How do we respond to the latest threat from the SNP to break up our country? We must respond in a variety of ways. One of them is humour. The gorillas are on the loose again beating their chests and drinking epic amounts of Ribena. This naturally makes them a little hyperactive. We must laugh at the little gorilla that keeps crying wolf. We have always laughed at such people. And yet we also always take seriously threats to our country and act accordingly. Too few people in the Scotland and especially in other parts of the UK recognise what the SNP are trying to do. It may be a little paradoxical, but truth lies in the combination of opposites. At the same time as we laugh we must also stiffen our resolve and be prepared to counter all threats. This is the British way. This has always been how we see off such people.
It is vital to learn from mistakes, both those that were made recently and those that were made long ago. Britain made a long term strategic error in 1916 that is still with us today. It didn’t happen on the Somme, which, by the way, was neither pointless nor a defeat. Rather our error occurred a little earlier. In response to rebellion in Ireland we executed the rebels. We were quite justified in doing so. They were traitors. Any country has the right to fight rebellion especially during war time. The people who decided to use 1916 as the moment to stab Britain in the back when we were struggling desperately to liberate both France and Belgium were cowards and opportunists. I would not wish that my country had such founding fathers. But it was our error that made them such. They might now be forgotten if we had put them in prison for a few years and the incident might be a detail in history known only to specialists.
Nothing in history or indeed in the future is inevitable. There need not have been a First World War. The conditions that gave rise to it were already easing and by 1916 the world might have been safe. It was contingent and all the causes you learned about at school might have had a different outcome.
The British response to rebellion in Ireland was a long term strategic error. It is quite easy to imagine a scenario where Ireland remained a part of the UK. If I could go back in history, I would only have to change a couple of things to make that so. But it wasn’t only Britain that made an error. By rebelling in 1916 the Irish put themselves on a historical path that one hundred years later is not turning out so well. They divided their island. They had fifty years of poverty. One hundred years of continued emigration including my family. They had thirty years and more of terrorism. Worst of all perhaps, after one hundred years the English speaking people in the Republic of Ireland are going to end up in a different trading bloc to the English speaking people of the UK. Long term this is going to harm the Republic of Ireland. Choosing the Euro and the EU and people who don’t speak your language and who in the end are neither your friends nor your family looks like a long term strategic error which began in 1916 in Dublin. The Republic of Ireland strove to avoid precisely this fate when it joined the EU only at the same time as the UK did. But there is no use complaining about a potentially hard border and damage to trade between the UK and Ireland. When countries choose to have an international relationship they inevitably lose the benefits of being part of the same country. This didn’t have to happen. This is what you chose.
But it is crucial to remember that the loss of Ireland in the 1920s was not existential. We were the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. We remained a United Kingdom. What we lost was merely something following the word “and”. People who have read my work know that I have always supported the right of the British people in Northern Ireland to remain a part of the UK. I hope that they do so forever. But if history had turned out differently and Ireland had not been partitioned this too would not have been an existential loss for the UK. It would still have been something after the word “and”.
We in Britain care about our fellow Brits wherever they are from. We will forever defend Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and the Falklands. No sensible country wishes to lose territory. But when I see the leader of Gibraltar siding with Nicola Sturgeon I think it is worth reminding him that we would still be the UK even if Gibraltar once more became a part of Spain. The loss would no doubt be painful, but it would not be existential.
What is the UK? In essence it is the sovereign independent nation state that is situated on the island containing England, Scotland and Wales. To lose any part of this is to lose the UK. This would be an existential loss. Far too few people in the UK are aware that Scottish independence means the loss of our country and the loss of our flag. There could no longer be a UK without Scotland, just as there could no longer be a UK without England. We stand and fall together.
Algeria until 1962 was a part of France. But the loss of Algeria did not entail the loss of anything essential to France. There are still some faraway places that are treated as parts of France. But the loss of Saint Pierre and Miquelon (some islands near Newfoundland) would I imagine barely be noticed in France. Losing Burgundy or Brittany would be something else again.
No French person would contemplate giving up any part of French territory without a fight. It is therefore pure folly that some English people appear to welcome the loss of Scotland. What would you even call your country? You couldn’t keep calling it the Rest of the UK (rUK) because there wouldn’t any longer be a UK. Would you call it England, Wales and Northern Ireland? It doesn’t exactly slip off the tongue. What then? Who would take this rump seriously? What would happen to international confidence in the economy of such a place that doesn’t even have a proper name? Who would view its armed forces as being worthy of consideration. If you think Brexit will be a shock, try Scottish independence. Every citizen of the UK would lose his country. The flag that we have fought under for centuries would be no more. How could there be any blue in it? Wishing good riddance to Scotland is wishing good riddance to yourself. Scotland is just as much a part of what you are as it is a part of what I am.
