles of the newly independent colonies, including the civil wars that s ‘often follow. national liberation.

And without wanting to touch it, Shaw’s quip highlights two of the deep issues that underlie and undermine the entire Brexit project. First of all, the problem with this imaginary self-government effort is the “self” part. What is the ego of British politics? As in all nationalist revolts, the easy part of “Them versus Us” is Them: in this case the EU. The hardest part is us. Brexit calls for a collective British ego, but it is in itself the most dramatic symptom of the crumbling of this very thing.

Fabulous trip

Westminster Anarchy is the political expression of anarchy in the United Kingdom, the breakdown of a common sense of belonging. Brexit is a fabulous form of displacement – it recognizes a deep and genuine dissatisfaction with the way the British are governed, but sends it back to Europe.

Brexit acknowledges deep dissatisfaction with the way the British are governed, but sends it back to Europe

He simply marked in bright red ink the fault lines that had long been less vivid – the drift of England and Scotland; the economic and cultural divide between what Anthony Barnett calls “England without London” and the rest of the UK (Wales being the obvious anomaly); the social and geographic cleavages between the winners and losers of the long Thatcher revolution. Brexit, in the worst possible time in the world, clears up all of these divisions while doing absolutely nothing to address them. It reveals a regime that cannot create consensus because it lacks a basis in social consent.

Nationalism is a great beast to bring you to the point of independence – and then it becomes a dead horse

The other, closely related issue is English nationalism which is both such a powerful force in Brexit and so poorly articulated. As every former colony knows, nationalism is a great beast in bringing you to the point of independence – and then it becomes a dead horse. Shaw wrote to his friend Mabel FitzGerald (mother of the future taoiseach Garret) in December 1914: sudden and horrible decomposition, that he has been dead for years.

Whipping a dead horse

Brexit is a dead horse, a form of nationalist energy that began to break down rapidly on June 24, 2016, as soon as it entered the realm of political reality. He can’t go anywhere. He cannot transport the British state to a promised land. He can only leave him where he arrived, in a no man’s land between vague patriotic fantasies and persistent irritating facts. But also, due to the result of the referendum, the British state cannot dismount from the dead horse and must continue to whip it.

To fly over this whole idea of ​​English self-government is the myth of loneliness. All independence movements have at their heart the meaning of Sinn Féin – “Ourselves alone”. Being alone is also one of the great motifs of the English self-image, brilliantly visualized in the famous David Low cartoon of June 1940, after the fall of France, showing a Tommy standing on the cliffs of Dover hugging the fist towards the Luftwaffe bombers above their heads. with the caption “Very good, alone”. But Britain was not alone back then (it had a vast empire) and it was never alone. Throughout its history since 1707, it has always been part of a larger multinational entity: empire first, then Europe.

Yet a fantasy of glorious and provocative loneliness is at the heart of making Brexit wishes come true. It’s a great warning to be careful what you want. What we are seeing right now is a taste of England alone. It’s no surprise that this is a preview of a horror show. Cause when you’re really alone, what are you alone with? You are alone with your demons.


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Independence activist

Hong Kong independence activist banned from elections | News | DW

Andy Chan, who founded the Hong Kong National Party just four months ago, was banned by the city’s electoral affairs commission on Saturday.

The party was informed that Chan’s candidacy to run in the New Western Territories constituency had been “invalidated,” the “South China Morning Post” reported.

“On July 30, the National Party received an email from the government saying it had officially disqualified party chairman Andy Chan,” a statement said on Saturday.

The party, which claims growing support for the semi-autonomous city’s break with mainland China, said it was “honored” to be the first to see a candidate disqualified.

“Even if they prevent the party from participating in the elections, they cannot stop the inevitable process of Hong Kong independence,” the statement added.

A new statement that is controversial

Chan was one of at least 13 pro-democracy candidates who refused to sign a declaration accepting that the city is an “inalienable” part of China, a measure introduced by the Commission earlier this year.

Critics have called the new proclamation political censorship and an attempt to dissuade candidates from advocating Beijing’s self-determination or independence.

But despite threats to challenge that decision in court, officials in Beijing and Hong Kong insist that the defense of independence goes against the Basic Law – the territory’s mini constitution.

