Independence Within the UK?

David Martin spent a total of 33 years as a Member of the European Parliament, during which time he might as well (like all MEPs) have been digging the roads for all the political impact he had. But he did say something last week that deserves serious consideration: Mr Martin told the LabourList website that his party should back “independence within the UK” as a compromise solution to our constitutional crisis. If you think Nicola Sturgeon would have no truck with that, consider this: Mr Martin was co-convener of the Citizen’s Assembly which she set up two years ago to reach out beyond the independence movement. This, along with several other developments, makes me feel we’re being buttered up for Indy lite – especially now the egregious Angus Robertson has become Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution. 

I was always highly suspicious of that strange initiative of hers. The First Minister hailed the assembly as a forum in which everyone in Scotland could have a say in our country’s constitutional future. Everyone? I didn’t participate in it. Did you? The only proper democratic way to ensure that all registered voters decide Scotland’s future is through a second independence referendum. But we have seen what level of commitment the SNP chieftain has to forcing indyref2. She can facilitate consensus-seeking gab fests but has failed repeatedly to march under one banner with supporters of her party’s supposed flagship policy. How long before Nicola comes out of the constitutional closet and admits she will settle for something short of full separation?

A leading member of the Unionist commentariat, Kenny Farquharson, declared in his column recently that “the future beings to us political softies”. He cited a YouGov opinion poll showing that even a fifth of those who voted SNP in the last general election would prefer more devolution over independence (an option his newspaper The Times has, quite tellingly, just started to insert into its surveys):

What this shows is that Softies who back the SNP, in conjunction with Softies in the unionist camp who reject the status quo, are a formidable force when they get together. They are the new power in the land. Soft power, if you will.

Softies are far from a new phenomenon within the upper echelons of the SNP. The previous Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Mike Russell, even co-authored a book in 2006 arguing that the party should abandon formal independence in favour of a “new Union”. Grasping The Thistle also floated the idea that foreign affairs and defence should become a shared responsibility with Westminster. This got nowhere at that time because Alex Salmond – whom Mr Russell dismissed as only a guerrilla leader – grasped him by the lapels and told him not to air his maverick opinions again.

A New Union Treaty would at least postpone the break-up of Britain

But is it time for the thistle to be grasped again? I think some powerful people in our land think it is. Prepare yourselves, folks, for a New Union Treaty. That’s how those bent on preventing the break-up of Britain would hail “independence within the UK”. Others would present it as merely a slight postponement of the inevitable and find their own form of words for echoing Micheal Collins’ famous line about “the freedom to achieve freedom”.

But why would Boris Johnson ever sign up to any such thing? Because all his efforts to ensure the UK clings onto some kind of major power status post-Brexit will be seriously undermined so long as the rest of the world suspects the UK might not exist for much longer. The PM has more need and desire than anyone to put this matter to rest for the remainder of his premiership – which is all he really cares about. If he could simultaneously kill off the Barnett Formula to free up funds for levelling up the North of England that would be a big bonus. Also, never forget that Boris has an extremely low boredom threshold. What he would give to have the Scottish Question out of his messy blond mop.

He doesn’t even need to go to the bother of writing a prime ministerial speech for the inevitable treaty summit. Mr Martin has already crafted the key soundbite:

Such an arrangement would require goodwill on both sides, a robust institutional structure and constant dialogue – but it could work, and avoid a future with either an acrimonious and messy divorce or half of Scots feeling they are being held in the UK against their will. If it succeeds, it will demonstrate that the union is one based on consent, not compulsion.

The one and only thing no UK premier will never give ground on without a real struggle is Faslane. The Anglo-American Deep State won’t permit Boris or anybody else to surrender the nuclear submarine base to an anti-nuke government in Edinburgh. There would be a coup d’état in Downing Street before that ever occurred.

Anyone not wanting to stay within the UK could be branded the enemy within

The Johnson regime now seems poised to brand anyone who doesn’t want to stay within the UK as the enemy within. The Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, has declared that Scottish independence would undermine national security. Writing in today’s Sunday Times, he waxes lyrical about how the MoD directly supports 12,400 jobs and livelihoods north of the Border and thousands more in its extensive supply chain:

That shared military experience over the 314 years of the Union is not just history, it is a deep reservoir of knowledge that has earned us a place as one of the world’s foremost powers. A G7 power, a permanent member of the UN security council and a leading economy. That knowledge base can’t be unpicked with a slogan or political nationalism. That knowledge base is who we are. You can no more separate it than you can a strong Govan weld. To break it would be to weaken all our security.

