Ever Closer Union: Over 50 Suggestions to Promote the Social Union and the Cultural Value of the United KingdomTweet
The following was delivered by Alistair McConnachie at the London Swinton Circle (Chairman, Allan Robertson), at 7pm on Tuesday 18th June 2013, in the downstairs meeting room at Orange Street Congregational Church, Orange Street, London, WC2. The speech was delivered with a Powerpoint presentation, and some of the pics are included below.
Topic headings are in Upper Case, and the bullet-point suggestions under each topic are in Blue. You can click on any of the topic headings below to jump to the appropriate part of the text.
Alistair would like to thank his supporters who alone make it financially possible for him to devote his full time to researching, writing and delivering this material. If you appreciate this content and if you would like to assist this work, please donate to Alistair via this page. Posted on this site on 24 June 2013.
Ladies and gentlemen, today is the 18th of June. It was on this morning, in 1815, that the Royal Scots Greys made their famous charge at the Battle of Waterloo, immortalised forever by Lady Elizabeth Butler in her famous painting. A reminder that together, we have a proud history of standing up to, and beating, European tyrants - and I include in that statement our victory in the Cold War.
Let me tell you what I am not going to speak about this evening. Those will be matters related to things like, the West Lothian Question, or federalism, or an English Parliament, or suggested reforms to the House of Commons or the House of Lords, or the voting system. I won't be speaking about them.
Also let me say that when I use the term Britain in this speech, I am using it - as I always do - as shorthand for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
What I am going to be talking about are ideas which, in some cases, can be made into political policies, and in other cases are simply good ideas which can be done by individuals and groups and institutions acting on their own accord.
I suggest these ideas because I believe they would help to strengthen the social and cultural bonds which we share throughout the United Kingdom - to help promote our sense and experience of shared Britishness.
This is important because our Union is not just a political Union.
Our Union is, to a very large extent, a social and cultural Union conjoined, to the point of sharing the same blood vessels, with a political Union.
The nationalists will pretend that the social and cultural elements will somehow miraculously survive dissection from the political elements. 1
Hence the name of this talk, "Ever Closer Union: Some Ideas and Policies to Promote the Social Union and the Cultural Value of the United Kingdom."
Now, before I lay some ideas out for you, I want to back up a bit and give a philosophical justification for my approach.
How Britain Comes Alive for Us
In some ways the idea of a nation, and a national identity, is intangible, but one can connect to it - that is, sense it in one's heart and soul, and experience it physically in word and deed - though mechanisms.
Mechanisms to grasp the intangible are...
Symbols - things like flags, passports, monuments, the Queen - who is a symbol, a National Icon.
Rituals - things like singing songs and anthems, marching, or watching marches, partaking in Remembrance Services, attending or even just witnessing on the television, events such as Royal Weddings, Trooping the Colour, National Commemorations, Award Ceremonies, or even Competitions on television - the National Lottery.
Institutions - things like the Monarchy, Parliament, the Armed Forces...and in the past certainly the institution of Empire...which had a huge bearing upon one's sense of British identity. Today we have the Commonwealth - more about that later.
Institutions in which an identity can be vested also include things like sporting teams - Team GB, the British Lions - and also industries and services which have a national flavour, whether public like the Royal Mail, the NHS, the former "British Rail", the various Heritage bodies, or private such as charities like the RNLI, RNIB, RSPCA and so on.
Art and Culture - this includes artistic things like photographs, paintings, designs, on T-shirts, on album covers, on posters. It includes cultural expressions such as video, TV and film productions, music, plays, comedy, dance. I say, "dance" - there was an excellent patriotic dance which won the final of Britain's Got Talent last week, which in itself is actually a kind of National Institution.
Products - such as British cars, trains, ships, and all sorts of products which you can buy from fridge magnets, to pens, to beer mats, to clothes and fashion products...to games, toys and jigsaws even - this jigsaw is from the 1938 Empire Exhibition in Glasgow, spotted for sale on ebay recently.
It is through loyalty towards symbols; participation in rituals; membership, or at least support, of institutions; involvement in artistic and culture activity related to such things; and possession of, or at least appreciation of, products...it is those things which enable us to connect to the idea of the nation and our national identity in a tangible way.
These things enable us to grasp, and relate to, something which is intangible, to sense it and to experience it as part of our lived existence.
So if we want to develop the idea of the nation and our identity then we can look into those elements and try to develop them. And I'll be doing that - although there are also general policies which I'll be talking about, based around things like travel and education.
Some of these ideas will strike you as good and immediately do-able. Some may strike you as good but perhaps not possible at present.
But I want to put them all out there for consideration and discussion and perhaps to spark other people's ideas; and to inspire people who will be better placed than I to take these ideas, or similar ideas, forward.
