The United Kingdom’s Last Stand

Scotland UK Unity Rally Trafalgar Square London semipartisansam

 

In the darkest days of our nation’s history, when Britain confronted the Nazi menace alone and the United Kingdom was all that stood between the free world and fascism, a series of daily concerts were held at the mothballed National Gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square. These concerts, organised by the pianist Myra Hess, served to lift the spirits of war-weary Brits and demonstrate a positive public response in the face of the most trying circumstances.

Trafalgar Square has played host to many rallies, concerts and protests since those bleak days in the 1940s. But there have been none so important as the rally which is scheduled to take place later today, on Monday 15 September in support of the United Kingdom, and in opposition to a “Yes” vote in the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence.

The circumstances of the new existential threat we face may be quite different, but make no mistake: the survival of our country in its current form has not been at such great a risk since Hitler’s Luftwaffe threatened to clear the way for a German invasion.

A democratic, peacetime split may is clearly not the same as invasion by a foreign power, but it would be traumatic in its own way. No, there will not be an occupying army or columns of tanks on the street if the Scottish people decide to secede from the United Kingdom when they go to the polls on the 18th of September. As following a bereavement or divorce, life at its most banal will continue largely as usual. But something precious will have been lost, something irretrievable. The greatest, most successful country in modern history will have ceased to exist, fractured into a small, euro-centric social democracy to the north and a bewildered, diminished rump to the south.

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Why The United Kingdom Is Coming Apart At The Seams

British Values word cloud

 

“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present” – President Abraham Lincoln, Annual message to Congress, December 1862

Nobody should be surprised that the Scottish independence referendum campaign has tightened so much in the closing days, and that we now face the very real prospect of our country breaking in two.

Though it is immensely painful for unionists to see the “Yes” camp boast even a viable chance of success, and the events of the past week seem like an unforeseen emergency, the roots of this crisis have in fact been sowed over many years.

The uncomfortable truth is that the Scottish independence referendum campaign became so close because it was allowed to generate into a mere political argument – left wing pipe dreams versus conservative continuity – rather than being built into a real debate about nationhood, nationality and belonging.

What little talk there was of national identity was ceded entirely to the pro-independence campaign. Within the SNP are a die-hard contingent of Braveheart-style zealots who would vote for independence come hell or high water, ruinous economic consequences be damned. But a far greater number, the ranks currently giving the “Yes” campaign a marginal lead, are formed of naturally left-leaning Scottish voters who do not know – because they have not been told – that this campaign is about anything other than advancing a left-wing political agenda to which they are sympathetic.

There has been almost no talk from the “Better Together” campaign of what would be thrown away and lost forever if the Scottish people vote to leave the United Kingdom. This is partly because it was felt that a campaign in which voters were forced to choose between their Scottish and British identities could only ever end one way, with Scottishness winning hands-down. This may or may not be the case. But it is also because the inhabitants of the British isles have gradually become unaccustomed to talking about our nationality, our shared sense of identity and purpose, at all.

When Britain is mentioned in political debates, it has been in the false context of how small and ineffectual a country we are, buffeted by economic and geopolitical forces beyond our ability to control or influence alone. Witness, for example, the debate about Britain’s continued membership of the European Union, where the political consensus among all main parties (save UKIP) is that Britain cannot possibly survive in the world without surrendering a huge portion of her sovereignty to the EU’s supra-national institutions.

This air of national decline and inferiority has been peddled so successfully and for so long that it is accepted unquestioningly as a universal truth by many of us, despite overwhelming facts to the contrary. The truth is that Britain remains one of the few truly consequential and influential nations on Earth – culturally, economically, politically and militarily. It has become fashionable to be blasé about this fact, or to deny it altogether, but pride in this fact is justifiable, indeed essential if we are to maintain the importance of a strong nation state as the best guarantor of individual freedom and prosperity.

And yet the importance of the nation state has been continually played down in Britain. Decisive action in the national interest is viewed as arrogant and unseemly, with undue reverence given instead to the nebulous notion of “international co-operation” which sounds wonderful on paper but inevitably means closed-door meetings and undemocratic decisions taken by ministers and heads of government with no real accountability. On some level the leftists realise this truth, as their growing opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) reveals.

