NOTE: The following article is an updated version of an earlier one first written in 2016 and published on Scottish Unionist site ‘Commonrepresentation (Unionist)’. Click here for a link to the earlier version of the article:

By the mid-1990s, it was obvious to anybody with a clear, objective view that the proposed constitutional reforms of the Labour Party were a recipe for disaster.

Whilst in no way reactionary, backward looking or hankering after some past golden era (real or imagined), it was completely apparent to the informed observer that Blair’s reforms were unworkable, impracticable, extremely unfair and simply designed to bolster Labour’s political power in Scotland.
Labour’s whole approach to constitutional reform was naïve at best and far from ‘killing nationalism [read anti-UK separatism] stone dead’ as Labour politician George Robertson put it in 1995, they would be used as a mechanism by anti-British elements to break up the UK.


In Scotland, the SNP’s separation referendum was rejected decisively in September 2014. The people of Scotland clearly saw through Alex Salmond’s mad plans.

Added to this, the substantial majority of Scots in the majority of opinion polls on separation in Scotland show a majority for keeping Scotland in the Union. If the voting patterns are analysed, it is found that separation is unpopular across most walks of society in Scotland.

But did the SNP accept this? Some chance of that.

After initially accepting the decision and saying that settled the question ‘for a generation’, Alex Salmond reverted to type and simply began pushing his separatist agenda, effectively saying there would be one referendum after another until the separatists got the result they wanted, a trend carried on by his successor as SNP leader, Nicola Sturgeon and now her replacements, Humza Yousaf and John Swinney.

The SNP, as well as the wider separatist movement, needs to listen to the electorate and accept their settled will, expressed through the ballot box.

In Ulster, a concerning picture exists. After several decades of being a granite solid bastion of pro-UK loyalty, solidly and diligently maintaining the Union against the assaults of both Irish republican terrorism and Irish separatist ideological assault from various sources that hankered after forcing Ulster out of the UK and into the control of Eire (against the desire for Union with the rest of the UK of the majority of NI’s citizens), there came the collapse of the mid-1990s.

In the period from roughly the mid-90s to the present, Ulster has witnessed an ongoing agenda of dissolving the connections of loyalty towards the Union that maintains her place in the UK. This consists of the gradual removal of UK symbols from public display in Northern Ireland, like Union Flags and oaths to the UK Monarch at certain universities, which is part of a wider assault on UK culture in Northern Ireland. The attempt is being made to remove anything connected to UK identity from the public square, from the public’s view, in order to lessen and eventually remove permanently UK identity from NI.

This campaign goes hand in hand with a simultaneous effort to slowly push Ulster out of the Union and into the control of the Republic in the South, against the will of the pro-UK majority.

A very similar process of removing the visible symbols of the Union from public view in order to destroy the public’s connection to the UK is also ongoing in the other devolved parts of the UK, Scotland and Wales, especially in SNP-controlled Scotland, where the effort to eradicate the Union is even greater in scope.

In Ulster, legislative devolution is not about ‘autonomy within the UK’ but an insidious, covert and sometimes even overt effort by those that are antagonistic towards the UK (i.e. Irish separatists, some Americans, and even elements in the UK itself, such as a few members of the UK Government) to disband the UK.

Once again, the so-called ‘peace process’ is in trouble in NI. From the beginning, the story of legislative devolution in this part of the UK has been a sorry one of failure and instability.

Whilst peace was completely laudable in theory, the practice of legislative devolution has never lived up to its early promise. Apart from the odious fact that decent pro-UK people have been forced, through mandatory coalition, to share power with unrepentant ex-terrorists and their sympathizers who obviously have never really given up their terrorist and separatist beliefs, it has more or less completely failed to deliver stable, decent administration for Ulster. Recently, it hasn’t even been able to provide an actual administration for extended periods.

Ulster, under Stormont and the Belfast Agreement (the so-called ‘Good Friday Agreement’), has lurched from one political crisis to another, never genuinely working properly. When this is pointed out, its proponents, who are ideologues blind to its defects, simply bleat ‘make it work’ and yet another haphazard administration is sworn in only for it to fail shortly after and Ulster is sent back to square one.

Out of the last twenty-six years of legislative devolution, devolved arrangements have broken down and direct rule been reverted to for a total of eight years, if you add up all the periods of breakdown in Stormont administration together. Hardly inspires confidence in legislative devolution, does it?