A VISION Before I get into some ideas, let me just tell you where I am coming from.
Without vision, the people perish, as it says in the Bible (Proverbs 29:18).
When Britain has been at its Best, it has been when the British Vision has been at its Best. And that Vision has often been about providing service to the rest of the world.
If we are to do that then we cannot do it by being separated and scattered among ourselves. We do it by being United in mind, body, heart and spirit.
I like this statement, from Arthur Mee 2 :
Our flag flies for the unselfish pursuit of the good of all mankind.
I think that is a great Vision for a Nation to hold onto in order to inspire itself.
A Vision of a great United Kingdom at the centre of a civilised world order, using its combined talents to serve, to lead where appropriate, and to protect where necessary.
So, this discourse is coming to you from that point of view. OK, let's get into some topics and ideas...
TRAVEL IN THE UK
President Eisenhower said "The passport to peace is travel". I'm going to adapt that and say, "The passport to British Unity is travel".
It is the road, rail and air links in the UK which connect the people of Britain together in a physical sense. Visible symbols of the unity of the United Kingdom.
The rail network especially has always been one of Britain's great unifiers.
Without wanting to get into a debate about the rights and wrongs of rail privatisation, I do believe we lost something when we lost "British Rail".
We certainly lost the word "British" on all our stations!
And don't think that has no effect on the way people understand their place in the country.
Indeed, it has a huge effect. Especially when everything in Scotland now gets the word "Scot" or "Scotland" attached to it, and smothered in Saltires.
Furthermore, these nationalised industries did, to an extent, give people a sense, or at least remind them, of the common bond which unites us all here in Britain.
So the first thing to always do is to have a presumption that we:
Invest in Road, Rail and Air Links around the UK
[A member of the audience suggested that Air Passenger Duty should be abolished. It has also been suggested to us that the High Speed rail link, HS2, should be extended to reach Scotland.]
Maintain the Caledonian Sleeper Services
I mention this because it has been under threat in the past.
Again these are visible symbols, and physical mechanisms (and historical traditions), which link us directly to Britain's capital.
"London's just a sleep away..." says the sign I spotted at Glasgow Central this morning.
Continue to Subsidise Travel for Young People
I suggest that there should be an extra discount for Young Persons Travel between the 4 Home Nations. Call it a "British Bonus".
For example, a young person booking a ticket in England gets 50% off for travel within England, and 75% off for travel to another part of the UK. It would also encourage young people to go to colleges in other parts of the UK. It's all about encouraging us to mix.
CONSTITUTIONAL EDUCATION for School Children
I'm going to continue the theme of Young People, and in that regard, school children.
I was invited to attend a Meeting in the Scottish Parliament recently. I noticed a group of school children passing by, being shown around by a Guide. I'll say this for the Scottish Parliament, they have got their public relations down to a T.
They even have Outreach Educators who will, on request, visit your school to tell you about the Scottish Parliament, and they have an "Education Centre", in the Parliament, where you can bring your class to do work.
They are going out their way to make the Scottish Parliament a real, living experience for schoolchildren.
What has Westminster got to rival that? Probably nothing! It needs to switch on and start making itself relevant again. So that brings me to this suggestion:
School Visits To the British Parliament
Say, every 4th year Modern Studies Class throughout the UK should be assisted financially to visit the Westminster Parliament.
School Visits From the British Parliament: Outreach Educators who will Visit Your School
If that's not possible then Westminster should have Educators who will visit your school - any High School in the UK - who can explain its constitutional role, and relevance, within the UK. We especially need this in Scotland now!
A British Constitution Module for High Schools
Mandatory in all High Schools throughout the UK. Education is a devolved matter. However, once we have a pro-Union administration in Holyrood again, this should be part of its agenda.
Along with the theme of travel being the passport to British Unity, let's…
Encourage Exchange Visits between Schools from the 4 Corners of the UK
A Scottish class spending a week in England, for example, and vice versa.
Encourage Town Twinning
Perhaps a way of doing that is to encourage town twinning. Perhaps the schools in each of the towns could arrange exchange trips for their pupils each year.
Children from every School to have the Opportunity to visit WW1 and WW2 Battlefields and notable places
to help give them an insight into their past.
Teaching British History in Schools
They are trying to do this in England. However, in Scotland, because education is devolved, our history classes are in the hands, right now, of the separatists who want to teach "Scottish history", as if it exists alone and apart from its wider British context.
However, with the wonders of modern technology it is possible that a school could be set up online to promote such British History. Myself and a colleague are creating some videos, and putting them online, at the moment on the theme of Scotland's British Heritage.
STUDENTS and YOUNG PEOPLE
They say that in order to achieve its full potential, a flower needs an ever larger pot in which to grow.