The concept of British nationality has been further undermined by well-intentioned but misguided dogmas which insist that all cultural behaviours within Britain’s wonderfully multiracial patchwork are valid and acceptable, even when they conflict strongly with traditional British values of tolerance, democracy, patriotism, fairness and equality before the law. Thus problems that manifest within non-assimilated minority communities go unaddressed for fear of violating the unwritten rules of political correctness, leading (in part) to scandals such as the Birmingham Trojan Horse schools scandal or the appalling, endemic sexual abuse scandal in Rotherham.

When politicians have raised concern about the lack of British values being taught in schools and promoted more generally in the culture, the petulant response from many quarters (mostly but not exclusively from the left) has been to negate British accomplishments and virtues, talking up the rest of the world while disparaging Britain at every turn.

Michael Rosen, writing in The Guardian, attacked then-education secretary Michael Gove’s call for schools to teach British values with all the smug superiority of a brainy sixth-former, and inevitably tinged with the usual list of left-wing resentments – some of which are fair, but none of which should be sufficient to negate his love of country to the extent that they clearly do:

I see you’re going to require all your schools to teach British values. If you think you’re going to have the support of all parents in this project, you’ll have to count me out.

Your checklist of British values is: “Democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect, and tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs.” I can’t attach the adjective “British” to these. In fact, I find it parochial, patronising and arrogant that you think it’s appropriate or right to do so.

So let’s go through it. I like democracy. I don’t think you do. You’ve replaced the democracy of local government control over schools with the marketplace.A tiny number of speculators, debt-sellers, rate-fixers and gamblers have altered the lives of millions of people. No one voted them in. No one can vote them out. We have an unelected head of state and an unelected second chamber…

And so it goes on, ad nauseam.

But the problem is not confined to the likes of Rosen, or to the many Scottish nationalists who see independence only as a useful stepping stone to achieving the kind of far-left political settlement that they so desperately want.

The problem is that even many patriotic Brits from all corners of the United Kingdom are struggling to articulate the reasons why they desperately want to keep our Union together. The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, tried in his own unique way, but the result was nothing special. Various elder statesmen of British politics have tried, but none of them have managed to make the heart beat faster for love of Britain, either. And God knows that the people running the “Better Together” campaign have failed, focusing almost entirely on the risks of Scottish independence rather than the great benefits of continued union.

One of the few voices to really succeed in speaking up in favour of the United Kingdom, and arguing that Scottishness and Britishness need not be mutually exclusive, is Alex Massie. In a long piece in The Spectator – worth reading in its entirety – he writes:

The other day the historian Tom Devine remarked that all the Union has going for it is sentiment, family and history. Like that’s not enough? Those aren’twee things, they’re the things that make us who we are. The blood and guts, the bone and marrow of our lives. The tissue that connects us to our fellow citizens, the stuff that makes us more than an individual. The things from which you build a society.  You can have that in Scotland, alone and independent, too of course. But we also have it in Britain, right now, and we will lose some of that if we vote Yes. Or some of us will, anyway.

So I think of E Pluribus Unum and I think that’s a motto that applies to the United Kingdom too. And so does its opposite: within one, many. There’s ample room for many types of Britain. Not just Scots and Welsh and Irish and English but Pakistani-Scots, Jamaican-Welsh and Nigerian-English too. I think it’s the tensions and ambiguities inherent in all of this that makes Britain interesting; that makes Scotland interesting too.

The conclusion also offers a much-needed hint of British exceptionalism, and makes one see Britain as really being a country quite like no other:

Most of all, I like that when you get the train to Scotland from London or Peterborough or Newcastle north and you cross the border in the gloaming you feel your heart soar and you cry hurrah and yippee because you know you’re home now without having been abroad. I like that and think it matters. I don’t know if I know why it does or why it suddenly seems so valuable but I know I do. But that’s the Britain I know and like; a place in which I’m always Scottish but also, when it suits, British too. A country where you travel to very different places and still always come home without having been abroad.

Sadly, these kind of sentiments – though possibly quite common among British citizens from both north and south of the border – have been heard far too rarely in the debate, until the referendum is almost upon us and it may be too late to prevent a calamitous outcome. And there is no justification for the outraged surprise now pouring forth from unionist pundits and politicians. Britain is now reaping what her political and intellectual leaders sowed over the course of an entire generation.