They needn’t worry in Whitehall or Washington about any sudden or dramatic severing of the ties that bind whilst Ms Sturgeon is in Bute House. Under her pusillanimous leadership, the New Nats have drawn up no detailed plans for a separate Scottish defence and foreign policy. Nor have they given any serious consideration to the urgent economic regeneration efforts that would be needed in response to closure of the aircraft carrier construction yards at Govan, Scotstoun and Rosyth. Preventing the development of any such policies would be the primary aim of “independence in the UK” (an idea first floated by Donald Dewar, by the way). Here is Mr Martin’s explanation of how his “third way” would work:

Defence would remain a UK-wide function with Scotland making a contribution to this and other common services. The UK now representing more than one sovereign state would continue to hold the seat in the UN and on its security council. Scotland could, though, if it desired have direct representation in a number of international bodies – just as Taiwan does not have a seat at the UN but is a member of a plethora of international bodies.

Sturgeon could claim sovereignty over all the things that matter

I can all too easily imagine Nicola being tickled at the thought of looking like a real VIP in a plethora of international bodies, the purposeful expression on her ultra thin lips as she exited the long, black limousine with two wee Saltires fluttering on the front bonnet. Now undoubtedly in her final term of office, she must be looking for something significant to proudly point to as her lasting legacy (apart from seriously eroding rule of law in Scotland). She’d sell her self-aggrandisement to the Sturgeonistas by reeling off all she had gained for the nation they love so much. Mr Martin sums up how appetising Indy Lite could be for those who have given up on attainment of real independence:

Scotland would become a completely sovereign nation with total power over its domestic laws, services and taxation. There would be no border for goods, services, capital or labour (which would) provide a solution to the issues of currency, pensions and border posts.

My, wouldn’t that get quite a few things out of the FM’s expensively coiffed locks? It might even mollify some of her rudest critics – including, believe it or not, the most savagely anti-Sturgeon blogger over the last decade. Before its sudden disappearance, Wings over Scotland had been far more agitated about ‘trannies’ than Trident. When I pointed this up in my obituary for the site, its publisher the Rev Stuart Campbell replied:

Trident is one of the Yes movement’s biggest blind spots. It’s a distraction and a drag on our cause. We kid ourselves on that “Scotland” doesn’t want it, but polling regularly shows it’s near enough a 50/50 split… we kid ourselves on that we’d have any real negotiating leverage with the UK if we insisted on the immediate removal of Trident. It is BY MILES our biggest bargaining chip.

The Rev Stu’s stance on this is outlined at some length in the last of his below-the-line thoughts on my previous post titled ‘Wings No Longer Soar Over Scotland’. I suggest you scroll for it afterwards because it will give you a foretaste of the justification we might soon hear from Ms Sturgeon and Mr Robertson for keeping Faslane and other UK defence establishments under Whitehall control.

I reckon all too many supposed independence supporters could easily reconcile themselves to such ‘Realpolitik’. But, were the SNP chieftains ever to signed up to any sort of New Union Treaty, there might be a significant number of us siding with the anti-Treaty forces. In fact, I can think of no bigger booster for Alba than a cross-party embrace of ‘Independence within the UK’ – even more of an oxymoron than ‘Independence in Europe’.

38 thoughts on “Independence Within the UK?

  1. Slightly off topic, wonder who is representing Scotland tonight in the eurovision ? Oops sorry i forgot , Scotland is a colony, not a european country. Saddos.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Wee bit late with a reply but please leave off with the Cringe. Scotland has a plethora of musical talent of all kinds. As long as they omit the shortbread. Did I just Cringe there?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry Rob for the O/T reply to Bobby.

      Bobby I can go one better.

      Tonight Scots boxer Josh Taylor will attempt to unify four world championship boxing belts, a first for any Scot. Taylor has won Silver and Gold Commonwealth medals. Yet the contest with Jose Ramirez, won’t be broadcast by BT or Sky sports.

      Of course if it were Anthony Joshua or Tyson Fury boxing for the four world champion belts, Sky Sport and BT Sports would be all over it.

      I say good luck to young Josh, bring home the belts to Scotland, we at least acknowledge your achievements.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. When will Labour learn that anything they suggest will only be considered in Scotland based on its ability to move towards independence?

    Their obsession with inventing a third way is guaranteed to please nobody.

    Scotland leaving the UK without a comprehensive plan for how to manage afterwards would be a huge case of national self-harm. The SNP leadership don’t want a referendum any time soon but they are terrified of losing the core indy-and-bust support.


