Friday, 1 March 2013
Scottish Unionists plead their case
Below is a link to a very interesting document which sets out to try to damage the case for national independence for Scotland and by implication necessary extrapolation that of independence for England or Wales, or indeed the unification of Ireland.
The document shows that the Unionists within the British Government like Micharl Moore are already using substantial amounts of English taxpayers’ money to fight the SNP’s fight for Scottish independence. In doing so they yet again demonstrate their total disregard for English interests and a mind-set which is happy to breach the trust which should be at the heart of any democratic Government’s attitude to tax money.
Neither of the Law Professors instructed to do the opinion have biographies which would suggest any sympathy with nationalist aspirations for any of the constituent nations of the “United Kingdom”. Nor, judging from their comments, do they have any understanding of the history of the nations within the British archipelago.
This Opinion should be read as being merely the legalistic argument of one side, akin to Counsel’s “skeleton argument” handed into a court prior to the hearing of a case. It is of no greater weight than that and is not, by any stretch of the imagination, definitive. As it candidly explains in its opening remarks, instructions have come from one side only and the authors, I would respectfully suggest, have been worthy of their, no doubt, handsome fees in the way that they have carefully disguised the weaknesses in their arguments.
As a litigation solicitor in practice, I am regularly dealing with Counsel’s opinion and with skeleton arguments and it is therefore of professional interest to me to see the ways in which they have carefully limited the factors that they are going to consider to exclude the arguments which wouldn’t work in their paymasters favour. They have often cited historical precedence, which, on the face of it sounds good for their case, but which once examined in any detail with an understanding of the history of the example, simply don’t stand up to scrutiny as being equivalent to the dissolution of the Union between two historic nations, that of the English and the Scottish, or to use the terms of the 1707 Act of Union, the historic kingdoms of England and of Scotland.
A good example of the historical ignorance of the authors is over the question of how illustrative it is that England and Scotland in 1707 didn’t have separate diplomatic arrangements. With respect to the learned professors, I would suggest that anyone who knew anything in any depth of the history at the time would know that diplomatic arrangements at the time were entirely within the royal prerogative powers of the monarch. As the monarch of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland had been one and the same person since the time of James I/VI, it is not very surprising that there was no change to the diplomatic arrangements in 1707 during the reign of Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart Dynasty.
The comparisons with the breakup of other countries also betray a lack of awareness and/or deliberate obfuscation. For example Singapore becoming independent from Malaysia is not two historic kingdoms or nations dividing back to their constituent parts, as neither had any significant history ante-dating British imperialist occupation of the Malayan Peninsula. The Dissolution of the United Kingdom would in my opinion would be more accurately compared with the Dissolution of theUnion between Austrian and Hungary in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the First World War.
Despite their best efforts to argue their paymasters case, the two learned professors still have to concede that both states after Scottish independence may well be new states or the resurrection of the two historic constituent kingdoms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. It is certain in any case that the UK would not be able to continue to exist without further fundamental constitutional legislation resolving the consequences of the Act of Union and terminating the “United Kingdom of Great Britain”, as obviously this couldn’t continue without Scotland.
The extent of constitutional turmoil is also exemplified by the effect in Northern Ireland where Mr McGuiness has already pledged a referendum on dissolving the link between the Province and the British crown in 2016. In Wales, Plaid Cymru are beginning to talk up the prospect of Welsh independence and the dissolution of the 1536 Union between the Kingdoms of England and the Principality of Wales. In the case of Wales the “Welsh Nationalists” seem to be trying to have their cake and eat it in the sense of seeking to maintain the wholly inconsistent idea that they should still be able to benefit from English taxpayers’ funded subsidies.
Whichever way you look at it however this report is to be welcomed as a sign that the tectonic plates underlying the UK constitutional structure are on the move and that is a good sign for the future of English Nationalism!
I look forward to seeing whether the lawyers for the SNP do as good a job in arguing for their paymasters. Also I will note with interest whether the SNP are as cavalier with public money as the Unionist politicians who commissioned this report have been.
Here is a link to the report >>> https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/79408/Annex_A.pdf