What unites us is much greater than what divides us

I saw that Better Together repeated this line today when telling us that Sir Paul McCartney has signed the letter from English celebrities which asks the Scots to “stay with us”.  I thought – they’re right – what unites England and Scotland is much greater than what divides us.

We’re all human beings, sharing the same land, with similar traditions, similar morals, similar weather.  Like all people, we have hopes and dreams, have relationships, have children, have friends, go to work. Our political differences divide us to some extent but politics – though important – does not wholly determine our lives.

On the negative side – what divides us – one could put the British state.  Ironically, in forcing us together politically, English and Scots are more likely to be unhappy and divided.  We accuse each other of subsidising the other – money is always a potentially divisive issue.  The Scots say the English don’t care about them.  The English say the Scots get too good a deal. The Scots say that the union favours the rich and powerful. Some English agree.  So the union itself – paradoxically it seems – is accused of being divisive.  That’s my position.    

I believe that independence for Scotland will enable each country to reconfigure our relationships much more healthily – within our countries first, and then between our countries.

So let’s remember, in both England and Scotland, that whatever happens in the referendum,   what unites us is much greater than what divides us. 

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Where has all the energy in Britain gone?

In a previous article, I imagined how a spirited defence of the union could have looked like, with English MPs and elder statesmen descending on Scotland in order to find out from ordinary Scots what had gone wrong.  Of course, nothing like this has happened.  There is no energy in England or Scotland to remotely match the energy that the Yes supporters have.  This is not surprising because Yes supporters have a natural unity about them which releases and channels the energies they possess for a greater good which they genuinely believe in.  By contrast, supporters of the union are self-conscious, fragmented, reluctant and many are in fact missing in inaction.  They know they lack what the Yes voters have and can’t bring themselves to admit it. They are still hanging on for a close No vote in the hope that they can go back to political sleep afterwards.  Their actions give the lie to their supposed love for the Scots and for our union.  They don’t dare show their faces in Scotland because they lack the courage to deal with people who are going to ask them angry questions about what they have done in their political careers. So they carp from the sidelines – trying to dig up anti-English feeling, picking holes in the Yes manifesto, and taking premature positions, such as on currency union, which are designed to scare voters towards a No.

But we all have energy, English and Scottish alike.  We go to work, we look after our children and our older folk. We play sports, play music and take part in community activities. So why are we – who are so attached to the British state – so apathetic (and pathetic) when it comes to political participation?  Is it because we have not been galvanised by an inspiring speakers?  Is it because we have no enthusiasm for the policies of our main parties?  Is it because no-one else seems interested in politics? Is it because we don’t feel valued as a member of our country?  I think there is something to all these reasons.

If we look back in time to the founding of the union of England and Scotland, we can see that it was a union of political elites, more than peoples.  There was hostility among most Scots.  There was no great mood in England for union that our politicians were expressing.  The reasons were mainly commercial.  The union served the interests of the political and business classes.  The peoples of both countries were co-erced into union.  I say co-erced because there was no mandate from them.  Both peoples were subject to a British identity propaganda campaign from the monarchy and the government.  Those of us who still believe in Britan (not me) are the current beneficiaries of that ideology. 

The British state for most of its history has served the interests of our political and economic elites.  Scots and English have been united mostly in terms of international endeavours – economic and political colonialism.  Thankfully, the empire has passed.  More recently, we have been united in defence of the realm during the world wars. Thankfully, the threat has passed.  We have been united, perhaps more positively, in the creation of cherished public institutions such as free healthcare and education.  Sadly, this unity is now passing, as we in England face a growing privatisation of the NHS and massive university fees.  So much of what united us is now in the past. And most of that related to our dealings with the outside world, not between ourselves.

