“Would a Labour Government in the UK be a price worth paying to preserve the Union?” was the impossible rhetorical question a friend asked me. After all, if the SNP are in terminal decline, Labour are likely to be the main beneficiaries – perhaps by as many as 20 or 30 seats. I would not go as far as some junior Tory spokesman in Edinburgh who apparently suggested that people should vote Labour to destroy the SNP and preserve the Union. Tactical voting is a form of electoral prostitution. “Fred Blogs Winning here” is the vainglorious and meaningless slogan of the LibDems- as if winning was, of itself, worth having, almost irrespective of what policies may lie behind it. You should in my view always vote with your instincts and principles.
I was born, brought up and educated in Scotland, and my Father was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (a kind of Scottish Archbishop, but only for 1 year), so you don’t get more Scottish than me. Yet having lived in England for twice the time I spent North of the Border, I am a living symbol of the Union. London is the capital, not Edinburgh, which has more to do with kilts and haggis than with real government. I have always been a committed Unionist having argued strongly against the Scottish Parliament in the first place. My perhaps excessively crisp views on the matter on Newsnight made me amongst the shortest ever members of the Shadow Cabinet- 5 days as Shadow Scottish Secretary. As HRH the Princess Royal commented shortly afterwards “My ancestor Lady Jane Grey survived 9 days as Queen of England. How come you only managed 5 in Scotland?” “Different spelling, Ma’am.”
Our island Nation is too small- and too united and homogeneous - to divide up into little bits to satisfy perhaps sentimental nationalism as typified by the SNP. I am all in favour of devolution. Decisions should be taken at the lowest level of government possible to be as close to the people as possible. But handing tax raising powers, total control of education, the health service, transport and so much more to the Scottish Parliament seemed to me at the time to be a recipe for disaster. After all, when it all goes wrong (as it has- spectacularly), the Scottish Government will quite simply blame London- for ‘budget cuts’. It’s an old game played by local government. Blame the centre for your own inadequacies.
There is also a fatal flaw at the heart of Scottish Nationalism. A second independence referendum would either vote ‘yes’- in which case the SNP are finished rather like UKIP after Brexit; or it might vote ‘No’ in which case the SNP are finished having failed to achieve their most basic and central demand. So the survival of the SNP depended on campaigning for a referendum, but never actually achieving one. That was a piece of chicanery which could not possibly last. When it is not about policy, not about the better government of the people, but becomes all about the politicos themselves, or the party they have formed, it will come unstuck, as it seems to be doing in a most spectacular way in my native heath.
So we Unionists must strike while the iron is hot; we must destroy the poison which is Scottish Nationalism both at the polls and in political discourse. The Union of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is too valuable an institution to be smashed on the self-regarding rocks of the independence movement.