On Saturday, a statement by the Hong Kong government reiterated that any candidate who promotes Hong Kong independence “may not be able to uphold the Basic Law or perform his duties as a legislator.”

Support for low escapement

Last week, a survey by the School of Journalism at the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that only 17% of Hong Kong citizens supported the idea of ​​breaking with China after 2047. Among those aged 15 to 24, support for independence was almost 40%. .

The date would mark the end of a 50-year “one country, two systems” agreement that China and the United Kingdom signed when the former British colony returned to China in 1997. Beijing agreed that Hong Kong would enjoy more freedoms than others. from China until at least 2047.

Only 4% of those polled thought an escape was a real possibility, according to the survey of Cantonese speakers.

Over the past two decades, critics have accused China of breaking its deal, as Beijing increases its influence in a variety of areas, from politics to the media.

Two years ago, the territory saw a three-month wave of pro-democracy protests that crippled much of Hong Kong Island. The so-called Umbrella Revolution, which peaked at over 100,000, saw a series of sit-ins and street protests, which the governments in Hong Kong and Beijing have denounced as illegal.

mm / rc (AFP, Reuters)

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Home rule

Scotland is not so courageous in the push for autonomy

Schemes for Scottish autonomy date back to just after Gladstone’s introduction of his Irish Home Rule Bill. Indeed, they were then part of what was called the “home rule all round”, leaving the Parliament of Westminster to deal with imperial affairs. On several occasions, Scottish Home Rule bills have almost been passed by parliament. One of them did so in 1978, but was rejected by referendum in March 1979, on condition that 40% of the electorate voted in favor.

This story suggests that while the demand has been constant, or at least recurring, it has not been very deep or sustained very strongly. If this had been the case, it is inconceivable that home rule has not been achieved to date.

This shows the significant difference between Scottish and Irish history. Scotland has never been conquered or colonized. He entered into a union with England by a vote of his own parliament. The Scots saw themselves as equal partners in the British Empire. In the 19th century, the Scots were not a submerged people like the Irish, Poles or Czechs. On the contrary, they felt dominant.

This feeling faded in the 20th century. Early industrialization made Victorian Scotland confident and vibrant. As confidence faded as the old heavy industries struggled between the two world wars, the nationalism that had manifested by then was entrenched, romantic and backward-looking.

The response to industrial decline was to hold on even more to the British state, which had the resources to alleviate its effects and facilitate the transformation into a new economy – or, indeed, as many hoped, to support declining industries.

In addition, the experience of World War II reinforced the sense of British patriotism. It was Great Britain, not England or Scotland, that stood contra mundum. Significantly, the major air battles of 1941, although primarily fought in southern England, were unanimously referred to as the “Battle of Britain”.

For 20 years after the war, Britishness reigned almost unchallenged, despite the apparent success of the Covenant movement of the

1940s, which called for a vague measure of autonomy. The Labor Party was committed to socialism in one country and forgot its historic, albeit nominal, attachment to self-government.

It was not until the Wilson years of the 1960s that the decline of British power, and the apparent failure of British governments to stem the economic decline of Scotland from the more advantaged areas of the United Kingdom, gave a new impetus to nationalism.

It was the rise of the Scottish National Party in the feverish atmosphere of the 1970s that persuaded Labor to introduce a decentralization plan.

From the start, this was hampered by its internal contradiction. Devolution appealed to nationalist sentiment, but its apparent aim was to strengthen the Union by creating a better government of Scotland within the framework of the United Kingdom.

Decentralization could therefore only work if it stifled the nationalist sentiment which it also nourished, and because of which Labor had been brought back to its roots as national government.

The condition for decentralization was that there should be a strong SNP seeking independence; the condition for the proper functioning of any deconcentration project was for the SNP to lose its support.

Undoubtedly, the unpopularity of the Thatcher-Major government in Scotland made devolution more attractive. Although general policy was made by the Scots and administered by the Scots, it was nonetheless referred to as a ‘democratic deficit’.

There were claims that the very real and considerable administrative devolution that had taken place should be matched by political devolution in the form of a Scottish parliament.

After 1987, the Labor Party became involved, in part because of the natural frustration resulting from its inability to translate electoral support in Scotland into political power, and in part out of fears that in the absence of decentralization its support does seep into the SNP.

