Muscular Unionism – 8 September 2022


The Truss camp suggestion that they may change the threshold in a future referendum may or may not come to pass. There was much playing to the gallery during the campaign. But all the same it’s indicative of an attitude of mind and a positioning towards Scotland that’s set to be intransigent at best, and more likely both combative and confrontational.

It’s hard to see how she can row back from the wider ideology of “muscular unionism”, or that she wishes too, even if particular policies may be more flexible. That makes the constitutional debate in Scotland ever more polarised and with ramifications for others.

There’s been little outrage over Truss’ position on a referendum from those who champion devolution or federalism, call it what you like. Many were quick to condemn an egg being thrown and some abuse shouted at a rally in Perth. Despite the significant presence of Police Scotland at the scene of the supposed crime and where the forces of law and order seemed content to let matters run; blood has been called for.

But where’s the outrage or even concern at a fundamental attack upon democracy. This is a rerun of 1979 when Scotland was denied its right by legislative jiggery pokery and now they want to repeat it. It didn’t happen with Brexit, and it certainly wouldn’t be imposed in Ireland, where they’ve an agreed right to a poll and even another after 7 years.

Instead, those seeking Devo Max or whatever have stayed silent. Do they not accept that there’s a democratic right for Scots to decide their own future? Or that the rules which apply in a democracy should be across the board? Their silence does them no credit.

Do they really think this will help them? Maybe they think that as well as changing the threshold, they can ensure a third question on the ballot? But that’s naïve. This isn’t about preserving the union but enforcing subjugation. It also ensures that as Unionists would boycott any referendum called without Westminster consent, independence supporters will do likewise with any charade of a democratic vote.

All the warm words of 2014 seem from a different age. “Scotland please stay”, a “Powerhouse Parliament”, “the most successful partnership” in history. Aye that’ll be right. Now it’s Know Your Place Jock, Do As We Say. Whatever unlikely chance there was for Federalism is being destroyed and the iron fist has been exposed.

But it also has an impact on strategies for independence. The First Minister tweets her outrage and her acolytes bleat yet again about Perfidious Albion. However, their strategy, if you can call it that, was predicated on a referendum and one that would be given voluntarily and fairly by Westminster. All they needed was one more electoral victory and Boris would blink, a referendum would be conceded and hey ho Scotland would be a Nation Once again.

Well, Johnson didn’t blink and now he’s replaced by an even more Uber Unionist. The supposed cunning wheeze of fast tracking a decision to the Supreme Court is just accelerating what I believe will be a crushing judgement.

The Truss declaration has shown that the debate’s now between Independence and Scotlandshire, and that a strategy beyond simply begging for a referendum’s required. The SNP might not have it, but others do.