In that regard, the United Kingdom has the potential to be fertile ground for our young people. However, separatism would poison that field, and devolution is already muddying it up.
The devolution of education, and consequently of funding mechanisms, has undoubtedly harmed the ability of both the Scots and English to be treated equally throughout the UK - and thereby it has harmed our experience of Britishness.
For example, in Scotland, Scottish students (and EU students) get subsidised education but English, Welsh and Northern Irish, have to pay.
There is no British equality there!
Moreover, between 2000 and 2011 (the years of devolution) the proportion of Scottish applicants to English institutions has fallen by over a third. Applications to the north-east of England, once the main destination for Scottish students to England, have fallen by almost half. 3
It is a very good example of how devolution can destroy the social union, not work to support it. It is an example of how it can create division, inequality and possibly even resentment between young people on our Islands. So, we need to...
Encourage Young People to go to Colleges and Universities throughout the UK
It is a great way of bringing young British people together.
Level Playing Field: The first thing is to create a level playing field, which means we have to sort out the funding mechanisms and make them the same throughout the UK.
This should be a priority and this priority must legitimately over-ride the devolved matter, because of the principles that "devolution must strengthen the Union", and "ever closer union" (see our suggestions under "Ever Closer Union", below).
Grants to Encourage Study in Rest of UK
There should be government assistance available for students who want to study in another part of the UK. Another "British Bonus". An inducement to get young people moving throughout the UK because...the passport to British Unity is travel.
Establish Summer Employment Schemes for Young People throughout UK
I've long advocated, and written articles on, the idea of finding ways to move young people from urban areas into the country for summer work.
I'd like to see a British-wide (not devolved, but a UK-wide) Agency which matches rural employers with young people from the cities - for casual summer work. A great way not only of introducing city people to rural people but a great way of forming bonds between the town and country, and mixing the British up. ("The Summer of London" Heart design by Kyle Bean at kylebean.co.uk)
That's a picture of some London Icons shaped as a Heart. It seems London is very much a centre of Britishness, and that's great, but we also want to Spread that Love around a bit.
During the Jubilee Celebrations last year, the Queen, Prince Philip, and the Royal Family did a tremendous job of involving all the Home Nations, and British Overseas Territories and the Crown Commonwealth Realms in the event. The energy of Her Majesty and Prince Philip is remarkable.
When the Queen came to Glasgow on 4th July 2012 the streets around George Square were packed. (3 pics on left - the area on the upper left of the first pic was blocked off)
However, in some cases, certain events could be spread about the UK a bit more.
Let me give you an example.
Cast our minds back to the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, on 3 June 2012.
On that day, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh "screened" the Pageant. But no effort had gone into it. They didn't advertise it as a serious event, which is just as well. It was, literally, just a telly, in the courtyard, which is just off the public pavement, not in the Palace grounds.
They had about 50 people there. But if effort had been put into doing it properly, they could have had 5,000 people in the grounds of the Palace.
Here is what they should have done.
They should have treated it like the Queen's Garden Party.
The event would have been in the grounds of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It would be by invitation - and you could get a very broad section of the population - all these people creating conversations and a buzz among their colleagues in the run-up to the event. There would have been one of those massive big screens you see at concert venues. A minor Royal would be present. There would have been proper security.
[Newspapers reported that the Queen's Garden Party at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh on Tuesday 2 July 2013 was attended by 8,000 people.]
Something similar should have been done in Wales, perhaps in the grounds of Cardiff Castle, or Caernarfon Castle. In Northern Ireland, perhaps at Hillsborough Castle.
Believe me, people will jump at an Invite like that. The events would have been packed out.
It would have ensured that the Thames Pageant, the high point of those particular celebrations, would have had a physical presence in all four corners of the UK.
It would have dispersed the London-centric feel of that particular event, and made it more of a wider British event. It would have helped to Spread the Love around a bit.
So I say...
Make more use of the Royal Residences to Involve all 4 corners of the Nation in Major Royal Events
Of course the republicans will always whine their petty "cost" objection, without realising that these events are just another form of investment into the economy, keeping everyone from events companies, suppliers, waiters, security personnel, and the local economy, in work.
Anyway, here is a good example of joined-up British thinking: On the 17th May 2013 the Grenadier Guards paraded for the first time in Edinburgh. They were the official guard for the Queen's Representative, Baron Douglas of Selkirk, who was attending the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who himself was staying in the Palace of Holyroodhouse, that week.
That was a great fusion of the Monarchy, particularly in Scotland, the British Army (up from London), and the Church of Scotland.