The whole ‘peace process’ has been propelled along by the interference of the strongly pro-separatist Americans, especially Bill Clinton and recently Joe Biden as well, who have both cynically used it as a vehicle to garner popularity with the American Irish vote. They have displayed very obvious anti-UK, pro-Irish prejudice and can’t be trusted to arbitrate impartially in Ulster, or other UK, matters.

The UK Government’s role in this has been a sorry story of ignoring and selling out the best interests of the majority pro-UK population and lack of moral backbone in standing up to American bullying and coercion over the issue. Added to this, certain anti-Union elements in the UK Government have connived to manipulate the natural desire for peace to their own ends, with the result that the Belfast Agreement that followed was grossly skewed in favour of the minority separatist population. Recent developments in the form of newly declassified Northern Ireland Office files on the negotiations for the Belfast Agreement reveal that the UK Government made several highly unethical, squalid, humiliating concessions to IRA/Sinn Fein in order to get them to sign the agreement. The Americans helped them greatly in this endeavour, employing coercive and out-and-out bullying tactics to force the pro-UK majority in Ulster to accept the agreement.

This lamentable narrative of the effects of legislative devolution in Northern Ireland is irrefutable proof that legislative devolution has completely failed.

Separation from the rest of the UK has never been remotely important to the vast majority of the Welsh people. Public support for the separation of Wales from the rest of the UK has never been higher than 35% (this happened ONCE) and usually hovers around the 15-20% mark. Added to this, the 1997 referendum on setting up an assembly was only passed 50.30%-49%.70 in favour, an exceptionally narrow 0.6% margin of victory.

In the years immediately following the introduction of legislative devolution in the late 1990s/early 2000s, the call for separation from the rest of the UK existed (mostly from the separatist Plaid Cymru) but was considerably more muted than in the other devolved parts of the UK.

However, recent years (post the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, something that’s no coincidence) have witnessed an increasingly bellicose position being adopted by Plaid, encouraged in large part by the actions of the SNP in Scotland of extremely aggressively abusing the vastly enhanced ability to promote separation that their devolved executive gifts them and utilizing it as a platform for promoting separation from the rest of the UK by ignoring their devolved remit, pushing for and getting a referendum on separation when public opinion, as reflected in the majority of opinion polls showed support for that stood in the late 20 percentile range.

During the ill-conceived attempt at constitutional change during the Callaghan Labour Government of the mid to late 70s, there was a referendum in Wales for a devolved assembly with limited powers. The idea was virtually unanimously rejected by the Welsh by an enormous 79.7% ‘no’ vote, and the plans for devolution were dropped. When asked why they had voted ‘no’, most of the voters stated that they didn’t want yet another layer of administration, but more efficient and responsive administration.

Given the chance, the evidence from various empirical data shows that the Welsh still feel like this. There’s even an ‘Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party’ whose aim is to do just that-abolish the Welsh ‘parliament’. Added to this, the current Welsh devolved executive, the Welsh ‘parliament’ (initially called the ‘Assembly’) was set up on the slimmest of majorities-50.30%-49.70%, a risible 0.6% margin. Not a compelling mandate in anybody’s book.

The danger of Wales leaving the UK is still there and increasing very worryingly, but is not nearly as acute as in Scotland or Ulster (yet).

Turning to England, it must be remembered that separatist constitutional arrangements have also been massively rejected, as very clearly displayed by the huge ‘no’ vote to the setting up of regional assemblies in North East England by the referendum held in 2004. Added to this, several polls and surveys on the Union conducted in England, including the most comprehensive and so authoritative one, the 2021 UK National Census, have shown that a majority of English residents back keeping the UK together and so reject separation and breaking up the UK. Click on the following link for a fuller discussion on the data from the 2021 National Census and other opinion polls and surveys on separation in England (and the rest of the UK), please click here:

The current devolution ‘settlement’ has created a complete mess. It’s created more problems than it’s solved, and bred inequalities between the constituent parts of the UK.

One of the most infamous of these is the West Lothian Question whereby Scottish MPs can vote on matters solely affecting England, but English (plus Welsh and NI) MPs are barred from voting on Scottish matters.

Legislative devolution’s supporters just ignore such difficulties and insist that we must ‘make it work’. Ignoring such concerns won’t make it go away. And this is just one of the issues making legislative devolution untenable.

The electorate of the UK have expressed their settled will against foolish, ill-conceived changes to the constitution of this country. Separatist constitutional change has been decisively rejected. It is now crystal clear what the majority of UK residents think about the constitution and so what the correct path to take is. The citizens of the UK have demonstrated that they desire more unity, not separatism, and that Tony Blair’s legislative devolution experiment has failed to deliver good administration. As a consequence, his constitutional reforms need to be scrapped. Legislative devolution should be abolished, and a better system put in its place. A system that delivers localism and decentralization of power (where necessary) but absolutely maintains the integrity of the UK.

