Thursday 7 November 2013

Portsmouth shipyard closure may well prove to be the fatal blow for the union

Yesterday's political motivated closure of HM shipyard at Portsmouth was a desperate attempt by the British government to scupper pro-independence sentiment in Scotland but may well prove to be the fatal blow for the union.

The comments from the sacked workers, from the local MP and from the local council have all been pretty consistent: this is English jobs for Scottish people. The British government has sacrificed Portsmouth to protect jobs in Scotland because closing the  Clyde shipyards in Glasgow would hand Alex Salmond a big propaganda coup in the run-up to the Scottish independence referendum.

The Scottish independence people don't have a problem with the union per se, they have a problem with England. Most of them would stay in the UK if England was no longer part of it and it's because of this that the English will forever be the British sacrificial lamb. The price of Scottish unionism is denigration and discrimination against the English and it's a price the British are happy to pay.

UKIP's had a record Scottish by-election result in Aberdeen Donside in June - Otto Inglis came fifth with 4.83% of the vote, losing his deposit. The party put a lot of money into the campaign and the membership in Scotland worked like troopers but we will never see a breakthrough in Scotland because UKIP doesn't represent the views of the majority in Scotland who are left wing, pro-independence europhiles. It doesn't matter that declaring independence from the UK and then joining the EU is like a woman leaving one abusive partner to move in with another, that's what they want and that's what wins votes.

UKIP has nothing to gain from Scotland and everything to lose by not standing up strongly enough for the interests of the English people who do share UKIP's vision of the future - the UK (or rather, England and whoever tags along) out of the EU and back in control of our own destiny. The party needs to be campaigning strongly for a radically reformed British union that provides enough benefit to each member state of the UK or for Scotland to declare independence and leave England, Wales and Northern Ireland to get on with things. There will be no justice or fairness for the English whilst the union remains in its current form.

The only viable long term future for the British union is to reorganise it as a confederation with all four member states becoming sovereign nations and joining a British union by consent rather than compulsion. There's a great definition on the CIA factbook of a confederation:
Confederacy (Confederation) - a union by compact or treaty between states, provinces, or territories, that creates a central government with limited powers; the constituent entities retain supreme authority over all matters except those delegated to the central government.
In effect, the member states of the confederation are independent, sovereign nations voluntarily pooling sovereignty on limited matters whilst retaining the right to act in their own interests in all matters. It turns devolution and federation on its head - instead of the central (ie. federal of quasi-federal in the case of the UK) government having sovereignty and the right to legislate on all matters, the member states of the union have this status and the central government is limited in its powers. It's not dissimilar to how the EU, UN, NATO and other intergovernmental organisations are constituted. I wrote the case for a British confederation back in 2011 and it's still absolutely valid today - more so after what happened in Portsmouth yesterday.

The alternative is that the UK breaks up and as more discrimination is meted out at the English it is increasingly likely that it is the English who will bring down the union, not the Scots. Opinion polls already show that more people in England want Scotland to declare independence than people in Scotland do and the last major survey into devolution and independence in the UK showed that as many people in England want English independence as people in Scotland want Scottish independence. This is a direct result of the discriminatory policy of allowing Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to run their own domestic affairs whilst refusing to allow England the same right and the British government's willingness to discriminate against England to benefit the Scots (and to a lesser extent the Welsh and Northern Irish).

UKIP's equivocation on reform of the British union is costing the party votes. The last policy agreed by the NEC - still to be made public a year after being agreed - would have the unintended consequence of resulting in a confederation of the type described above to provide democratically accountable government. This is a good thing but the policy is gathering dust on the "to be announced" shelf which means it will probably be revised yet again - another policy agreed in principal that never sees the light of day.

As a party we support an English Parliament - the only serious party to do so - and Nigel Farage publicly confirms UKIP's commitment to equality for England on a regular basis but there's no meat on the bone. We need a full, coherent policy on how we're going to reform the British union put into the public domain and a commitment for a high level campaign to accompany it.

The union in its current form seriously disadvantages England and any mainstream party that promises comprehensive reform of the union so that everyone benefits and not just the relative few will undoubtedly be rewarded at the ballot box.