We are therefore now on the verge of voting for a Scottish Parliament along the lines proposed in the British Government’s White Paper.

Its areas of competence will be the parts of government already administratively devolved to the Scottish Office. If we approve it, it will also have modest taxing power and, because of its control over local governments, the power to change local government taxation.

The modesty of the project could, one might think, recommend it. Yet although the result is likely to be a nice majority in favor, there are still some trade unionists who view the project with suspicion and dismay.

They do this for four reasons. The first is simple. As the government presents its proposals as, in the words of Secretary of State Mr Donald Dewar, ‘a fair and just settlement for Scotland within the framework of the UK’, Labor has hailed nationalist support who see what is proposed not as a “settlement” but as a step in the process towards independence.

Clearly the two cannot be right. Therefore, many who are happy to identify as both Scottish and British are inevitably devoskeptics.

Second, the powers of tax variation, while modest, worry many businessmen. They fear that if Scotland becomes the most heavily taxed part of the UK, as seems likely, they will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. Their doubts are shared by those who think this is all an expensive extravaganza that will only benefit professional politicians and create more jobs for the boys.

Third, some of us fear that one of the consequences is the diminishing Scottish influence, which is now considerable, within the UK. A semi-detached country is unlikely to play a full role in governing the whole. Scotland may become more withdrawn and parochial, as was Northern Ireland during Stormont’s time.

The government’s refusal to attempt any response to the West Lothian question, formulated 20 years ago by now veteran Labor MP for Linlithgow, Mr Tam Dalyell (then MP for West Lothian), who asks why Scottish MPs for Westminster should be able to vote on a range of English affairs, but English MPs should not vote on comparable Scottish affairs, is worrying. Ultimately, the only answer to this problem would be some form of federalism.

Finally, the proposed regime will create a fundamentally irresponsible parliament because, despite the modest power of tax variation, its income will depend on Westminster. He will have the pleasure of spending money as long as he does not incur the odiousness of snatching it from the people.

Writing recently on the problems of local government in the west of Scotland, Iain McWhiter (who favors decentralization) suggested that it was important to “restore the local tax base”.

Part of the problem, he said, was that local councils no longer collected the money they spent. “Nothing could be better designed to undermine civic responsibility. The balance should be restored, with more taxes levied locally and less levied centrally. Councils would then be accountable to their local electorate.”

He is absolutely right and yet we are being offered a so-called national parliament that will collect an even lower proportion of its income than the meanest and poorest local authorities currently do. Nothing, in its own words, could be better designed to undermine civic responsibility.

And that, even if one did not see in the proposals an institutionalization of the friction between London and Edinburgh, to the probable benefit of the SNP, this would be a sufficient reason to vote “no” on September 11th.

Allan Massie is a journalist and novelist who lives on the Scottish borders. He writes regularly for several publications, including the Scotsman and the Daily Telegraph. Her most recent novel, published last month, is Shadows of Empire.

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Home rule

Self-reliance for Scotland is the only way forward for the UK | Alun evans

A A year ago today, Britain’s three main party leaders issued their famous vow, pledging to continue devolution to Scotland if a vote is not taken in the independence referendum, then just 48 time.

Some saw this as a panic reaction. The Scottish National Party and the Yes campaign seemed to be calling all the shots. Union supporters seemed to be constantly late, playing a constant game of catching up with the moving train of independence.

If, on September 18, 2014, some 200,000 Scottish voters had opted for a yes rather than a no, we would now be in the midst of the most complex and controversial negotiations to create the conditions for Scotland to become a state. independent nation – and to break the 300 year old Act of Union.

Since the referendum, and despite its defeat, the SNP has continued to pull the strings. Indeed, last weekend Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP would set out in its manifesto for next year’s Holyrood election the circumstances under which it might be fair to call a second referendum on independence.

The first referendum was supposed to settle the issue for a generation. He hasn’t even done it for a year. How did we get to where we are now?

The rise of the SNP in 80 years has been remarkable: since its foundation in 1934, through fleeting successes in by-elections, a wave in the 1970s and the frustrations of the early attempts at transfer under the Callaghan government, to the wild years of the Thatcher and Major years, and to the settlement offered by Blair in his first term – that many hoped to kill the independence movement. Then he skillfully used his power base in Holyrood to reach a point to force a referendum, almost win it and become the story of a general election in the UK.

