By Stephen Bailey.
There’s now a whole generation of young UK citizens who have grown up and had their formative experiences and influences since the introduction of legislative devolution in the late 1990s and so have never known what it’s like to live in a politically stable UK.
They’ve lived their whole life under the current constitutional arrangement and the subsequent constitutional crisis it has provoked, never knowing anything different.
This is having an extremely negative effect on their outlook as regards constitutional matters. They haven’t lived through the experiences that shaped previous generations’ outlook on constitutional matters such as Unionism.
Neither have they been made aware of the real issues that lie behind the Constitution and Unionism and indeed have had nationalist extremists bombard them with skewed propaganda that manipulates them into a distorted, highly historically inaccurate view that to be patriotic they have to hate the U.K.
They are being forced down a path that will eventually lead to independence and are being deprived of any kind of balanced outlook.
The increasingly cultish and authoritarian S.N.P. seem pathologically intent on acting like the totalitarian regimes of 1930s and 40s Europe – they are indoctrinating the young, so they are incapable of thinking independently in order that the S.N.P. regime will live for a thousand years.
This situation should greatly concern anybody who wants to maintain the Union, and It must be their urgent task to counter this undemocratic and sinister manipulation by the S.N.P. (and the nationalists in other parts of the U.K.) and educate the young in the real issues surrounding constitutional matters.
Anybody over forty years of age will have been brought up in an era when the concept of a unitary U.K. with the House of Commons as its national legislature was a fairly solid concept (with perhaps the exception of Northern Ireland, where a minority of the population wanted reunification with the Republic).
On the mainland U.K. there was occasional constitutional uncertainty and danger. For example the debates on devolution in the mid to late 70s, during the Callaghan Labour administration, provided an occasional moment of uncertainty over the status of the U.K. Constitution. There had also been some committees set up in Parliament in the 1960s to look into constitutional change which were not acted on. But by and large the constitutional question was settled.
Except for a few minority extremists, eccentrics and cranks, this situation persisted up until the late 1990s.
There were some people who weren’t satisfied with the U.K.’s constitutional make-up like the S.N.P. in Scotland, Plaid Cymru in Wales and the S.D.L.P. in Northern Ireland (plus the I.R.A. / Sinn Fein), but they were composed of fringe eccentrics and student ideologues with no experience of how the real world works.
Consequently, these people enjoyed risible levels of support from the U.K. public and were no more credible than the Monster Raving Loony Party. They were consigned to the margins of U.K. politics. The vast majority of people in the U.K. either believed, or acquiesced, in a unitary United Kingdom (i.e. a single country) with sovereignty invested in the House of Commons and the Lords.
So, I think we can all agree, up to the late 1990s, the U.K.’s Constitutional arrangements were very stable and whilst some minority dissent existed, the vast majority of the public were either happy with, or acquiesced in, these arrangements. They worked well, with perhaps a few caveats here and there, but nothing was seriously wrong with the U.K.’s Constitution.
That isn’t to imply that there wasn’t a very healthy debate going on in the U.K. over the Constitution, as there often was, but the majority of people felt that there was no need for any radical overhaul of the Union, and the very small percentage of people who did think something was wrong were political extremists whose ideas were unworkable nonsense and so were dismissed with contempt by the sensible U.K. public.
During the period before the introduction of legislative devolution in the late 1990s, the whole of U.K. culture and politics was, in the main, reflective of a pan-U.K. ethos.
In schools, colleges, and universities, young U.K. citizens were taught about the U.K.’s millennia old history and traditions. Even though there are some local differences within the Anglo-Celtic story of the British Isles, on the entire there was a homologous U.K. culture and historical narrative that the vast majority of U.K. citizens subscribed to in varying degrees.
There were other versions of U.K. history and of course, since the 1960s, the left had been increasingly active in their attempts to demolish what they sneeringly dismissed as the Whig myth version of U.K. history, but the majority of U.K. citizens saw the U.K. as a single unitary entity with a common UK-wide culture, some regional variations not withstanding.
Importantly, this belief in a pan-U.K. culture was transmitted from the older generations down to the young, and so in this way, the U.K. remained a unified political entity as the young learnt what it meant to be a U.K. citizen and were imbued with a sense of, and a healthy (but not excessive or disproportionate) pride in, a concept of a unified United Kingdom, rather than just their own particular part of it.
Anti-U.K. nationalism has existed since the Union’s inception, but before the advent of legislative devolution in the late 1990s it was a tiny, extremely unimportant group of extremists and eccentrics, and was perceived as such by the vast majority of people in the U.K.
