No more Great Britain: A blueprint for a federal UK

The trouble with the UK is ‘Great Britain’. The future of the UK, if it has one, will be settled by coming to a more stable, mature and equitable relationship between the different nations that currently make up that state. Great Britain, and its even more ill-defined cognate ‘Britain’, is the great interloper that stands in the way of those nations finding a new path of mutual autonomy and co-operation. Great Britain wants it all – and wants to be all; and while it’s still around, it will try to stop its ‘constituent nations’ from realising their aspirations to be themselves.

What is Great Britain, after all? You could call it the non-existent national core of the state, the United Kingdom; or the alter ego of England as the unacknowledged heart of the UK state. Although the ‘national’ UK politicians make great capital out of Great Britain or Britain as the personality of the state, does Great Britain actually exist in the present in any fundamental national, political or constitutional sense? Great Britain is indeed the ‘foundation’ of the UK state because that state’s parliament was constituted as the parliament of the Kingdom of Great Britain through the Acts of Union between England (including Wales) and Scotland in 1707. When Ireland (later reduced to Northern Ireland) was added 100 years later to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, this was essentially an extension of the jurisdiction of the Great Britain parliament and government to include Ireland. So the UK, on this basis, remained Great Britain at its core.

However, Great Britain itself was in reality the product of an extension of the writ of the English parliament and state to include Scotland – albeit that to ‘sell’ the deal to the English and Scots alike, the new state had to be re-branded Great Britain rather than the Great(er) England that was implied. The English and Scots people have always been aware that this was the ‘real deal’: that real power and rule over Scotland was simply transferred to the English crown and sovereign parliament.

Before I set out my ideas here for a new federal constitutional settlement, it will be useful to discuss further some of the overlaps and distinctions between Britain and England, as I see them. That way, the differences between my proposed federal UK and Britain as we know it will be clearer. Readers who wish to skip this preamble could jump down to the heading ‘Blueprint for a new federal UK’ below.

The first thing I would want to lay out is the proposition that Great Britain / Britain is not a nation, let alone a ‘great nation’: England is the real nation at the heart of the UK state. I’m not trying to deny that the actual states of Great Britain and later the United Kingdom don’t have a ‘great’ history, defined as having made possibly the biggest contribution of any state towards shaping the modern world. What I’m trying to get at is the myth that Britain is a nation. Many people in all of the actual nations of the UK do feel that Britain is a nation, indeed ‘their’ nation in a sense that either sits alongside their feelings of being English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish, or takes priority over those feelings. But the paradox is that, constitutionally, Great Britain does not exist. The state is the United Kingdom: it has been for over 200 years. And the United Kingdom definitely is not a nation: nobody says ‘I’m UK’ to describe their nationality, other than in the sense of their citizenship; they say ‘I’m British’. But (Great) Britain itself does not have any constitutional status as either a state (which is the UK) or a nation. When laws are enacted in the UK parliament, for instance, they are laws either for the whole of the UK or – more often – they are UK laws that have effect only in one or more ‘parts’ of the UK, but certainly not in ‘Great Britain’ as such. If some laws do apply to England, Wales and Scotland, they are described as applying to England and Wales, and to Scotland – as England and Wales, and Scotland respectively have two separate legal systems. Great Britain has no legal personality. There is no such thing as British law. Technically, there is no parliament or government for Great Britain, either. Indeed, the fact that the laws of the land are enacted for England and Wales, for Scotland and – where applicable – Northern Ireland itself implies that the ‘lands’ (nations) of those laws are indeed England, Wales, Scotland and (Northern) Ireland – not (Great) Britain.

So Great Britain / Britain is just a ‘nation name’ or ‘national persona’ for the UK, not a formal nation in its own right. If you wanted to finesse this argument further, you could say that the reason why ‘Britain’ rather than ‘Great Britain’ tends to be used nowadays to evoke a national identity for the non-nation state of the UK is that ‘Great Britain’ refers back to the historical nation – ‘kingdom’ – of Great Britain about which people are vaguely aware that it ended when Ireland came on board; and that it is not, consequently, inclusive of Northern Ireland. So ‘Britain’ is used precisely because it is not the formal name of a state or a nation that does or does not exist in the present. Indeed, one might say that the power of the name ‘Britain’ to evoke feelings and ideas of nationhood is in inverse proportion to the actual existence, past or present, of such a state or nation.

In fact, this power of the words ‘Britain’ and ‘British’ to arouse feelings of patriotism and nationhood – despite the non-existence of such a nation in legal or constitutional fact – is primarily a function of English national identity and pride: England being the real nation that has fantasied and mythologised itself as British. That is to say, the English, historically, have tended to merge their English national identity with the idea of (Great) Britain, to the extent that ‘England / English’ and ‘Britain / British’ became co-terminous and indistinguishable. This has never been true to the same extent in Scotland or Wales. Scottish and Welsh unionists are indeed proud to be British; but this ‘being British’ has not tended to override or replace their primary national identities. They are proud as Scottish or Welsh persons to be part of the great British project and its historical achievements: Britain being clearly demarcated as a state (‘dominated’ by and synonymous with the English nation) to which the Scots and Welsh by and large have been content for their nations to adhere, albeit for pragmatic or ideological reasons as much as through any affection they might or might not have felt for their mutual neighbour.

By contrast, the feelings and pride felt by English people at being English and at being British have tended to be one and the same thing. They still are for many people, as present-day surveys of people living in England discover that virtually the same high percentage of respondents feel they are English (and proud of it) as feel British (and proud of it) – with the balance slowly tipping in favour of English being the primary identity. Indeed, this is so much the case that a stranger from Mars, or from another country (say, Scotland), might conclude that ‘British’ is merely another name for ‘English’. Indeed, this is the perception of many Scots, who are all too aware that when supposedly national (that is, UK-wide) media or English people in general talk about ‘Britain’ or ‘the country’, they are generally referring to England only; or else, they may be trying in their own minds to include Scotland and Wales (and possibly, Northern Ireland) but are in fact still dealing with English circumstances and situations, as the realities in Scotland and Wales are often quite different – increasingly so, after devolution.

This business of politicians and the media (and the marketing and branding of consumer products, and general parlance to some extent) saying ‘Britain’ or ‘the / this country’ when they’re actually referring to England is a real bugbear to those who have woken up to the post-devolution realities, which mean that the majority of what Westminster politicians do and talk about does in fact relate to England only, as their writ now stops there in so many vital areas of government. But in a way, this tendency is a continuation of the longstanding habit of English people to confuse England and Britain: to say ‘Britain’ when they’re really thinking of England, and to say ‘England’ even when talking about Scotland or Wales – demonstrating the extent to which the concepts of ‘England’ and ‘Britain’ were interchangeable in their minds.