One way of doing this would be to replace legislative devolution with administrative devolution-abolish the Scottish parliament, the Welsh ‘parliament’ and Stormont then give their powers to local councils, other organizations (such as revived Scottish and Welsh Offices plus the NI Office) and individuals (such as revived Cabinet positions of the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales plus the NI Secretary). This way such bodies and individuals have powers relevant to their part of the UK decentralized and localized to them, democracy is also kept localized to the constituent parts of the UK as local councils are voted in by the local residents in that area and the constitutional integrity of the UK is completely safeguarded as anti-UK separatism (the SNP, Plaid Cymru, IRA/Sinn Fein plus the SDLP) would have no power over constitutional matters (which would remain with Westminster) and so no ability to break up the UK, as the SNP and IRA/Sinn Fein have abused their devolved powers by attempting to do so.

It also avoids the travesty of unrepresentative, minority extremists gaining power in the devolved executives (Holyrood, the Welsh ‘parliament’ and Stormont) and forcing through their unwanted separatist agenda against the manifest will of the majority. This has clearly been the case with the SNP in Scotland who won the last Holyrood election with 32% of the total electorate’s vote but who still attempt to force their separatist agenda on the majority that most opinion polls continue to show don’t want it.

Unity and shared values are the key to framing a successful, viable, practicable and fair UK Constitution. Separatism, whilst appealing to the short-sighted and selfish aims of pedagogues and extremists (like the Scottish, Irish, and Welsh separatists) never produce anything of enduring value.

The governance of the UK can be much better by making it smaller, more efficient and responsive to its citizen’s needs, not by adding more layers.

Bloated administrations lead to slow to respond, inefficient, overly bureaucratic and sometimes even corrupt government. Look at the last 17 years of SNP misrule at Holyrood, the disaster Labour rule in devolved Wales has produced and the manifest numerous failures of domestic policy the various administrations in Northern Ireland have produced (legislative devolution has even
failed to produce a working administration for large parts of Stormont’s existence).

Whilst emphatically not advocating the centralized imposition of values from one part of the UK, there should be certain shared values between all parts of the UK. Not the values of one dominant group, but certain values that can be subscribed to by the reasonable consensus of the majority of UK residents, based on shared history and the outlook that stems from that shared experience. Within that set of shared values, the various traditions of the UK can co-exist.

There is a great danger, inherent in regionalism, of breeding an insular attitude, which leads to the much greater danger of Balkanizing the UK and encouraging national constitutional fragmentation.

Local traditions are important, but not to the point that they sponsor antagonism toward other parts of the country, as this promotes national disintegration. Regional devolved executives would greatly promote such Balkanization. Regional devolved legislatures lead to overly ambitious politicians abusing local issues to make a name for themselves (like Salmond, Sturgeon and Yousaf have and Swinney most certainly will, give him time). They only interest themselves in local matters that further their separatist agenda and their careers and ignore other significant domestic policy issues, leading to a decline in shared national values and aiding the break-up of the UK and stagnation on the domestic front.

All in all, devolved regional executives create problems and promote division. It’s time to realize this and remedy the situation by abolishing the root cause of the problem-legislative devolution.

In order to achieve the abolition of legislative devolution, it is essential to create a strong pan-Unionism in the UK. One essential aspect of this is cooperation between all those who want to maintain the Union. It’s not at all being suggesting that one person or group’s views should be imposed on everybody else. People’s views on how to maintain the Union differ. In the past, it has been the case that Unionist opinion has been very differentiated. Whilst the Union was more or less safe (i.e. before the introduction of legislative devolution), this didn’t really matter. However, the introduction of legislative devolution by Blair in the late 90s has led to the rise of anti-UK separatism which has now put the UK in the position that her very survival is in danger.

In these changed circumstances, division among those that want to maintain the Union is extremely dangerous as it lets anti-UK separatism divide and conquer, which leads to the advancing of their agenda to break up the UK.

To counter this, all those that intend to maintain the Union need to find common ground that they can agree on and put this over to the UK public with a strong, coherent, positive message as part of a pan-UK Unionist voice that reaches across all parts of the nation, not just one or a few.

Those that intend to maintain the Union are in a sizeable majority in the UK so if they all speak with a coherent voice their message will be heard and the Union will be maintained, something ALL those that intend to maintain the Union want.

NB: The article does not represent the views of Scotland Matters.

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