12 Reasons why Federalism is a Stepping Stone to the Break Up of Britain

Our Activists outside the Labour Party Conference (10-3-18)

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Federalism, or 'Home Rule', is just a Stepping Stone to the Break Up of Britain. In this article, Alistair McConnachie makes the case for UK-wide Solidarity not Division.

Pic: Our Activists outside the Labour Party Conference (10-3-18). Article published on this site on 14 March 2018.

On 10 March 2018, three of our Activists delivered 450 anti-Federalist leaflets outside the Spring conference of the Scottish Labour Party at the Caird Hall, Dundee. As a result, we made sure that everyone who attended was aware of the danger of this Labour Party policy.

Federalism (or 'Home Rule') makes Holyrood responsible for everything except Defence, Foreign Affairs, Immigration and Financial Regulation. Our pro-UK organisation, A Force For Good opposes the Fragmentation of Federalism.

Technically, Federalism could also mean having an English Parliament. We've written about the dangers of that idea on our Facebook page. 1

However, it is clear that when the Scottish Labour Party speaks about 'Federalism', its policy is not based upon having an English Parliament. Rather, it is simply about giving the Scottish Parliament as much power as possible, regardless of whether England has a Parliament or not.

This is what it tends to call 'Home Rule', which is effectively a Scottish Parliament with the powers of a Federal State, even though it would not be mirrored with an English Parliament.

Anyone who thinks that this "could not happen constitutionally", hasn't been paying attention to what has been happening in the UK over the last 20 years!

It supports this because it thinks it is a clever alternative to outright separation. Basically, it gives them something to say, even though they have not thought through the consequences.

In this article, we're going to help them think through the consequence for the integrity of the United Kingdom.

From a Labour perspective, there is much to fear from Home Rule/Federalism.

It is not Unionism. It is basically a form of separatism which turns its back on the people in the rest of the UK.

Our Leaflet warning against the dangers of Federalism

Here are 12 REASONS why Home Rule/Federalism is a bad idea (which expand upon our leaflet, above).

Nationalists only care about Independence! Federalism will not stop them trying to Break Up Britain.

As Effie Deans has written:

Ever since we began the process of devolution in Scotland we have been promised that giving more power to Scotland will eliminate Scottish nationalism. In fact quite the opposite has occurred.

Scottish independence has gained in popularity the more power has been devolved to Scotland. A generation ago we had a constitutional convention that Labour and the Lib Dems promised would solve the problem. It didn't solve the problem, but rather created it and then made it worse.

Next Gordon Brown in response to higher than expected support for Scottish independence vowed to give the Scottish parliament still more powers. He no doubt expected that this too would see off Scottish nationalism. Now Kezia Dugdale promises a new constitutional convention giving Scotland still more powers. This too she, no doubt, hopes will diminish SNP support in Scotland and transfer it to her.

It really is time for a period of reflection by Labour. They have frankly done enough damage as it is.

They were the first to play the nationalist card when they continually complained about England voting for Thatcher while Scotland voted for Labour. It was this and this alone that gave rise to the modern SNP and the loss of nearly every Labour MP in Scotland.

It would be well if Dugdale, Brown and Co. first apologised for the damage that they have done before attempting to do more. 2

It gives Nationalists more of what they want. It makes it easier for them to say 'nothing much will change' and 'only one more step'. It makes their job easier. It gives them more power to stir up division!

Perhaps Labour thinks it will somehow win an election in Scotland on a Federalist/Home Rule message? That's unlikely. Nobody is going to the polls to vote for Federalism.

But even if that were the case, what it doesn't consider is what will happen after one or two Parliamentary cycles when the Nationalists get back in again!

If we ever have a Federal State, the SNP will just continue on as if nothing has happened.

Just as today, where they ignore the fact of devolution and claim, absurdly, that the UK is still "centralised"; just as they act like the Scottish Parliament never happened; they will continue on without even recognising what they have been given.

What will happen is that the Nats would use the huge new powers which the Labour Party had created, to lobby for a referendum on separation and possibly win it.

Too often it seems, the Labour Party, especially, is entirely devoid of this sort of ability to think things through. They see only a possible short-term gain, without being able to work through to the long-term catastrophic loss.

Federalism is a Danger for Labour. It is no panacea for them. It will damage their party – just as devolution has damaged their party. Ultimately, they'd just be building their gallows higher.

It leaves Westminster with all the controversial stuff. It makes it easy for the Nationalists to frame the British Parliament as the perpetual Bad Guy.

This article from the British Union and Sovereignty Party put it well:

Indeed, it is clear that federalism could not possibly do anything to strengthen the Union. Constitutionally speaking, it involves a radical weakening of the Union and essentially gives home rule to the four home nations. The most worrying thing, however, is that it would almost inevitably lead to independence.

If we were to look at Scotland alone, in a federal UK the Scottish Parliament would be entirely responsible for health, education, social spending, and all the positive roles of government that are central to the SNP's vision of a centre-left Scotland.

Tax and spend would take place almost entirely within Scotland, thus re-orientating the pooling and sharing of resources and the sense of national and economic community to the Scottish rather than British level. In contrast to the positive duties of the Scottish Government, the federal UK parliament would be responsible only for things like defence, immigration and foreign intervention.

