We were reading an article by a journalist called Juliet Samuel recently when we were struck by a few words in her paragraph: "It is just possible that the EU has found a real red line in Mrs May's heart, called unionism. This would put her out of step with much of Britain, I suspect, but it might actually give her a fighting chance of convincing Brussels that she is serious." (1)
Believing in "unionism" would..."put her out of step with much of Britain"?
We were taken aback by that claim.
After all, what is "Britain" in the first place, if it is not a direct consequence of the political ideology known as "unionism"?
THE BRITISH UNION
The British Union is the political Union of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales, united in one Unitary State, with a sovereign National Parliament at Westminster.
The British Union is what holds Britain together. Without the Union, there is no Britain – certainly not in any political sense! (NB. When we speak of "Britain" – as in this article – we always use it as shorthand for "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".)
Britain, the Nation, is built upon the British Union. If it were not for the British Union then Britain would not exist.
If you don't care about the British Union then how can you care about Britain itself?
How can you be "for Britain", but not for the British Union?
UNIONISM IS FUNDAMENTAL
The ideology upholding the British Union is called Unionism.
If you don't believe in Unionism – the fundamental political ideology which creates, underpins and maintains the British Union – then you do not believe in Britain.
Britain is the political creation of Unionism.
Britain is the consequence of Unionism.
If you "believe in Britain", then you believe in Unionism!
How can you want "Britain to take back control", if you don't believe in the political ideology which sustains the very idea of Britain in the first place?
OPINION POLLS – preferring Brexit to Britain itself!
This apparent political disconnect among some people and the actual foundational ideology of the Nation they purport to support, reminded us of those "Opinion Polls" (and we always put that term in inverted commas since "Opinion Polls" are often a deliberate political tool intended to move opinion, rather than reflect it) which report that some people apparently care more about Brexit than the British Union. (2)
In our view, these "Opinion Polls" are just trouble-making. They are taking advantage of most people's lack of political awareness and constitutional knowledge in order to promote or attack a current political issue.
So, we are going to be kind to such people and we're going to presume that they don't really know what they are agreeing to, or saying, and that they haven't thought through such political and constitutional positions.
After all, if you want "freedom for Britain from the EU", then you cannot prefer Brexit to Britain itself!
If you really prefer Brexit to Britain itself then you don't believe in the idea of Britain in the first place! (3)
And yes, sure, we can understand that some people in England get exasperated with the ScotNats. However, if the Union were to break, then Britain is not going to continue to exist politically without Scotland! The only sense in which it might continue to exist (for a short while) would be as an increasingly-unused geographical term.
UNIONISM: THE IDEOLOGY UNDERPINNING BRITAIN
We'll often refer to ourselves as "unionists" who believe in "unionism", but it seems this ideology is regarded – if it is regarded at all – as just one ideology among many other 'isms', (like capitalism or communism or socialism), rather than as the core, foundational political ideology of Britain itself!
It seems – if Juliet Samuel is correct – that the political philosophy which underpins Britain is not known about, or recognised, or understood, or appreciated...by many people!
If so, then this is undoubtedly a weakness for us.
It means that if you say, "I believe in the Union", then quite a few people don't automatically know what you are talking about!
We know this for a fact because some people come onto our AFFG Facebook Page and think that we're speaking about being pro-European Union! A few others think, incredibly, that we're talking about promoting "Trade Unions"!
If people have some awareness, they may know that "unionism" is something to do with people in Northern Ireland wanting to be part of the United Kingdom rather than the Republic of Ireland. Yes, that is part of it, and tended to be the whole part, in the past, when the Scottish/English union was not a contested issue.
Yet, ask many people to define a set of characteristics which describe this political ideology of "unionism" today, and they might struggle.
That's why we have to lay them out! That's what we've been doing since 21 March 2012 when we were founded. And we summarise 12 of the main points below.
We have to do this because describing one's political ideology briefly and in a manner which is immediately understandable, which people can remember and explain easily to others, is a necessary requirement for the success of any political ideology.
When people say they "believe in Scottish independence" everyone knows what they're talking about. They're talking about Scotland breaking away, mainly from England but ultimately from all parts of the British Isles.
That ease of understanding is a big strength for them. It is one of the reasons why the political ideology of Scottish independence has such traction. It is simple to describe, understand, remember and explain.
What should we – those of us who do not believe in Scottish independence – say in response?
SCOTTISH UNIONISM is the OPPOSITE of SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE
If Scottish Independence is the belief in an independent Scotland and separate independent nations in the British Isles, then Scottish Unionism is the opposite. It is the belief in a politically united British Isles.