12 Ways to Strengthen the Union


On Saturday 9 February 2019, AFFG Director, Alistair McConnachie spoke to "Tradsoc Glasgow". His Speech was entitled "12 Ways to Strengthen the Union and Stop Scottish Separation". Here we publish the Notes from which he delivered his main points.

The 12 Ways are broken down into 4 sections:

1. Devolved Matters to do Properly

2. Planning for a 2nd IndyRef – Things to Get Right

3. Political Policy to Strengthen the Union

4. The Personal – Each of Us Making a Unionist Difference

The Heading for each "Way" links to an article on this Website which examines that particular topic in more depth – effectively representing a book-length treatment of the subject.

DEVOLVED MATTERS TO DO PROPERLY

1. Change the Devolution Settlement and get it the Right Way Round

Firstly, what is Devolution?

Devolution, as we at A Force For Good have long explained, is British State Power exercised by Subsidiary Bodies. That is, exercised by what are effectively arms of the British State.

Our graphic, below, produced years ago, explains it well!

Holyrood is properly understood as a British institution located in Scotland, which is exercising powers which have flown down from the central, collective, British Parliament.

Make no mistake. This is the correct constitutional interpretation.

Powers flow down from the British Parliament, which itself represents every single person in our United Kingdom.

The subsidiary bodies exercise certain powers but must defer to the wider and greater British central Parliament when necessary.

This is what devolution is meant to be about.

Unfortunately, it seems that most of our MPs have never understood that. They've never understood what it is meant to be about, or what they are/were even doing.

Holyrood is a devolved branch of the one British Parliament, in a vertical not horizontal relationship; in a hierarchical, not level, relationship.

Instead, from the start, there has been a fiction that Holyrood is some kind of pseudo-independent body.

This was made worse after the catastrophic announcement in the Scotland Act 2012 that the Scottish Executive was henceforth going to be called a "Scottish Government" (see below).

Secondly, what is meant by "the Devolution Settlement"?

When politicians speak about "the devolution settlement" they are referring to the particular Model of devolution which is used for Holyrood.

There are 2 Models of Devolution. The Conferred Powers Model, and the Reserved Powers Model.

The proper Model, the only sensible and stable Model for devolution – if a central Unitary State is genuinely intent on maintaining its power and authority – is to use a "Conferred Powers" (sometimes called "Devolved Powers") Model.

A Conferred Powers Model means: Everything is considered to be Reserved to the central British Parliament – everything is considered to be Kept at the Centre – except that which is specifically written down as conferred (devolved) to the administrative unit (Holyrood).

The over-riding presumption is that everything is reserved unless stated in writing otherwise.

True to form, the British Government at the time (Labour) produced the very worst kind of devolution Model – a Reserved Powers Model for Holyrood.

A Reserved Powers Model means: Everything is considered to be Devolved to Holyrood – everything is considered to be Given Away – except that which is specifically written down as Reserved to the central British Parliament at Westminster.

The presumption is that all powers are to be given away, except those powers you remember to write down.

The over-riding presumption is that everything is devolved unless stated in writing otherwise.

This is dangerous to the stability of a Unitary State because this Model includes the devolution of things which have been forgotten to be written down, things which are not even known about yet, and are still to come, and things like these returning powers from the EU.

So the first thing – which is at the heart of a lot of the problems with devolution – is to change the so-called "Settlement", so that everything is considered Reserved to the central British Parliament, except that which is written down as devolved.

That helps to protect the power and authority of the central Parliament – and thereby help to keep the one Unitary Nation-State, which it represents, together!

The chances of that happening at the moment are slim, but at least we can be pointing it out!

Also see our article: "The Absurd SNP Ministerial Masquerade" (28-6-18).

2. Stop Calling the Holyrood Administration "a Government"

There has been a tendency to misrepresent this British institution in Edinburgh known as Holyrood – this arm of the British State – as a pseudo-independent body.

This was made worse when the SNP gained control of it in 2007. They immediately set about changing the logo, which had been the Scottish Coat of Arms, which had a nice British relevance – to just "a Saltire". Massively though, they changed the name from "Scottish Executive" to "Scottish Government".

They did this because they could!

The presumption, as above, was "everything was devolved except that which is written down", and so they realised that nobody had remembered to write down that they couldn't do that! And the Labour Government at the time certainly did not have the imagination or nerve to stop them!

However, you cannot have two heads on one body, as James VI himself said!

Scotland cannot have "Two Governments", as we constantly hear.

We have one Government and Parliament at Westminster, and we have a devolved arm of that British Institution at Holyrood.

That is the proper devolutionary arrangement – in theory, and in practice.

To get into some kind of Federalist Fantasy about having a separate "Government" in Scotland is to misrepresent and corrupt the devolved relationship, and the Union relationship.

Why is Holyrood not a proper "Government"?