What, if anything, can the UK government do about this SNP-led march of history? Is a second referendum on independence, leading to a yes, inevitable?

The SNP has overwhelmed the UK on four fronts: politics, politics, personalities and passion.

Its political stance and strategy have always been in the context of its clear and unwavering ultimate goal of Scottish independence. Initially, his political strategy focused a lot on presenting himself as an alternative to the Tories, focusing on the wealthier parts of North East Scotland. It is not for nothing that opponents of the Nationalists have dubbed them the “Tory Tories”. But in 2015, their grassroots policies (such as free university education and higher public spending) targeted the Labor Party and the seats in the central belt.

In turn, SNP policies and politics have been led by a remarkable trio of politicians – Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon, and John Swinney. In contrast, no major figure in Britain’s main parties has been wholeheartedly involved in Scottish politics, preferring to pursue a career in Westminster.

Finally, the SNP showed enormous passion in presenting its case.

What about the future? Now is the time for the UK to make a big, bold, generous and mature offer to the people of Scotland.

This offer has to be – whatever name people choose to call it, full fiscal autonomy or devo max plus – ‘UK home rule’, to use the language of Charles Parnell and William Gladstone.

What would it look like? This could be: the full devolution of taxes and expenditure to the Scottish Parliament and Government, with the exception of reserved areas; full responsibility for domestic politics and spending; full responsibility for energy policy and activity on and at sea; agreement on certain shared responsibilities in the United Kingdom; a framework for maintaining the UK as a constitutional monarchy; a shared economic space with a monetary policy defined by the British Central Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee in which the views of Scotland should be represented; defense and the overall conduct of foreign policy is handled by the UK, but in full consultation.

But it would take three general conditions. First: economical. This arrangement would, by definition, mark the end of Barnett’s formula for public spending as applied to Scotland – requiring a new, fairer formula to be applied to Wales and Northern Ireland.

Second: political. The granting of a much greater degree of UK independence to Scotland – self-government – should have a counterpart in terms of reduced political power for Scotland in the parliament at Westminster. The best and fairest answer to West Lothian’s question is that autonomy should coincide with a reduction in the number of Scottish MPs in exchange for autonomy. This would imply a reduction of perhaps 50% in the number of Scottish MPs.

Third: constitutional. This issue must be resolved for a generation, not for a year or for five years. There may be something to learn from Canada’s experience with Quebec. After its second referendum in 1995 – when the separatist movement managed to achieve only 1% independence – the government reached out to Quebec and sold the benefits of staying in Canada much more forcefully. and passion, as separatist pressure has subsided. .

Those who believe Scotland remains part of the UK must now do the same to ensure that the autonomy agreement is not immediately canceled. And so a long-term agreement has to state that it is for the long term – even if it has to be written into a new union treaty.

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Home rule

Archive: Irish Home Rule and the Ulster Pact | North Ireland

On September 28, 1912, 237,368 men and 234,046 women in northern Ireland and beyond signed the Covenant and the Ulster Declaration, pledging to oppose Home Rule, then debated by the British government.

the third autonomy bill – which did not achieve full independence but transferred power from London – was fought by the Unionists, who wanted to maintain Ulster’s position within the United Kingdom.

A document based on the 17th century Scottish National Pact was written to serve as a solemn oath.

Manchester Guardian, September 20, 1912: click to read full article.

He bound those who had signed it to

supporting each other to defend, for ourselves and for our children, our cherished position of equal citizenship in the UK, and using whatever means may be deemed necessary to defeat the current plot to create an autonomous Parliament in Ireland.

A separate statement was drafted by the Ulster Women Unionist’s Council in which women are committed to “Let us join the men of Ulster in their uncompromising opposition to the autonomy bill. “

Ulster Declaration for Women, Manchester Guardian September 11, 1912
Manchester Guardian, September 11, 1912: click to read full.

September 28 was declared Ulster Day, and meetings were held across the region to mobilize support. On the same day, many Protestant churches organized special services and many factories in Belfast closed to allow workers to join the crowds at Town Hall; Sir Edward Carson was the first to sign. The women signed the Declaration near Ulster Hall.