These are often the unpopular and contentious issues, and the SNP could easily portray such a government as nasty, right-wing and having no mandate in Scotland. Federalism would create a situation where all the Scottish Parliament does is provide public services, while all the British Parliament does is run Trident, detain refugees and bomb Syria.

That is certainly how nationalists would frame it, and it is hard to see the Union lasting under those circumstances. 3

It breaks the shared British-wide economic community. It damages our social desire to pool our resources with people throughout the UK.

Some in the Labour movement believe 'Progressive Federalism' (as they call it – because it apparently sounds better if you stick the word 'Progressive' in front of it) will enable 'local and national redistribution of wealth, and collective democratic control over corporate capital'.

However, this is exactly the same as the Left argument for Scottish Independence!

So what is the difference?

Perhaps they would argue that the 'Federal' approach would still be backed by the strength of the British economy. However, that is debatable.

What is just as likely to happen is that the social and cultural bonds which underlie our shared British economy would have been broken by Scotland's obsession with 'Home Rule' to such an extent that very little 'sharing and pooling' of resources would be forthcoming from the rest of the UK!

Furthermore, it is all just economic pie-in-the-sky anyway! There is absolutely no reason why a federal political set-up would deliver 'local and national redistribution of wealth, and collective democratic control over corporate capital', instead of something else.

It corrupts the potential for Britain to build its economic strength and create jobs through shared British-wide research, development and cooperation.

It makes us stare at our Scottish navel and obsess about the divisive Independence agenda, instead of focusing on the Big Picture of Britain, our unity, combined strength and shared identity.

Crucially, it is likely to give the Nationalists power to hold another referendum whenever they want. Right now, Westminster can forbid it. Imagine this power being in the hands of the Scottish Nationalists!

Imagine if Scotland had already been in some kind of Federal or Home Rule relationship with the rest of the UK immediately after the Brexit referendum in 2016. It is unlikely the UK would still exist!

It would have been legislatively much easier for the SNP to use the Scottish 'Remain' vote to argue that Scotland had an irrefutable right to stay in the EU. After all, the idea that "we all voted as a United Kingdom" would sound less convincing if we were actually a Federation of 4 different nations.

If the central British Government over-ruled the SNP, then the SNP would be in a powerful position to kick up a big fuss which could possibly result in separation.

Thankfully though, this did not happen because the UK is still held together as a Unitary State. We were able to say that the Scottish vote was part of the wider UK vote, and so Scotland had to go along with the overall UK vote.

We were saved as a result of the UK being a Unitary State.

It would have been harder to make that point if the UK had already been a Federal State, or if Scotland already had the powers of a quasi-independent Federal State.

It would also be easier to argue that the votes at the central British Parliament should always be considered and divided up into separate bundles of 'England', 'Northern Ireland', 'Scotland' and 'Wales'. And that each country could go its separate ways depending upon how the MPs of those countries vote.

It would destroy the concept of our Unitary State and focus everything on the 4 separate nations to the point where we would be constantly at each other's throats.

Basically, Federalism will make it easier for the SNP to exploit political differences in order to promote the Break Up of Britain.

Only a paper wall separates Federalism from Separation. A political party which advocates 'Federalism' sets itself up as the weaker version of a stronger brand. It hurts itself, and only benefits those who see Federalism is a Stepping Stone towards Separation. This is something that Labour really needs to realise.

Some people object that "Federalism Works in Other Countries!" But does it? Federalism can only work in the absence of separatist agitation.

A country with a significant separatist movement will constantly be at risk of its federal institutions being taken over, or co-opted, to promote a separatist agenda.

Any country which has a significant separatist movement will see its Federal Parliament eventually dominated by separatists who will use it to push for full separation.

Canada is often given as an example of where "it works". But Canada – which has a powerful Quebec separatist movement – only holds together by submitting to Quebec's every demand.

Federalism is not some kind of reasonable "middle ground". It is an extreme solution in itself.

It dismantles the Parliamentary Union begun in 1707. It is a radical attack on the nature of Britain as a Unitary State and One Nation.

For example, Gordon Brown has spoken about supporting the Union and supporting Scottish independence as two "opposing extremes". 4

He claimed a "federalist UK with maximum autonomy for Scotland" is a "middle way" between the SNP's demand for full independence and what he claims is the Conservative Party's belief in maintaining the "status quo".

That's not how we see things! For us, wanting to maintain the Union, or the existing "status quo", is not an extreme position!

The extreme position is trying to break up the UK, or trying to change things to the benefit of those who do want to break up the UK!

Virtually nobody goes to the polls to vote specifically "for Federalism". For example, research shows that "The Vow" of "more powers" in the weeks prior to the 2014 referendum, delivered no new votes for our side. 5

All that happened was that Labour, Lib Dem and Tories created a rod for their backs and a poisoned chalice for themselves.

To this day, Nationalists will berate them for not delivering on it. To this day, these people won't even acknowledge (and many are not even aware of) the Scotland Act 2016 which delivered these new powers.

