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Wings Over Scotland

Positive-case-for-the-Union update #4

Posted on January 10, 2012 by

(See here for the whole story.)

We honestly thought we were going to get something this time. Not, if we're being honest, from the terminally vacuous Dougie Alexander (writing in famed Labour paper the Telegraph), and he didn't disappoint us:

"Politics is about emotion as well as simple accountancy. So as well as making the economic case for staying in the United Kingdom, we also need to tell a better, more positive story for Scotland’s future to compete with the SNP’s narrative of nationalism." (Actual positive story not included. Nor the economic case, now we come to think about it.)

But we thought there was a real chance from Tory opinionist Andrew McKie in the Herald yesterday. After all, it was practically there in the headline ("A positive reason for the Union? Most Scots want it"), and the article itself was clear about its goal, noting that "Politicians are much given to talking – as Mr Cameron did yesterday – about 'a positive case for the Union' and commentators (I'm one of them) have been asking for the same thing for some time. Since nobody has yet been willing to do this, I'll try to make a modest start".

Sadly, though, the actual case presented by McKie turned out to be, shall we say, not entirely convincing:

"It is a strategic mistake for Unionists to bang on about whether Scotland is subsidised by England. It is, a bit, compared with many English regions (though London is subsidised more), but then we have Glasgow to contend with, as well as huge remote areas such as the Highlands and Islands, which demand higher spending.

The benefit of the United Kingdom is that such costs can be shared among a much larger population; the Union gives freedom of movement, lack of tariff barriers and equal benefit, healthcare and pension entitlement to all citizens.

This should be stressed as a positive advantage, not as a claim that the Scots couldn't afford to go it alone, or that they are subsidy junkies." [paywall link]

In other words, McKie's "positive" reason is basically "Glasgow is such a dump that we need the rest of the UK to bail out all the benefit scroungers there". Or in other words, the same old negative scaremongering, but now simply called a positive boon. (Also, he appears to rather bizarrely believe that an independent Scotland won't have freedom of movement, healthcare or pensions. All this positivity is overwhelming us.)

In fairness to McKie, he does go on to assert the claim made by his headline, namely:

"That positive case for the Union is not one which any convinced Scottish Nationalist will agree with, but it is the most forceful of them all: the positive case for the Union is that most Scots do not want to abandon it."

But that's not so much a case as a statement, of something nobody actually knows yet. We will know after the referendum whether Scots want to abandon the Union, and not before – in 304 years of Union, this will be the first time Scots have been given any vote on it. The manager can say before the game that his team has it won, but you don't actually get the three points until the final whistle.

So sadly, nothing yet. But there's still time! Come on, Unionists! You can do it!


TIME ELAPSED: 5 years, 0 months


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8 to “Positive-case-for-the-Union update #4”

  1. Subrosa

    Don't hold your breath. I've been searching for a positive unionist statement most of the evening. It's the same old rhetoric.

  2. John Böttcher

    Indeed, Subrosa.
    It's almost as if there isn't a "Union dividend"!
    BTW, who invented that fatuas phrase? Blair? Brown?

  3. Ken

    I made the mistake of reading the reader's comments after the Alexander article.  I think the SNP should print some of them up and distribute them- I can't think of anything more effective in persuading people to vote for independence! 

  4. Clawd Baws

    Speaking as someone who wants independence I've been trying to think of how the unionists might best make their case.  Only trying to help!  I've been driven to it because frankly the standard of debate on the unionist side is appalling.  The only answer I've come up with (with my unionist hat on!) is: tear up the Act of Union and have a federal system.  This would give Scotland more powers (which the majority of Scots are alleged to want) and also address the needs and grievances of the other countries that make up the UK. This would mean the SNP would have to focus on what additional benefits independence would bring.  That is to say, what practical difference would it make.  Labour won't do this however, because they're scared that this just hastens the process.  This is why we have the ridiculous spectacle of Scottish Labour fighting ferociously for the status quo (when did that become their sole raison d'etre?) but not being willing to admit publicly (or perhaps even privately Jim Murphy) that they are in cahoots with the Tories.  Scottish Labour does  not want to support more powers for Scotland because if we become independent, Labour UK loses a significant part of their voting base.  Labour are therefore stuffed unless they concede that more powers for Scotland are the way to go.  They will of course eventually be stuffed anyway when Scotland becomes independent.  The unionists sole hope therefore hangs on delaying the process (if you accept as I do that independence is inevitable).  For that Labour needs to make a strong case for devo max.  The Tories have signed their own death knell in Scotland by electing Ruth Davidson who is clearly happy representing the views of an elderly part of the electorate.  When they pass on, so will the Tories in Scotland.  Well done Ruth!
    So in total, a positive unionist case (again assuming most Scots want more powers for the parliament) relies either on Scottlish Labour developing a separate line from their UK masters and arguing for devo max or for Labour UK to change their position. This would distinguish their position from that of the Tories and put pressure on the case for independence, for now at least.
    Thing is if independence is going to happen anyway and the only question is when, does it really make sense to try to delay the process?  I suppose if you are an ambitious unionist politician all you're bothered about is the here and now, so delay by giving more powers to the Scottish Parliament could well be the answer to all their woes!  Come on, admit it, it's better than what Johann or Dave's come up with so far….

  5. An Duine Gruamach

    The Highlands and Islands are remote?  From whom?

  6. RevStu

    From the centre of the Scottish Unionist world, of course – London.

  7. Planet9

    Lets not go overboard, somewhere you have to take a ferry to reach is remote from the major population centres — much like the Isle of Wight is somewhat harder to get to than Portsmouth.

  8. RevStu

    If you’re on a ferry, going overboard is definitely a bad idea…

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