The difference now, however – and it is fundamental – is that, whereas it’s politically correct (if factually incorrect) to say ‘Britain’ when talking about England, it’s definitely no longer politically correct to say ‘England’: not just where the whole of Britain is concerned but even when one is referring to exclusively English concerns and facts. I have frequently commented on this politically motivated linguistic suppression of ‘England’ – both in this blog and its sister blog Britology Watch. At the extreme, this almost pathological aversion to using the word ‘England’ when talking about England appears to express a wish, on the part of some within the political establishment, to abolish England altogether and replace it with some sort of regionally divided New Britain.

There is a curious paradox here, the form of which, in its simplicity, only became apparent to me a few days ago. You could express it as follows:

  • Before devolution – when England actually was politically and constitutionally more indivisible from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland within the unitary UK – it was felt (by the English, at least) to be entirely acceptable to say ‘England’ when what was actually meant was the UK or ‘Great Britain’, and where factually it would have been more appropriate to say ‘Britain’, as England was not separate from the other nations of the UK
  • After devolution – when England is politically and constitutionally more separate from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – the British establishment now feels that it is unacceptable to say ‘England’ when – as I said above – England is actually meant, and it would be factually more accurate to say ‘England’.

In other words, when England was Britain, it was OK to call it England; but now it’s England, you have to call it ‘Britain’.

How did this truly (and typically English) bonkers situation come about? The explanation is quite straightforward, really. The old ‘Britain’ (idea, not nation) was, as I’ve said, largely a projection and alternative name for England itself, and expressed England’s pride in having extended its dominion and influence first to the island of Britain and then across the world – historically, through the British Empire. Post-devolution Britain, by contrast, is a world where a separation has been made between both the identities and polities of England and Britain: in the national (that is, English) psyche as well as in national political institutions, England and Britain are no longer seen as indivisible. This separation between England and Britain in people’s minds has the potential to blow the whole UK state apart by virtue of a very simple logic: ‘if the English people start thinking of themselves as English and not British’, so the thinking goes, ‘then they’re going to want an English parliament, government and eventually even state’. The response on the part of the establishment, fighting for its survival, is classic denial – in the psychological sense: it seeks to deny that any split between the English and British identities has occurred, and to suppress people’s developing sense of a distinct Englishness by censoring ‘England’ (politically, linguistically, psychologically), and pretending that there is only Britain, and that England effectively does not exist.

The primary political manifestation of this is that the government and the mainstream parties, who feel they have most to lose from a disintegration of Britain into its constituent parts, carry on a pretence that there is absolutely no distinction between the areas of government that genuinely extend across the whole of the UK, and those that relate to England only (or, at a pinch, to England and Wales only). This thinking reflects, and is used to justify, the fact that, in the matters that do in reality relate to England only, England is – uniquely – governed in the way all the UK countries were governed before devolution: with the participation of elected representatives from all four national corners of the state.

Without rehearsing the arguments about the democratic deficit and lack of accountability on the part of their supposed representatives this creates for the people of England, another paradoxical aspect of this is that it means that England and the UK ironically continue to be indistinguishable and interchangeable – in fact, even more so (technically and constitutionally) than before devolution: England is the only part of the UK that continues to be the old unitary UK in all respects of national governance. And, of course, it’s because the establishment is desperate to hold on to the unitary UK, despite having broken it up by its own actions through devolution, that it has to deny any alternative existential status for England: as England, and not as the UK. But you could just as easily turn this completely on its head and say that if England is the UK, then you might as well just call the UK ‘England’. Then, whenever all those politicians and lazy journalists go on about ‘the country’ (meaning England but pretending they’re talking about the whole of the UK), instead of assuming they’re referring to the UK, we should assume that the default meaning of ‘the country’ is England. As this is the fact, in most cases, it shouldn’t offend our Scottish and Welsh friends if we start to call a spade a spade. However, if we develop this consciousness that ‘the country’ is England – not Britain – then the game truly is up for the unionist establishment.

If England really is to establish itself in its turn as a nation and polity separate from Britain and the UK, then we’re going to have to develop just such a consciousness of our distinct national identity (England as ‘the country’) along with a new political maturity, separate from Britain; rather in the way that a child needs to outgrow its parent’s expectations, beliefs and attitudes of an earlier generation in order to establish itself as an adult able to make its own way in the world of today. Now that England and Britain have started to separate out – psychologically and politically – the rational, mentally sane response has to be define a new English identity and future – including political future – not to try to deny that there is such a thing as England and Englishness out of a delusional retreat into a unitary Britain that no longer exists, other than in England itself. Psychologically speaking, that’s a pathological defence mechanism: avoiding the challenge and need for individuation, and retreating into one’s parent’s (Britain’s) certainties rather than exploring one’s own truth and possibilities, as a self-reliant England.

Taking these psychological metaphors a little bit further, if the reader will forgive me this self-indulgence (if not, read on to the next paragraph!), one could say that England – a nation whose people are characterised to some extent by dualistic psychological conflicts, such as that between aggression towards the stranger and an over-willingness to let the stranger feel at home here – ‘projectively’ identified with Britain as a persona enabling England to pursue world domination under the guise of a civilising, anglicising mission. This means that ‘Britain’ and the civilising project of the Empire provided a justifying ‘outlet’ for what might otherwise have been seen as totally unacceptable and destructive English aggression. Now that, even within the British ‘homeland’, the nations England once subdued are turning away from England-Britain, that projection of Englishness onto the world in the name of Britain has turned aggressively in on itself, ‘introjectively’: England’s aggression is now directed self-destructively against England itself, which is the last savage colony resisting the creation of a Britain made in the image of the global civilisation with which it identifies – the diametrical reverse of the previous project to fashion a world made in the image of England.

Put in more straightforward language, if you’ve followed the logic so far, the potential destruction of the nation of England in the name of a New Britain that takes England’s place is primarily being undertaken by English people: effectively, England turning against England because an England distinct from Britain risks destroying the ‘great Britain’ that has been England’s power, pride and joy. And power is what essentially it comes down to. We the English created Britain as an instrument for English power; and now, those who are the heirs of British power see a separate England as a mortal rival and as something that could undermine their whole power base – forgetting all the while that England is their power base: Britain’s foundation and its very raison d’être. If England is the foundation, then you could say that ‘Britain’ is the superstructure of the building – all show, display of pomp and circumstance, glamour and sophistication; while Scotland and Wales represent the supporting walls. Just as the foundation is necessary to hold up the walls and prevent the building from collapsing, so Scotland and Wales would not be joined into Britain were they not rooted in and conjoined with England, which provides the whole basis for Britain and the ground on which it stands. But as Scotland and Wales loosen their ties with England, the superstructure that is Britain – sitting astride the whole edifice – thinks it is sufficient in itself to hold it all together: its values, its high-minded ideals and its top-down instruments of power enough to shore up its collapsing internal walls. In reality, however, it’s the grit, the determination, the solidity and commitment of the English that has held the building together up till now, for better or for worse. Undermine and strip that away, and the whole building cannot stand.