We have always been willing to defend our country against existential threats. Why are we unwilling now? Even if we had lost in 1940, it may have been possible in time that the UK would have won in the end. After all France came through the years of occupation and remained France. But if Scotland ever became independent, the UK would be “no more than a dream remembered” something to be found only in books.
We must recognise the SNP for what they are. They want to destroy the UK. Don’t cooperate with them. Far too many political parties in the UK appear willing to work with the SNP. There is talk of progressive pacts. Let’s be absolutely clear. There is nothing progressive about trying to destroy our country. The SNP have one aim and one aim only. Only fools work with them. Nobody who cares about the UK should vote for such fools.
How should we react to SNP threats? The crucial thing is that we must do all that we can to nullify them. For this reason I believe Scottish politicians like Ruth Davidson have made a long term strategic mistake. After the EU referendum she argued that the UK Prime Minster should not block a second Scottish independence referendum. I understand why she is doing this. She doesn’t want to inflame the situation. She doesn’t want Britain to make the error that we made in 1916. She thinks that if Theresa May blocked an SNP request for a referendum this would increase support for independence in Scotland. All of these things are legitimate concerns. Nevertheless Ruth Davidson is mistaken. Nicola Sturgeon was delighted by her intervention. I have a lot of time for the Tory leader in Scotland, but she must remember above all the maxim "Always do what your opponent least wants".
Never tell your opponent anything. Why help them? It seems to me that Theresa May is doing well. She always argues that the issue of Scottish independence has been settled. She correctly points out that the SNP do not have a mandate, nor indeed do they have a majority. She reminds them that just over two years have passed since the last independence referendum. She is right not to refuse. Why refuse when you haven’t even been asked? But it is vital Pro UK Scots make absolutely clear that we think in the end Theresa May ought to refuse a second independence referendum so soon after the last one.
Strategically I think David Cameron made a major error in allowing a referendum on Scottish independence. He should have said to the Scottish nationalists, the UK is one nation and it is indivisible. In this he would have received the support of the whole world. This is exactly the line that United States would take with regard to secession. It is the line that is taken by every country in the European Union. What is the point of fighting off existential threats to your country throughout its long history if you can be defeated by separatists? Which of our historical enemies would we give a vote? Would we allow Napoleon to vote on whether he could conquer Britain?
There is no universal right to secession. It is perfectly democratic for nation states all over the world to prevent citizens who wish to conspire in the destruction of their country from doing so. If blocking separatists is undemocratic, then Spain is undemocratic and so is the USA. If the SNP think they do have a right to secede, let them test it in the court of international opinion. How many members of the Security Council would side with secessionists? Russia has fought a war against secession, so has France, so has China and the USA. Why on Earth out of all the countries in the world does Britain alone allow these people to threaten us?
I am heartily sick of the continued threats from the SNP. Must we live our whole life continually in a state of anxiety about our country? What if the SNP had a second referendum, would that settle anything? No of course not. If they won, that would be it. We would never get a second chance. But if they lost within days they would want another go. Anyone who thinks that a second referendum would kill off the SNP is mistaken. What if they got the same result as last time? Do you really think they wouldn’t want still another chance? Anyone who thinks we would win easily is also mistaken. No-one can predict what would happen. Politics is very strange at the moment. Moreover in Scotland we are getting to the stage where we are beyond rational argument. Another campaign would just inflame passions still further. The SNP only have a fundamentalist argument. They want independence come what may. How am I supposed to argue against this? I might as well debate with creationists.
Scottish independence would destroy the country of 65 million people. Why should 5 million have the permanent right to do this whenever they choose? The concept of something being reserved means that there is the right to say “No”. There is a good reason why constitutional matters are reserved and that is what we voted for when we got the Scottish Parliament. The whole country voted on leaving the EU. But we can only make a success of Brexit if the whole country remains intact. We face a time of challenge when we must negotiate the future of all of us so that we get the best deal possible. Why should the SNP be allowed to continually interfere and make life difficult for the UK? Why should they be able to undermine the choice of millions of UK citizens just because they disagree with it? This is not democratic. A Scottish vote is worth no more than any other person's vote in the UK. Why should Scots think we have a right of veto?
The SNP would put Scotland at a long term disadvantage. They would partition Britain and put themselves in a different trading bloc to the other English speaking people on our island. There is no rational case for doing so other than identity politics, ancient history and a dislike of our larger neighbour. Theresa May must be careful. It is crucial that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past. She must say to Nicola Sturgeon. I’m sorry Nicola but you will have to wait. When we have a new Prime Minister after Mrs May departs, he or she must likewise tell the Scottish nationalists that while there may be an other independence referendum some day in the mean time they should "wait in Edinburgh, and wait...and wait...and wait."