Supplicant Nations and the Traditional Family

It’s interesting to look at the forces coalescing around the Hate Crime Bill. Someone called Adrian Hilton writes: “And this is why (since the Conservatives aren’t ever likely to form a Scottish government) this Hate Crime Act is now the settlement in Scotland, rolling back centuries of liberal philosophy and Enlightenment progress.”

I mean, it’s not often you hear the Scottish Enlightenment lauded but it’s not really meant as a compliment. In reply David Frost (Lord Frost of Allenton) explains: “The solution is to roll back devolution instead and make important laws on a UK-wide basis. We can’t accept that something like the Hate Crime Act should be law for ever more.”

This is one of the possible consequences of the sort of visceral animus that’s floating around. But its not that new. Almost a year ago Frost wrote an accompanying piece in the Telegraph for the NatCon conference. Before we turn to Lord Frosts’s words it’s worth setting the scene because this is how we can see attacks on devolution – and extreme forms of social and cultural conservatism – coalesce around attacks on anti-hatred legislation.

‘National Conservatism’ (NatCon) is a mixture of authoritarianism, nostalgia and an insistence that immigration is an existential threat to Britain’s ‘soul’. In its founding ‘statement of principles’ it declares itself committed to the State, the Rule of law, Christianity as a Public Religion and the Traditional Family. It calls for much more ‘restrictive policies’ on immigration which “may sometimes include a moratorium on all immigration”. They write:

“We see the tradition of independent, self-governed nations as the foundation for restoring a proper public orientation toward patriotism and courage, honor and loyalty, religion and wisdom, congregation and family, man and woman, the sabbath and the sacred, and reason and justice. We are conservatives because we see such virtues as essential to sustaining our civilization. We see such a restoration as the prerequisite for recovering and maintaining our freedom, security, and prosperity.”

Back in May 2023 David Frost wrote (‘The SNP’s implosion is a chance to put failing devolution into reverse’):“There is now a huge political opportunity, but it is one that must be seized. It won’t just drop into the Government’s hands. Scottish nationalism hasn’t disappeared. The Government has scotched the snake, not killed it.”

Once a Fox, now a Snake.

In a passage that rewards close reading Frost writes in the Telegraph:

“Of course, Gordon Brown and a few others are still going around arguing that transforming the UK into a skeletal federal state, with all real powers held in the regions, will stave off dissolution. But I strongly suspect that even Keir Starmer doesn’t really believe him. It’s very obvious that riding the tiger of Scottish nationalism has nearly seen the UK dismembered and gobbled up.

So now: do something different. Not only must no more powers be devolved to Scotland, it’s time to reverse the process. Devolution was designed in a different world – a world in which many powers theoretically devolved to Scotland were actually held at EU level and could not be exercised in practice. Brexit changed that, but rather than using the opportunity to rationalise things, a complex programme of “common frameworks” was established, making the UK Government a supplicant to the devolved administrations to maintain common rules across the country.

Boris Johnson and a few of us, against much internal opposition, devised what became the UK Internal Market Act in 2020, giving Westminster the power to spend in devolved areas and to require goods to flow freely across the UK. But it has not been used assertively as it should have been – and of course the Windsor Framework has now introduced new and unwelcome complications in this whole area.”

I mean, there’s a lot to take in here.

Well the confused metaphors of Foxes, Snakes and Tigers continue, but Frost is right about one thing, Starmer isn’t going to introduce Gordon Brown’s federalism and the centralising impulse lies strong in both Tories and Labour. But this is a senior Conservative figure, prominent within the new National Conservatism movement advocating ‘rolling-back’ devolution. Second of all it’s clear that Scotland – and the other devolved nations – have replaced the EU as the threat to ‘the UK Govt’ (for which read England). The UK is a “supplicant to the devolved administrations”. Brexit must be re-done and done again, this time liberating the, er, UK, from, er, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Finally the Internal Market needs to be used more ‘assertively’, he’s effectively arguing for direct rule bypassing elected parliaments by a government that Scotland has utterly rejected. This is what National Conservatism looks like within Britain.

He ends on a National Conservative crescendo: “Speak for Britain. And start rebuilding our nation.”

History is being re-written (and un-written) before our very eyes. Britain as a single unitary nation with a single culture and an indivisible set of internal policies is being created.

But what we are seeing as the entire British establishment closes forces in horror at the Hate Crime Bill, and a gathering of the grotesque assembles outside an empty Holyrood, is the convergence of some strange bedfellows and ideas.

On the one hand you have Scottish nationalists like the Alba Party and supporters of Stuart Campbell consumed by their hatred of the SNP; alongside them you have the Scottish Family Party; alongside these you have right-wing libertarians like Claire Fox, Penny Lewis, Ella Whelan and Stuart Paiton (all part of the same network); and finally you have the National Conservatives who want to see societies centred on the traditional family (“built around a lifelong bond between a man and a woman” and resisting “ever more radical forms of sexual licence and experimentation”).