Copies of the document were signed at over 500 locations across Ulster and further afield in England and Manchester over the following weeks.

Ulster Pact in Manchester, Guardian October 7, 1912
Manchester Guardian, October 7, 1912: click to read full article.

Some saw in the Home Rule bill the ignorance of English politicians and party politics. A letter to the Guardian claimed that “to the average Englishman Ireland means a troublesome island somewhere in the Atlantic, where the natives run half-naked over blossoming shillelagh bogs while behind them hides a mysterious known conspirator under the name of “the priest” … ”

The author suggested that a bill should be drafted by businessmen of all stripes, making it “satisfactory to everyone in Ireland except a few Orangemen and Molly Maguires. ‘

Letter on the Ulster Alliance, Manchester Guardian October 26, 1912
Manchester Guardian, October 26, 1912: click to read full.

The legality of the Covenant has also been called into question and criminal proceedings have been brought against several signatories.

Ulster Covenant criminal case, Manchester GUardian October 4, 1912
Manchester Guardian, October 4, 1912

The Autonomy Bill was adopted by the Commons, but was defeat in the Lords in January 1913. It would have been adopted, but when World War I broke out, the matter was put on hold.

In October 1912, while the bill was still hotly debated in parliament, the Guardian correspondent in Belfast suggested that, faced with lower than expected turnout, Unionist leaders were forcing “non-voters” to sign.

He also wrote that “those who put their names on the Covenant on ‘Ulster-day’ are the culmination of militant unionism.” In this he was prophetic; the unionists selected 100,000 men from among those who signed the pact to be trained in the use of firearms as the first force of ulster volunteers.

Ulster Pact, Manchester Guardian October 18, 1912
Manchester Guardian, October 18, 1912: click to read full articles.

Learn more about the Ulster Covenant, search for documents and view original signatures on the Northern Ireland Public Archives Office website, which digitized both the Covenant and the Declaration.

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Home rule

Independence: An Argument for Home Rule by Alasdair Gray; My Scotland, Our Britain: A Future Worth Sharing by Gordon Brown – review | Political books

Owhen a polemic claiming the independence of Scotland receives the title Independence, but the subtitle An argument for Home Rule, be prepared for some confusion. Momentarily, the cover of Alasdair Gray’s book gives the impression that he could defend both sides in the upcoming referendum.

Self-government for Scotland – within the UK – is what the Scottish Labor and Liberal parties have intermittently advocated since the late 19th century; it has already been partly achieved by devolution, and it is a constitutional process that Gordon Brown says should continue if Scotland returns a ‘no’ vote in September.

Autonomy in this sense, however, is not what Gray means; it signifies separation from the United Kingdom. He has a utopian vision of how (in the words of his more cohesive 1992 book on the subject) “the Scots should rule Scotland”, entirely disentangled from England. He imagines an independent nation in the sepia image of his own childhood, in a retro-futuristic landscape reminiscent of the beginnings of the British welfare state. It’s state-owned Scotland, minus the anti-Scottish BBC; a Scotland free of NATO and nuclear weapons and aggression; a neutral, fabienne-socialist Scotland, like an incredibly benevolent Switzerland, but without the banks.

Gray recounts it all in a pamphlet full of cod history, doggerel poetry, whimsical tangents, the bitter settlement of personal squabbles and the repeat of the Scottish Socialist Party’s defunct “Calton Hill” manifesto for a “Scottish Commonwealth”. .

A book that should have been a major cultural asset for the “yes” campaign does it no favors. It is, frankly, mortifying to compare such an incoherent mess with Gordon Brown’s powerful collection of arguments. My Scotland, our Britain.

Nonetheless, there remain illuminating parallels between these two Scottish originals. Although on opposite sides, Brown and Gray agree on the central pillars of Scottish culture: the egalitarian ethic of the Presbyterian kirk, the distinctive institutions of Scottish law, and the ambitious traditions of Scottish education. They also agree that the Scottish National Party government’s recent policies at Holyrood have in fact undermined these institutions and values ​​- through over-centralisation, attacks on the legal system and the dumbing down of education.

Despite his overt support for the “yes” campaign, Gray rages against recent attempts by Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill to remove the principle of corroboration from Scottish law (thus bringing it closer to English), and he can’t help but express fears about bureaucracy. authoritarianism within the SNP. Gray may dream of independence, but he dreads reality, perhaps aware that his polymathic Scottish traditionalism finds little echo among contemporary nationalists.

