The House of Lords has been debating the Dunlop Review into UK Government Union capability. The review was commissioned by a Conservative government, carried out by a Conservative peer who was once an advisor to Margaret Thatcher, and features contributions from a variety of anti-independence politicians. In other words it’s what a BBC Scotland news manager would consider to be a fair and unbiased look at what passes for a British constitution. Despite being the product of a British nationalist talking shop, the British government, which commissioned the review back in 2019, sat on its findings for over two years before reluctantly publishing the report in March this year.
This reluctance to let the public see the findings of a review which that same public had paid for may not be unrelated to the fact that the review identifies one of the prime causes of the rise in support for independence and growing disenchantment with the British state across Scotland and Wales as the arrogance and contempt with which Boris Johnson and Michael Gove and their ilk treat the devolved administrations. Mind you, expecting Johnson and Gove to act with anything other than arrogance, self-interest, and oozing contempt is a bit like those occasional plaintive tweets asking for people to treat one another with kindness, toleration and understanding on social media. It’s all very lovely and fluffy but it has got no chance of happening. Michael Gove oozes arrogant contempt in the same way that a slug oozes slime, it is an essential mechanism for his progress.
Naturally Johnson and Gove don’t want to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that it’s their own actions which have been instrumental in creating rising support for independence, even though it’s screamingly obvious to anyone who has paid even the slightest passing attention that support for independence in Scotland is primarily driven by widespread dissatisfaction with the way in which Scottish interests and concerns are routinely ignored or marginalised by successive British governments.
The latest and most egregious example of this is the way in which the hardest possible version of Brexit was foisted upon a majority remain voting Scotland while all suggestions from the Scottish government to mitigate the impact on Scotland of being ripped out of the EU against its will were rejected by Downing Street out of hand. Throughout this entire sorry process the Scottish Government was treated by Downing Street as a hostile actor to be neutralised and defeated, and not as the democratically elected representatives of the people of Scotland in possession of a mandate every bit as valid, if not more so, than Johnson and May’s mandate to pursue the hard Brexit that was the wet dream of the Conservative back benches.
And that’s the nub of the issue with this so-called Union right there. When a devolved administration with its own democratic mandate which is independent of Downing Street’s mandate is treated as an enemy, that is all you need to know in order to come to the conclusion that the Union is well and truly gubbed. It’s made even worse by Downing Street’s determination to use Brexit, which Scotland didn’t vote for, as an excuse to undermine the devolution settlement, which Scotland did vote for.
It’s far easier for the Conservatives to blame their self inflicted difficulties on Thatessempee stirring up divisions and mongering grievances. This facile diagnosis ignores the obvious truth that this “stirring up” will only gain traction if significant numbers of people feel the same way.
Dunlop’s report made a number of weak and largely cosmetic recommendations which have as much chance of tackling the fundamental problems with the governance of the UK as there is of planting a feather and waiting for it to grow a chicken. He recommended that the UK Government’s activities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should “be clearly marked with UK Government branding”. In other words, put more union flags on things, a remedy which is not unlike telling a foot fetishist that his habits would be less creepy if he spent more time browsing the Louboutin website in search of red-soled high heels.
The Dunlop Review called for the creation of a new cabinet secretary with full-time responsibility for the Union. Instead, Johnson appointed himself “Minister for the Union, a title which has proven to be as devoid of content as Former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin appointing himself the King of Scotland, a title which has now been passed on to Neil Oliver.
Dunlop also recommended the creation of a UK Intergovernmental Council (UKIC), because the current mechanisms are not fit for purpose. This council would, he said, be a “forum for co-operation and joint working”. However he did not explain how co-operation and joint working was going to operate in practice when the British Government’s idea of joint working with the devolved administrations is that Edinburgh and Cardiff should jolly well do as they’re told and never cease to express their gratitude that their betters in London have deigned to acknowledge their existence. His proposals were noticeably short on mechanisms for ensuring that when differences of opinion arise, or when the respective mandates of Holyrood, the Senedd and Westminster are at odds, that Downing Street cannot simply bulldoze the objections of the devolved administrations out of the way. Without such mechanisms there is nothing to prevent Downing Street continuing to treat Scotland and Wales with the contempt which has become so familiar.
The Lords debate about the report was notable only for the entirely predictable way in which it was used as an opportunity to rubbish aspirations for Scottish or Welsh independence and the British establishment’s refusal to recognise the magnitude of the change that needs to be implemented if Westminster is serious about taking the steam out of the desire for Scottish independence. So we had the Tory peer and arch Brexiteer Daniel Hannon opine that he couldn’t really understand why Scottish independence was even being discussed given that “In all parts,[of the UK] we speak the same language, we watch the same TV, we follow the same sports, we shop at the same chains.”
So now you know, every time you watch one cast member of Eastenders scream at another that she’s a slag, or every time you buy a yum yum and a bridie from Greggs, you are in fact expressing your undying faith in the institutions of the British state. These are the kinds of insights that led to Dan getting a peerage. Of course some two million of us still obstinately speak another language, like Scots, Welsh, Gaelic or Irish in addition to English despite the centuries of vilification and abuse that speakers of those languages have faced, and continue to face from the English speaking majority.
This government has no intentions of implementing the proposals of a Thatcherite Conservative peer, which means that Gordon Brown’s promises of full fat federalism have even less of a chance of coming to fruition as there is of Boris Johnson being honest about the number of children he’s got. Dunlop’s flat tyre of a review is going nowhere. That ought to tell you everything you need to know about the prospects of reform within the UK. And that’s why independence remains the only option for Scotland ever getting a government that’s accountable to the people of Scotland.
NEW MODERATION POLICY
In the wake of recent events I am determined that this site will not become a home for bigots and conspiracy theorists. They will not be welcome here. Moderation is the most stressful part of running a blog, but this site is going to continue to make the positive case for independence. With this in mind as of today a new moderation policy is in force.
Anyone who attempts to use this site to post hatred, bigotry, or conspiracy theories will be banned. If you attempt to insult and abuse anyone you will be banned. This site has a zero-toleration policy for homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny. Failure to respect this will result in a ban.
If you intend to spend the next four years undermining the SNP, the Scottish Government and the pro-independence parties that the great majority of independence supporters voted for, you can do so somewhere else, because you’re not going to do it here. The reminder that has regularly appeared on this site is not a serving suggestion. It will be rigorously enforced. If you don’t like this rule – there is a small x at the top right of your screen. Click it, close this page and go elsewhere.
This is your reminder that the purpose of this blog is to promote Scottish independence. If the comment you want to make will not assist with that goal then don’t post it. If you want to mouth off about how much you dislike the SNP leadership there are other forums where you can do that. You’re not welcome to do it here.
Scotland will have another independence referendum at some point in the next couple of years. Until then, this blog will continue to publish articles which – I hope – are amusing, entertaining, and which help to educate Scotland on the need for independence. However in order to do so I need to eat and pay my bills. Due to my reduced productivity and the limitations imposed on me by my health, this year I am asking for half the amount I’ve requested in previous fundraisers. I hope to raise £5000 which will go towards supporting myself for the next year.
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