As we pointed out at considerable length at the time, it is fruitless to try to appease Nationalists because they don't know what they have got in the first place; what they are getting in the second place; won't know what they've been given in the third place; will pretend they never received it in the fourth place; will claim that we are lying in the fifth place; and in the sixth place, will always want more.

It does not necessarily deliver more of "what the people want". One of the myths of politics is that government is somehow better "the closer it is to the people". It sounds good and it makes a certain sense – if you live in a Village State, where you and the neighbours (all of whom you get along with) are the only people in the world.

In modern societies, on many issues, it makes absolutely no difference whatsoever to the quality of the government if it is 1 mile away or 1,000 miles away. It can be equally good, or bad.

Anyway, for local issues, we already have Councils!

Federalism is a Stepping Stone on a Path to Separation.

We need Ever Closer Union in our Islands, not the Fragmentation of Federalism. We need Solidarity not Division. We need Industry and Jobs not Constitutional Obsession.

The major political parties need to be looking at ways of bringing Britain closer together, not ways of driving us further apart!

Here's a test we should run before any change is proposed. The proposer should ask these 3 basic questions.

1) Does this weaken the unity of the United Kingdom?

2) Does this give more power and state money to the SNP to further its cause of breaking up Britain?

3) Does this weaken the importance of the British Parliament and British Government in Scotland?

If the answer is yes to any of those 3, then the answer should always be, "Don't do it!"

We said this in our article, "Smith Commission: A 'Scottish Trap' for the Labour Party":

The referendum proved that the majority of voters in Scotland are not just thinking about Scotland. We're thinking about the rest of the United Kingdom too.

We're not just thinking about the welfare of people in Scotland. We're thinking about the welfare of people throughout the United Kingdom.

This is the Labour Party's ground.

Remember, the SNP has nothing to say about that Big British Picture!

So, Labour, change the ground that you play on!

Force the SNP to play on the Big British Political Football Field, and watch its attack, its defence and its goalkeeper flounder, because it cannot play that Away Game!

It's not interested in playing on a British Pitch because it knows it will always lose there.

It knows it has nothing to contribute to the British Game.

And let's remember that the 1.6 million people who voted for separation are not dyed-in-the-wool nationalists.

They're just people who did not hear a more inspiring pro-UK message.

The SNP mistakes these people for its committed supporters.

But they're not!

They can be won back again for Britain, not just for Scotland alone.

And the Labour Party has to learn how to do that.

However, if it insists on mimicking the SNP, or trying to out-Scottish the SNP, then it will fail, and it will fall into the Scottish Trap which the SNP is laying and from which there is no escape. 6

We are always told that "Devolution is a (one way) Journey." If that is the case, then Federalism is the final station before the last stop; Separation.

Devolution has morphed into quasi-federalism with 'governments' in competition with each other

Graphic: Federation is horizontal. Devolution is meant to be vertical but has morphed into quasi-federalism with 'governments' in a horizontal and competing relationship with each other. The vertical devolution we were meant to get in 1999 has rapidly degenerated into a form of quasi-federalism where the centre has decreasing authority over the other 'governments' – which are meant to be below it, but – which are situating themselves competitively on the same horizontal plane as itself. Consequently, the centre is becoming increasingly reluctant to exercise its proper authority.

If there were to be another referendum of separation then 'Home Rule' – which they'll also call 'Federalism' – is likely to be the proposition from the Labour Party (certainly the Lib Dems, and possibly even the Tories too). 7

This would be disastrous to our chances of maintaining the Union because it is not a clear pro-UK message.

They'd be saying, "We don't think the Union is good enough so we advocate even more powers for Holyrood, and 'Home Rule' not independence!"

When faced with the SNP's crystal clear, "Brits Out" policy, Scottish Labour (and likely Lib Dems and Tories too) would be responding with a complicated and incoherent bletheration which was highly debatable in itself, and which would be ineffective in persuading anyone about the merits of the United Kingdom.

A clear pro-UK message would be unable to emerge. Our side would just come across as "all over the place". It would be very difficult for activists to push a clear point of view.

Activists on the streets would be at a loss to know what it is they are meant to be defending or campaigning for.

Any pro-UK Message Discipline would just disintegrate in a fog of constitutional confusion!

1. Alistair McConnachie, "An English Parliament would Centralise, not Devolve, Power", 29-11-16 at

2. Effie Deans, "A New Act of Union", 7-1-17, at

3. BUSP, "Why Federalism Won't Work: The Need for Real Unionism", 26-2-16 at

4. BBC News, "Gordon Brown predicts Brexit 'crisis point'", 9-11-17

5. See Martin Williams, "Academics: The Vow made no difference to indyref result...it was the currency issue", The Herald, 12-2-15

Also see Magnus Gardham, "The Vow had 'zilch' impact on the referendum, claims former SNP leader", The Herald, 10-3-15

6. Alistair McConnachie, "Smith Commission: A 'Scottish Trap' for the Labour Party", 15-12-14. www.aforceforgood.org.uk/devo/unionvid2

7. See for example Paul Hutcheon, "Dugdale to back more powers for Holyrood in major constitutional speech", Sunday Herald, 4-12-16 at

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