I for one feel powerless as I see my country take positions which alienate me – replacing nuclear weapons at a cost of up to £100bn to the taxpayer; bailing out banks by running up government debt; clamping down on benefits and starving community groups of funding; jumping when the markets sneeze; and privatising the NHS by stealth.  I don’t see much difference between the main parties.  I don’t think that there is a genuine mandate for the policies that our politicians are pursuing.  Or if there is, it is a weak one, from an electorate which does not have the tools or the energy to get their politicians working for them. 

So we know that, as human beings, we do have energy, but that this energy is sapped by not feeling united, and a discontent at the way our country is going.  How is it that our energy is channelled away from unity and national purpose?  I think this takes us back to the rationale for the union between our countries. If the peoples of our countries were actually co-erced into a new political relationship with each other, then this was a shotgun marriage. If we were then subject to pro-British propaganda by our elites so as to convince us that this new relationship is what we really wanted, then this relationship turned into a marriage arranged by controlling parents.  If our energies were then channelled towards serving the privileged interests of our political and economic masters, and if we were rewarded with enough “bread and circuses”, then this would have given us very little space to work through what was really going on.

Perhaps the British establishment has done Scotland a favour by neglecting Scottish political preferences for the last few decades.  With the poll tax and its abandonment to industrial decline, the Thatcher government left Scotland helpless to look after its own – a national humiliation.  This exposed the selfishness of the British political identity and Scotland’s loyalty to the union has declined since then with a succession of alienating policies.   

Critical commentators in Scotland have long condemned the rottenness – to the core – of the British state but we in England are only now beginning to get it ourselves. The British state is like a giant parasite that sucks much more life out of us than it gives back.  The energy of the Yes campaign shows us all that, cut free from the shackles of the British state, we too can find new unity and channel our energies towards serving each other and pursuing our heartfelt national dreams, not those of our political and economic elites.

So we need to organise ourselves outside the Westminster system and ultimately rise up to reform it or replace it.  I don’t want to join any party which would spend £100bn of our money on weapons that can destroy millions of lives.  Such a policy is self-evidently evil.  This is enough to rule me out of joining the Conservatives, Lib Dems or Labour.  Perhaps I should join the Green Party.  I am thinking about it.

So the Westminster system finally stands condemned, and with it the very foundations of the British state. Relationships that are built on co-ercion can’t be reformed.  They must be torn down.  Then we must re-build relationships within our nations – English with English and Scottish with Scottish. In time, we can form natural alliances between our nations but there is a lot of work to do first.  The Yes campaign have shown us the way, and we can all benefit from their clear-sighted analysis and pursuit of noble principle.  There doesn’t have to be a Scottish monopoly on principled nation-building.    

Labour Party : RIP, the sooner the better

I keep banging my head against the wall trying to understand how all 3 main parties in Westminster have agreed in the Trident Commission that we should spend £30bn to £100bn on replacing Trident.  We will also have to find a few more billion to move the accursed things out of Scotland, if there is a “Yes” vote. 

I saw that Labour’s “Britain’s Global Role Policy Consultation” document states :

“Labour has said that we are committed to a minimum, credible independent nuclear deterrent, which we believe is best delivered through a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent. It would require a substantial body of evidence for us to change this belief, which the Government’s Trident Alternatives Review does not appear to offer”.

I had a look at the “Trident Alternatives Review” which is a semi-technical analysis of the various alternatives to Trident.  This kind of document is a little mesmerising because one can subtly be drawn into MOD-speak and start to expend intellectual energy weighing up the technical pros and cons of different WMDs.  I had to keep my head a little to remember that the whole point of WMDs is the ability to kills thousands or millions of people, just like you and me. And this is the world of technical analysis of immoral weapons which Labour has allowed itself to be drawn into. 

The Review document starts off by saying:

“The credibility of the UK‟s deterrent is crucial; a potential aggressor needs to believe that the UK has the capability and resolve to deliver “unacceptable loss‟ in response to an actual or imminent attack.  ‟Unacceptable loss‟ [is defined as] the ability to inflict a level of damage that a potential aggressor would judge outweighed any benefit they might gain by a particular course of action.”