They made attempts to get their ideas across, but got more or less nowhere as people in the U.K. were generally far too sensible to believe what were (and still are), just unrealistic theories with no chance of working in practice.
They had limited electoral success (extremely limited in Plaid Cymru’s case in Wales) and were prevented from forcing their unwanted ideas on an unwilling U.K. public by the nature of the U.K.’s legislature – the Houses of Commons and Lords were the only law making and revising chambers and the few nationalists that got elected to office in the Commons were contained by the overwhelming majority of Unionist M.P.’s in the Chamber.
What’s more, legislative devolution in Scotland has enabled the S.N.P. to rise to power at Holyrood, so providing them with a platform, a megaphone, to pursue independence to a vastly bigger degree. Without this, they would be an impotent rump of M.P.’s in the Commons whose proposals for independence could just be voted down by the 600 other Unionist M.P.’s in the House. It wouldn’t matter how many seats they won in Scotland. In overview, during the pre-legislative devolutionary era, the U.K. could be described as a stable, more or less homologous society and polity.
It was the introduction of legislative devolution by Tony Blair’s New Labour in the late 1990s that signalled the end of this era of enviable stability.
New Labour ushered in a period of unparalleled instability and ill-considered constitutional change (in reality just vandalism) that was to have an extremely negative effect on the U.K.’s politics and society (it has provoked a constitutional crisis which is a clear and present danger to the existence of the U.K.).
The New Labour government, which came into power after the General Election of 1997, was under the severely mistaken impression that the constitution of the U.K. was broke and needed fixing, a view that was not shared by the vast majority of the U.K.’s public.
Overall, they wanted to gerrymander the U.K.’s elections by giving Scotland its own assembly, so ensuring that she would vote Labour in perpetuity (Scotland’s voting power in the U.K. Union is decisive – like California’s in the U.S.A. – it often decides who will govern the entire U.K.).
They quickly set about putting their plans into action. After a softening up campaign in which the real issues behind legislative devolution were either fudged or omitted completely (the most obvious of which was one Labour politician promising that legislative devolution would ‘… kill nationalism stone dead’) three referenda were held in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland which, not surprisingly considering the preceding propaganda and misinformation campaign, returned ‘yes’ results.
All three constituent parts of the U.K. were then given their own executives – Scotland received a parliament and Wales and Northern Ireland got assemblies (Wales’ was later upgraded to a parliament).
Interestingly, this plan to secure perpetual political hegemony backfired on Labour as they were displaced as the dominant force in U.K. politics by the anti-U.K. Scottish National Party in the Holyrood election of 2007, as well as being all but wiped out in the House of Commons, they were reduced to one M.P.
It’s at this juncture that the U.K.’s traditions of unitary government, described above, began to become eroded by nationalist forces that deliberately set out to destroy the U.K. identity among the young because they desired to loosen the bonds of Union, and eventually destroy, the U.K.
These nationalists adopted an extremely aggressive approach towards their goal of independence and one method they employed to achieve their objective was to indoctrinate the young with heavily biased propaganda that severely distorted the truth behind British history and inculcated in the youth of Scotland a synthetic sense of grievance that Scotland was the victim of English imperialism – the Braveheart myth.
The same is true of the other parts of the U.K. in which legislative devolution has been set up – the nationalists of those regions began to propagate a sense of false grievance towards the English in order to advance their agenda.
After twenty years of this process, the cumulative effect on the youth of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland is that their sense of U.K. national identity has been severely eroded and has been largely replaced by a manufactured composite of nationalist lies, distortions and grievance (historical and modern), at least in a large proportion of the young population.
The same is true of English youth, who have also experienced a notable diminution in their sense of unified U.K. identity, largely due to legislative devolution’s effect of polarising opinion in the constituent parts of the U.K. (Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) into supporting a false sense of being separate nationalities and resentment based on an erroneously perceived sense that these regions of the U.K. are receiving better treatment in terms of resources than England.
This bodes poorly for the future of a unitary U.K. and is extremely worrying for all who want to maintain the Union.
Inaction and complacency on this issue is just not an option.
Complacency is extremely dangerous at this juncture. It’s the urgent task of all who want to maintain the Union to stand up and challenge this pernicious, cultish attempt by modern aggressive nationalism to subvert our country by undermining belief in its future among future generations.
We need to teach the young the real narrative of the shared values that shaped our nation and help create a truly united pan-U.K. that will exist into the future.
For more from Stephen Bailey please visit: https://ukunionism.wordpress.com/blog-2/
© 2021 Stephen Bailey