Sunday, 15 January 2012

Unionism and the charlatans

David Cameron, whose resemblance to a self-satisfied hamster increases by the week, must be regretting taking on Alex Salmond.  For all the political posturing about preserving the Union, Cameron's partisanship will be best served by getting rid of those fringe parts of the UK whose perspective on events is not shaped by a rolled-up copy of the "Daily Mail" and a simplistic denial of the possibility of pluralism.  Salmond is probably the wiliest political operator currently in the field, and any English rightist is likely to find Wee Eck going into a revolving door behind them and coming out in front.  You would have thought that they might actually have worked this out from the trouncing dealt out to Labour and the Liberal Democrats last May.

Cameron's attempt to present this as a cleaning-up, sorting-out sort of intervention is so disingenuous as to be risible.  Hiding behind legalism may be all very well, but there are political and moral imperatives as well.  Salmond is being crafty, wanting a multi-question referendum that will allow both full separation and the "devolution max" options to be ranked.  The Scots are used to PR and preferential voting, so this should not be an Einsteinian challenge - and devo max is quite likely to be the preferred choice - which is why Cameron is so keen to blow the last Unionist joker on the binary independence/Union dichotomy, hoping that the former will frighten off even those Scots who see the effectiveness of devolution in allowing them not to have a screwed-up health and education system.

This will come back to bite Cameron, whose sense of playing to the English gallery blinds him to the reality that Scotland is developing both its own polity and confidence in its ability to address options.  What will now emerge is similar rumblings from Wales, Northern Ireland the English regions - slower, but nevertheless moving towards a devolved, federal Britain. 

The irony will be that the decay of the Union is being accelerated by its staunchest defenders, and that the little rightists, defeating UK-wide constitutional change, may actually be lighting the powder underneath a revolutionary demand for self-determination.

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