Royal Babies Born in each of the 4 Corners of the UK
When members of the Royal Family have babies, then if they are blessed to have more than one then they should have them born in different parts of the British Isles. Have one in England, one in Scotland, one in Wales, one in Northern Ireland.
A late colleague of mine suggested it to me, and it is a great idea.
It would be about uniting the whole Kingdom in the persons of the Royal Family.
I was genuinely disappointed when I found out that the Queen Mother had been born in England! I always thought she had been born at Glamis Castle in Scotland. In fact, the Queen's late sister, Princess Margaret, remains the only Royal to have been born in Scotland in the last 300 years (at Glamis).
While I am on the Royal Theme, let's move to something connected with it, Heraldry.
Some people might say, "Oh Heraldry, that's not important." Wrong. It is one of those hugely symbolic issues, and it's also one of those "equality of dignity" issues, that people really do get worked up about, if it is thought to be unfair. 4
Re-instate the Coat of Arms on all Holyrood Parliament material
The Coat of Arms which used to appear on all Holyrood parliament stationary was based on the Scottish Royal Coat of Arms - very much a British symbol.
As soon as the SNP took power for the first time in 2007 - the first thing they did was get rid of that. They changed the name of the Scottish Executive to "Scottish Government", and removed the Coat of Arms entirely from all Holyrood material.
No better indication of the direction they wanted to go - get rid of anything with a British connotation.
They replaced it with a bland logo which was simply a Saltire with the phrase "The Scottish Government".
That should also have stood as a lesson to those people who voted SNP because they thought they would make the buses run on time...instead of realising that a vote for the SNP is a vote to empower it to work its radical agenda throughout society.
Well, that Coat of Arms needs to be brought back by the next pro-Union administration, and it needs to be done in a way which makes a very overt political statement that Scotland's future is British.
I also want to use this opportunity to say a few words about Wales - and here is where an "equality of dignity" approach also comes in.
A Royal Coat of Arms to Include Wales
The Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom presently includes 4 quarters, two of which are the Lions of England, one is Scotland's Lion, and the other is the Harp of Ireland.
It is time that a quarter became the Prince of Wales Feathers, or even the Welsh Dragon itself - both of which have long featured in the Coats of Arms of British Royalty.
In fact, the Welsh Dragon used to stand where the Scottish Unicorn stands today in the Royal Coat of Arms.
Here is Queen Elizabeth I's, Royal Coat of Arms.
As you can see, the Welsh Dragon was prominently displayed, as were the Welsh Feathers. The Unicorn replaced the Dragon after the 1603 Regal Union.
A Royal Standard to include Wales
The Royal Standard flag is similarly quartered with the English Lions in two quarters.
That should be kept as the English Royal Standard, just as the Scottish Royal Standard has the Lion Rampant in two quarters.
However, we need a new one which would be a British Royal Standard, which would have a quarter representing Wales.
At the very least, create a Welsh Royal Standard for flying in Wales - which would have the Prince of Wales Feathers, or the Dragon in two quarters - just as there is a separate Scottish Royal Standard for flying in Scotland.
A Union Jack Version to Include St David's Cross for certain Formal Occasions in Wales
There is a huge beauty about the Union Jack which should not be changed, but for some formal occasions in Wales, how about incorporating St David's Cross, which is a Gold Cross on a Black background. I suggest a thin gold trim, run down the inside of the red of St George's Cross, would be the best way to do that.
While we are on the subject of Flags...
An Act Clarifying Flag Flying Guidance
These things don't have to be demanded in law, but they can be clarified. There seems to be so much confusion about them.
In most cases, we just want to provide guidance and encourage people to be imaginative and to display their patriotism. And in that regard, I'd like to make some suggestions.
Union Jack to Fly on all UK Government Buildings
Any public building which is run, or which represents an industry or service which is run, on British taxpayer's money, and which has a flagpole, should fly the Union Jack.
Gordon Brown and the Labour Party did seek to free up the regulations on this back in 2008. However, we need to see more of it in Scotland in response to the nationalists.
Union Jack to Fly on Royal Family Birthdays and any British-themed Day (which we can think up!)
This does happen at the moment, but it would be Great to see it more widespread.
Also private companies with flagpoles should be encouraged to do this as well. Perhaps some of them don't realise that it is quite legal to do so.
And let's fly it on "Union Day" commemorating 1 May 1707, or the day James became King of Great Britain (24 March 1603, and the day he was crowned 25 July 1603) or the Battle of Britain Day (15 September 1940), or to remember the Clydebank Blitz (13 and 14 March 1941), the Battle of Trafalgar Day (21 October 1805), the Battle of Waterloo Day (18 June 1815), or Super Saturday (4 August 2012), or any excuse to run it up the flagpole! Suitable days are limited only by our imagination!
