I am afraid for the United Kingdom

An event has just taken place which causes me to fear for the future of the United Kingdom.  Of course I am aware that there are all sorts of arguments in favour of, and against, the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and I could write a long piece telling you why, on balance (and despite the unwarranted subsidies paid by England to Scotland) I come down overwhelmingly in favour.  But I don’t feel the need to make that case — I just know it is right.

So what was the event that alarmed me?  Perhaps surprisingly, it was not the remarkable success of Alex Salmond and his Scottish National Party in the Scottish elections, unforeseen as that was.  Salmond has said that he wants a referendum on Scottish independence, and he is now in a position to deliver.  I personally think he will lose it, provided the other side doesn’t throw it away.  There are plenty of Scots who are prepared to vote for the SNP as a governing party, and for Alex Salmond as First Minister, without actually wanting full-blown independence.

No.  My confidence was shaken by the alarming news that none other than Gordon Brown (Watch out!  Here comes another mobile phone!) is being touted as the figurehead of the pro-union campaign.

Ed Miliband, none other, is seeking to persuade him, and Ed advances cogent arguments in his favour.  Gordon is … well, Scottish.  And he’s a former Prime Minister.  What more can you want?

Yes, Gordon is Scottish, but he’s a Scot who took the high road to Westminster, and he’d be up against a Scot who stayed behind and achieved an electoral miracle at home in Scotland.  Gordon is grumpy, withdrawn, unclubbable, verging on paranoid, with a well known and furious temper.  He had one chance to lead his party to electoral success, based on his record in Number 11 and Number 10, and he crashed and burned.  If you were looking for a counter-example to “charisma”, he’d be top of the list.

And Salmond?  Clever, subtle, likeable, exuding an aura of confidence and success.  Unlike Brown, Salmond is a people person.  And Miliband thinks that Gordon Brown can front a campaign head-to-head against Salmond, and win?  Tell me another one.

I first met Alex Salmond, believe it or not, in 1994, in a boat in Singapore harbour.  Salmond was making a state visit to Singapore, and prominent members of the British community were invited to meet him (I think I got in because I was a regular at the Saint Andrew’s Ball).  He proved to be exceedingly good company — pleasant, friendly, relaxed.  Based on this scant acquaintance, I approached him a few years later to ask for help with a speech I’d been asked to give at a Burns Night Supper.  I scarcely expected a reply, but in fact he sent me the draft of a similar speech he’d recently given, which I plagiarised shamelessly.

Don’t get me wrong.  I disagree profoundly with Salmond’s politics.  In general terms, he’s just another socialist tricked-out in nationalist trimmings.  He still talks the talk on climate alarmism (although, on the plus side, his commitment to emissions reductions has been criticised).  On Europe, he’s just plain confused.  He thinks in terms of “a Scotland independent within Europe”, failing to see that that’s a contradiction in terms, and that whatever he dislikes about government from Westminster will be ten times worse with government from Brussels.

If, heaven forfend, Scotland ever became independent, he’d find that he’d added another “S” to the PIIGS — we’d have Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain and Scotland in the euro dog-house.  I think that the Scottish people, broadly speaking, understand that in an independent Scotland, the RBS débâcle would have bankrupted the nation.  Indeed they’d be worse off than the PIGS — and more like Iceland.

So I think that Salmond will get his referendum, but like Nick Clegg, he may not like the answer.  All we need is a credible campaign on the other side.  And with that in mind, spare us Gordon Brown!

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6 Responses to I am afraid for the United Kingdom

  1. Ross J Warren says:

    Whilst it would be churlish not to admire the skill of Salmon, the Scottish public are not fools. The break up of the Union only makes sense if the E.U. gains even more real terms power.

    So I am afraid Roger that the ball is very much in your, and your fellow MEPS hands.

    Of course there is another Elephant in the room, and that is our lack of progress in Scotland. If the Scottish Conservative party cannot reverse at least some of the erosion of our support, we really will have very little say in any referendum that is run.

    Sadly we are fighting an uphill struggle against a prejudice, which is partly deserved.
    Should D.C. fail to win hearts in Scotland, we may have no choice in the longer run but to face the prospect of being an “English” party.