Which is to say that the legitimacy of power comes from the people, not from the apparatus of state: from the English people who previously invested the British state with their self-sacrificing loyalty, commitment and support; and not from that state that now seeks to deny that very Englishness that is its living core and soul. Britain is about power: it was the vehicle of English global power, and dominion over its Empire and over its island neighbours; and now it’s a system of power that sees itself as ruling the tumultuous waves and surfing the changing tides of global markets (we English were ever a merchant, seafaring nation, after all) with little if any concept of the nation – England – which the activity of government and the economy is intended to serve, build and defend. In fact, the more that memory of Britain’s original, founding nation – England – can be erased, the more we can fashion ourselves (and retain that projected image of ourselves) as a global power.

Poor England; deluded Britain – the monster we created (and which we in part are) that is now devouring its own true greatness, which is not in domination but in itself. We have to become a new creation, as it were: a new England that sets aside the will to dominate and Britain’s delusions of grandeur. England not Britain; but united, if still possible, with our neighbours in a different sort of union: a union of equals – not a Britain that is merely a name for an aggressive England it could not avow, and which now it aggressively disavows in turn. We have to do away with Britain to become truly a united kingdom and not all in our different ways vassals of an overweening state that would remake us in its image rather than let us make it in ours.

New England, new United Kingdom: not a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but a United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (and Cornwall, perhaps). Why bother with the UK at all, albeit a re-cast one, some might ask? Why not just discard this remnant of empire and domination, and let each nation chart out its own course across the choppy seas of the present? I, for one, would be far from unhappy to see an independent nation state of England. But perhaps before we throw the baby of our Union out to sea with the bath water of lost illusions, there could still be something worth salvaging from the past in a new union for the future. The greatness of Britain, as I’ve attempted to evoke, was not Great Britain, but the greatness of its people: yes, the English but also of course the Scots, Welsh and Irish with which we have – still – so many things in common; more that ‘unites’ us than divides us, in fact. Our island home; our historic civilisations; our mingled blood lines and family ties; our Christian and liberal heritage; our English language; and, yes, our British history.

It’s worth a punt trying to keep all this together in some form; that much I would concede to the unionists. But if this is to work, it has to be a togetherness that allows us to express our own identities, plot our own destinies and govern our own lives: as separate and not subordinate nations, working together in a common structure for mutual advantage and enrichment.

It’s worth a punt; so here’s mine:

Blueprint for a new federal UK

I would propose a single, integrated UK parliament
that would convene as one body for part of the week (or month) and would then meet separately as the parliaments of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for the remainder of the week
(or month) to deal with nation-specific matters (see below). So there would be a single general election for the whole of the UK, during which the composition of the four (or five, including Cornwall) national parliaments would also be determined, as there would be only one set of MPs (not five or six) with dual roles: UK-wide and national. This would necessitate fixed-term parliamentary sessions.

This solution would prevent the national parliaments from competing with the federal, UK parliament, as they would be integrated into a single system. However, this would not involve a subordination of the national parliaments to the UK parliament. It would be redistribution, not devolution, of power: power in the areas assigned to the national parliaments would be permanently transferred to them, not handed over to them ‘on licence’, as under devolution. When I say permanently, this is because there would be a written constitution setting out the specific roles and responsibilities of the national and UK parliaments, as well as the many other details concerning the composition of and relationships between the executives, parliaments and judiciaries in each nation.

One important, founding element of this constitution should be that it would declare that sovereignty resides with the people of each UK nation; and that it is therefore each nation’s intrinsic right to determine the form of government it desires: enshrining the freedom to secede from the UK at any time should there be a clear popular mandate to do so, as manifested in a referendum. This latter principle redresses the imbalance that prevails at present, whereby many of the UK’s leading politicians, including Gordon Brown, are on record as having accepted the above principles of popular sovereignty and national self-determination for Scotland while denying the same rights to England, which remains subject to the sovereignty of the UK parliament. This imbalance has made a major contribution towards the present asymmetric, multi-track, creeping devolution process. It has involved the setting up of a national Scottish parliament with quite extensive powers to pass primary legislation, and which is a clear rival to the UK parliament and focus for aspirations for an independent Scotland. At the same time, a much less powerful and more dependent body has been established for Wales; while England, of course, has been denied any form of national self-government.

My proposal puts an end to asymmetric devolution, as each national parliament would have exactly the same powers and responsibilities for their respective countries. I envisage these powers being similar to those already conferred on the Scottish Parliament; that’s to say pretty much every area of government outside of: the economy and fiscal policy; social security, benefits and pensions; homeland security and defence; and international affairs. These latter policy areas would remain the responsibility of the federal UK government; although I believe that the expenditure of each government should be financed by taxes for which it was directly responsible (fiscal responsibility) as this is a means to make our elected representatives fully accountable for what they spend on our behalf. So this could mean that certain types of tax, or a proportion of all UK taxation or of specific UK taxes (such as income tax), would be apportioned on a proportionate basis to the national parliaments.

Clearly, this is one of the most contentious proposals, as it could be seen by many in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as a means for England to ensure that it is able to fund a higher per-capita level of public expenditure because it can raise higher per-capita tax revenues. On the other hand, a certain redressing of the imbalance that is currently tilted in favour of the devolved nations via the Barnett Formula is definitely needed. I believe that an integrated national and federal parliament could provide the most effective mechanism for regulating these competing claims on the wealth of our respective nations. On the one hand, it would create a means for the needs and rights of England to be defended, which does not exist in the present. But, on the other hand, so long as the nations were still bound together in a common state, with a common economic policy, the idea that a certain proportion of our collective wealth should be redistributed to where it was genuinely most needed could be safeguarded. And that also means directing more resources to the under-funded ‘regions’ of England, particularly in the North and South-West.

One objection that is often made to the idea of a federal UK parliament is that England would be too dominant. Yet, in the same breath almost, defenders of the present asymmetric system say that England’s needs are adequately represented by the UK parliament, as English MPs make up around 85% of the House of Commons; so England is, supposedly, dominant there. I’ve discussed the specious nature of this argument elsewhere. But the whole point of this present proposal, in fact, is to move away from a situation in which either England can dominate the other nations of the UK (which was more the case pre-devolution than post, as discussed above), or in which the central UK government can subordinate any of the nations; which is the case now with the UK government regulating English affairs in the interests of the UK and of its own political survival, rather than seeking the good of England itself.

