It’s the political corpse that keeps coming back from the dead. Every time you think it’s dead it pops back up again. It’s been battered over the head. It’s been blown apart. It’s been forensically dissected and the pieces packed up and sent into orbit around whatever planet it is that Wullie Rennie comes from. But it keeps on coming back again in a series of increasingly disappointing sequels. It’s come back to life more frequently than Christopher Lee in a Hammer Horror Dracula movie, and it’s every bit as life-blood sucking. It has been repeated more often than people have copied the Monty Python Dead Parrot sketch, only without the originality or the punchline. Yes, proposals for a Federal UK have crawled out of the grave again.
This time it’s Richard Mr Charisma Leonard who is the convert to federalism. Richard clearly believes that he’s the man who’s perfectly placed to scatter some sparkly magic glamour dust on a dry and dusty cadaver and revive it so that it can join him in a song and dance number on Britain’s Got Political Talent. He had previously displayed as much interest in constitutional issues as Theresa May had shown in the welfare of immigrants, so his new found fascination with federalism might just have rather more to do with having something to say to the people of Scotland in order to stave off the second independence referendum that is looming on the horizon than it does with any deeply felt belief in the transfer of power to Scotland.
Federalism isn’t going to happen. It’s not so much that it’s a lost cause as a cause that never had any chance to begin with. Fighting for a lost cause is a noble pursuit, like fervently hoping that the Scotland fitba team might actually qualify for something eventually. There’s nothing noble in this revival of plans for federalism. It’s a cynical exercise in trying to derail the independence movement being touted by a man who never had any interest in the idea before he decided it could save his political skin.
The Tories have absolutely no interest in any proposals for federalism, except as a carrot forever out of reach which they can dangle over the heads of a gullible Scottish press and a considerably less gullible public. We can forget about it as long as the Conservatives are in power. The Conservatives are only interested in destroying the power of the Scottish parliament, not in entrenching and strengthening it. Expecting a Tory to collaborate in increasing the power of Holyrood and giving it a constitutional status where it’s safe from unilateral actions by Westminster is like expecting Donald Trump to be nice to James Comey.
It’s not going to happen when Labour gets back into power again, even if it were certain that Labour would win the next UK General Election. Introducing full-fat federalism is a considerably more complex and comprehensive alteration to the fundamentals of the British constitutional settlement than abolishing the House of Lords, and look how much progress Labour has made in its commitment to abolish the Lords. They’ve only been promising it for 100 years and when they did have the chance to do something about the anti-democratic upper house with its legion of hereditary peers, they replaced that unfair system with the only thing that was even worse, a second chamber filled with unelected appointees there on the grace and favour of the Prime Minister. If Labour were to introduce a bill on federalism, they’d only abstain on it.
Proposals for a federal UK are ever only taken seriously in Scotland, and they have one purpose and one purpose only, which is to create a pretence that real and substantial constitutional change is possible within the UK, and so Scottish independence isn’t necessary. UK federalism isn’t really about changing the UK, it’s really about preventing Scottish independence. It’s just another vow to add to the pile of broken promises.
UK federalism isn’t going to happen, because England doesn’t want it. It really is that simple. If you require any proof of that, then just look at the reception that Richard’s proposals for federalism have received south of the border. It’s not exactly rapturous. It hasn’t even been noticed, and it hasn’t been noticed because no one cares. UK federalism is a distinctly Scottish Unionist hobby horse, and no one in a position of power and influence in England is getting on for the ride. When what they perceive as the English parliament already controls all the power and all the influence, what possible motivation do they have for giving any of it up? What is going to lead English politicians to break with their favourite fetish of the absolute sovereignty of the Westminster parliament and to destroy the constitutional principle which has underpinned English nationalism for centuries? Helping Scottish Unionism get out of a spot of political difficulty isn’t going to cut it.
Proposals for UK federalism propagate the charmless lie that the UK really is a union of nations, which are equal partners in a family. That’s not how the UK is seen by the English nationalism which underpins British nationalism and the British establishment. The UK is a unitary state which is dominated by the interests of the rich and powerful in the south east. They’re not going to allow anything that threatens their stranglehold on the wealth and resources of the UK.
A promise to Scotland from British nationalist parties that they’re serious about introducing federalism isn’t credible, so it even fails as propaganda. It’s scraping beneath the bottom of the Vow barrel. We’ve been down this road far too many times in the past to give Richard’s idea any credence. What the revival in proposals for UK federalism do tell us is that the British nationalist parties are very worried indeed about the Scottish independence movement. They know we’re not going away, they know we’re getting ready for a revived and refreshed campaign. They know that they have absolutely nothing left in their armoury because a new independence referendum means that all their lies and deceit from the last time round are going to stand exposed. When you hear a British politician talk about federalism, you know that they’re getting desperate and they know they’re going to lose.
The Wee Ginger Dug has got a new domain name, thanks to Indy Poster Boy, Colin Dunn @Zarkwan. http://www.indyposterboy.scot/ You can now access this blog simply by typing www.weegingerdug.scot into the address bar of your browser, the old address continues to function, the new one redirects to the blog. The advantage of the new address is that it’s a lot easier to remember if you want to include a link to the blog in leaflets, posters, or simply to tell a friend about it. Many thanks to Colin.
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