But there the parallels end. Gordon Brown does not seem to suffer from such internal contradictions or uncertainties. In My Scotland, our Britain, he summons against separatism an almost overwhelming legion of economic data, historical evidence, political rhetoric, philosophical argument and personal experience. In the interconnected world of globalization, he derides nationalism as a 19th century answer to a 21st century problem.

Brown gets rid of the heavy economic artillery: why would the SNP want a monetary union in sterling while renouncing any Scottish influence on economic decision-making in the UK? How can you rely on North Sea oil, when it produced 4.5 million barrels a day in 1999, but only 1.4 million in 2013? According to him, the loss of trade within a UK-wide integrated economy would mean that independent Scotland’s exports to the enduring UK would be 83% lower after 30 years (and exports from rest of the UK to Scotland 77%) lower than if Scotland were to remain part of the UK.

Brown’s statistical arguments are relentless, inflexible and exhaustive: a taste, one presumes, of what it might have been like to try to disagree with him at the Treasury. Yet it is not finance that drives his book. Although few paid much attention to his speech on “British values” when he was in government, it was the central theme of his political life. Although he refuses to toe directly with the Better Together campaign or any party line, his absence and presence have been enduring features of the referendum debate.

At the heart of his understanding of British values ​​is a startlingly beautiful notion of fusion: the Scottish principles of solidarity, civil society and “democratic intellect” have, through union, intertwined with the English values ​​of freedom, of tolerance and pragmatism. He calls Britain an alliance rather than a contract.

Before the union, he argues, there was a greater division between highlands and lowlands in Scotland – or between Jacobites and Covenanters – than there was between Scotland and England. England. The stories and myths of a unified Scottish nation were created and promoted by people like Walter Scott precisely to ensure that Scotland remained in the union as an independent, unsubordinated partner. A cohesive Scottish identity was forged not against the union, but through it.

Brown provides an interesting modern parallel to this process: how the legendary strength of Scottish unions came from their merger with British unions. Although a book about nationalism and the constitution, Brown sees the British state as the means by which Labor politics can survive: in the desire to tackle poverty and inequality, and in the hope that a civil society can continue to thrive in a global context. economy.

Such policies are ultimately not so far removed from Gray’s nostalgic welfare statism – but Brown’s vision is broader and his argument is deeper. It is by far the most serious and important work on Scottish and British identity to emerge from the referendum debate. It should be required reading for anyone genuinely considering the arguments before September 18, or what to do with the UK constitution afterwards.

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Home rule

The Third Home Rule Bill is 100 years old today. What did it do?

A SMALL NUMBER of events are being held across Ireland today to mark the centenary of the Third Home Rule Bill – legislation considered by many to be essentially the first piece of legislation that ultimately created the Irish state that we know today.

But what was this bill – and why is it considered so important? Let’s try to explain the story behind it all.

We should start with the basics.

In 1800 the Parliament of Ireland (as it was then called) and the Parliament of Great Britain passed the Act of Union, legislation which merged the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland into the UK.

The countries had (partially) shared a head of state since 1541 – when Henry VIII quashed Silken Thomas’ rebellion and elevated Ireland from a lordship to a kingdom, and proclaimed himself King of Ireland.

If at first you don’t succeed…

The Act of Union, which came into force in 1801, remained in force throughout the 19th century, despite a number of Irish nationalist movements – Charles Stewart Parnell having succeeded in convincing the Prime Minister of the time, William Gladstone of the Liberal Party, to introduce a bill. which would have undone most of the Act of Union, recreating a Kingdom of Ireland with its own parliament (albeit with limited power) – a concept called “Home Rule”.

Despite Gladstone’s pleas – culminating in a now famous three-hour speech in the House of Commons – this Home Rule Bill was defeated by 341 votes to 311 in June 1886, largely thanks to the rebellion of 93 backbench liberals who opposed the bill because Gladstone had drafted it in secret and without their input.

Wounded by rebellion by his MPs, Gladstone called a general election later that month and lost power. He returned in 1892 and gave it another chance – but again decided to draft his bill in secret, even excluding his own ministerial cabinet and cabinet from any input.