So there’s something very strange going on here – the weirdest and most unlikely alliances are coming together – as post-Brexit England feels threatened simultaneously by immigration and by devolution – and lashes out at both – and erstwhile Scottish nationalists feel that their hatred of the SNP trumps anything at all.

These forces have been building for years – we saw for example the Institute for Ideas / the Battle of Ideas / Spiked work with the Christian Institute and other far-right groups, all represented by Tom Hamilton PR and Media (Glasgow) to create fronts to resist the completely unremarkable notion that Scottish children should have equal protection in law from assault. Children won.

I suppose that these coalitions could be completely harmless – but it was only a few years ago that the idea of Britain leaving Europe was completely unthinkable. It was the preserve of the late night tabloid sub-editor shift, a few fruit-loops on the Tory back benchers and Mr Angry on the phone-in. Certainly if the Conservatives were to retain power I think these alliances would be cultivated and devolution would be under real threat. But Labour are coming to save us all aren’t they?

As Lord Frost tells us, Gordon Brown isn’t coming anywhere with his famous blueprint. Instead, what’s more likely is a huge Labour majority based almost overwhelmingly in England a persistent annoying nationalist presence to the north and west (and far west). In these circumstances some of these forces and ideas will persist. We can expect dissolving the devolved parliaments to sound different under Labour than Conservatives but the result will be the same. Expect ‘devolving down’ – ‘localisation’ – and ‘Mayors’ to be the buzzwords used to pull apart Holyrood or the Senedd under Labour. The culture wars are colliding with the constitutional crisis and in the growing competition for populist insurgency strange alliances are being made before our eyes.

Comments (18)

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  1. Cathie Lloyd says:

    Very useful to draw these connections. I’m concerned about what’ll happen after the inevitable disillusionment wit Starmers government. These forces need watching and we must be ready to defeat them.

    1. Iain MacLean says:

      You raised an important point!

      Labour sweep into power, they continue with austerity and brexit as they “must” stick to spending guidelines and brexit can’t be changed as England voted for it.

      What happens next?

      Little change in people’s lives, only that their lives aren’t getting any better and in comparison to similar European states, quality of life is declining.

      People have expectations, immediate change or a commitment to change and will voice their expectations, expectations that can not be met with austerity and brexit in place. labour mps will become nervous and it will only be a matter of time before they start criticising austerity and brexit, rightly so.

      How long can this go on for, we have had 14 years of austerity, its hollowed out public services in England and damaged public services in Scotland.

      If labour can’t demonstrate quick progress in office, they will be out of office very quickly, there is no party that can fix the uk’s ills with brexit and austerity!

      The labour honeymoon will be swift and brutal!

  2. Ann Rayner says:

    if the British government wants to be freed from rules they feel are being imposed on it by the ‘devolved’ nations, there is a very simple solution.
    Independence for England! I’m sure lots of Scots would suppport that idea,

    1. Mary McCabe says:

      But of course what they want is to get back the power to impose their own rules on as many of their neighbouring countries as possible.

      1. David Robins says:

        Frost says so: “Scottish nationalism has nearly seen the UK dismembered and gobbled up”. The narrative is that Scotland’s freedom depends on English rule, because the only alternative is the dreaded EUSSR, where people don’t understand things like freedom because only the English can. The SNP, by putting Scotland first, are traitors to Britain and therefore to Scotland’s best interests. The idea that England must control the whole island in order to feel safe – diplomatically and militarily – goes back at least to the 10th century. It’s inconceivable to English establishment opinion that England could co-exist with any of its neighbours on any other basis than dominating them. They’re still upset about Eire.

  3. Gavinochiltree says:

    Internal colonisation, repression and subjugation. All enhanced by news “ management” of a print and broadcast media owned and controlled by a handful of rich men (all men). The BBC that operates in Scotland has long been emasculated and emptied of any pretence to having a “national” purpose.
    There is little hope on the horizon, but we must persevere.

    1. John says:

      I have lived in Wales & Scotland over last 15 years and there are definite patterns as to how devolved parliaments are reported by UK media.
      The default position is that any policy that is implemented in devolved parliaments that differs from Westminster is controversial. The local opponents position will be given prominence often at expense of locally elected politicians. This has been seen repeatedly but most recently with GRA, Bottle Deposit Scheme in Scotland and farming policies and speeding restrictions in Wales. Westminster politicians then pile in often at odds with their counterparts in devolved nation.
      In addition other policies which improve the life of citizens in devolved nations get little attention and are the heralded as a major advance when implemented in England with an occasional minor reference to devolved nations eg automated insulin pumps.
      The UK media do this for two major reasons:
      1)The vast majority of viewers, listeners or readers live in England.
      2)The UK media is based around Westminster and tend to have an assumption that Westminster is the pinnacle of democracy in UK.
      This situation has worsened since independence referendum and Brexit for reasons given in article and in truth I see no desire to challenge or change in UK media or with Westminster politicians.

