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Saturday, 12 January 2013

Labour worries over State of the Union'

The Labourite 'Think Tank' the IPPR has just published this piece worrying about the outcome of the Scottish Independence Referendum. I strongly agree with its last comments about English interests. Here it is:-

Why the union matters

Author(s): Guy Lodge
Published date: 10 Jan 2013
Source: Fabian Review

The phoney war over Scotland’s constitutional future has finally ended. We now know that Scots will be asked to vote in 2014 on a straight ‘yes or no’ question about whether Scotland should become an independent country. As the real battle for Britain moves centre-stage, how should unionists respond?

Firstly, pro-union forces need to articulate a positive argument for why Scotland is better off in than out. This is so obvious it shouldn’t need saying but so often those who wish to assert the case for keeping Britain together do so by pushing the politics of fear; or worse insinuating that Scotland is not up to going it alone.

Part of the challenge here is that while concerted efforts have been made to champion Scottish devolution, comparatively little effort has been made in recent years to promote a compelling case for the union itself. Paradoxically, the historic pattern of periodically remaking the case for union appears to have fallen into abeyance, right at the moment when the union is under most threat from the forces of nationalism. If the purpose of union in the 18th century was peace and security, the 19th century economic expansion through empire, the 20th century defeating Hitler and building a welfare state – what is its raison d’etre in the 21st?

Oddly part of the answer can be found in the speeches of Alex Salmond. The SNP leader has very shrewdly made a big pitch for what he calls the ‘social union’. For Salmond, the language of social union is a reassurance mechanism: he wants to make clear that under independence the deep social and cultural ties that exist between Scotland and England would continue to flourish. For similar reasons the SNP insist that an independent Scotland would retain a common head of state and a common currency.

But as the historian Colin Kidd argues, the pro-union sides – and Labour in particular – need to reclaim the idea of the social union for themselves, since there is a much stronger and attractive variant of it than can only be sustained through political union.

For a social union to be really meaningful, the people and nations of the UK need to be able to pool financial resources and risks across a larger and more resilient political community than that provided by the constituent nations alone. We know that economic shocks tend to be asymmetric, affecting individuals and regions in different ways and at different times. We also know that different parts of the country vary demographically, with some parts ageing more quickly than others, creating different pressures over time for public services. The alluring idea of union then is that if one part of the UK endures a period of economic or social hardship, it can be supported both by itself and by the other parts.

This can be seen, operating in both directions, in Scotland’s history. Scotland has in recent decades benefited from relatively high levels of welfare spending from the UK pool. But, similarly, oil revenues from what would be Scottish waters contributed very substantially to that UK pool during the 1980s. In a world defined by growing economic insecurity, it this version of the social union – one that shares a common political and fiscal platform – which gives the people and nations of the UK the best chance to prosper.

Such an account of social union is perfectly compatible with further devolution – which brings in the second part of the unionist response.

In the run-up to 2014, unionists must be able to offer a package of enhanced powers for Scotland that provides voters with a clear alternative to independence. Why? This has nothing to do with making concessions to the SNP (as some mistakenly see it) and everything to do with getting on the right side of Scottish public opinion, where a majority support strengthening the powers of their parliament. If unionism is to recapture the political initiative in Scotland it needs to once again champion the devolutionary agenda (a point recognised by Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont with her decision to set up a commission to consider new powers).

Underpinning any moves on further powers should be a very simply test: how can we meet the aspirations of the Scottish people and preserve the integrity of the UK? With this in mind it is possible to make a case for boosting Scotland’s income tax powers but it probably precludes devolving corporation tax, since this could lead to harmful beggar-my-neighbour tax competition between England and Scotland. Like-wise it might be sensible to devolve certain parts of the social security system but retain pensions as a UK-wide benefit, on the grounds that pensions are a sacrosanct manifestation of what it means to be a citizen of the UK.

Importantly, any reform package needs to consider the knock-on effects across the rest of the UK, and in particular the implications for England. There is convincing evidence that the English believe they are getting something of a raw deal from a union that they perceive is privileging the interests of the other nations. This suggests the need to reform the way public money is distributed across the UK so that it accords to a principle of need, and to tackle the perennially thorny West Lothian question. If English concerns are not addressed then the social union is diminished, and with it the fundamental case for a 21st century union.