The above objection to federal government, under my model, could in any case apply only to those areas of policy that remained the responsibility of the federal government; most of the aspects of government, in pretty fundamental areas (e.g. planning, health, education, etc.) would be completely transferred to the national governments, free from any interference from the UK state or from any of the other national governments. In addition, I would propose a system for the decision-making processes of the federal parliament that ensured that fundamental objections to federal policies on the part of any of the nations could not be overridden; and indeed, the way the new parliament worked would be designed to prevent such policies forming the basis of parliamentary bills in the first place.

For a start, it could be a principle enshrined in the constitution that any UK government should contain MPs from each of the UK nations. If it were a government for the nations, it should be a government of the nations. This should not be too complicated a principle to enact, as the new national and federal parliaments would be elected by a proportional system, meaning that coalition government would be required probably in each of the nations as well as in the federal parliament. My idea is that UK bills would be subject to separate scrutiny by each of the national parliaments; rather like a combination of the scrutiny bills presently receive at their second reading together with the principle of referring legislation to a second chamber of parliament: currently, the House of Lords. At this stage, amendments could be suggested, which could be debated and voted on by the full parliament. If the bill in its final form still encountered the objection of the majority of MPs from any country, a final attempt could be made to find common ground, so the bill could be passed with the unanimity of all the nations. If this were still not possible, and the bill enjoyed substantive majority support (e.g. 55% or more of the MPs in each of the other nations), then it could be passed. However, if this substantive cross-nation support did not exist, it would fail.

Such a mechanism would prevent any one nation, e.g. England, from being dominant. The only circumstance in which a bill could be passed against the will of the elected representatives of any country would be if it enjoyed strong support in each of the other countries, and then only if this support added up to the backing of the majority of UK MPs as a whole. For certain critical issues, such as the use of UK troops in war or the ratification of international treaties, majority support from all countries would be required. If bills were consistently driven through without the support of the MPs from any one country (e.g. Scotland), this would engender resentment and would create greater demands for full independence on the part of that nation. Therefore, the system would contain its own natural checks and balances: push things too far, and the nations might seek total separation; but refuse to co-operate at all, and no business would get done – and again, the system would implode and there would be no alternative other than independence for all four (or five) countries.

In addition, it would be virtually impossible for bills to be passed without enjoying at least strong support from English MPs. At the very least, you’d need the MPs from all three (or four) other UK countries to be strongly in favour of a bill plus a large minority of English MPs for it to go through without the full majority support of English MPs. This is simply because of the arithmetic: the English MPs would continue to far outnumber the combined total of Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish (and Cornish) MPs. It would in theory be possible for such a bill to be passed, though; which is right and proper given that those bills would relate to the whole of the UK and should ultimately be decided on by a majority of UK MPs. However, this would not at all be equivalent to the present situation, where bills that relate to England only can be, and have been, passed through the support of non-English MPs whose constituents are not affected by them. England-only bills, under my system, would be decided on by English MPs only.

There would, however, be the possibility of the UK federal parliament providing some sort of second house-type revising scrutiny of bills from the national parliaments. This would not mean that it would have the power to permanently amend or override provisions in national-parliamentary bills. But this scrutiny would provide an opportunity for policy development in each of the nations to be compared and co-ordinated with that in the other nations, providing opportunities to learn from each other’s experiences and capitalise on best practice; as well as to elaborate the most economically efficient way to deliver the best results, because the more the nations co-operated and worked on combining resources where it was opportune to do so, the more cost-effective could be the delivery.

This aspect of co-ordinated policy development and implementation in devolved areas of government has been profoundly and damagingly lacking under the present devolution settlement. This is not to say that, in my system, there would be, for instance, a single strategy on education or transport across the UK, which the individual nations would have to comply with. But it would be useful and beneficial to the nations themselves to try to agree on a common overall UK strategy and vision for national-level policy areas, so that the measures adopted in each country were tailored to the needs of the whole of the UK as well as to those of each nation; and so that policies in each country could support and complement each other rather than competing against each other, which could be detrimental to the social cohesion and economic competitiveness of the UK as a whole. This is really one of the main arguments in favour of keeping any overall UK state and government structure: that it helps to realise the potential for each country to prosper to a greater extent by working together than by pulling apart. But, for this to work, there has to be a balance between central direction and national autonomy.

Under the present settlement, what we have is either one or the other: the UK state calling all the shots in some areas (including over all policy affecting England), with the devolved nations doing entirely their own thing in their own areas of responsibility. This has meant, among other things, that there has been little or no development of social policy for England as England because the UK government has no mandate as an English government, and does not want to be a government for England, even in areas where effectively that is all it is. So the government has washed its hands of England and has sought to let ‘the market’ determine what is best for England in health, education and planning. This abnegation and delegation of its responsibilities to the market reflects the fact that the government at least has some sort of mandate for England on economic affairs, together with the fact that it has been wedded to the ideology of the free market. Meanwhile, English people understandably feel resentment when they see the Scottish and Welsh governments pursuing the kind of social policies they would like to see implemented in England, based on true democratic mandates received from the people of Scotland and Wales themselves, and on resources made available to them thanks to cost savings and wealth generated (at least before the whole thing imploded in the credit crunch) by the English market model.

The level of co-operation and compromise required under my system to get bills through the UK parliament could well appear elusive, given the adversarial and confrontational politics we are used to. However, as there would be coalition government at both national and federal levels, a willingness to make deals, and forge cross-party and cross-country alliances would just have to become part of the day-to-day fabric of our political life. This has already worked to a considerable degree in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly. And, in any case, while this could be difficult to get used to, it’s the right thing to do, because it ensures that decisions that are made enjoy the majority support of the people’s elected representatives and that that majority accurately reflects the way the people actually voted. The first-past-the-post (FPTP) system used to choose the present House of Commons is enormously distorting of the popular vote, allowing huge majorities for either Labour or the Conservatives on a minority of votes cast while preventing smaller parties from making the impact that their true level of support deserves.

This raises the question of what system of proportional representation (PR) should be used for the new integrated national and federal parliamentary system I am proposing. I favour multi-member Single Transferrable Vote (STV), which is widely thought to be the best system for achieving the goals both of proportional representation at national level while preserving the link between MPs and their constituencies. This electoral system would also provide a very effective means to counter one of the main objections that could be raised to my proposals: that the fact that you were effectively holding two elections in one (national and federal) would distort the result, causing voters’ choices at national level to be overly influenced by UK-wide issues. If the electoral system used were multi-member STV, however, there would be absolutely no reason why voters could not pick candidates on the basis of parties’ national programmes as well as their UK manifestos, because there would be, say, four or five MPs per seat. So you could express your preferences for the best party(-ies) and candidate(s) for the national and UK parliaments in the ranking you gave to the various candidates you decided to vote for (STV relying on ranking candidates from number one down to the last candidate on the ballot paper, if you so wish).

