In 1997 the Labour government tampered with the UK constitution. They then vetoed anyone reading the minutes of the cabinet meeting where it was agreed a parliament for Scotland would be implemented. Now Gordon Brown, one of the architects of the Scottish Parliament, is about to start spreading the Scottish nationalist view in a lecture entitled ‘Scotland and Britain in 2025′ at the Edinburgh International Book Festival today.
This raises the question: is Gordon Brown a Scottish nationalist? Kim Howells’ ‘smoking’ gun statement to the McKay Commission on 24 July 2012 revealed that Labour knew they would be creating an unstable UK. He acknowledged that the party knew the West Lothian question could not be answered without establishing an English Parliament. But Blair and Brown’s New Labour government changed the constitution regardless and in doing so betrayed all Unionists. Their tampering gave Scottish independence a realistic chance of success and not surprisingly the SNP seized the opportunity; the concept of Britain surviving without Scotland was born. Now less knowledgeable Unionists are expressing this view: that it is possible to have a United Kingdom without Scotland.
Blair’s biography states that Brown was keener than him to establish a Scottish Parliament. There is, however, the intriguing possibility that Brown was simply keen to start the long process of ripping up the Act of Union.
Still Brown is not finished with his tampering. During his lecture at the Edinburgh International Book Festival he will be encouraging a confident Scotland to have a greater say in its own affairs through devolution. He will paint a picture of Scotland and Britain as he hopes they will be experienced by a future generation. Surely such a title openly supports ‘Scottish Independence’? If he wanted to save the Union, the lecture should be entitled ‘Scotland within Britain in 2015′ as there cannot be a Britain without Scotland.
Lord Wallace of Tankerness was correct in telling the Scottish Politics event on 3 July 2012, ‘that the UK would be entering uncharted waters’. Great Britain was founded on the fusion of the Kingdom of England with the Kingdom of Scotland in 1707. If Unionists want to stop Scottish independence, they need to understand the legal points. They need to look at solutions such as rebalancing the UK and discussing an English Parliament within a Federal system.
All Unionists should read the Act of Union because it can only be construed that the UK is finished if Scotland becomes independent. Covering up the devious act of ignoring the English and facilitating a grab for constitutional control by Scotland would easily explain why Jack Straw vetoed releasing the minutes of the 1997 Cabinet Committee Meeting on Devolution to Scotland and Wales and the English regions. According to the Ministry of Justice, this is only the second time since the Freedom of Information Act was introduced in 2005 that an order of the Information Tribunal has been vetoed out of 160,000 requests. Straw stated that releasing the information would be against the public interest. The fact that the only other veto upheld was in relation to the Iraq conflict gives some insight as to just how controversial the details of that cabinet meeting may be.
Gordon Brown’s approach essentially leaves the Welsh and Northern Irish with a very small voice in a botched English Parliament mislabelled as a UK Parliament. This would be unsustainable and unfair on the English, Welsh and Northern Irish. His view is dangerous as Irish republicans are obviously going to challenge the legitimacy of the Act of Union with the Kingdom of Ireland (1801) and call for their own referendum. This has already started with Martin McGuiness declaring his wish for a referendum in the province ‘by 2016’.
If the English Question, whose only answer is an English Parliament, is not discussed during the Scottish Independence debate then the debate will develop into the British Question, whose only answer is dissolution. Thus by denying the debate, Unionists may in effect end up supporting the Scottish Nationalist approach to gaining independence and witness the death throes of the United Kingdom.
Eddie Bone is Chairman of the Campaign for an English Parliament.