It is also a very simple and highly effective way for Unionist-controlled councils in Scotland to make a strong statement against separatism.
Saint's Flag on the Saint's Day
All public buildings should be encouraged to fly the flag of the particular British Saint on that day regardless of where in the UK that public building is based.
I made a video calling on Glasgow City Chambers to fly the St David's Cross on St David's Day, St Patrick's Cross on St Patrick's Day, and the St George's Cross on St George's Day.
Let's have a new "British Day Bank Holiday"...to Mark something specifically British
It was Trooping the Colour at the weekend, which happens on the occasion of the Queen's official birthday. That is something very British and something which gets televised live throughout the UK.
It seems to me that there would be no better day - for a new British Day Bank Holiday - than the Monday of the Queen's Official Birthday Weekend.
It falls on either the first, second or third Saturday in June. So like the Easter Monday Bank Holiday, the date would change each year. (This year Trooping the Colour was the 15 June, which also happens to be Magna Carta Day - another British event.)
It would be a way to get people thinking about these things, and it would be another way to spread out a sense of Britishness - spread it out from the very British Trooping the Colour in London...to the whole country...to enable everyone to share in the event, even if it is only just with a day off work.
[Bank Holidays are devolved (!) but a pro-Unionist administration at Holyrood should bring it in at the same time as the rest of the UK.]
And while we are on National Days, how about…
A Patron Saint for the United Kingdom
St Aidan seems to be a possible choice, having worked in Ireland, Scotland and England. 5
A GB Football Team
We've got the British Lions in rugby. It would be good to have something like this in football...certainly for friendly competitions, at least.
Unfortunately, due to the politics of FIFA and the SFA, as well as what they perceive as their own financial interests, this is difficult to do.
If it is not possible at a professional level, maybe something could be done at the amateur level. Nevertheless, in principle it is a great idea and we shouldn't stop talking about the possibility.
Establish "Cross-border" Leagues in all Sports
This encourages the British to mix, literally.
Bring the 2018 Youth Olympics to Glasgow
Glasgow is already short-listed, and its bid is supported by the UK government and the British Olympic Committee. We'll know the decision by 4th July. Glasgow is up against Buenos Aires in Argentina, and Medellín in Colombia.
It would be great to be able to bring the Team GB spirit to Glasgow!
Bring the "Warrior Games" to Britain
I lifted this idea directly from an article in The Daily Telegraph. This is an annual event, first held in 2010 in the USA. 6
It's a Paralympic competition between injured service members and veterans. Prince Harry attended them in Colorado this May. Both London and Glasgow have the facilities now to hold such events.
Where are the pro-UK films today? Films which give people a pride in "Being British". Films which help them to see the value of Britain the Nation...to appreciate the Union?
Those of us who grew up in the 40s and 50s, were exposed to the pro-British war films of the period. Those of us who grew up in the 70s and early 80s were also exposed to those same films on television, every weekend.
We got strong pro-British impressions. Where are such films today?
But films don't have to be war films.
They can be located in other contexts - which are pro-British, and where patriotism is assumed. Again, without the vision, the people perish. So that leads me to this Proposal...
Establish a Foundation for pro-UK Films which will Financially Support appropriate Projects
Perhaps this is something that is more likely to happen in the private sector. It could be established as an artistic charity. It would have a Board of Directors who would decide to give money to appropriate film Projects.
It would enable people to donate and leave legacies to fund artistic Projects which help to promote the Union of the UK and the Best of British.
THE ARMED FORCES
The Armed Forces are one of the key institutions of Britishness.
When you build up the Armed Forces, you build up one of the main carriers and transmitters of Britishness in society.
When you cut them down, you cut down on part of that culture and identity.
Unfortunately, in an age of austerity, the Armed Forces are often the first casualties. So the first thing that should be done is...
Ring-fence Defence Spending
The NHS and Overseas Aid spending budgets are ring-fenced. Do the same with defence.
Build more Warships for the Royal Navy
Let me show you a way we can defend the country, boost the economy and get people voting to maintain the Union at the same time!
The Royal Navy is a key British Icon. Run down the Royal Navy and you run down Britishness.
Furthermore, the Royal Navy is also tied directly into British Industry. Boost the Royal Navy, and you boost British Industry. It's a mutually beneficial partnership.
Investing in the Royal Navy (or the Armed Forces in general) is always a win-win situation. You create long-term jobs and you protect the nation.
At the moment there is a serious lack of warships. We have 19 destroyers and frigates in total. Destroyers are traditionally anti-aircraft platforms, and Frigates are anti-submarine platforms.
A rule of thumb to find the number sea-worthy at any time is to divide the number of warships you have by 3. So we have 19 hulls, or 6 in total which can be put to sea while the others are in port being refurbished.