In any case, the parties already present effectively dual-mandate manifestos at general elections, albeit disingenuous ones: in Scotland, the parties try to make political capital from referring to what they have achieved or stood up for at Holyrood – which has nothing to do with Westminster elections; and in England, they set out effectively England-only policies in all of the devolved areas of government while misleadingly creating the impression that those policies apply UK-wide. Under my system, there would be no getting away with attempting to make electoral gain from misrepresenting what was really on offer for voters in this way: the parties in each country would have to set out the parts of their agenda that were UK-wide and those that were nation-specific; and, as I’ve said, the voters could effectively vote for two or more parties (or two or more candidates from a single party) based on their national and / or federal policies and credentials. It is possible that, under certain circumstances, voters’ choices would be influenced by UK-wide concerns more than by national ones, such as in the present economic crisis, where Scottish people might be more inclined to vote Labour rather than the SNP. But then, it is equally the case that voters are influenced in this way even in the presently separate Holyrood and Westminster elections; and it can also work the other way round: a combined national and federal election under multi-member STV would almost certainly produce much more representation for the SNP in the UK parliament than under the present system.

Another objection that could be raised to my proposals is that the national parliaments elected in this way would not be genuine, autonomous national parliaments but would be subordinate and beholden to the UK parliament and party apparatuses. This risk is one of the main reasons why it would be important to protect the national parliaments’ autonomy through a written constitution. Certain types of attempted interference in, or centralised direction of, national policy and parliamentary tactics by the UK government could become an offence against the constitution. And, as I’ve said, the national parliaments would have real and permanent powers: greater and better protected autonomy than at present. In addition, the use of multi-member STV would mean that different coalition groupings would be required in the national parliaments from those in the federal parliament: if there were a Tory / Lib Dem coalition at UK level, there might be an SNP / Green Party coalition in Scotland (the Greens winning more MPs because of the fairer voting system) and a Labour / Plaid or Labour / Lib Dem coalition in Wales. Therefore, it would be impossible for the governing coalition of the UK parliament to dictate the shape of the governing coalitions in the national parliaments and impose central control over them.

Another advantage of this integrated system is that it would avoid creating an unnecessary and expensive extra tier of government, with a whole new set of MPs, and a whole new English parliament that would be almost as big as the present UK parliament on its own. In fact, we’d get a reduction in duplication, as there would no longer be both MSPs and MPs for Scotland, and AMs and MPs for Wales. There is a valid question, however, about whether the relatively small number of Scottish and Welsh MPs would be sufficient to fulfil all of the functions of a national parliament in those countries. In elections in Scotland and Wales, it might be necessary to elect, say, five candidates per multi-member constituency compared with four per seat in England. Only four elected candidates would then serve as UK MPs; and the additional candidate would be elected to the national parliament only. Voters could opt to indicate whether they wanted the candidates they were choosing to go to the national or federal parliament. The national-only MP would be the successful candidate with the largest number of ticks in the ‘national’ check box. An incentive for candidates to put themselves forward as national-only MPs would be that they would be more likely to be preferred for ministerial positions, as they’d be exclusively devoted to the national parliament. This would also provide a boost to their salaries, which, as MPs for the national parliaments only, would be lower than that of dual-purpose MPs. (Let’s not pretend that’s not an issue!)

What of the questions of nationality and statehood? Well, as I set out in the first half of this post, the new federal state would no longer be Britain or Great Britain in any shape or form: having ‘Great Britain’ in its full name, as it does now; referred to in official statements as ‘Britain’, as it is now, even though a state or nation of Britain does not exist; or ‘Britain’ in the more profound sense as the national persona of the state that was previously the vehicle of English power and is now a means above all to suppress the aspirations to self-government of the English nation. So it would, as stated above, be ‘the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’ (and potentially with Cornwall listed as the fifth nation of the federal kingdom). Formally, the adjectival form of the state’s name would be ‘UK’ not ‘British’, as in ‘the UK government’ or ‘UK citizens’. Doubtless, many people would continue, at least for a time, to use the word ‘British’ informally in this sense, particularly as the geographical extent of the state would remain largely that of Britain, with the addition of Northern Ireland. But the point is that there would be a move away from the tendency to imagine or create a ‘British nation’ superseding and suppressing the primary nationalities of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Cornwall. So in England, to describe their nationality, people would be encouraged to think of and refer to themselves as English in the first instance – unless, of course, they are genuinely something else such as Scottish or from a different state altogether. If people wish to continue to think of themselves as British first and foremost, they would be fully entitled to do so. But the way the language of official statements and the media would change to reflect the altered political realities (i.e. thriving English-national government and civic institutions) would mean that ‘British’ would increasingly be limited to meaning either ‘UK’ in the informal sense (i.e. the UK state rather than a nation) or the merely geographical meaning. People might find that they were asked to clarify ‘you mean English’, or that they were assumed to mean English based on things such as they way they spoke.

So we’d be English nationals but UK citizens. Of course, all of the above paragraph is predicated on the assumptions that the UK remained a kingdom (i.e. a monarchy), and that present-day constituent parts of the UK such as Scotland and Northern Ireland chose to sign up to and stay within such a new federal state. But, based on the principles outlined above, it would be entirely a matter for the people of the UK as a whole – who would be sovereign – to decide whether they wanted a monarch or an elected president as head of state. And, similarly, it would be up to the people of each UK nation to decide whether to remain part of the new state. At least, putting the present creeping and asymmetrical devolution process into a more stable, consistent and constitutionally settled framework could create the conditions for people to make an informed choice, and – just as crucially – for all the people of the UK to have a say on their constitutional and national future at the same time; rather than letting the people of Scotland effectively decide on the future form of the UK state in a referendum on independence without at the same time letting the people of England and Wales decide whether they want independence or a shared future.

Moreover, this proposed federal state and constitution create a framework whereby, even if one or more nation decided to leave the new UK, the others could remain in it without any change being required to the constitution or to the regulation of their mutual relationships within it. The same could not be said if Scotland voted to leave the UK as presently constituted. If such an eventuality arose, it ought to break up ‘Britain’, as the original basis for Britain was the Union of England and Scotland, as discussed above. However, without proper consultation of the people on these matters, I would not put it past the present political establishment to try to perpetuate a ‘British’ state that continued to deny self-government and a distinct identity to England in order to preserve its own prerogatives and to – supposedly – defend the interests of Wales and Northern Ireland; as if these were incompatible with England just being allowed to be England.

As for national symbols such as flags and national anthems, these should of course evolve to reflect the changed political landscape. The Cross of St. George should fly proudly outside any English-government building. And what of the Union flag? Much as I quite like the Union Jack, and think it is a rather impressive and clever piece of flag design, I think it would have to go in order for us to demonstrate to ourselves and to the outside world that this was altogether a new, federal UK not the old alternately England-dominated and England-dominating Union. If we remained a monarchy, I can think of no better new flag than the Royal Standard, with a Welsh dragon replacing one of the two panels currently displaying the Three Lions of England. If Cornwall were to be established as a separate nation within the new UK, then this would also need to be reflected somehow; I’m not sure how: maybe a discreet white cross with a black outline separating the four panels of the flag, which at least would also preserve a reference to our nations’ Christian heritage. And yes, by all means keep ‘God save the Queen’ as the UK national anthem (assuming we keep the Queen herself); but let’s have ‘Jerusalem’ as the English national anthem at last!

