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The end of the Union

The Daily Telegraph is running a campaign to save the Union. It is too late.

Union_thumbnailNor is this a matter to be decided, as the Scots and Welsh seem to think, by them alone. The Union is ours too and we can decide if we want it to continue, just as much as they. The faux-colonial way in which the Nationalists describe the situation is - and always has been - a mortal insult. This was never any more a question of "self-determination" for the Welsh and Scots than it was for the English. Indeed, until "devolution" (that ugly weasel-word of spin) occurred all citizens of the United Kingdom were equal before the law.

Before devolution all UK citizens were liable to the same obligations and enjoyed the same rights. A Scottish or Welsh vote counted for as much as an English one. Indeed, given that the Scots and Welsh voted en bloc for Labour, theirs counted for rather more. For most of my adult life, Socialists have governed the United Kingdom on the back of Scottish and Welsh votes. In 1979, I stood at the bar of a Welsh pub with my father on the day Mrs Thatcher won power. We smiled secretly (and somewhat dangerously) at each other as a distraught Welsh Labourite wailed; "How can she have won? Who voted for her? I never even met a bloody Tory!"

True, some of the injustice in the relations between the Home Nations was always there. There is nothing new about the Barnett formula, for example. One can therefore sympathise, up to a point, with those Scots and Welsh who wonder what the fuss is about. Up to a point. How politically stupid was it to draw the attention of English voters to established injustice, by demanding still more?

I nurture no ethnic hatreds. There are no ethnic differences here. Jan Morris in "her" book, "Wales," acknowledged that there was no way to know if you were Welsh, other than to ask yourself if you have a sense of "cymreictod" (Welshness). For many years, I thought I had. But the increasing shrillness and nastiness of nationalism and the manifest injustices of devolution, killed that. If you require me to think less of my English mother and grandparents on the basis of such trivia, then frankly - though my Welsh lineage is richer than most of yours - to hell with you. I stand now four square with Dylan Thomas, a Welshman and perhaps the greatest ever user of the English language, who famously said; "Land of my fathers? My fathers can have it!"

I would love to see these islands united. In my opinion, all men and women who teach their children the same nursery rhymes and who sing the same songs belong together. The Scots, Welsh, English and - for that matter - Irish have much more in common than they have to separate them. In truth, there is damn all to separate them but that most pathetic (and mighty) of forces; sentiment.

That the Union should have been so damaged by the film "Braveheart" speaks volumes as to the poor quality of history teaching in the UK. How many Scots know how ahistorical is the climactic scene in which Robert the Bruce confronts Edward Longshanks in Stirling Cathedral? From the film, you would never picture the truth: Two feudal leaders met; a Plantagenet King and a lord whose family came from Brieux in Normandy. They would have been united in regarding their waiting armies, Scots and English, as little better than cattle.  They would have spoken in Norman French or Latin rather than vulgar English. It had as much to do with today's nationalisms as I have with the Great Khan; perhaps less.

No attempt is being made, however, to address that ignorance. The field of historical battle has been yielded to the sentimentalists and propagandists. I wish I could hope otherwise, but we English are nothing if not pragmatic. It's time for our fellows in the Union to make it worth our while, or go.