  3. We need our own foreign and defence policies – without these we couldn’t have EFTA / EEA / EU membership and, therefore, the free movement of capital, labour (people), goods and services within Europe would be a non-starter. (It would only “work” within the UK, as at present without separate foreign and defence policies).

    But this view is probably academic as anything negotiated by Sturgeon, Robertson, Smith, MacDonald etc will be so woefully inadequate that it would almost certainly be unacceptable in many aspects.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. It never seems to matter what the FM says or doesn’t say her opponents always manage to conjure up from their own tiny psychic minds some insane reason as to why how where which and what she meant, all of which is usually completely wrong but they do enjoy the muck spreading exercise for the cause of the 1.6% party that Scotland’s Independence supporters rejected out of hand because they’re not stupid and could see Alex Salmond and Stuart Campbell coming a mile away, but y’know keep insulting the SNP and the FM and Independence supporters it’s gotten them this far so bash on with the bile you’re doing us as much a favour as the Tories, same tactics too


    1. How far has Sturgeon got us? Name an additional extra power she’s managed to extract from London – apart from the welfare powers she devolved back from Holyrood to Whitehall. She will only get anything when her London overlords get something big in return – her signature on a New Union Treaty. If you don’t think she’d sign that in return for some self-aggrandisement – and something to point to as her lasting legacy apart from destroying rule of law in Scotland – you’re very naive.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I hope you realise Rob that you are auditioning for the vacant Emmanuel Goldstein position.


      2. Hi Dr Jim, you’ve had plenty of time to think of an answer to this question. So what is your answer? I’m not trying to attack you or the SNP but am genuinely interested to know how far the FM has got with getting more powers and/or delivering independence. I’ve put the same question to a few SNPers and I have yet to receive any reply that includes any comment on something that has actually be done.


    2. Sturgeon, Ofcom and the BBC between them ensured that Alba were sidelined in the election campaign. So Dr Jim, you can’t say Scotland’s voters rejected Alba out of hand when the voters barely got to hear Alba.

      Liked by 4 people

  5. I doubt very much indylite will ever happen, simply because Sturgeon doesn’t need to go for it, all she needs to is keep promising an indyref every now and then and the public will buy into it, its worked a treat since she became FM in 2015.

    She can also just keep on pointing the finger of blame at Westminster every time they do something she doesn’t like such as Home Office snatch and grabs or rotten trade deals, the status quo is perfect for her why change it.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Why would the current SNP sign up to that?

    If the settled will turned out to be ‘independence in the UK’

    Their reason for existing would go

    Along with their contented troughing

    I just don’t see them going down the road of self-denial.


    1. As I observed in my blog, Sturgeon is surely in her final term in office and is looking now to leave her lasting legacy. If that destroyed the SNP she’d be far from mournful. She has never liked the party’s name, remember, particularly the N word.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s precisely foreign and trade policy England and Scotland can’t share. Scottish economy’s completely different to the English one. Just two examples – FTAs with India and Australia. India and Australia will be only interested if UK market’s opened to Australian beef and lamb and Indian whiskey – something which is the worst nightmare for Scottish agriculture and whiskey industry. So – who decides whether those FTAs go through – England’s just going to sit while Scotland vetoes them – I somehow doubt this. We’d still be shackled to England just as we’re now.


    1. Seriously, who’d choose Indian whisky over the real thing?
      Bit like having a Sainsbury’s curry and kidding yourself it was authentic.


      1. It’s the price really – the problem arises when the Indian thing’s 10 times cheaper than the real Scottish thing and supermarkets don’t even have to label its origin.


  8. Is Scotland progressing to an «Irish solution», treaty party SNP, anti treaty party ALBA and then what?
    A terrible beauty is born?
    We need an inspiring counter to the yawn inducing banality of Sturgeon & co’s «vision».


    1. I plan to write about that in some detail soon. Having worked as a journalist in Dublin for a number of years and having immersed myself in Irish history from a young age, I’ll hopefully have something original and insightful to say. Watch this space.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Unfortunately I think you are spot on. Another oxymoronic rallying call like independence in Europe will be to her follower’s liking. Biden hell-bent on keeping Trident could have his guid Friday moment and we could have Nicola’s own little Ruritania before we wake up.


  9. Rob. Surely of interest to us.

    “According to the Times, James Wolffe QC and the solicitor general, Alison Di Rolla QC, are to leave office in a matter of days.

    Wolffe will surely know where the bodies are buried, it will be interesting to see if he’s bumped up to a High court judge, or if he’ll do a Dominic Cummings and threaten to spill the beans.