And what about the thorny question of where to locate the separate English and UK parliaments? I think we should definitely keep Westminster and London as the site of the English parliament and capital. But I think it would be inappropriate to locate the new UK parliament in London, as this would perpetuate the old habits of confusing England with Britain, and the English parliament with the UK parliament. I quite liked the suggestion in a comment on a previous post of mine on this subject that the UK parliament could be located in Liverpool: equidistant from London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast; a great English and British city, reflecting much of the greatness and much of the depravity of industrial revolution and Empire; an English city with strong traditional connections with Ireland and Scotland, and close to Wales; and a city that is in need of regeneration, recognition and a new purpose.

Well, that’s just an idea; as is this blueprint for a new federal UK. How realistic is this blueprint? Probably not very. But at least, I hope to have demonstrated that a different sort of United Kingdom is at least conceivable: one that has the potential to enable our respective nations to reaffirm their distinct identities and to govern their own affairs while truly working together in a supportive, positive and not overweening state framework for mutual advantage.

What are the alternatives? Well, the present creeping devolution process has created a momentum that will lead inevitably to Scottish independence, it seems to me. One thing that the current devolution settlement hasn’t achieved is to fulfil Scottish aspirations to affirm Scotland as a full, officially recognised nation, in charge of its own affairs, including the ability to raise and spend its own taxes. These aspirations won’t simply die away, and unless some sort of framework is found to enable them to be realised within the UK, they will find expression outside of the UK.

If Scotland did secede from the present Union, there would – sadly, in some ways – be much rejoicing in England, as those of us who want English self-government would see it as a means to achieve that goal. However, as I suggested above, a UK minus Scotland would not necessarily result in an independent or even self-governing England, free from the possessive embrace of Britain. In addition, independence for Scotland could be a long time coming; and there is a danger that English resentment at the superior democratic representation and higher per-capita public expenditure enjoyed by the devolved nations, as well as the suppression of all things English by the British government, would grow to such a point that real momentum could get behind a movement for English independence, irrespective of Scotland’s wishes. Again, not altogether a bad thing from an English-nationalist perspective. But for those who would like to salvage some sort of political union between the nations of these islands – including many English nationalists – it would be a sad day if the UK were to drift from devolution to dissolution in the lack of any political vision for a viable united future.

This post is a modest attempt to suggest such a vision. But it’s a vision for a continuing UK predicated on the end of Britain. For England to survive, the death of Great Britain will be required. But a new equal and genuinely United Kingdom could be the result.


26 Responses

  1. […] No more Great Britain: A blueprint for a federal UK The trouble with the UK is ‘Great Britain’. […]

    • I believe the united kingdom of great britain is something to be proud of together we created the largest empire the worlds has ever seen we won 2 world wars and we sit at all the head tables for a little island we havent done bad and that is because we are united england or scoland couldnt have done all those things on there own united we stand divided we fall and i think a federal uk with a written constitution would save the united kingdom here is my blue print we could split each countrie into four states with there own individual national assemblys with law makeing powers and first minister and the parlament at westminster could deal with national and defence problems like the system they have in the us and if and if anyone thinks the federation would be unfair because of englands size then london cardiff edinburgh and belfast could be classed as states to make sure things are equal and i think secession should be made illegal as is in the us thankyou.

      • Thanks for the recent comments, Johnny and RJ, and sorry it took me so long to ‘approve’ them and reply – I’m not maintaining this blog as actively as I should. There certainly are lots of potential blueprints for a federal or confederal UK, and, for the record, I no longer think the model I outlined here would really work: we’re too far down the road of political autonomy for each of the UK’s nations, and the Scots and Welsh wouldn’t put up with being reintegrated into a centralised UK-parliamentary model, as perhaps the English wouldn’t either. But we definitely need to migrate to some sort of federal / confederal model, with England having its own parliament. EVoEL won’t do it, but it could be an evolutionary step in the right direction. These things tend to evolve very slowly in Britain!

  2. Worthy of the attention of nationalists and unionists alike. Very well presented.

    Scotland is not anti England or anti English it is anti ‘British’, a concept which implies an ‘all for one and one for all’ Britishness but in fact is all for England (mainly the South that is) and as little for the rest that we can get away with.

    40 years ago I coined the phrase,

    “England’s problems are Britain’s problems but England’s assets are England’s. Scotland’s problems are Scotland’s while Scotland’s assets are ‘British’ (read English).”

    Until this unfairness is removed there will be growing tension between our two great nations.

    Let’s go our separate ways politically that we may enjoy closer social and sporting relationships.

    Best of luck to the emerging Englishness.

  3. Excellent analysis.

    Except I don’t even think its worth a punt keeping the Union together!

    That horse is already lamed.

    Shot in the legs by successive Governments!

  4. You could be right, aedis. I just think that, after the break-up of the present Union, there will in any case have to be close co-operation between the countries of these islands on matters such as defence, the economy and international affairs. I tend to think that a reformed UK such as I propose provides a better forum for such co-operation than the other default option: the EU.

  5. How very unnecessarily complicated and abstruse David Walker ‘s blueprint is when in reality the matter is all very simple and can be said in a few words. The 1998 devolution legislation has changed the Union radically. The changes will be the permanent and most important achievement of the Blair government. However they have also unbalanced the Union to such a degree -by leaving England out of devolution altogether and by providing Wales with a mere fraction of what has been granted to Scotland- that unless balance is restored, the Union will come apart. The essence of a balanced Union is for each of the constituent parts to stand in the same relationship to the Union itself and to each other. That can be achieved in a very straightforward way by granting to both England and Wales their own parliaments with the same powers and executive as the Scottish Parliament, and the Union Parliament retaining the reserved powers it has now in relation to Scotland. The relationship of Scotland to the Union Parliament is the blueprint; and balance and justice can be easily achieved by extending it to England and Wales. (I am deliberately leaving out NI from this because its future lies of course with the rest of the island it is part of).

    Michael Knowles

  6. Thank you very much for your comment, Michael. I agree that I have more than a little tendency towards over-egging the (English) pudding (!). However, I think my blueprint – which is all it is, not a detailed plan – is more simple than you suggest, albeit wrapped up in a long(-winded) and complicated overall analysis.