Bringing it back to reality again, “unacceptable loss” involves the killing of huge numbers of people.  Somehow, the political establishment in our country seem to think we should spend billions of pounds to play mind-games with potential aggressors over the potential killing of their citizens.  Labour has swallowed the deception that underlies the rationale for nuclear weapons and is now engaged in technical comparisons between different types of them. 

Last year, Labour was talking about having only 3 new submarines but, in the cross-party Trident Commission (minus the SNP), they have now joined the Tories on 4.  Of course there are many Labour activists who hate Trident as much as I do.  But how could the Labour Party have fallen so low that its support for replacing Trident didn’t even trigger a serious debate in the party? I want to cry some times. 

What should I think of an institution that is committed to spending up to £100bn of my country’s tax revenues of building arms that can wipe out the world, by accident or design?  Even if it never uses them, the money it spends on them could be used to improve the lives of so many people in the UK and in poorer countries around the word.    Actually, I have reached a conclusion on this.  Such an institution is fundamentally evil – evil at its core. 

There are many Labour activists who do far more for their country than I do, in their local areas.  The Labour Party does not deserve to have them.  The Labour leadership is a parasite on them.  I look forward to the institution of the Labour Party disappearing into electoral oblivion. I hope it dies.  I am an enemy of few people – but I am an enemy of the Labour Party.  Hopefully, the good people left behind when it dies will go on, in a different guise.      

It’s been hard work, but we’ve probably saved the union

In 2012, Alex Salmond picked up the phone to David Cameron and told him that the SNP had been elected to form the majority Scottish Government, with a mandate to negotiate independence and now he wanted to make arrangements for the referendum.  The penny dropped for David Cameron.  His heart was in his mouth.  This could be the end of the United Kingdom. Something had gone really wrong if Scotland now felt this way.   He asked Mr Salmond to give him a day to come back to him. He immediately summoned an emergency cabinet meeting.  Everyone was aghast.  How could they have not seen this coming? The Britain they knew, loved and have worked all their lives for, was under threat, but this time from within.

The alarm was sounded. Mr Cameron made an emergency announcement in the House of Commons.  MPs from all sides were dismayed.  As one, they promised to get involved to save the union and discussions started on what to do about it.  The following day, Mr Cameron called Mr Salmond and said that he wanted to come up to Edinburgh on the first available flight, talk to him about the referendum and to find out for himself the mood in Scotland.

Mr Cameron met Mr Salmond and listened for several hours while Mr Salmond calmly explained how things had reached this point for his party and for many of his fellow Scots.  Mr Cameron said very little, still in shock, but promised that he would respect the wishes of the people of Scotland and arrange another meeting soon for referendum negotiations to begin.

Meanwhile, everyone in England started talking about the bombshell dropped by Scotland – in pubs, workplaces, company boardrooms, trade unions, community groups, ordinary families and of course, in the corridors of power.  TV and radio schedules were re-arranged to make way for live debates, phone-ins, interviews with politicians and ordinary Scots and English people.  Journalists swarmed over Scotland trying to catch the mood and find out what was going on.

Before Mr Cameron could even summon the cabinet again, plans had advanced for how to save the union.  A kind of coalition “war cabinet” was formed including ministers, shadow ministers, former British Prime Ministers, retired elder statesmen, and Scottish MPs.  The talk was : what had gone wrong? How had we not seen this coming?  Why were the Scots so upset?  We need to listen to them and understand what is going on.  We need to come up with a solution that we can all be happy with.  We need to get the people of England and the rest of the UK involved too.

Droves of English MPs headed north of the border to talk to anyone and everyone in Scotland, to find out the problems and discuss the issues earnestly with them.  John Major and Tony Blair joined in along with many retired UK government ministers.  This was a time for the elder statesmen to pull their nation together and re-build bridges, while there was still time.