Also, remember that we have these 2 large aircraft carriers being built. In order to provide them with a proper anti-aircraft screen, then each carrier will need at least 3 Destroyers to protect it. Therefore, if they are both out together, there will need to be 6 Destroyers.
Using our rule of 1 in 3 sea-worthy at any time, that means we will need 18 destroyers. At the moment, we only have 6 Type 45 Destroyers.
There are also 13 new Type 26 Frigates which are planned, but which have not yet begun construction - and may not begin, until 2015 at the earliest.
Meanwhile, we have shipbuilding yards running out of work and BAE Systems threatening to close down one of its yards.
So what the government must immediately do - which would indicate its commitment to the British ship building industry, keep all 3 yards alive - in Portsmouth, and Govan and Scotstoun in Glasgow - and help us to win the referendum next year, is the following.
1. Start building more Type 45 Destroyers. We need another 12. At the very least, let's start building another 2 or 3 - as a bridging order until the Frigate-building programme gets going.We have the immediate skills to do this.
2. Commit to building more than 13 new Type 26 Frigates. Ideally another 5 to make it 18, enabling 6 to be sea-worthy at any one time in order to provide the Carriers with sufficient anti-submarine protection.
3. Start a programme to construct a new class of Corvette. These are smaller, shorter-range, but heavily armed warships, suited for protecting fisheries, oil and gas, and counter-piracy measures. A fleet of Corvettes would free up the Destroyers and the Frigates to concentrate on defending the Carriers.
These 3 policies would keep all the British yards open, would be an investment in research and industry, would create jobs, and boost the economy, and an announcement like that would utterly take the wheels off the separatists' campaign. 7
That's what you call "joined-up thinking" and let us hope that the government will not lack it next year.
And talking about shipbuilding, how about...
A new Royal Yacht
Whatever the practical usefulness of such a vessel, in principle, the idea is sound. It is about creating jobs and elevating the prestige of the nation at the same time. And let's ensure we...
Maintain and Rebuild the Scottish Regiments
They have been a central mechanism by which the British experience has been transmitted in Scotland. Yet, they have been decimated by so-called "unionist" governments over the last 25 years.
At the very least - do nothing more to run them down - if you truly believe in the Union!
Invest in the Territorial Army
It's another great way of introducing the British to each other in towns and cities throughout the UK.
Maintain the Mounted Units of the British Armed Forces
They are occasionally threatened, but it is clear that the Household Cavalry, and the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery, are an absolutely vital part of the pageantry of this country. We saw them at Trooping the Colour at the weekend. We saw the Cavalry in the Mall when Kate and William were married. They're Awesome!
Re-Locate the National Army Museum
The National Army Museum is located in Chelsea. It doesn't attract as many visitors as the other great London Museums.
So along with the aim of spreading out the idea of Britishness around the Kingdom, why not re-locate it somewhere where it may have more visitors. Perhaps in Edinburgh, or Cardiff, or Belfast or another large English City. 8
Officially Commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Start of WW2, 3 September 2014
This will be two weeks shy of the referendum on Scottish separation, but there has been no mention of it so far. A very appropriate time to remember how we stood together during those dark days.
Officially Commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, 18 June 2015
Today is the 198th Anniversary. I put this in here because it was reported last week that there is no official commemorations planned for the 200th. Yet, it was another example of Britain standing up to European tyranny, and as such should be commemorated as part of our united British national story.
Some ECONOMIC POLICIES
Maintain the Royal Mail as a Public Body
The Royal Mail is a Great British institution, but it is seldom spoken of in the way politicians speak about "the BBC" or "the NHS".
However, like the rail and road networks, the Royal Mail quite literally, brings the British together - as does British Telecommunications plc.
I suggest we do nothing more to dismantle one of the remaining public institutional mechanisms by which people come to identify and feel British in the first place - and I suggest that the Royal Mail is one of those mechanisms.
And while I am on this subject...
Take the Stationary Office back into Public Ownership
And rename it "Her Majesty's" again!
When I lived in Edinburgh during the 1990s, I used to pass the shop on Lothian Road every day. There it was, for all to see, "Her Majesty's Stationary Office".
Whether it is called "Her Majesty's" this, or "British" that...these are mechanisms which embed these phrases, and what they stand for, into the public space and into our lives, and consequently into our senses and our experiences.
They are mechanisms which help us to identify as British.
Throwing them away in the name of a short-term economic "quids-in" strikes me as a kind of national cultural vandalism; an assault on the Nation's identity, until we have nothing left which is "British" in a meaningful public and social sense.
And of course, it goes without saying, but it is always worth saying...
Maintain our Dual System of Weights and Measures
Again, this is something that helps to make Britain distinct.