    I fear that we will fail to bend with the hurricane of the E.U. and end up missing the opportunity that a New Empire promises for those who can grasp the nettle.

    For this reason I do not envy your job, which must inevitable result in very difficult choices.

    Have a good day Roger.

  2. steve says:

    I find Brown eminently clubbable, but not perhaps in the sense you mean. More worrying, though, as readers of Guido will know, is the ‘Curse of Jonah’.

  3. Tony Beardsley says:

    We are all entitled to have and voice our personal views and opinions even in a ‘First Past The Post’ democracy (More like the Last Post for fairer democracy) then it is not so much as whether the Scots, Welsh, Irish, Cornish or whoever want greater autonomy/independence from Westminster and the Union, it is more importantly England’s position in all of this. Surely the largest constituent nation within this union with the largest electorate by far needs to have its voice heard and respected if this union has any chance to survive at all.

    How can it be acceptable and fair that English students, NHS patients and her citizens be treated unequally with regards to tuition fees, prescription charges and a devolved legislature alongside & equal to the other constituent nations that form the United Kingdom. We are told that England as the largest nation does not require such a parliament as this would create an imbalance and threaten stability within that union and would prove financially punitive. But what are the real reasons for this? Why is England politically ignored and culturally, ethnically erased whilst her marginalised citizens still are the main financial contributors to the economy & exchequer? What is the real agenda of the British Government? Has the government got any sinister & surreptitious motives or is it just merely to appease the other constituent nations in its misguided and deluded belief that in doing so the Union is underpinned and secure?

    Fifty million people are a powerful voice & in a true democracy we need to recognise, listen, understand, address & represent them and their views but more importantly uphold their rights which are being treated shabbily & with contempt.

    I for one respect, empathise and agree with greater devolution for Scotland, Cymru & Kernow and look forward to greater independence for all of those nations and hope England too will wake up from our apathetic slumber and make our voices heard so we too can enjoy the same liberty, rights and equality in the near future.


    If the union is to have any hope of survival it first needs to prove its worth not from its past achievement but more importantly its future benefits, aspirations and potential. Sadly although we live in the 21st century we have attitudes and policy still back in the 19th. So may I remind unionists that the empire is dead. Thankfully we did the eulogies a long time ago and finally to all you delusionists that still hark for the good old Empire Days and fly their true blue Union Flags may I offer a stark warning that whilst you hopelessly cling to the last vestiges & glories of the past we may not see through or blind arrogance and ignorance that in that time Ulster,Scotland, Cymru and even Kernow grow up and grow out of the union into their liberation & independence whilst we remain the last & only nation left in a fallen empire.


    May I conclude by giving heartfelt appreciation to Mr Helmer and all that read my message. You are free to read, disagree and comment and I will welcome, respect and carefully consider all that are made.

    Sincere thanks and best wishes to you all.

  4. Roger Cole says:

    As an Irishman I have long opposed Ireland’s integration into the emerging EU Superstate, largely because of our historic experience of being part of the British Union. In fact, because of the emerging imperial nature of the EU, whatever about our past differences, I believe that Irish Democrats and English Democrats, Scottish Democrats, and Welsh Democrats now have a great deal in common in our common opposition to the EU and its decision making processes, the latest being the EU Court of justice decision on Bernard Connolly. So the interesting issue on the SNP’s call for Independence from England, is the apparent willingness of the SNP to remain part of the emerging EU with hardly a word of criticism of the emerging Empire. Thus at a time when there is growing opposition in England to the new European imperialism, which is finding common cause with Irish Democrats, the SNP apparently has no problem with the EU. One wonders, therefore just exactly how much “Scottish Independence” the SNP actually believes in, or is it all a sham based on anti-English values?

  5. Roger Cole says:

    So he is just a “canny scot”. Maybe you are right.
    Either way, I don’t see any rational case for English people to maintain the subsidy to preserve the union if the Scots really want independence. The only point I was making is there is no big deal to leave the British Union and remain in the European Union. Anyway, good to see you keeping up the fight. If you are ever coming to Dublin, give me a call and we can have a chat over a few pints.

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