This is what happens when an extreme, uncompromising brand of enforced multiculturalism is allowed to triumph over multiracialism.

This is what happens when we allow the perception to take hold that patriotism and pride in one’s own country is a dirty, shameful thing.

This is what happens when years of appalling education policies create a generation who do not possess a narrative history of their own country or have the faintest clue how it came into being, what it has stood for and how its institutions function.

This much is no exaggeration – your blogger took compulsory history classes at school until the age of 14 (at which point the subject was dropped thanks to the awful way it was taught), during which time the topics studied included the Tudors, the Vikings, the First and Second World Wars, and coal mining in Wales. Contrast this woeful failure to provide a comprehensive narrative history of Britain with the history education that an American student might expect to receive, and it makes a painful comparison.

Britain has been slowly waking up to these problems, but in a lazy, leisurely manner that is wholly inadequate to the urgency of the threat. Until now, our failure to nurture a common sense of shared national identity (something that the Americans do so well, and from whom we have much to learn) has led to unfortunate blips and political scandals such as the Birmingham schools Trojan Horse scandal or the repeated flying of a black, ISIS-style flag from the gates of a public housing estate in London. But these symptoms pale in comparison to the very real existential threat which seems to have crept up on so many politicians and pundits almost unnoticed.

Sure, failing to ensure that newly arrived immigrants integrate into the British way of life or allowing proponents of extremist Islam to gain a foothold in schools poses a medium-term threat to the security of the United Kingdom due to the possibility of future acts of terrorism. But the fallout from these failures does not have the potential to destroy our country overnight. On the other hand, our collective failure over at least the past thirty years to inculcate any sense of Britishness even among our own indigenous population could see our country effectively destroyed at the ballot box as soon as next week.

There is blame enough to go around for allowing this slow-motion calamity to come so close to fruition, but now is not the time. Right now, it must be all hands to the pumps in a final effort to save the United Kingdom from Alex Salmond’s chimerical fantasy of an independent Scotland serving as a socialist, egalitarian beacon for the world.

If we avoid disaster and are still fellow countrymen the morning after next Thursday’s referendum, we can then finally get to work shoring up our battered and frayed sense of nationhood, and by every means at our disposal. Educational reform, constitutional reform and government policy at the Westminster and devolved assembly levels will all have an important part to play, as well as a new constitutional settlement to iron out the unfairness of the many perks now being showered on Scotland as a desperate bribe for them to stay in the Union.

But even if the United Kingdom survives the referendum and its aftermath, it will still be for nothing if all 64 million of us British citizens cannot find a way to unlearn years of relentless teaching that there is nothing great about Britain.

All Hands To The Keyboards, To Save The United Kingdom

 

Stop talking about The Great British Bake Off for five minutes. Because in a couple of weeks time, there may no longer be a Great Britain at all.

If Scottish voters vote “yes” to independence in their coming referendum, that’s it – the end of the United Kingdom as we know it.

The Spectator magazine have taken the unprecedented step of announcing that this week’s cover story will be written not by journalists but by readers – it will be comprised of short letters from ordinary Britons, urging wavering Scots to vote to keep our country united.

Semi-Partisan Sam has already submitted a contribution, albeit a tortured piece that ran to 1,776 words, a number heavy with cultural and historic significance.

Though I feel unable to join in the opportunistic race to the left to compete with Alex Salmond, or the politicians’ desperate tactic of promising ever-more constitutional powers for Scotland alone rather than pledging to bring about the fully federal United Kingdom that I support, I wanted to say my piece and put on the record my love for my country in its unbroken, united form.

If you do nothing else political this year – and truly, the matter of our country’s ongoing survival transcends ordinary politics – take a moment to join in The Spectator’s campaign and say why the United Kingdom matters to you.

250 Words To Save The Union

Lincoln First Inaugural Scottish Independence 2

 

If your country faced annihilation by a foreign army, would you take up arms in its defence? Many would, and many have throughout our history – this year we honour the memory of the six million British men who fought in the First World War, many making the ultimate sacrifice for King and country.

But if your country was days away from a seemingly more banal kind of destruction – at the ballot box, following a largely dull and petty referendum campaign – what would you say to save it?