    The difference, if I may hazard a summing up, between my blueprint and the CEP’s prescription is that the CEP’s vision is one of a continuing Union, albeit with equal powers devolved to each of the nations of Great Britain. My vision, by contrast, is one of federation rather than Union; with powers permanently transferred to the individual nations, backed by a written constitution and a transfer of sovereignty away from the Union parliament to the people of each nation. It becomes a United Kingdom held together, if at all, by genuine mutual interest and friendship; rather than under the auspices of a continuing Great Britain that will inevitably seek to submerge the aspirations to separate nationhood of its constituent countries – and above all, those of England.

  7. Much to ponder on! With regard to Great Britain you probably noticed that George Carey got into difficulties with his nomenclature in his recent address. By insisting on attributing nationhood to Great Britain, what was he to call Wales, England and Scotland? He wisely avoided the ‘p’ word – principality – for Wales which meant he ended up rather bizarrely referring to the ‘three kingdoms’ of Wales, England and Scotland.

    The idea of a ‘doubling up’ of roles has been suggested by others, including John Redwood. Despite that I did read on! You have pinpointed one problem ignored by others namely –

    “There is a valid question, however, about whether the relatively small number of Scottish and Welsh MPs would be sufficient to fulfil all of the functions of a national parliament in those countries.”

    If constituency representation is to be roughly equal then that would yield insufficient members in Wales (and Scotland and Northern Ireland) to create a proper forum – we would need some sort of ‘top up’ mechanism.

    Some form of union of equals is probably what a majority of people (still) aspire to but I’m afraid the sort of radical vision you present is unthinkable to the London establishment.

  8. I think the close co-operation between the states is SNP policy after independence anyway.

    I believe Alex Salmond has proposed a Council of the Isles between the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands; similiar to the current British-Irish council but more like the Nordic council in scope.

    The Nordic Council countries of Scandanavia; or the Baltic council (CBSS) which includes the Scandanavian countries, Russia, Germany and Poland as well as the Baltic states – are both good analogies.

    Such a Council of the Isles could provide intergovernmental co-operation.

    But I think it would be difficult for Scotland to have the same Defence policy as EWNI. Scotland was largely against the Iraq War, and has been largely against nuclear weapons on its soil for years.

    Likewise, the economy would probably also diverge. Although an independent Scotland would initially retain Sterling, the SNP would hold a referendum on the Euro. In that case, there would be little basis on a joint economic approach within the Council of the Isles.

    (In any case, one of the factors for Scottish independence is that economic policy is set by Westminster to suit the economy of the South of England, ignoring the very different needs of Scotland. Of course that is true of Wales, Northern Ireland and the north of England too; but there are obviously other factors to play too.)

    So that leaves the EU as the dominant umbrella organisation for joint economic approaches.

    Such a Council of the Isles would be compatible with the EU as the other councils mentioned are.

    Remember the majority of Baltic council countries are in the EU (exceptions Iceland and Russia), and in the Nordic council only Iceland and Greenland remain outside it.

    An independent Scotland could also feasibly join both the Baltic and Nordic councils.

    Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland and the Faroes are already members of the Northern Periphery partnership; and Scotland was an ELAV member alongside the Scandanavian countries (excluding Denmark). There is already a history of such Scandanavian co-operation that would suggest Scotland’s inclusion to the Nordic council.

    As for the CBSS: Iceland is further from the Baltic Sea than Scotland. And Scotland has a historic connection with the Baltic States and Poland. In Tallinn sits Scotland House, recently opened in Estonia to further promote links.

    Independence for Scotland could bring a wealth of international relations, currently hamstrung by the UK Government. Foreign policy is a reserved issue to Westminster and Scotland has to pick up the international scraps that Westminster allows.

    In conclusion then, from a Scottish viewpoint:-

    Council of the Isles to co-operate where we can – Yes;

    The current (or your proposed rejigged) UK with foreign and defence policy not wanted in Scotland – No.

  9. I take your point about the advantages that could accrue to Scotland from independence; and in my scheme, it would be entirely up to the people of Scotland to decide.

    On foreign and defence policy, the decisions taken by a federal UK government, such as I propose, could be greatly different than they have been under the New Labour Union government. After all, if the representatives of more than one nation objected to the Trident replacement programme or to a decision to send UK troops into war somewhere, these things just wouldn’t happen.

  10. OK – let me get this right – so in your scheme, the people of Scotland can decide their own foreign and defence policy.

    Likewise I take it, the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively,

    But where they can all agree in your proposed federal UK they can each, say, send troops to Iraq.

    The nations could possibly agree to that at a Council of the Isles instead, and not have that extra layer of Government as a federal UK.

    I believe though that an independent Scotland may well go down the Irish route of neutrality, though that as you say would be up to the Scottish people to decide.

    I very much doubt England would go down the same route.

    If England was still to follow the current UK policy of militarily jumping when the USA asked; would they be happy if Scotland kept vetoing a federal UK involvement?

    Or as you suggest, would England just jump anyway; given like Scotland they would have control of their own foreign and defence policy.

    It all makes a UK federal foreign and defence policy look like a lot of unnecessary cost and effort for the likely limited agreements it might bring.

  11. aedis, I should have been a bit clearer. In the post, I said that on issues such as going to war, there’d need to be support from all of the nations. For other federal-government decisions, such as the Trident-replacement programme, this could go through if one of the nations’ MPs opposed it; but only if there was strong majority support for the measure in all of the other nations. That wouldn’t mean that each nation could make their own foreign policy: they could have one; but as implementation would be at a federal level, it would have to win the two types of majority support federation-wide that I have just outlined, depending on the type of decision at stake.

    In practice, if the decision about Iraq had been taken on this basis, I don’t think it would have gone ahead. Probably, the Trident replacement wouldn’t, either. I also don’t think England is quite as hawkish as you make out. There was at least a large minority that opposed the Iraq war in England. And the composition of the English section of the federal parliament would be quite different from what it is now if the STV system were used. There would, in fact, be a clear majority of parties of the centre-left, if you can count Labour as one of those. So the Iraq misadventure might have been opposed even by English MPs. It’s by no means clear that an English foreign policy, within the federal-government structure, would look much like the present British one.

  12. Thanks David,
    I think that does clear up your argument a great deal. I wasn’t trying to make England hawkish but just throw up examples of where foreign and defence may possibly diverge.

    And as you say your system would have prevented a war in Iraq. As for Trident replacement I’d rather not take the chance of it being pushed through at all. Its the prospect of WMDs not wanted in Scotland being forced through by the other nations on the other Parliament’s votes that bothers me.

    That might be OK for Unionists who believe that sometimes we all need to bend a little to make the Union work, but it still makes me uneasy. I don’t think its a price worth paying.

    And that brings me to the general problem. If one nation had a big problem with a policy favoured by the other three – why should it not just implement its own policy instead?

    For example, it is widely expected that an independent Scotland would pull out of NATO. If Wales and Northern Ireland wanted the same, would England just roll over and take it?