It was a hard process and many difficult conversations had to take place between the English and the Scots.  Over time, the English realised that they had not taken seriously the issues that many Scots had had with the Westminster system and its policies for a long time.  Over time, Scots came to respect the English politicians and people for listening to them and for taking their concerns seriously.  There was talk of a new constitutional settlement.

Interest awakened in Wales and Northern Ireland too and the people and politicians in England realised that this was not just about Scotland, but about the UK as a whole.

This time it was Mr Salmond’s turn to pick up the phone to David Cameron.  He said that Scottish people had been taken aback by the efforts made by the English to listen to them and to consider solutions seriously with them.  He said that support for independence had weakened and that he would like a 3rd option on the referendum ballot paper of further devolution. Mr Cameron was relieved and said that he would support this proposal.

And so, informal talks and discussions moved into more serious political negotiations.  A new constitutional settlement was being formed.  There was an extensive public consultation with public meetings and online forums springing up across the UK.  Politicians laid aside their party differences to build a new consensus that they hoped would plant the UK on solid foundations for decades to come.

Eventually, a blueprint for the “new” UK was hammered out and published.  This would be the third option on the referendum ballot paper in Scotland.  It would also be debated in Westminster, Cardiff and Belfast with the possibility of referendums in England, Wales and Northern Ireland following the Scottish referendum.

It had been very hard work and the politicians and people of the UK were rightly proud of their achievement.  The people and politicians of England in particular had learnt what it meant to be in a union with other countries and that such a union needed hard work and goodwill to keep it going.  They were no longer complacent and understood more than ever before that the quality of the relationships between the nations of the UK was the most important foundation of a political union.

So we are now just a few weeks away from the Scottish referendum.  There is a sense of calm and sobriety across the UK as Scotland looks set to be the first country in the UK to ratify our new constitutional settlement.  So Mr Salmond’s independence bombshell in 2012 has probably been defused : what could have been the end of the UK has now turned into what could be the beginning of a new UK.  Our politicians have matured.  Our nations have a greater respect for each other than at any time in living memory.  The words “United Kingdom” may finally mean what they say.

The “British Political Identity” cult and how we can handle it

Have you ever had a discussion with a cult member?  I used to be one myself so I have more experience of talking to fellow cult members than I care to think about.  Many Christian and other cult members are often intelligent people who have adopted an over-intellectualised world-view based on fairly thin but carefully hidden presumptions.  Once in the cult, one’s natural instincts become so suppressed that it becomes very hard to notice, let alone analyse, these presumptions.  Their intelligence is then channelled into an ever-greater understanding and development of the cult world-view so as to maintain the cult’s existence and unconsciously justify one’s emotional and intellectual attachments to the cult.

It was only after I escaped from the cult that I was able to marshal my thoughts sufficiently well so as to critique its foundational ideas and articulate them.  On the occasions that I was able to express them to people who were still in the cult, the conversation either did not progress much further or ended with being slapped down angrily.  The honourable notion of agreeing to disagree went out of the window if a foundational idea was challenged directly.

The world-view expressed by the British political identity has come under major attack during the Scottish referendum campaign.  Its proponents are to be found in the Conservative and Labour parties (where have the Lib Dems gone?), the media and the Better Together campaign.  Like the Christian cult I knew so well, its responses have been either to slope off at the first sign of challenge, or if challenge is unavoidable, to fight for its life with all that it has got.  If that includes, threats and scaremongering, then so be it.

So what are these foundational ideas that they are fighting so hard to defend? I would say that they include the following:

Britain is great.

Britain is powerful. 

Britain has prestige.

Britain is united.

Britain works.

Britain will last forever. 

As with all cultish foundational ideas, these ideas defy any further analysis by the cult member.  They are axiomatic.  Objectively, it would be ridiculous to accept them at face-value, which is why British nationalists won’t respond well to their foundational ideas being exposed or challenged.  I can imagine that these ideas look more obviously ridiculous the further north from London one travels. So in Scotland, I imagine that it would take exceptional loyalty to hold on to them once they are exposed. 