The Spectator has issued this challenge to its readers, asking them to submit letters to a wavering Scottish voter, imploring them to choose to remain in the Union. Entrants have complete freedom to say what they like within this broad remit:

You can make only one point, or make a bunch of them. The letter can be funny or deadly serious, clinically rational or a cri de coeur. The aim is to show that people in certain parts of Britain do care, very much, about the other parts – and that the Britishness which binds us together is worth fighting for.

The timing could not be better: a shocking new poll has given the “Yes” to independence campaign the lead for the first time, with 51% of respondents in favour of ripping up the Act of Union, and 49% preferring to maintain the bonds that tie us together. The Better Together camp long predicted that the polls would tighten as the referendum neared, but this latest poll is an absolute calamity, almost guaranteed to sew the seeds for further infighting and recrimination among unionists.

Immediately I got to work. I would gladly participate, I would find that elusive combination of words that would make Scottish independence supporters come to their senses and see reason. Where countless celebrities, politicians and statesmen had failed, I would succeed.

Four drafts later and I have nothing.

As a political writer and blogger I should be full of excitement and opinions about the latest opinion poll, and spend my time analysing the implications and wondering how each side will respond now that their fortune have apparently flipped. The Spectator’s Isabel Hardman does a typically fine job of this:

The question is who will this poll galvanise the most? Will it horrify wavering voters and send the Better Together campaign into a final frenzy to win over those lingering undecideds? One thing we can be certain of is more detail on what further powers Scotland would get if it stayed within the UK. Or will it give the SNP a final furlong spurt of energy? As we’re dealing with an expected turnout of around 80 per cent with voters who have never pushed a slip of paper into a ballot box before coming out to vote, no-one knows the answer. And that’s what makes tonight’s poll particularly terrifying for unionists.

I suppose I should also take the lead from many senior unionist politicians and pundits, and be ready and willing to say anything, do anything and offer anything by way of bribery or cajolement to convince wavering Scots of the readily apparent benefits of our United Kingdom. But I cannot engage in this flattery, just as I cannot engage in tactical speculation and analysis on this subject any more. The threat is too great and the imminent pain too real to treat the prospect of the end of the United Kingdom as just another political football.

I have written at length about my belief that our great country should remain united, and that we should not seek to create ever-smaller subdivisions on our small, crowded islands (though I strongly favour a federal United Kingdom). I have talked about the constitutional issues that would arise, and the fact that bespoke pandering to Scottish nationalists at the expense of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish is further unbalancing our constitution. I’ve argued in support of continuity for what has been proven to work in preference to an unresearched leap into the dark.

But at this point I have nothing left to say, not even 250 words. Not even in the face of the depressing news that Gordon Brown is to become the figurehead for the “No” campaign, further cementing the desperate idea that left wing bribes are all that wavering Scots want to hear.

If the Scottish people search their collective hearts and decide to destroy the United Kingdom in a bid for complete self-governance with no remaining ties to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, they should go. The UK will not be worth saving, because we will have forgotten who we are. We can await our diminished future as the fifty-first (and second poorest) state of America, or our balkanisation into soulless geographical regions by the European Union.

I watched the two awful televised debates between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling. I watched as the Better Together camp made the ludicrous, doomed decision to compete with the SNP in devotion to left-wing, big government principles. I watched as the Yes camp peddled their denialist fantasy in which an independent Scotland walks away from its share of the national debt, uses the pound while influencing UK monetary policy in it favour, accedes immediately to European Union membership and funds its socialist utopia with limitless oil revenues from the North Sea.

How does one engage in a debate when one side argues for what should not be and the other side clamours for something that cannot possibly be?

The Better Together side’s latest grand idea is talking up the prospect of David Cameron being defeated in the 2015 general election, and holding out the prospect of a more appealing, left-wing alternative in Ed Miliband. But must we really now start to base our national identity according to the same brittle rationale by which we choose our newspaper habits and prune our social media feeds, seeking to insulate ourselves from contrary opinions and perspectives, and identifying only with those people who agree with us politically?

This is the toxic, petty world inhabited by the likes of George Monbiot, who believes that a Scottish “No” vote would be an “astonishing act of self-harm”:

What would you say about a country that exchanged an economy based on enterprise and distribution for one based on speculation and rent? That chose obeisance to a government that spies on its own citizens, uses the planet as its dustbin, governs on behalf of a transnational elite that owes loyalty to no nation, cedes public services to corporations,forces terminally ill people to work and can’t be trusted with a box of fireworks, let alone a fleet of nuclear submarines? You would conclude that it had lost its senses.