Because it does not have the independent powers of a Government. It can be over-ruled by the proper Government in Westminster. That is the fact.

So this change in the name – brought in by Alex Salmond, approved by the Federalists on the Calman Commission, and written into law in David Cameron's Scotland Act 2012, hugely compromised the devolved relationship.

It really fouled the pond.

It made people think that somehow the Scottish "Government" was somehow on a par with the British Government (which represents us all in the UK).

We hear it in the way the SNP and ScotNats and even the Scottish media speak. They try to give the mis-impression that there is some kind of "equal" relationship between both Parliaments.

All this does is set up an unnecessary conflict which gives the impression that this is about "the Scottish Parliament versus the British Parliament", rather than what it should be about, which is...the Scottish Parliament working amicably within the British Parliament's overall ambit, responsibility and guardianship.

It gives the wrong impression that it is about "Scotland versus the UK", when it should be about Scotland working within the UK, for the betterment of everyone throughout our Islands.

This "Government" label was an SNP trick, which was approved of by conniving Federalists on "the Calman Commission". It was they who helped to write this farce into the Scotland Act 2012, and thereby deliberately change political perceptions.

They moved things (in perception, although not in real political function) away from the actual fact of a central British Parliament and Government with subservient arms, to the notion of the United Kingdom as already some kind of Federal State with different "governments" all equal and competing with each other for maximum gain, as if it was their right!

For unionists, this was a disastrous political shift in perception – and one which we struggle with today.

It is this deliberate misuse of words which is helping to empower the Scottish nationalists.

Politicians who are ostensibly "pro-UK" are only undermining the Union by referring to the SNP as the "Scottish Government", or speaking about "our Two Governments".

They are creating an equivalency which does not actually exist in real life – because Holyrood does not have the independent powers of a "Government".

The UK Government's indulgence of the SNP's pretensions to being a national "Government" is killing the Union.

If we want to keep the UK together, we have to drop the phrase "Scottish Government". It gives the impression of a government on an equivalent level with Westminster, which totally undermines and misrepresents the actual devolutionary relationship; and endangers the Union.

It seems a minor rhetorical change, but it has massive implications to the political debate.

So what should we do? What should we say instead?

In the absence of the name being legally changed back again, we, as individuals can use the term "Holyrood administration", or "SNP administration" or "Scottish administration" or "Holyrood executive". That puts the correct constitutional relationship into words again.

And if necessary we can refer to Westminster as "the proper Government".

More on the correct constitutional relationship here: "Parliament Overrides Holyrood, Hooray!"(16-5-18).

3. Stop the Civil Service in Scotland being used to Break Up Britain

Since the SNP took power in Scotland in 2007, the Civil Service in Scotland has been roped into doing its work. That's OK when it's just promoting the necessary day-to-day policies of the SNP administration.

But it is highly questionable, and controversial, when the Civil Service in Scotland, which is part of the wider British Civil Service and which is paid for by people throughout the UK, is being used deliberately to promote separatism; when it is being used deliberately to find ways to break up the British State.

Think about how absurd that is!

We have an arm of the British State – the Civil Service in Scotland – working effectively to promote the break up the British State, and promote the separation of Scotland from the United Kingdom.

Why is this allowed to happen?

Perhaps it is a consequence of some sort of twisted interpretation of the "Devolution Settlement" where it might be argued that such actions of the Civil Service were not specifically written down as reserved, therefore, they can now be considered to be devolved.

If so, then that's another reason why the Devolution Settlement has to be changed so that everything is considered reserved, except that which is written down as devolved.

What we do know is that unionists cannot go into a second independence referendum with the combined forces of the Civil Service, paid for by the British Taxpayer, mounted against us (nor should we be facing it on a regular basis today)!

4. Build Up the Scottish Office Again

The Scottish Office represents the British Parliament in Scotland. Diminish it and you diminish the idea of Scotland having, and sharing, a wider British political structure.

A British Government, which believes in the United Kingdom, and which intends to avoid the complete nationalist domination of Scottish political life, needs to build up the power of the Scottish Office again; the "UK Government in Scotland".

Building up the Scottish Office helps to put the British Parliament back at the heart of Scottish political life and local affairs again. It helps to make the British voice heard as an active political participant.

It helps to re-establish the centrality and importance of the wider British Context; and helps to make the rest of the United Kingdom relevant once more in Scotland.

Devolving appropriate areas administratively, rather than legislatively, is the way to do it. It is crucial, though, that the administrative power remains with the Scottish Office and not Holyrood!

This creates better democratic representation for everyone – including all those who do not vote SNP – and a better constitutional balance of powers between Local Councils, Holyrood and the British Parliament.

PLANNING for a 2nd INDYREF – THINGS TO GET RIGHT!