BANKING and LEGAL TENDER
Change the Name of the Bank of England to the British Central Bank
The Bank of England needs a name change. It was established, by William Paterson, a Scotsman, in 1694, prior to the Union of Parliaments. It should have changed its name in 1707 to something like "the Bank of Great Britain".
It was nationalised in 1946. That was certainly the time to correct its name, to reflect the fact that it was the "national" Central Bank, which had been "nationalised", and that "national" meant Britain.
But that didn't happen and I suggest that was an oversight.
Again, it is about equality of dignity for all the Home Nations. It is about saying, "This is the Central Bank for all of the UK and so it should have an appropriate name."
Now, I can understand that some people might not like this suggestion, since "the Bank of England" has a certain romance to its name. However, if it changes its name to the British Central Bank, and then Scotland does become independent...well, it can change its name back to the Bank of England again.
I suggest it is time to correct this anomaly that should have been corrected in 1707, and certainly in 1946! 9
Bank of England Notes to be Declared Legal Tender throughout the UK
Strangely, and to emphasise my point, Bank of England banknotes are not actually legal tender in Scotland, only in England. That is ridiculous. Everyone uses them because they are accepted, but an Act of Parliament just clarifying that they are legal tender would clear things up.
Bank Notes of Scottish Private Banks and the Notes of the Crown Dependencies to be declared Legal Tender throughout the UK
At the moment, the banknotes of Scottish private banks are not "legal tender", even in Scotland, and even though the Scottish private bank notes are sterling, which have been purchased from the British Central Bank. Again that is silly. Anything which is authorised and backed by the British Central Bank should be considered legal tender. Again, an Act of Parliament is necessary.
BRITAIN IN THE WORLD
Britain is still very well placed in the World.
Britain is still at the centre of the Commonwealth. There is still the understanding that without Britain, the Commonwealth would not exist in the first place. And Britain, to a large extent, continues to provide the impetus and leadership for the Commonwealth.
There are still 15 other members of the Commonwealth of which the Queen is the Head of State.
There is also the remnant of the Empire (obviously not members of the Commonwealth) - the 14 British Overseas Territories - all of which are very strategically located.
I'm not advocating bringing back the Empire, but I am advocating looking at ways to use Britain's unique place in the world to help it exercise a central, positive, role in world affairs, going forward.
Establish a Commonwealth Council to Promote Co-operation and Trade
This would rejuvenate the idea of the Commonwealth as a trading bloc for everyone's mutual benefit. Something that has been sorely neglected in the last 40 years.
The Commonwealth may not be an exact alternative to the EU, but much more needs to be made of it. In time it could grow into a significant global player.
Other things related to the Commonwealth...
A British Commonwealth Museum with a separate Building in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales
Emphasise the Britishness of the Commonwealth Games, next year
Glasgow used to be called "the Second City of the British Empire". The Games next year will be a great opportunity to recall to memory Glasgow's place in British and Commonwealth history.
I've made a YouTube video on this. Of the 71 competitors, the Queen is the Head of State of almost half (34 out of 71 = 48%) and almost one third fly the Union Jack (21 out of 71 = 30%). [Update: Since this video was made, The Gambia has dropped out and so the stats above are 34 out of 70, and 21 out of 70.]
And as for the Overseas Territories...
British Overseas Territories to have Westminster Representation
This isn't my idea but it has been getting a bit of publicity recently. It would be about bringing in these Territories further into the British family, forging ever closer links, for our mutual benefit.
We would not be asking them to give up anything that they already possess for that privilege. Rather, we're motivated by a desire to keep together the world-wide British family.
We want to maintain vital links and do what we can to help each other, in an uncertain world.
From a Unionist perspective, it shows that the Union extends outwards even from these shores, in both a political sense and in a broad sense.
We are still uniquely placed to be able to take the lead in these things. It would be folly not to appreciate that, or build upon it.
EVER CLOSER UNION
Labour always told us that the Scottish Parliament would "strengthen the Union". However, it failed to write anything into its Scotland Act 1998 - which set up the Parliament - which would maintain oversight on devolved legislation to ensure none of it had corrupting and weakening influences upon the Union relationship.
If Holyrood really is intended to "strengthen the Union", then powers should flow back to, not just away from, Westminster - when that is appropriate, in order to maintain a United Kingdom, and keep it "strengthened".
How to ensure that?
Just as the EU frames its laws to encourage "ever closer union" within the EU, it should be a principle and an aim of the British government at all times, and the Scottish government - when it is under unionist control - to ensure "ever closer union" within the UK.
I suggest there are at least 4 ways we can do that.
