2007 - 2021

Post Covid Unionism

Literate Unionists, a small but well placed group, are working hard to re-imagine the case for Britain in the aftermath of the coronavirus.

John McTernan, a sort of early pre-incarnation of Cummings has recently noted:

“One of the best arguments for the union is that you get the financial backing of the UK to weather a pandemic and Scottish leadership for public health.”

The argument is, I suppose, that you are getting the best of both worlds right now. I’m not sure he’s quite feeling the mood right but … anyway. In short, you have the government you elect for domestic public policy, and then you get the government you didn’t elect, and will never elect, for financial security.

It’s a quaint idea that with figures showing that the UK has the highest deaths per-million in the global pandemic, this will seem an attractive Union to be part of. The UK had 62,000 more deaths than usual through to May 22, the highest rate of excess deaths in the world. It doesn’t exactly scream ‘UK:OK’ does it?

It’s been pointed out that lockdown in England ended (schools opening, back to work) at the same epidemic levels that most European countries went into lockdown.

This is not to say that the Scottish government and officials didn’t make mistakes, or are immune from criticism, far from it. But the mistakes they seem to have made are in following the British guidelines, and, as recent polling has shown they are far more popular and trusted than their counterparts in No 10. The contrasting responses to the activities of Dominic Cummings and Catherine Calderwood probably exemplify this. While Nicola Sturgeon acted with reluctant integrity, Boris Johnson acted with inevitable duplicity.

At the end of May YouGov reported the following contrasting picture:

The Cummings affair, the litany of disastrous public health decisions, and the shambolic personal presentation by Johnson and his ministers may be a contributory factor, but certainly the Prime Minister is tanking.
The 33-point collapse in Johnson’s NET approval ratings in the last 8 weeks (from +28 to -5) is identical to the fall in Theresa May’s fall between her 2017 peak and the end of that year (from +21 to -12). Not ‘good optics’ as they say.

Remember Johnson was going to be the saviour after the omnishambles of Theresa May’s time in office? He was going to put a smile on Britain’s face with his Can-Do attitude. He was the right man for the job. He was basically Churchill. It’s not quite worked out like that. Now he’s nowhere to be seen.

No Deal and Remembering 1955

It’s a long way back, but it’s going to get much worse, both for him but also, inevitably, for the rest of us.

As explains today: “Most of us who have followed Brexit closely believed coronavirus would soften the government’s stance in trade talks with Europe. The economic shock triggered by the pandemic, and the fact Whitehall is so overwhelmed managing it, made it more likely the government would extend the transition period, due to expire at the end of this year, or strike a deal. It turns out that the opposite is true. Rather than encouraging a more flexible and pragmatic approach, Covid-19 has instead reinforced the case for no deal at the very top of government. Perhaps the most important driver is the belief among ministers that the UK economy will be permanently reshaped by the crisis, as companies create new supply chains and reshore production to provide greater resilience in the future, not least in case of another pandemic. The government wants a free hand to facilitate this change, one that it believes would be constrained by the EU’s demand that the UK remain tied to its labour and environmental standards and state aid rules.”

As Rahman explains it is only really a No Deal that fully delivers what these people really want, a substantive “divergence” agenda. Any version of a deal with the EU at all, no matter how flattering and however framed, will tie the UK into some EU rules and regulations or others. This notion is so inimical to them that they will self-sabotage their own process.

A No Deal outcome also facilitates a trade deal with the US, and boosts the symbolism of “Global Britain” which is an obsession for Johnson his advisor and his cabinet. The reality that such a UK-US trade deal would bring limited economic benefit isn’t important at all to them. They are fulfilling their manifold destiny and still playing to the crowds of Brexit Glory Days.

You might think that layering the economic chaos of No Deal on top of the unprecedented crisis of the pandemic would be recklessly stupid, but you’d be wrong.

You might think that gambling everything on a trade deal with a country on the brink of civil war and led by a neo-fascist would be misguided, but you’d be wrong there too apparently.

These are dogmatic nationalists. These are obsessive separatists. They are everything they accused the independence movement of being in 2014.

There are some harsh realities here.

It was 1955 the last time the Conservatives won in Scotland. Then called the Scottish Unionist Party they gained 50.1% of the vote and 36 of the 71 seats at Westminster. It won’t be too long before there will be no-one alive who can remember a Conservative victory here. It does seem unthinkable. But the descent has further to go.

Tom Nairn describes how “the Deposition of Margaret in 1990 consigned Britain to a sort of Hades, John Major’s nether kingdom of dinge, sleaze, rigor mortis constitutionalism, tread-water triumphalism and anti-European xenophoboa.” But, just as Trump makes Dubya Bush look like a towering figure, an articulate intellectual, Major’s government looks positively progressive next to Johnson’s Brexit party. It’s difficult to discern how the coronavirus will effect constitutional politics. Literate Unionists are still clinging to the notion of the UK being perceived by Scots as a rock of stability in difficult times. In light of this debacle this lacks credibility.

Comments (11)

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  1. Thomas Dunlop says:

    They are terrified at the fact that Scotland could do better on its own or even the idea that it has perceived to have done better, even within the straight jacket of the UK constitutional arrangement. For the BritNats these are terrifying concepts to even think about. It unravels their whole contention that Scotland can’t do good on its own, or look for better ideas elsewhere. Endless bleating about how we would be impoverished with forlough doesn’t cut it in face of the evidence that EVERY small european nation of 5 million souls HAS done better than the UK-the outlier being Sweden, but Swedish exceptionalism is much to do with English/British exceptionalism (but that is another story).
    So they have to up their volume and shout harder and longer (however, I suspect that is going to make their position much worse-a Streisland effect in the making).
    My main concern is that as we turn the corner to a hard Brexit, next year the true ulginess and brutality of British nationalism will legislate devolution out of meaningful existence, and also tinker with the constitution to make any future referendum illegal (a Spanish constitution?). Therefore we have to be prepared to bite the bullet and hit the plan B button, recall the MPs and set up a constitutional convention- they have already been sidelined in Westminster. I’m sorry, but the BritNats are not going to play nice, so why should we? If Lithuania and the Baltic states had the guts to do it, why not us? It will soon be the only way forward.