Despite this, the bill was approved by the House of Commons in September 1893, but it was already considered damaged goods. Gladstone’s secret redaction had led to a catastrophic financial mistake, massively underestimating the amount of money Ireland should contribute to the UK budget, while tensions between the Tories and the Parnellite nationalist wing of the Irish Parliamentary Party led to regular fights on the benches of the opposition.

When the Bill was then sent to the House of Lords, the Conservative majority – being staunch supporters of Unionism – were in no mood to be open-minded. The Lords overruled the bill by a vote of 419 to 41 and the motion was again defeated.

Changing at home…

In the meantime, although nationalist sentiments remained high in Ireland, British politics underwent greater changes. A dispute arose in 1909 when the Liberals – back in power – pushed a budget through the House of Commons but blocked by the House of Lords (which, due to its composition, had a firm Tory majority), a move seen as a break with precedent.

Two general elections were held in 1910 in an effort to allow the public to decide whether the Liberals or Conservatives should win, each with inconclusive results. In the end, the only way for the Liberals to retain power was to strike a deal with the Irish Parliamentary Party, trading the support of the 74 IPP MPs for another attempt to introduce Home Rule.

What followed was a fundamental change in the British political system: knowing that the only way to break the Conservative majority in the Lords was to flood it with new Liberal life members, the Liberals secured the support of King George V to appoint hundreds of new peers. and secure their majority.

The Tories backed down – happier to retain their majority in a weakened House of Lords than to relinquish their stranglehold on power – and the Liberals pushed through new laws that meant the House of Lords could no longer veto legislation, but only to delay it. The Lords could now only vote against legislation twice: if the Commons approved it three times, it would be sent directly to the King for enactment.

This done, Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith introduced the Third Home Rule Bill in the House of Commons on April 11, 1912 (100 years ago today). This Bill created a bicameral Parliament, with a 164-member House of Commons and a 40-member Senate, and also allowed Ireland to continue to elect MPs for Westminster (although the size of Irish constituencies would become much larger, which means fewer deputies).

Although the Lords continued to oppose it – and with significant opposition from Ulster-based Unionists, who feared becoming a powerless minority in a country ruled by Dublin and not the more industrial Belfast – the Commons successfully passed the bill three times.

…and abroad

There was only one problem: by the time he was adopted a third time and could be sent to the king, a bigger problem loomed on the horizon: the United Kingdom was now part of the Great War.

Assuming the war would be brief, Asquith rushed through a new suspensive law which put the provisions of the Home Rule Bill and another law, giving Wales an independent church, on hold until the end of the war. .

The legislation was then overtaken by events. The Great War continued and nationalism was instead expressed through the Easter Rising of 1916. Britain then chose to try to implement Home Rule immediately, but agreed not to. do so unless an agreement is reached on Ulster’s status within the new jurisdiction.

As World War I continued in 1917 and 1918, Britain found itself short of manpower and attempted to tie Home Rule to compulsory conscription – something rejected by all parties nationalists – and when the United States joined the war, avoiding the crisis, the conflict quickly ended. .

A blank page

But with the Liberals now in power for more than eight years and having delayed the election until the end of the war, a general election was called. The Irish Parliamentary Party lost nearly all of its seats to Éamon de Valera’s young Sinn Féin, whose members boycotted Westminster and formed their own revolutionary assembly. This assembly became the first Dáil and declared an independent country called the Republic of Ireland, a decision which led to the Irish War of Independence.

In 1920 the Third Home Rule Bill (now known as the Government of Ireland Act 1914) was replaced by a Fourth Home Rule Act which divided Ireland into two jurisdictions, the Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland.

Elections were held to the parliaments of both countries, but Sinn Féín de De Valera rejected Britain’s right to pass laws for the Republic of Ireland. Sinn Féin fielded candidates for the new elections, but these candidates instead formed the Second Dáil.

Eventually a truce was reached during the War of Independence and the second Dáil sent a team led by Michael Collins to negotiate what became known as the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which the Dáil ratified by 64 votes to 57.

The result was the creation of an Irish Free State of 26 counties – which slowly ruled out the king’s role and eventually became the modern Republic of Ireland we know today – and the Irish Civil War, fought between supporters and opponents of the treaty.

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