1. Establish a UK Constitutional Veto: Safeguard against Future Rogue Laws by additional Paragraph in Scotland Act
In order to safeguard against future rogue laws which damage the Union, a further paragraph "c" should be added to Section 35 (1) of the Scotland Act 1998 (Power to intervene in certain cases) which should state something along the lines of:
"If a Bill contains provisions which the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would be incompatible with the principle of ever closer union for the United Kingdom, or contrary to the principle that devolution must strengthen the Union, or incompatible with the principle of equality of opportunity throughout the United Kingdom, he may make an order prohibiting the Presiding Officer from submitting the Bill for Royal Assent."
2. Accept that a Devolved Competence can be Rescinded
If we accept that the Union relationship must be maintained, and that the Scottish Parliament is intended to "strengthen the Union", and if we believe in the principle of "ever closer union" for the UK, then there should be no reluctance - at least in principle - to rescind a particular devolved competence if that competence is being used in a way which is damaging to our Union relationship.
Of course, that would be politically problematical and it is most likely to apply only where there is a separatist administration in power, but it should not be something that is considered impossible. It should be accepted in principle! There should be a presumption that it is possible. There should be nothing controversial about that presumption.
3. UK Government to Legislate to Rescind a Particular Rogue Law
Perhaps more politically feasible would be a piece of UK government legislation, which, rather than targeting the entire devolved matter (ie Education) simply rescinds the particular rogue law whose consequences are damaging the Union relationship.
Right now, too many people are stuck into the nationalist idea that the Union is destined to break up. They see things through the nationalist frame where the only alternative is "more devolution" heading on an ever slippery slope downwards to separation in all but name.
Once we introduce the driving force of "ever closer union" then we realise the Union can just as easily be destined to move closer, and that realisation gives us a whole new set of possibilities to work with.
4. A Ministry of State for the Union
To bring this all together, we need Whitehall to set up a specific Ministry, and maybe even Holyrood too.
We need a Union Office - a Ministry for the Union - and a Minister for the Union.
This would be an official government body tasked to promote the social and cultural value of the Union of the United Kingdom, and which is able to spot and prevent, and defeat threats to the Union.
It would be able to make sure that the things I have been speaking about tonight have a good chance of happening.
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for listening.
(1) See for example, the article by the lead researcher for the "Yes Scotland" campaign, Stuart McDonald, "A clear case of border-line identity disorder", The Scotsman, 12-6-13, p. 31.
(2) Arthur Mee, Arthur Mee's Book of The Flag, Island and Empire, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, Ltd, 1941), p. 71. Similarly inspiring, in the Queen's 21st Birthday Speech, on 21 April 1947, she stated: "If we all go forward together with an unwavering faith, a high courage, and a quiet heart, we shall be able to make of this ancient commonwealth, which we all love so dearly, an even grander thing - more free, more prosperous, more happy and a more powerful influence for good in the world - than it has been in the greatest days of our forefathers. To accomplish that we must give nothing less than the whole of ourselves. There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors - a noble motto, "I serve". Those words were an inspiration to many bygone heirs to the Throne when they made their knightly dedication as they came to manhood."
(3) Michael Chessum, "Creating a British divide in education system", The Scotsman, 9-8-12, p. 27.
(4) I first read the useful phrase "equality of dignity" in Colin Kidd's book: "In the sphere of symbolic politics, equality meant equality of dignity, whether in armorial bearings or in the casual assumption that England had become a synonym for Britain. In the world of public policy, equality meant proportionate taxation and expenditure across the component parts of the United Kingdom."
Colin Kidd, Union and Unionisms: Political Thought in Scotland, 1500-2000, (Cambridge University Press, 2008), p. 271.
(5) Ian Bradley, "Wanted: a new patron saint", The Guardian, 26-8-02, p. 17. Cahal Milmo, "Cry God for Harry, Britain and...St. Aidan", The Independent, 23-4-08, pp. 12-13, and editorial, "The people's priest", at p. 28.
(6) Jim White, "Let's Bring the Warrior Games to London", The Daily Telegraph, 13-5-13, p. 20.
(7) Some of the ideas in this section were inspired by the article, Opinion - Odin's Eye, "Sword of Damocles over Shipyards", Warships: International Fleet Review, February 2013, pp. 5-6.
(8) Harry Reid, "A memorial to military battles lost and won", The Herald, 22-1-13, p.13.
(9) Since this presentation, it has been brought to our attention that the late Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish attempted to move an amendment to the Bank of England Bill in the House of Lords on 3rd March 1998 to rename the Bank of England the "Central Bank of the United Kingdom". See Hansard at http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/grand_ committee_report/1998/mar/03/ official-report-of-the-grand-committee
Pic taken on Tuesday 18 June 2013, by Alistair McConnachie prior to speaking at the event.
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