I wrote to Guy Lodge, the author of this piece and Associate director of the IPPR, as follows:-

Why the union matters > Article :: IPPR

Dear Mr Lodge,
An interesting article but the social tectonic plates continue to move.
When I first contacted Dr Sean Gabb, c10 years ago, he was a fierce British Unionist and yet now look at this latest piece from him!
Click here >>>

Yours sincerely

Robin Tilbrook
The English Democrats

This is a debate that will grow and grow in Scotland over the next 18 months. We all need to do our best to keep it in the minds of the English by writing letters to our local papers (where they are far more likely to be published than in the UK obsessed 'Nationals') whenever something relevent occurs locally!


  1. Of course, none of us can trust anything the three main parties say any more so we have to wonder what is behind Labour's thinking.

    Independence for Scotland would be a disaster for the Labour Party as they would probably never ever gain enough seats in England to become the leading party here. So they have to wreck the referendum and also diminish the number of SNP seats north of the border.

    The Tories don't want an independent Scotland because they would lose influence there completely and Cameron, who thinks of himself as Scottish or English, depending who he is talking to, wants to the prime minister of the United Kingdom, not just England.

    It will be interesting to see whether, if there is a no vote in the referendum, the Labour Party shows any more concern for England and the English.

  2. Salmond being wily does not really want independence. It would make him responsible. There would be no English to blame - directly.

    I believe he wants a raft of concessions from Westminster in the run up to the referendum that would enable him massively more devolved power and revenue, without the tiresome responsibility. He will get it too, the powers that be will cede to Scotland horrendous largesse for us to pay, not that want to lose Scotland particularly.

    They fear English Nationalism more.

    Fiscal, monetary and social union are the clues to his real desires. That means access to the treasury in England. English money. The Libertarian Alliance author is correct that the only real solution is total seperation:Scottish borders, money, military et cetera. The deal in the end will be a devo max +++ and we will have no say in it. The only truly fair referendum question should be should be:

    Do you want an independent Scotland with no financial, military, social or any other ties with England? (excepting the crown, perhaps).

    In which case there need be only the Scots involved in such a question.

    If a supplementary question is required, then this includes English interests and as a matter of right we should therefore have a say.

    Scotland have a lot to lose by antagonising the English. We are still a sleeping dragon in the main. Sixty per cent of the export business of Scotland is to the UK, predominantly England. They are happy to express their bigotry at home but don't do it here and the odd public slips are smoothed over. Beware the whitewashed tomb, once the lid is smashed the filth inside is smelt by everyone, not just the undertaker.

  3. No, I don't agree with total separation as it wouldn't be in our interests. This island needs and can only be properly defended as a whole and this is the most important though not the only issue that total separation would pose problems with. Devomax shouldn't be offered without ALL parts of the United Kingdom being given a vote on it as you say.

    1. It[ England] has been defended many times before in spite of the open opposition and trachery of the Scots and Irish and Welsh.

      Independence is independence is independence.

      Salmond wants a teenager's independence.

      Chestbeating rebellion and then home for tea.

    2. Not within remotely modern times. I am sure that if Wales and Scotland hadn't been a part of the United Kingom in 1940 then Hitler would have had a slightly easier time trying to invade us as he would have faced three separate and weaker navies instead of one vast united one.

  4. The basic truth underneath all of this is simple. Labour are prepared to pander to as many demands as Salmond wants in order to preserve the Union, whilst doing the bare minimum to mollify English anger at the lack of democracy, accountability and financial freedom here in England.

  5. Is Gordon Brown still an mp? He hasn't been seen in the House of Commons since he lost the election for Labour. I am surprised that his local Labour Party doesn't boot him out. I expect he would like a 32% pay increase as well for being invisible.

    1. Just before Christmas he recorded in the register for members'interests an income of over 300K for one month!

    2. How many of his pin a red rosette on a donkey, dumb mug constituents know this I wonder. What a thieving b......d. Looks like he's behaving in true Labour fashion then. He may soon be worth more than pretty boy Blair and his £40m, except he must be using some brainpower as he ain't got the beauty. They both love America; probably because they are screwing the Yanks for every cent they can get out of them.

      Still plus ca change. Doesn't the ex-communist Dennis Healey have a great big farm down in Susssex - from each according to his needs to each according to his means, i.e. we take from the poor and give to rich so and so's like me. But the best story is about Barbara Castle who ended up in a Georgian Mansion in Sussex. When she went home to her Blackburn constituency she used to remove her fur coat and diamonds before she got to Preston and don an old raincoat and headscarf so she could pretend she was just like the silly sods who voted for her. And still they don't understand. Still the next mp for Blackburn will probably be called Mohammed and still the good working class folk of Blackburn will vote for him until they have all been dhimmified.