Article 52

Where Is The Knowledge for Scotland’s Independence?

This website shows that politics is never more than the debate of belief/counter-belief via the debate of opinion/counter-opinion to one other transient belief-consensus, pending debate’s resumption and another vote ; and that debate can be terminated only by the positive or negative knowledge which concludes it, once and for all. However, before entering the third section of this website which will seek to ensure that knowledge-only policies will be created and implemented in future, I now analyse an article by Philip Johnson, entitled “The Union will remain in peril until an English parliament is on the table”, and subtitled “There is only so long the PM can hold off the forces of separatism without constitutional reform.” He opens his article by saying that ‘we might be on the cusp of the greatest constitutional crisis for 100 years’; and that victory for the SNP in next month’s Holyrood elections will confront Boris Johnson with a renewed demand for an independence referendum which he proposes to deny’; that ‘next month also marks the centenary of the partition of Ireland and the creation of the United Kingdom as we know it today’; and that ‘this anniversary coincides with an upsurge of anger among supporters of the Union in Northern Ireland, who believe they have been betrayed by the Brexit trade deal’.

He then suggest that ‘there are two two possible responses, one constitutional, the other political’; that ‘the first would be to accept that an SNP win on May 6 is a mandate for another referendum and let Nicola Sturgeon hold one’; that this is the best time possible for Unionists’ because ‘Scotland’s voters are aware that being part of the UK has helped them through the Covid pandemic and accelerated the arrival of the vaccine’; that ‘they know they get a good deal out of the Barnett formula with £150 spent on public services north of the border for every £100 spent in England’; that ‘they don’t want to join the euro, but they would have to if they sought membership of the EU, even assuming their application was not vetoed by Spain’; and that ‘recognising this weakness, Alex Salmon is now proposing signing up to Efta instead’. At this point I respond that while some Unionists might be aware of the foregoing benefits of the Union and be willing to vote accordingly, those favouring independence have evidently been ignoring these benefits, though, they might even be unaware of them.

However, Philip Johnson states that ‘all of these arguments could be deployed in a campaign held soon’; but that ‘denying a referendum will change the narrative to one of an English Tory leader blocking Scotland’s right to self-determination’; that ‘those urging Boris to tough it out need to consider that it will be politically impossible to hold the line, while by then, the advantages (cited above) will have been lost’; and that ‘it would be preferable for Boris to call Ms Sturgeon’s bluff by proposing an immediate plebiscite and not wait until 2023 as the SNP leader has suggested’; and that while ‘this would be a gamble, it would be one the separatists would lose’. Again, Philip claims that ‘the second issue can be resolved by repudiating the Northern Ireland protocol and ceasing to treat part of the UK as though it were still a part of the EU’; that ‘the PM does not want to do this because he signed the associated international treaty, evidently trusting that the Unionists would not notice that the status of the province had thus been changed’; that ‘again, politics might work here, if an agreement can be reached with the EU to remove the absurd amounts of red-tape that now foul up trade between Britain and Northern Ireland’; but that ‘the province would still have to stick to single market rules, and so the fundamental flaw at the heart of of the protocol would remain’.

At this point, I respond that debate and/or argument settled by voting is always a gamble and is ultimately merely a coin toss in the absence of debate terminating conclusive knowledge; that consequently the Unionists need to present their case as the positive conclusive knowledge which reality-refutes the beliefs of the separatists as negative knowledge; and that the Northern Ireland protocol is the result of a belief-consensus reached in the absence of debate-terminating conclusive knowledge and as such, ought not have been signed by the PM. Nonetheless, Philip Johnson goes on to state that ‘such matters need permanent fixing through new structures of governance’; that ‘to this end, the Constitutional Reform Group (CRG) is today proposing a new Act of Union to forestall what it fears will be the break-up of the UK’; that, ‘made up of Tory, Labour and Lib Dem politicians, as well as former first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the CRG says in a letter to all party leaders that the existing constitutional arrangements for the United Kingdom are “unsustainable and deficient”’; that ‘when it comes to discussing these great matters, however, the biggest piece of the jigsaw always seems to be ignored’; that ‘proposing a new relationship between the constituent parts of the kingdom is all well and good’; but that ‘it needs to accommodate the dominant member, England’; that, indeed, ‘one of the reasons why devolution was always a problematic concept was because it enfeebled the forces of the Union which bind England to the rest’ (to the whole); that ‘its institutions tend to unify, whereas the differing traditions and history of its component parts pull in opposite directions, sometimes breaking the bonds entirely as in 1921’; that ‘devolution has again weakened the glue’; that ‘the challenge is how to stop it cracking apart entirely’; and that ‘this needs to address the English Question’; that ‘without committing itself, the CRG says this option should be available through a referendum to set up an English parliament and replace the House of Lords with an elected national assembly’.

At this point, Philip asks ‘would this help consolidate a new set of constitutional arrangements – or blow them apart because of England’s size and dominance’ and he answers that ‘he doesn’t know’; but that ‘the question needs to be discussed within the context of a proposed new settlement’. However, he concedes that ‘Boris Johnson, like his predecessors, will not want to go anywhere near this if he can avoid it, hoping that defeat for the SNP and a wet summer in Northern Ireland will dampen the immediate problems he might otherwise face’; that ‘yet in their 2019 manifesto, the Tories promised to set up a constitutional commission to look at all the issues thrown up by devolution, Brexit, judicial activism and the rest’; that ‘events put paid to that and there seems to be no hurry to revisit the idea’; that ‘perhaps there will be something in the Queen’s speech next month, but such reform is difficult and arguments hard to make’; ‘that politicians tend to embrace concepts until they have a big enough majority not to bother’; that ‘Tony Blair’s flirtation with PR in 1997 comes to mind’; and that ‘more likely Mr Johnson will try to manoeuvre his way across this minefield without treading on a detonator’; but that ‘he needs a map and he’s not yet got one’.

To all of the above, my response, as always, is that politicians, commentators and the voting public continue to deal with debatable opinion/counter-opinion which is never more that belief/counter-belief respectively supported by partially selected facts/counter-facts, evidence/counter-evidence and news/false-news, no set of which is ever debate-terminating conclusive knowledge; and that consequently the outcome is never more than a transient belief-consensus pending the resumption of the debate and another vote; that nothing is ever permanently resolved by this process; that this is why this website advocates the replacement of belief with conclusive knowledge for all future policy-making; and advocates that future voting be to decide which party-specific knowledge-only policies are to be implemented. At this point, I recall that I wrote to my then Brexit-supporting MP, advocating a post-Brexit adoption of my newly definitive knowledge/belief differentiation; that he replied to say that Brexit would be a dawdle’ but he ignored my suggestion that knowledge ought to replace belief in all post-Brexit policy-making. Clearly, politicians and commentators prefer the current miasma of belief/counter-belief which is why I now offer this website directly to the electorate which currently decides which belief-only policies it prefers, but which ought to decide which party-specific knowledge-only options it prefers, given that the former have never caused their promised effects in reality, while the latter always would. 29/4/21.

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