The trouble with challenging these ideas is that the process often ends up as a kind of intellectual humiliation of the cult member, and in this category, I am including the British nationalist.  And people who are humiliated are not generally humble enough and willing to admit to the error of their ways.  On the contrary, they will be quick to pick up and focus on any emotional content to the challenge they receive.  When I was in the cult, we would “Christianise” our reactions and display signs of pity or sorrow that our opponents could be so misguided.  Whatever the approach, the cult member would usually go on to dismiss criticisms as emotional and so not worth responding to. 

But the fact remains that criticisms of cultish beliefs do have an emotional content.  I was in touch with my anger at being manipulated by the cult for so long – and part of that anger would have been at myself.  Cult members I knew could see it in me.  Likewise, opponents of British nationalism – wherever they come from – are rightfully angry at its heinous manifestations, ranging from the possession of nuclear weapons, to invading Iraq, colonisation, huge economic inequality, and generally condescension and arrogance that undermines the democratic process and alienates their own people from it. 

Dealing with cult members is a delicate process.  One approach is just to ignore them.  If you are too angry with the actions of the cult, it is better to stay well away.  Your opposition will just entrench them in their holes and it will take them longer to emerge.  Most people emerge from cults in their own time. It can be heart-rending for families and friends to watch the decline but sometimes people need to reach rock-bottom before they find the energy to ask for help and get out. 

The other approach is love.  If you can feel genuine love and empathy for the cult member, and get behind the wall of intellectual sophistry, then this love may eventually sink in.  This love can then provide the cult member with the freedom to undo their intellectual knots and find their own way out, usually with help. This love must be unconditional.  Obviously, you would want the other to leave the cult, but like a parent, you will still love them anyway.  Cult members experience only conditional love from each other and so it needs a higher quality of love to find a way through.

Translating these thoughts back into the referendum debate, those of us on the “Yes” side could examine our words and actions to see if the way in which we oppose British nationalism will actually help or hinder our own cause.  If we engage with our opponents with even a trace of anger or sarcasm, this could slow down their “conversion” process and we may be better off staying out of the fray.  On the other hand, if we are able to keep our cool and show genuine empathy, then the clarity of our position will, in time, sink in.  We have to trust the process.

The intellectual case for the emotional case for the union

I have been critical of the “Let’s Stay Together” campaign led by English celebrities which has made an “emotional case” to Scots to stay in the union.  Even David Cameron has threatened to make an emotional case so there is a trend here. My objections have been on the humdrum basis that many Scots, for some reason, appear to be including some sort of intellectual assessment of the cases for and against the union when they vote. 

For my part, south of the border, I have also gone to some effort to understand the intellectual bases of the arguments for both sides.  And so I am clearly aggrieved that a group of upstart celebrity “sentiment merchants” have cut across my hard work with an almost effortless “emotional case”. 

But maybe I have missed a trick here. Maybe it should be all about emotion, because making an emotional case does actually have a successful track record.  In school playgrounds, nurseries and even in homes, up and down the land, emotional cases are being won and lost on a daily basis.  “I want my Lego truck”.  “I won’t eat my peas”.  “Stop him being so horrible to me”.  On numerous occasions, well-meaning but ultimately spineless parents, teachers and other children buckle under the weight of the emotional case being put to them.  There may be an intellectual case to argue, but let’s face it, it’s not worth it most of the time.  It’s better to give them what they want or something else to placate them.  It’s not honourable but it’s effective.

So let’s flesh out a little the emotional case for the union.  It could be expressed as something like:

“I want my United Kingdom and I’m not going to let you horrible Scottish people take it away from me.”   (
Cue much stamping of feet and crocodile tears)

This obviously will have a powerful impact and will need a delicate response.  I think there could be a compromise here.  Rather than forcing English celebrities into a corner with sophistry and maturity, inevitably followed by tears, the better solution is to find out what they really want – a technique that all parents know. 

