Innes Kennedy 'Scotland's Current and Future Role in the UK and Europe'. Thursday 6th August, 10-12.
I’ll begin with a discussion on political history from about the mid twentieth century. The main themes will be unitary-state centralisation, British State nationalism ('Unionism'), Scottish sovereignty, and the demise of the constitutional ideology of the Crown-in-Parliament. This will lead to the issues of the crises of the British state at the end of the twentieth century. Scotland's ‘role’ at this point will be seen as the political and philosophical driving force for UK constitutional change, in the context of the European Union and other sub-State quasi-nationalist entities elsewhere, such as Quebec and Catalonia. From political history I'm then moving finally to political philosophy, specifically in the context of Scotland in the European Union, and in respect of the possibility of constitutionally liberal forms of EU nation-state that are also nationalist. In this concluding part, then, Scotland's present and future ‘role’ as constitutionally progressive can be seen also as part of the aspiration towards a more integrated and sustainable European Union.
I’ve provided a reading list but it should be read in a particular order that reflects the general line that I’ve taken in my discussion. So you should proceed as follows:
1. Newspaper article from the FT [Financial Times] : Why it is time to update the ancient constitution.
With the first two reading items we’re beginning at the end, so to speak. This article points accurately to the collapse of the ‘ancient’ constitution of the United Kingdom. But the United Kingdom is not ancient and it does not have a constitution. What he means is that the English constitutional tradition has been pragmatically and somewhat unreflectively assumed to stand for the constitution of the United Kingdom. 2. BBC report from June 2009: ‘Scots want an independence vote'.
There is any number of conflicting polls on Scottish support for Independence. Usually the polling outcomes reflect the wording of the questions put to the people. This was the major issue in the first two polls in Quebec, when the referendum questions was so badly worded that the outcome probably did not reflect the view of the Quebecois. One poll in 2006 found a clear majority in England in support of Scottish Independence. 3. Structural Change and the Scottish Economy, 1918-1939. By Ronald Weir.
OK, now starting from the beginning and, alas yes, we do need to read a bit of economic history too. This article gives a good picture of the inter-war collapse of the Scottish Imperial economy, its overdependence on a few key industries, and the role of the British state in sustaining its lack of diversity and balance. Notably too is the ‘structural’ element of lower wages and higher unemployment - a key feature for the entire twentieth century. 4. ‘Britain and British Nationalisms’, from James Mitchell’s book Strategies for self-Government(1996). Mitchell is one of the one of the leading academic commentators on Scottish politics and here he looks at the often unexamined notion of British State activity in Scotland and British state nationalism – the mainstream nationalism of dominant states is often completely transparent to its constituent peoples, simply because it is so omnipresent. 5. MacCormick v The Lord Advocate.
This is the ruling on a court case brought in 1953. Although the case was lost the judge made a famous statement about the difference between constitutional theory in England and Scotland and noted that there was no reason why the constitutional basis of the United Kingdom should simply be the English one. In it he attacks some of the incoherent views on the Constitution which were particularly current at the height of the empire, when the notion of Britain’s role as leader of the world was taken for granted. 1953 was of course shortly before the humiliation of the Suez Crisis very publicly confirmed that Britain’s imperial role had ended. 6. (a) The McCrone report.
By the 1970’s Scottish nationalism had received a tremendous boost from the discovery of large oil and gas reserves in its North Sea maritime jurisdiction. At this time the UK government commissioned an inquiry (‘Kilbrandon’) on the viability of a devolved parliament or ‘Assembly’. Late in the 1970’s it recommended that a referendum be put to the Scots on the issue. At the same time, the government commissioned a report from a senior civil servant called Gavin McCrone who pointed out that an independent Scotland would be one of the wealthiest countries in the world on the basis of its new revenue stream from oil. Therefore he recommended that this information should never be publicly released to the Scots and an opposing policy should be adopted, namely to insist that it was not the Scots Oil, that it would in fact make no difference to the Scottish economy, and various other rather shady tactics. The government adopted these ideas and the report was buried for thirty years under the Official Secrets Act until a year or so ago. The UK civil service is supposed to be politically neutral. What this McCrone report reveals is that the UK government had a colonial mindset in respect to Scotland, as opposed to seeing it as an equal partner in the Union. Classic colonial tactics were used against Scotland at this time - divide and rule, agents-provocateurs, covert political police action, disinformation, and fear-mongering were all used without consideration as to what extent this was appropriate, democratic, or justifiable. What made the issue so crucial, and the actions so extreme, was the catastrophic state of the UK finances. The UK was bankrupt and needed to borrow massively against the future revenues from oil. It saw that Scottish political aspirations could completely destroy the UK finances and therefore extreme political action was ‘justified’. 6. (b) British Civil service memo on Independence and British debt.
