Over recent years more and more questions have been raised about whether or not there is a future for the UK. Never mind questions about quality of life, earnings, employment prospects housing, or education etc. The simple question has been can the UK survive?
For most, that question has been centred around politics here in Scotland and especially with the success of the SNP in Government. Our party has undoubtedly gone from being a “movement” to the natural party of Government. However, I suspect that there may well be major changes afoot in some of the narrative.
It’s not widely appreciated that the “Unionist” bit of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party title does not in fact refer to Scotland. It’s about Northern Ireland. Indeed even the arch-unionist John Buchan said “I believe every Scotsman should be a Scottish nationalist”. (Wee history lesson there for Colonel Davidson while she is still in office.)
But what if one of the consequences of the insanity that is Brexit is a shattering of the Unionist base in Northern Ireland? There is much speculation that the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and the consequent damage done to the Good Friday Agreement is softening the opposition to a possible Border Poll. The prospect of real economic damage being done seems to be making people think what was previously thought of as the unthinkable.
Recent constitutional changes in the Republic and the realisation that the Tories don’t really care if the price of Brexit is to throw them (and indeed Scotland) under the proverbial Clapham Omnibus, have combined to make the space for a fundamental reappraisal of constitutional options. Add to this the utter failure of the Assembly to sort out some kind of deal to keep sharing power and the looming possibility of not only restoration of Direct Rule but also the recently voted on changes to same sex marriage and abortion coming into effect. (It seems that the DUP demand to be treated the same as the rest of the UK only applies when they like it.) Just try and imagine the frothing at the mouth of our media if the Scottish Parliament were to fail to sit for 30 months. Yet our so-called political journalists are either unable (e.g. through editorial censorship) or unwilling to cover this abject failure of Government.
In short a real existential threat to the union, ironically brought about because of the obscene deal done between the Tories and the DUP.
Where, I wonder will that lead our very own Tory backwoodsmen?
Can the Orange Order here continue to prop up the party which brings a United Ireland into being again?
At what point do they wake up and smell the coffee and understand that far from being partners in a fantasy “precious union” we are also disposable in pursuit of Brexit?
Our new Secretary of State for Landowners seems to imagine that simply branding every project with a Union Flag will be sufficient to save the day. Perhaps he might like to reflect on the number of projects which bore the EU’s flag across huge swathes on N E England and Wales. What value will that flag still have if N Ireland votes to reunite and consequently stay in the European Union and leave the United Kingdom?
Ironically another of the strange conundrums Brexit has thrown up could well undermine another of the unionist scare stories. We know that the prospect of a hard border between Scotland and England was an effective tool for the unionists in 2014 and post Brexit was likely to be a feature of their next indyref campaign. However as they struggle to explain why there would be no need for a border in Ireland they undermine their own arguments for why there must be one in Scotland. If the technology exists, as they claim, then where’s the problem? If, on the other hand, there is no magic mushroom solution and trade and movement of people continue, despite any border, to flow then, once again, where’s the problem?
There is more than a theoretical possibility that the Union might well founder, not here in Scotland but, across the Irish Sea. Whichever way things work themselves out in the next few months two things seem certain; unionism will continue to tie itself in knots and that the media in Scotland will refuse to ask them the hard questions.