  2. Alex Kashko says:

    John McTernan, a sort of early pre-incarnation of Cummings has recently noted:

    “One of the best arguments for the union is that you get the financial backing of the UK to weather a pandemic and Scottish leadership for public health.”

    Sunak said no more furlough money for Scotland if they do not follow England.

    what financial backing?

  3. Angus Bearn says:

    So, the Conservatives get to kill you, then help pay for the coffins?

  4. Robert Logan says:

    Can you modify this to show the actual (far better) Scottish figures, I have them in this tweet from the original Oxford Research.


    There is also this video … from the authors.


  5. Blair says:

    England being the bigger partner gives the notion that the tail should no wag the dog, the reality is Scotland”s real position is the head of the old British dog just nodding everything through. Just as old dogs learn new tricks England is reliant on Scotland to survive whether it be derived from natural resources, hard graft or intellectual capability. BREXIT presents opportunities to do things differently.

  6. Geof says:

    So what do we (reasonably) intelligent English do? The Cons out spend every other party. They lie, cheat, deceive and thoroughly hoodwink the majority of the public with their soundbites, ‘Get Brexit Done’ for instance, and their influence with the main stream media and the British Biased Company! Continual bombardment in their favour and continual trashing of the opposition. Could the SNP try some candidates south of the border please?

  7. Jo says:

    You flatter McTernan.

  8. SleepingDog says:

    So the Union pays for a mass grave with the headstone inscribed “We’re all in it together!”?

  9. Devine says:


    This young codger with a mind like a cut snake takes the prize for the Yooniverses doolally soup taker of the year. What are News-quest spiking the soup with at the Herald canteen? This country-boy makes Chemical Ali look like a moderate chino-wearing Centrist. David Torrance now seems as ‘fair-minded’ as Bob Woodward. This gong is the Jack Sparrow of Scottish churnalism. The Herald is now a sewer of propaganda spewing out industrial scale toxic sewage- it really is gutter tribalism at its worst. Every article is a party political broadcast for the Regressive Party. No doubt the Hammer and Blood style hits the bigot g-spot every time in the SIU yahoo chatrooms- after all the ever-put-down White muesli eating demographic need a champion. These good people need a heroic crusader in the war-against-that-Sturgeon and the ‘invisible prison of political correctness’ that tyrannises the British way of life. Anglo-Scottish patriot logic needs representation too- we live in a democracy after all- and the dispossessed of Morningside & Giffnock need a voice to defend their quiet dignity. And whilst the great Chimpenfuhrer Carlaw rants & raves & screams ‘Care-Homes’ through the holes in his glasshouse- which is coincidentally co- ordinated with universal verbatim in all the major media outlets in Scotland- the Herald organ grinder concludes: ‘Sturgeon is taking no flak’, We are after all living in the benign dictatorship of One Party State like Mugabe’s Zimbabwe where dissent is squashed like a bug between Wee Nippy’s fingers. They need someone to stand up to the Totalitarian State Interventions of the Tartan Taliban. The Herald, The Scotsman, Daily Record, The Daily Mail, The Sun, they all give a voice to those who think devolution has gone too far: It has only taken us further down the dark road of separatism. It has caused the Balkanization of Scottish civic life. Saltires are shoved in your face. Babies hate their grannies. Its Cultural Marxism this & Cultural Marxism that. British values are dying on the vine. Ban all referendums. Burn the bagpipes. Soon they’ll ban our giddy revels at Night at the Proms & our defeat of the Bosch. Instead Anglo-Scots must proclaim the benefits of Unionism such as the boon of Trident…for example I was at my weekend retreat up in Pitogowan & stomping around with my polished shotgun when I came across a japing jolly chap and we got into a bit of a chin wag about that Sturgeon and those bloody Nats…’Gosh old bean’ he said ‘I said go on’ and he said: ‘If it was up to her we would be handing all our hard-won lolly to a bunch of skivers…well I say poppycock to that…we need British Whisky. British Tartan. British Burns Night’ hear hear old sport I said. ..’And what’s more old bean…we need a new Colonel to defend the Greatest Union the Galaxy has ever seen’ and I said ‘Like Colonel Davidson?’ and then he said ‘Yes. But better. We need someone to fight in the trenches for her Majesterium…maybe a Swinson in Uniform’ and then I said ‘What about Murdo Fraser or Alex-Cole Hamilton or that Mundell fellow?’ and he said ‘NO! It needs to be a bit crumpet…sex up the brand’….’Jackie Baillie?’ and he said ‘You’ve taken it too far old boy…Swinson’s an Anglo-Scot and a good toady girl and she’s on the dole…put her in a Union Jack cocktail dress and make her straddle a howitzer for a photo-op!’ And I said ‘Kepitol idea’ and with that he was off up the heather in his breeks and flannels and shooting everything in sight…what what old boy!

  10. joan adams says:

    Mike Small is ‘on the ball’ .The clarity of his commentary alleviates the ‘brain fog’ many of us have to endure right now. It would be good if he could hold a meeting in Glasgow in the future if meetings ever take place in the future! I know there are groups around who would benefit like ‘Castlemilk Against Capitalism’ Small steps inhabited by worthy individuals i’d say!

    1. Thanks Joan. Very happy to speak in Glasgow (if Ive got anything useful to say!)

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