  4. Alex Clark says:

    You get a couple of hundred protestors outside Holyrood demonstrating against a Bill passed by a large majority of MSP’s from every party and the media in the UK will dine on it for days on end if it helps undermine support for the Scottish government.

    Then you can have half a million people march on the streets of London protesting against Israeli bombing of innocent civilians in Gaza and you’d be lucky to see a paragraph in any of the major newspapers.

    1. Frank Mahann says:

      The elderly radges demonstrating outside Holyrood the other day were led by that serial deposit-loser, the Scottish Family Party. The last time that the SFP emerged into sunlight was when they protested against the ban on smacking children.

  5. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    You forgot about JK Rowling and Ally McCoist, with the latter planning to break the law at Rangers v Celtic on Sunday.

    1. Frank Mahann says:

      Super Ally has now decided not to attend the Old Firm match.

  6. SleepingDog says:

    Well, this is why I’ve long advocated that to achieve Scottish Independence, the most effective way might be to get strongly behind a new British codified Constitution that would provide that right (plus decolonising, optionalising the monarchy and removing its royal prerogatives with a view to removing the institution, etc etc). The pathway through End of Empire (which harmfulness nobody understanding British cross-party support for genocide should now be in doubt of).

    If Judeo-Christian values are threatened by the Hate Act then that seems a plus (I thought there were supposed to be some religious exemptions though, as a sop for abolishing blasphemy) given their expression in unfolding atrocities and rapid progression towards doomsday.

    It’s difficult to imagine a culture less devoted to family values than the one which led the world in racialised chattel slavery. I recommend watching the Guardian documentary Buried to really put this in perspective.
    Plus of course child slavery, endenic child abuse by these very institutions NatCons venerate etc etc.

    As I’ve commented elsewhere, Love can be every bit as toxic as Hate (idolatry, Jingoism, fawning, minionisation, ancestor worship, and so on).

  7. Graeme Purves says:

    Well, of course, the relentless centralisation and command and control of the Sturgeon era has exposed our flank to this, as few but Lesley Riddoch and Andy Wightman have seemed to realise.

    1. BSA says:

      That’s right, blame the victim.

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        How can the centralisation of political power be a victim?

  8. WT says:

    “It’s interesting to look at the forces coalescing around the Hate Crime Bill.” Is it? You have collected some groups together which have expressed their opposition to the Hate Crime Bill and in mixing them together in a big hate pot you taint them all with the flavours of the others. Not a recipe for fairness (sorry).There is nothing wrong with opposing the Bill, any Bill surely? And it’s not a good bill is it? It’s badly written and difficult to understand where lines are drawn. A bill that uses ‘reasonable person’ as a way to judge something is not a good bill. My reasonable person is not the same as yours. Is Ross Greer a reasonable person? Is Alister Jack? How on earth are ordinary people supposed to know if the things they say will pass this test? They don’t, so they self censor and that is what makes it a bad law. Perhaps it is actually time to get rid of hate crime. What is the purpose of it? Where is the advantage in it? One could argue that committing a crime because you hate someone or the group they belong should be used in mitigation – the cold, calculating person who just wants to kill someone or commit a crime of violence could be seen as a greater danger to society. Why should sentencing on any crime be different because of the reason behind the crime when the outcome is the same – it makes no sense.

    But the real problem for the Scottish Government is that they are politicians they should have seen this coming, that’s their job. And if they decided ‘to hell with the consequences lets roll with it’ then to hell with the consequences.
    You say “…these alliances would be cultivated and devolution would be under real threat.” But devolution should be under real threat, the problem is, it is under threat by the UK and Unionists not by the supposed party of independence. Are the SNP the custodians of devolution or the party of independence?
    On Simon Harris (Fine Gael) Brian Feeney says in the Irish Times:
    “The Irish government must be the only one in the world which has an objective, a constitutional imperative, repeated dutifully, religiously, but no plan to achieve it and refuses to do anything to achieve it…A fundamental rule in business, in battle, in sport, is that if you have an objective you need to have a plan to achieve it.” Sounds a bit like home doesn’t it?

    1. “It’s interesting to look at the forces coalescing around the Hate Crime Bill.” Is it? You have collected some groups together which have expressed their opposition to the Hate Crime Bill and in mixing them together in a big hate pot you taint them all with the flavours of the others”

      I mean, to be honest I didn’t do that, they did.

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