  10. If you think Scotland wouldn’t continue to be subordinated and exploited after a ‘new union’ agreement then you’re the sort of person that a con artist is delighted to meet.


  11. “Citizen’s Assembly” who/where/when … as you say an SNP echo chamber (as they were in Eire).
    Like Community Councils, Parish Councils in England (as seen on TV) they represent too much democracy. Its difficult to know which of the 3 MSPs I should talk to first (City Councillor’s last).

    At least we got rid of one level ie MEPs. Yes 33 yrs I didn’t vote for him & what has he ever done for me.


  12. I doubt the UK establishment will allow even the modicum of limited international recognition and dignity that “Independence in the UK” appears to imply.

    The “Independence movement” has been successfully “managed” for the last six years or so – why not for another six years, and another six years after that?

    We may be lucky to hang on to what we’ve already got!


  13. ‘ It might even mollify some of her rudest critics – including, believe it or not, the most savagely anti-Sturgeon blogger over the last decade’
    Never a good look guessing someone’s thoughts.
    Reading his blog about trident it is clear that he wants to use oil and trident as leverage to get FULL independence. Whether you agree with this approach or not it is ludicrous to to assume that he means the opposite of what he writes. One thing Stu doesn’t do is mince words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You cannot have FULL independence without control of defence and foreign policy and that’s what the Rev Stu, Mike Russell and, I haven’t a shadow of a doubt, Sturgeon and Robertson are prepared to bargain away for what would at best be Devo max. Maybe you’re just struggling to come to terms with the fact that the Rev Stu wasn’t the Messiah, after all?


      1. I am generally impressed by the quality of your analysis, but it is quite surprising to see you put Mike Russell, Angus Robertson, NS and the Rev. in the same basket! Has he upset you in some other way? He’s quite good at that. Personally, I have zero doubt that he is fully committed to a truly independent Scotland, even if he has turned his attention so much to the gender issues in the last two years.

        (And I hope you will acknowledge that he was prescient, early off the mark there way before many of us realised just how dangerous to child and adolescent health, not to mention to women’s rights to their own spaces, Stonewall’s and their political and big pharma allies’ massively financed infiltrations of society from police to schools to business have proved. Recently released information on Scottish school sex education curricula, hidden from parents, is horrific. I note a belated major pushback is growing, and am glad to see ECHR has now distanced itself from Stonewall, but this is big, it’s dangerous because so deeply penetrated, and we owe Stu for bringing the issue front & centre even if we do not always like his language. NS may well be using the whole agenda as a wedge issue for her own political purposes, as Craig Murray has suggested, mobilising her foully aggressive transgender acolytes to attack Cherry, McAlpine and others, but whether deliberate or not, she has achieved a huge toxic squirrel effect to distract from the SNP’s supposed prime mission.)

        There is a certain logic to parking the Trident problem for a few years if the outcome is to defang the otherwise massive opposition from the US/NATO to Scottish independence. It’s realpolitik. That is what motivated the original shift in SNP policy under AS to accept NATO, hotly debated back in the day when debate in the SNP was open & free. The logic is, we need to minimise the number of our enemies, achieve control of our own country, then make our denuclearisation moves. I don’t agree with that logic myself. I think a clean break is better. But it is a valid viewpoint and very unfair to impugn Rev. Stu as a closet Devo-Maxer because he espouses it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I accept some folks prefer Indy Lite to Devo Max just as some prefer Diet Coke to Pepsi Max. But, brand it as you may, it’s pretty much the same in the end and both are bad for you. I’m not saying the Rev Stu is a closet Unionist, just that he isn’t an advocate of authentic independence as I understand that political concept. I haven’t checked but I don’t think you’ll find any mention of retention of Trident in his Wee Blue Book, which is what originally built his cult.


  14. Any new Treaty of Union would be an Act of Union. No way would Westminster go for an international treaty, as the original is. It would be mass madness to go for anything like this. It is intended to wrap us ever more tightly in the Union Jack, as a spider wraps its prey and leaves it to exhaust itself and be nice and juicy for eating later. I think we might actually be seeing the first stirrings of ALBA superseding the SNP because of the uselessness of the SNP on independence. I don’t doubt that there are many who do want independence, and some of those will almost certainly be within the ranks of the MSPs and MPs, but so long as they are toeing the line, we have no hope. A new Treaty would be an even bigger sell-out than the first, and legally indefensible. Who would decide? The MSPs and MPs? Not the people, in the 21st century, in a supposed democracy? Do they take us for morons? Er… yes…

    Lorna Campbell

    Liked by 2 people

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