Please don’t tell anyone but I am going to give some quiet advice to the Scots.  When faced with the apparently overwhelming emotional case for the union, my recommendation is for Scots to assure English celebrities that they can carry on using the Union Jack on their boxer shorts – or wherever they like – and that Scots will never take this away from them.  Then they will be happy and Scotland will forever have a place in their hearts.

Building political consensus after the referendum – in Scotland and the UK

This article builds on my previous blog article in which I suggested that David Cameron should resign after the referendum (whatever the result), in line with the convention of ministerial responsibility.  This is because of the unnecessary division he created by refusing to allow a third “devo-max” option on the referendum ballot-paper.  In this article, I reflect on what consensus politics is about and go on to ponder some possible initiatives which could re-build consensuses which have been damaged by Mr Cameron’s strategy, in the event of both “Yes” and “No” votes.

Most peoples in the world have struggled for independence at some time in their history, but the struggle was usually built on an internal consensus.  In the democratic era, this consensus has usually then been ratified democratically and the need for such plebiscites is now widely accepted.   Despite my continued sympathy for Scottish independence, if this happens, it will probably be in the absence of a national consensus in Scotland. 

Democratic bodies of every description operate mainly through consensus.  Majority votes should be the exception for when genuine attempts at consensus have failed, or when external pressures mean that there is no time to build a consensus.  This applies to families, community groups, companies, churches, sports clubs, local authorities, and even in Westminster and Holyrood quite a lot of the time. 

In my opinion, the essence of consensus-building is for everyone to listen seriously and respectfully to each other, pay attention to minority viewpoints, stand on principle where necessary, make concessions graciously where possible, exercise authority sparingly, and work together to reach a compromise if possible. The outcome should be something to which everyone feels they have made a contribution and which they are also willing to put into practice jointly. Forcing a vote – either too soon, too often or when not necessary at all – is inimical to consensus politics. It leads to disaffection with the democratic process and reduces enthusiasm for policy implementation.    

Scotland provided a wonderful example of how effective consensus-building can be with Scottish Constitutional Convention, which paved the way for the revival of the Scottish Parliament.  This body united political parties, churches, trade unions and other bodies across Scotland in a common political endeavour which I have not seen replicated in England.  It is true that the SNP at the time withdrew part-way through and the Conservatives were hostile to it.  But both parties now believe in its value.  The consensus for the revival of a (devolved) parliament was and is truly national.

Bringing matters up-to-date, the Westminster parties’ various proposals for greater devolution reflect some kind of loose and hastily-contrived consensus only within those parties themselves.  The fact that we have three such proposals is not a genuine expression of political diversity but rather reflects the reluctance that Westminster parties have to work together consensually, even when their political lives depend on it. 

To give an even greater contrast, these proposals have not emerged following any attempt at a painstaking, nationwide, consensus-building approach that the Scottish Constitutional Convention demonstrated.  Scots have this comparison with the Scottish Constitutional Convention to remind them how a democratic consensus can and should be built.  And unlike the consensus achieved by that Convention, these proposals will not be ratified by the Scottish people.  So Westminster should not be in the least bit surprised when people in Scotland show little interest in proposals which have greater devolution as their aim.  Greater devolution, if it happens, will be imposed on the Scottish people from Westminster.  To put it another way, greater democracy has been promised to the people of Scotland by the most minimally democratic means possible. If I were in Scotland, I would feel insulted. 