Ref above – a memo stating these points explicitly and recommending that Devolution should be delayed as long as legally possible. 6. (c) Secret government plan to redraw Scotland's territorial and maritime borders to exclude Scottish ownership of the oil reserves.
This is the map that was drawn up to barefacedly claim that Scotland had no legal jurisdiction over the oil & gas in its waters. Part of the overall plan was to politically encourage Orkney & Shetland to claim that were not Scottish, and to redraw the line from the English jurisdiction at an odd angle in order to incorporate the resources into English waters. From the vantage point of the 21st century this looks like something from Monty Python - but it was effective. 7. A Claim of Right for Scotland
A document signed in the Thatcher era by a broad swathe of Scottish society asserting the sovereign right of the Scottish people to create their own political future. It was also signed by Gordon Brown, even though it completely contradicts the UK constitutional theory of the supremacy of the Crown-in-Parliament over the Scottish people (which you can also see explicitly stated in the opening section of the excerpt from the Scotland Act of 1998 at 15a, below). 8. A Union State without Unionism
Concluding chapter from an interesting book examining the disintegration of UK Unionism. 9. Beyond the Sovereign State
An article by the (now deceased) legal philosopher and former member of the European parliament, Professor Sir Neil MacCormick. 10. Scottish Independence.Michael Keating
One of the most balanced articles to have appeared in recent years on this question. 11. The Four Nations: Interrelations. By Sir Bernard Crick, former advisor to the British Labour Party.
This is quite a representative mainstream British view, expressing the sense of bafflement about what happens next. 12. Why Britain Cannot be Saved. A chapter from Tom Nairn in 2007.
Nairn is one of the world’s leading commentators on nationalism and a longstanding critic of the British state. 13. Speech by Gordon Brown at the British Council Annual Lecture.
A very nationalistic speech by the British Prime minister. Brown was perceived to have a major problem for the UK electorate in that he was from Scotland. He may have over-estimated the scale of this problem. 14. Future of an Unloved Union. Neal Ascherson. A chapter written by the highly respected journalist. Note the scathing commentary on Brown’s ‘British’ rhetoric. 15. (a) The Scotland Act - matters reserved to Westminster
An excerpt from the Act that created the Scottish parliament. This excerpt shows the extent of the powers that were NOT conferred. It runs to many pages but the first thing that is reserved is the constitution. The Crown-in-Parliament is supreme over the Scottish people and it can terminate the existence of the parliament if it chooses so to do. 15 (b) Barnett Formula in 2008
This is a (rather dry) report showing that the funding arrangement between the UK state and Scotland is defunct and now a major constitutional problem. 15 (c). SNP government report on Devolution 2008
The Scottish nationalists are presently in government in Scotland. This is report they produced on their progress. 16. The Balancing Act: National Identity and Sovereignty for Britain in Europe.
By Atsuko Ichijo
A rather hopeful chapter by a commentator who argues that Britain s indeed basically England; and, as such, European integration is possible, if somewhat ‘precarious’. This is a good example of the confused nature of much of the debate on England, Britain, and the European Union. 17. New Unions for Old? Professor Sir Neil MacCormick again. This time its the concluding chapter from a brilliant book called Questioning Sovereignty. 18a. Catalonia versus Spain
The impact of the larger European Union on Sub-state entities, nation and regions. Here we can see the longstanding process of divergence of Catalonia from the Spanish State, and how the EU makes this possible. 18b. Flanders versus Belgium
Chosen purely at random: an online blogger in July 2009 inadvertently confirming much academic opinion on the State of the Union. 20. Independence in Europe. The official Scottish nationalist policy aspiration in the European union.