    For me the clearest and easiest solution to avoid all this horsetrading of a federal system, with nations all wanting different things is independence.

    Co-operate where we can, but each nation would implement its own foreign and defence policies.

  13. Interesting article thanks for that David, and once again it is gratifying to see Cornwall get a mention. I’ll be touting it in Cornish circles.

    How do we get to this stage though? How do we ensure that the above asymmetric federal system is offered to the UK’s public?

    Although I’m sick to the back teeth of English regionalists telling me that Cornwall is too small to be a region and English nationalists barking that Cornwall is not a nation, I still think it possible that we can all pull in the same direction to obtain change.
    We can still all work together to ensure the public get an informed and educated choice over future governmental structures.

    So lets campaign together for the choice to be given to the public and when the time comes we can separate and fight our own corners in the debate and referendum.

    In this light what is your take on the Citizens’ Convention Bill from Unlock Democracy:

  14. The English and Scots created Britain and Britishness. An elite in both countries did the deed, it is true, but t’was not the work of the English alone.

  15. Philip, I haven’t had the opportunity to look into the Citizens’ Convention bill and will do so as soon as I can; it looks promising. However, I wonder whether it won’t just be the case that it will take Scotland to break away from the UK in order for England to be freed to just be England and relinquish its pretensions of still being the global power that was Great Britain. That might be fatalistic; but I do think it will inevitably happen unless the UK is recast into something that can satisfy the aspirations of nationalists and unionists alike: a political alliance of four nations rather than the illusion of a unitary nation state that it is no longer practical or rational to maintain.

    But I will have a look at the Citizens’ Convention and report back in some form in due course.

  16. Sorry, Philip; lapsing into my ‘anglological’ habits of thought: that should have been ‘an alliance of four (or five) nations’. I also believe that the most likely scenario for Cornwall attaining some meaningful self-governing status is for Scotland to leave the UK. This ‘trauma’ will result in a root-and-branch re-examination of how England and the remaining UK wish to govern themselves. And that could be the real opportunity for Cornwall to press its case for autonomy. In those circumstances, I envisage something like a state called ‘England and Wales’, with Cornwall maybe classified as an ‘English region’ with devolved or permanently transferred powers akin to those currently exercised by the Scottish parliament.

    You probably cringe at the designation of Cornwall as an English region; but if the powers of the Cornish government were really substantive (as are those of the Scottish government now), would it matter whether Cornwall was considered part of England or totally separate from it – so long as it could govern its own affairs and access sufficient funding (from its own taxation, from the ‘English and Welsh’ exchequer and the EU) to regenerate its economy and reaffirm its culture?

  17. I think one fear of many in the Cornish movement regarding English independence is that Cornwall would find it self in a state that had lurched further to the right. Nolonger having a state, the British right would merge with the English nationalist right both of whom, lets be honest, are largly hostile to the Cornish national question.

    We don’t want to find ourselves high and dry in a centralised, eurosceptic, right wing England fearful of loosing anymore territory.

    Personally I’d like to see Cornwall on the road to greater autonomy before the Scots go.

  18. If you missed the live debate on the Laurence Reed show Radio Cornwall you can listen to it here:

    I think you might find it quite interesting David.

    The two hour debate included guests John Angarrack, Historian, author and Director of Cornwall 2000; Dick Cole leader of Mebyon Kernow and Phillip Payton from the Institute of Cornish studies.

    Many Cornish issues were covered including The Duchy, The Cornish Fighting Fund, Cornish recognition, getting Cornish History and language into schools and the Cornish Assembly question.

    The radio Cornwall team had been out on the streets of Cornwall asking the public about Cornish identity and whether Cornish history and language should be taught in Cornish schools – the results were very positive.

    Callers were then invited to phone in. Nigel Hicks called and spoke on behalf of the Cornish Stannary Parliament, Graham Hart urged people to pledge to the CFF and talked about how he first found out that he was Cornish not English. Other callers included Mike Paynter the deputy Grand Bard of the Gorseth.

    I particularly liked the metaphor used by one caller of a large extended family to describe national affinities. For example you can be born into a family (nation) but equally you can be adopted. Additionally the debate between Philip Payton and Dick Cole concerning the Unitary Authority was an interesting start but really needs to be thrashed out. Is the Unitary a solid basis on which to build an assembly or is it a step in the other direction?

    [url=]CFF Cornish Nationalism debate – Radio Cornwall Fri 12th Dec[/url]

  19. […] which England and Britain continue to be indivisible; some of which I’ve attempted to explore here and here, among […]

  20. […] to be sovereign but pool our sovereignty with the other UK nations under a federal solution, as previously discussed in this […]

  21. […] this in previous posts and laid it out as one of the constitutional foundations for a prospective federal UK. If this principle were accepted for England, it would involve a radical break with the current […]

  22. […] a system might not even need to be a fully federal one, as previously outlined in my ‘Blueprint for a federal UK’: the state could continue to call itself ‘the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern […]

  23. […] does support some form of English parliament: a system not hugely dissimilar to my previous ‘blueprint for a federal UK‘, whereby there would be a single proportionally elected UK parliament that would split for […]

  24. Thats Not Federalism not even Confederalism or
    Home Rule of Any sort, its More Central than what it was like before 1998 having Gerry Adams, Martin McGuiness, and Little Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson, and all the Stupid Unionist trowing in, and maybe the SDLP, Allience, and maybe the PUP For that matter in Westminster or in any part of it, thats all any person needs,, and this West Lothan Question is just rubbish
    isint it a Dead in the Wood question which has no real answers at least none the Big Fellas in Westminster in there small Suits, Bowler Hats, Sashes, and there Posh Tea [all on Us by the Way] while they steal from us at the same time [Duck Ponds you name it where the hell in These Islands does someone have a Garden Big Enough for a Duck Pound unless its Her Majesty, or her Family even then i dont see her Majesty with a Duck Pond shes got all the dam swans in the Country she doesnt need a Duck Pond,
    at least we can all Laugh at the Westminster Parliament as all the Theifing MP’S Walk out the Door with our Money, and probelly even the Crown Jewels,
    its time to just dump the Act of Union 1800 [and 1707] and Go It alone for all the 4 Nations where better off Self Governing and Independent than been Stolen From from right under our Noses,
    and at least if there not United Kingdom anymore
    there will be No More Wars,
    and no More United Kingdom Debt either as the United Kingdom wont excist,
    but that wont mean we will not work together
    as you cant move the Islands apart,
    so we will always be Neighbours,

    it believe in the European Union
    as it Provides a Democratic System of Government
    where as the Parliament at westminster is a Dictatorship who claims it has Parliamentary Sovereignty what kind of Parliament says it has Almighty Sovereignty , i thought the people of a Nation-State where Sovereignty and the Parliaments there Staff but it guess the person who wrote the act of Union new best not.

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