All this leads back to the door of No. 10 when a “devo-max” option on the ballot-paper was ruled out. At the time, it was incumbent on David Cameron to take Mr Salmond more seriously and to assess the wider political and constitutional implications of the referendum for Scotland and the UK. A consensual approach at the time could have involved establishing a UK-wide constitutional convention which pulled together all strands of opinion in society in all 4 UK countries, along the lines of the Scottish Constitutional Convention of the 1990s.  At the very least, David Cameron could have suggested bilateral talks between the Scottish and UK Governments with a view to saving the union.  They may not have worked – consensual politics does not always result in a happy compromise. But at the least, they would or should have provided a solid foundation of trust and respect between the UK and Scottish Governments, going into a subsequent referendum. The subsequent bitterness now evident in the referendum campaign may have been much reduced.  As things stand now, the UK and Scottish Governments have some major fence-mending to do after the referendum, whatever the outcome may be.    All this was utterly avoidable. If “No” succeeds, I presume that “No” voters will be making similar points when calling for Mr Cameron’s head after 18 September.

I want to move on now to suggestions for building consensus after the referendum.  After a “Yes” vote, I believe that an independent Scotland and the rUK should consider forming a consultative body which has the remit of encouraging positive relations between Scotland and rUK and discussing issues of common interest.  As we share the same island, there will be a number of policy areas where mutual co-operation will be desirable, if not essential e.g. energy supplies, fisheries, defence and security issues, immigration policy, major infrastructure projects.  This consultative body could also have a role in honouring our shared history as a united country.  Such a body should include non-political bodies such as churches, community groups, trade union and business interest groups – in fact anyone who has something valuable to give.  It could operate a select committee system in order to provide high-quality scrutiny and suggestions on policy development and practice in those areas of its advisory competence. 

Ultimately, such a body should be no more than consultative and not violate the sovereignty of either Scotland or the rUK.  At the same time, neither government could (and should not) easily dismiss its serious recommendations. Given how busy the governments of both countries will be after a “Yes” vote in working out a path to independence, I would suggest that the initiative for this consultative body should come from pro-union supporters and party members.  This would also channel their continued energies for union constructively, though in the light of the changed political landscape that Scottish independence will bring.

Turning now to a “No” vote, a very different analysis must be made. The referendum has worsened already bitter divisions between the SNP and Scottish Labour, two parties whose grassroots occupy quite similar political ground (except for the issue of independence).  Scotland’s ability to have a strong voice in the UK is limited by its small share of MPs in Westminster and the limits to its devolved powers within Scotland.  Ongoing divisions between the Scottish Government and Labour MPs can only limit Scotland’s voice further.  I believe that it would be in Scotland’s interests for the Scottish Government and for Scottish Labour MPs to bury the hatchet and to co-ordinate closely on UK-wide issues with a view to speaking with one voice. (If this happens already in private, I am happy to be corrected.) Such co-operation will make it harder for the UK Government to ignore Scotland’s distinctive policy preferences on UK-wide issues. It could also pave the way for the kind of UK constitutional convention I mentioned earlier.  This could lead to a form of federalism which would ensure that Scotland – as a nation – will be officially consulted on UK-wide policies.  Whatever approach is taken, I believe that the SNP and Scottish Labour will be selling their own people short if they do not present a united front to Westminster governments.

At the same time, I would suggest that supporters of the union from across the UK – politicians and ordinary people alike – take steps to strengthen relations between our countries at the grassroots level.  Part of this should involve a national dialogue between England and Scotland about our relationship.  It is a well-known beef of Scots that the English do not pay much attention to Scotland and can be very insensitive to them.  This is not to be overblown but it is an issue which has not gone away during my lifetime (I am 42) or ever been seriously addressed, to my knowledge.  “No” voters will be perfectly placed to initiate this kind of dialogue, having cast their vote for the union, when independence was a reasonable alternative.  Perhaps “Better Together” could continue after 18 September in some form to make its name more of a reality.  Those of us who have been critical of its negative campaign tactics may find a new respect for them. 

Finally, I am not a politician or political theorist and so please forgive any simplifications and lack of referencing in this article. I am happy to be corrected and challenged.