There is no point attempting to reason with the likes of Monbiot, a man so determined to see evil in everything the United Kingdom stands for and so willing to buy the Scottish nationalist snake oil. But there may yet be time to prevail upon those Scots who are not so embittered by the mere thought of capitalism, private enterprise and a strong nation state as our best model for human governance.

At a time when people from the four home nations of the United Kingdom sometimes look at each other and see no common bond left, we would do well to remember the example of our former colonies in the New World. Each of the fifty United States of America boasts its own distinct culture, accomplishments and economic strengths. Each fancies itself the greatest state in the union. But when push comes to shove, almost everyone in that great land proudly considers themselves to be an American – even if, in the case of the Lone Star State, they may call themselves Texan first and foremost.

An American born and raised in Kansas may never set foot in the state of California, but they would be rendered incomplete if the land of pacific beaches, the Golden Gate Bridge and the great Redwood forests were to wrench itself away and start governing itself for the benefit of Californians alone. Those in the American heartland may be different from their coastal cousins in as many ways as you can imagine – taste in food, fashion, approach to religion, views on social issues and love of firearms – but they share the same historical bond, forged in war and peace, that Scots share with the English (and Welsh, and Northern Irish) whether they like it or not.

I have no words of my own left to flatter or bribe my wavering Scottish cousins into preserving something so precious and yet apparently so undervalued north of the border. I can’t participate in the ideological race to the left, nor do I think framing the debate as a competition to promise Scots the most left-wing gimmicks is in any way helpful or illuminating. I can only offer the words of another, a great man who rose to the occasion when his country seemed destined to tear apart at the seams.

At his inauguration in 1861 and on the eve of the American civil war, President Abraham Lincoln reasoned and pleaded with the restive Southern states, seven of which had already declared their secession from the Union, in this way:

That there are persons in one section or another who seek to destroy the Union at all events and are glad of any pretext to do it I will neither affirm nor deny; but if there be such, I need address no word to them. To those, however, who really love the Union may I not speak?

Before entering upon so grave a matter as the destruction of our national fabric, with all its benefits, its memories, and its hopes, would it not be wise to ascertain precisely why we do it? Will you hazard so desperate a step while there is any possibility that any portion of the ills you fly from have no real existence? Will you, while the certain ills you fly to are greater than all the real ones you fly from, will you risk the commission of so fearful a mistake?

And as Lincoln said in closing to the rebellious American South, I can only repeat to the United Kingdom’s restless north:

I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Scotland England crossed flags pin

Anti-Independence Bribes For Scotland Could Wreck The Union

RBS banknote

 

Hearteningly for those who believe in the United Kingdom and do not want to see the fragmentation and balkanisation of our country, the latest opinion polls still show a large (if slightly falling) majority in favour of voting No in the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence. But this has not put the No camp at ease, as evidenced by new reports of more hurried ‘concessions’ being offered to sweeten the deal for those Scots still vacillating over how to vote.

The Guardian reports:

David Cameron has backed plans for Scotland to set its own income tax rates, including the freedom for the first time to cut taxes below the level of the rest of the UK. He said the proposals, published by Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson on Monday, would offer Scottish voters “real powers with real consequences” if they voted no in September’s independence referendum.

The new powers, potentially including control of housing benefit and Scotland’s share of VAT receipts, were described by Davidson as a radical and “thoroughly Conservative vision” for greater devolution.

It is certainly true that additional devolution of powers could fall within the remit of a “thoroughly conservative vision”, as the Scottish Tory leader says – but only if the entirety of the Strathclyde report is implemented, not just the eye-catching parts about tax. Ruth Davidson has taken an excellent piece of constitutional work and boiled it down into a single policy that would actually be harmful if implemented.

The ill-conceived focus on tax is just another reactive move, likely to serve only two purposes, both negative:

1. Offering additional concessions suggests fear and panic on the part of the “Better Together” campaign. When issues of momentum and public perception are known to be so important, it reeks of political amateurism to carelessly give the impression that the pro-Union campaign is somehow on the back foot and in need of new eye-catching reasons for Scots to remain part of the United Kingdom.

