The unionists are now the fundamentalists - so says Professor James Mitchell in a deeply perceptive article in today’s Scotsman - Breaking up has become less easy
Commenting on the new maturity in the SNP’s and Scotland’s thinking, he observes -
“But constitutional thinking has not developed evenly. A new fundamentalism has arisen in Scottish politics. Under devolution, unionist fundamentalism has replaced nationalist fundamentalism.”
Professor Mitchell lists the elements of this new fundamentalism -
1. The belief that the UK’s nuclear deterrent is independent.
2. Macro economic policy is still the sole prerogative of states.
3. Foreign policy is somehow distinct from trade and economic policy.
He comments drily -
“This is a world in which not only does the EU not exist but neither do the many defence communities and elaborate array of international obligations and treaties”
“This is a world of make-believe that still resonates for those who have yet to come to terms with the UK’s shrunken role in the world and the interdependence of modern politics.”
In the great debate now underway across Scottish society, such clarity of thought and expression as Professor Mitchell’s cuts through like a beam of laser light. Read the full article online and be grateful to the Scotsman for carrying it. Better still, buy the paper and smell the ink …
IS FEDERALISM A CON?
I remember the confusion that used exist in the minds of many managers in industry over the nature of the Engineering Employers’ Federation (the EEF) and the Confederation of British Industries (the CBI). The old joke used to be “When is a federation not a federation! When it’s a con …”
Margo Macdonald gently made the distinction on Newsnight Scotland recently when the panel seemed somewhat confused on the terms in relation to the alleged ‘independence lite’ stance of the SNP.
For those who need reminding -
federal: 1 of a system of government in which several states form a unity but remain independent in internal affairs. 2 relating to or affecting such a federation 3 of or relating to the central governments distinguished from the separate states constituting a federation 4 favouring centralised government 5 comprising an association of largely independent units
confederation: a union or alliance of states
The dictionary definitions above still leave room for confusion, so we must look more closely at the political use of the terms. In general terms, a federation is a tighter relationship than a confederation, with the federation being the sovereign state.
A federation is a sovereign state comprising semi-autonomous units. A confederation is a permanent union of sovereign states for the purpose of common action in relation to other states on, for example, defence and foreign policy, and perhaps currency.
Put at its simplest - a simplicity that many may dispute as an over-simplification - Scotland in a federation (the UK) would not be be a sovereign state but a devolved unit of the sovereign state of the UK.
Scotland in a confederation would be a sovereign state, but in a permanent union with another sovereign state, UK Minus (The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland), for the purposes of common action on defence and foreign policy, and perhaps with a common currency.
To those who cry “over-simplification!” at me, I cry right back “the electorate has to know what it’s voting for in the referendum!”.
My position on a confederal relationship is that, while commonsense sharing of certain defence aspects, such as basing, command, control, co-ordination and deployment of defence forces makes sense, there must be an absolute veto politically on any military engagement or commitment, and that Scotland would not be committed to a nuclear deterrent, to the use or deployment of nuclear weapons, that no nuclear bases or facilities for the nuclear weapons would be permitted in Scotland, and no movement of nuclear weapons would be permitted across Scotland's land mass,islands, airspace or on Scotland’s waters and coast.
For me, federation is out, but confederalism is a possibility, but a heavily circumscribed one in relation to nuclear policy.