2. Offering additional areas for devolved power in a reactive way because of opinion polling is just about the worst way of charting a path toward constitutional reform imaginable. And this latest bribe raises all sorts of questions that our political leaders (many of whom are out of their depth on constitutional matters anyway) are unable and unwilling to answer at the moment. Why, for example, will Scotland be given this new power over income tax, but not Wales, Northern Ireland or England?

The danger is that by touting ill-conceived bonus incentives such as these to remain within the Union without the context of broader constitutional change for the UK (which Lord Strathclyde gave in his report but is going largely unreported), the “Better Together” advocates are simply punting on the issue and creating more problems that the UK must wrestle with in future.

Offering greater income tax and VAT altering abilities may have the short term effect of pleasing a few wavering Scottish voters, but it will also sow the seeds of discontent in the other home nations which are not equally favoured with these powers. How is it wise to fight the flames of Scottish separatism today in a way that can only fuel the fires of Welsh and English nationalism tomorrow?

As with any discussion about devolution of powers, there are also important considerations around the West Lothian question that remain unanswered.

From what little we currently know of the proposal, the Scottish Parliament would be given full power over income tax rate setting (over and above the +/- 3% deviation currently allowed), as well as some control over VAT. But while there is a partial link between taxes raised in Scotland and the amount of money available for Scottish public services, in reality most of the UK’s finances are ultimately fungible, with a big central pot satisfying demands from all corners of the United Kingdom.

If the Scottish Parliament assumes these new powers of taxation but Scottish MPs at Westminster are not prevented from voting on matters of taxation involving England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it would create an extraordinarily strong perverse incentive for Scottish MSPs to vote to lower income tax and VAT as much as possible within Scotland while Scottish MPs vote to keep taxes higher in the rest of the UK, knowing that the rest of the country must continue to subsidise Scottish defence, infrastructure and other critical areas.

But more than questions of hurt pride, inequality or the creation of an incentive to effectively steal from the rest of the Union, this represents yet another cack-handed attempt by politicians to solve a short-term problem at the expense of the longer-term stability of the United Kingdom. More devolved powers over taxes and other areas are a great idea, but all of the home nations deserve these power equally; they should not be granted to Scotland alone.

Giving out important constitutional waivers whenever one part of the union becomes restive is a terrible way to govern, and yet this is increasingly becoming the norm, with the incomplete rollout of Strathclyde’s excellent report being preceded by Gordon Brown’s one-sided suggestion of the same thing – more devolution on taxes and not much else.

This blog has strongly and consistently advocated for a full constitutional convention to be held to debate and agree precisely how we want to move forward as a United Kingdom of four home nations, which powers we want to reserve for “we the people” and which we lend to government at the local, county, devolved country and national level – with equality of powers among the home nations a central tenet.

The current settlement – with broad powers given to the Scottish Parliament, lesser powers to the Welsh Assembly and the fractious Northern Ireland Assembly never more than five angry words away from suspension and the reimposition of direct rule from Westminster – is rapidly becoming more complicated than any of us, least of all our politicians, can wrap our heads around.

At the time of Gordon Brown’s unrequested intervention in January, this blog warned:

When the unionist side is already making such a convincing case and steadily holding a majority of public opinion, why come out proposing “major constitutional changes” as a deal-sweetener? Not only does it reek of panic and desperation, it is a cast-iron certainty that the constitutional changes being proposed will be of a narrow, specific and non-universal nature, designed to bribe voters but carrying with them the unintended consequence of making the architecture of the UK’s political governance even more complex and inequitable than it is today.

Unfortunately, it seems that what was just a doodle in the margins of Gordon Brown’s notebook in January is now well on the way to becoming part of the UK government’s official pitch to Scottish voters, and blueprint for the constitutional future of the entire UK.

Scottish tartan enjoys timeless fashion appeal not just because of the rich culture and history associated with it, but also because of the intricacy and precision, the warps and wefts intersecting and being spaced apart just so in order to produce a unique pattern in the larger tapestry.

It is sadly ironic that the panicked and misguided efforts of short-sighted politicians north and south of the border risk turning the UK – if it survives 2014 at all – into a far messier, less pleasant patchwork than we are today.