5. Rule Out a Second IndyRef

Westminster has a clear political and moral right and duty to forbid a second independence referendum.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, her Government, and the British Parliament, has an absolute democratic and moral responsibility and duty to stand for the integrity, stability and security of the UK.

Parliament has an absolute democratic and moral right to say No to a second referendum, and Yes to keeping Britain united.

It is politically and morally wrong for them to constantly put the integrity, stability and security of the UK "up for debate".

6. Use the British Parliament Franchise

Unbelievably, the power to decide the Franchise in Scotland – for the Scottish Parliament and Local Elections, and for referendums specific to Scotland (but not for the British General Election) – was passed to Holyrood in the Scotland Act 2016!

It beggars belief that the unionist parties transferred this power to Holyrood. What did they think the SNP would do with it?

Of course, they would manipulate it; of course they would "gerrymander" it – to their own specific advantage.

And they are trying to do that right now!

With the help of the Scottish Cabbage Party (the soggy Greens) the SNP has come up with the concept of changing the Franchise from being "citizenship-based" to being "residence-based". That is, allowing people to vote simply because they live here, or live and work here.

They are doing this because they are trying to find some way to keep EU citizens, who they think are a potentially sympathetic voting pool, on the voting roll.

Westminster needs to repeal this power. If it does not want to do that, then at least it must ensure that any subsequent IndyRef is held under the "British Parliament Franchise", which is strictly based on the legal citizenship requirement; and which excludes EU citizens, 16 year olds, and those who are merely "resident" without citizenship.

Using the "British Parliamentary Franchise" is also an acknowledgement that this is a Britain-wide matter with serious Britain-wide consequences.

It is an acknowledgement that this is not just a matter for Scotland alone! Therefore, it is only right that it is held under the British Parliamentary Franchise and people who are not British Citizens should not be included.

There is a precedent for this. The EU Referendum on 23 June 2016 was held under the British Parliament Franchise.

If the SNP/Greens, however, get their "residence alone is all that is required to vote" plan into law (which is a real possibility), and if a second IndyRef were to be held under that Franchise, then we are in trouble!

7. Get the Ballot Paper, and Question and Answer Right

At a referendum, how the Ballot Paper is worded, and how the Question and Answer are worded, is undoubtedly worth several percentage points. It is no small matter.

Here are 3 points regarding the wording of the Ballot Paper on 18 September 2014 that you may not have considered until now.

a) Ballot Paper First Point – The United Kingdom was entirely Ignored

The words on the Ballot Paper, and the Question, ignored entirely the central Nation State at issue – the United Kingdom. It was as if the UK wasn't really involved. There was no mention of it.

The Question in 2014 was "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

There was no mention of the pre-eminent, fundamental Nation-State which was to be broken up. There was no recognition of the United Kingdom. It was pushed out the picture! It was all about Scotland. Should "Scotland" be "independent" or not?

The little matter of the existence of the United Kingdom itself – the very Nation-State which Scotland would be "independent from" – was deemed of no apparent significance to even rate a mention of its name on the Ballot Paper!

Contrast this with the Ballot Paper and Question at the EU Referendum on 23 June 2016 which mentioned the United Kingdom twice, and the EU State which was at issue, five times!

So, point 1: The United Kingdom must be prominently mentioned. In future, we must ensure that the main Nation – the United Kingdom – is featured on the Ballot Paper and in the question.

b) Ballot Paper Second Point – Un-Alphabetic Order Answer

On the ballot paper, the "No" answer appeared under the "Yes" answer. Even though "N" comes before "Y" in the alphabet.

So, on reading the ballot paper, it went…"Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes."

"No" deferred to "Yes" and was textually submitted to it. "No" was the second choice for people who bothered to read that far! How did that come about?

We wrote to the Electoral Commission on the 2 September 2014, in our position as an official "Permitted Participant". We asked:

"Do you know why Yes is printed above No on the ballot paper, when N comes before Y in the alphabet? Is there an official Electoral Commission reason for that layout? As a No campaigner, it strikes me that the layout of the two words might have a subliminal effect on some people."

We received the following response from it on 9 September 2014.

"The ballot paper was agreed by the Scottish Parliament and is in the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013. We raised the issue when we assessed the referendum question and there was a view that in plain English 'Yes' would naturally come before 'No'. To do it the other way would risk confusing the voter. Hope that answers your question."

Well, it didn't!

So point 2: If we are using the format of "Yes" and "No" again then our answer "No" should come above their answer "Yes" – because that is actually how the alphabet works!

c) Ballot Paper Third Point – "Double Negative"

This is something that we were able to witness in our capacity as a Permitted Participant who was allowed to be at the official Count and to go through, with the Returning Officer, the questionable ballot papers – the ones which people had filled-in strangely.

We found that rather than putting an "X" or a tick, some people were writing "Yes" in the Yes box or "No" in the No box.

Here's the thing: If you wrote "Yes" in the Yes box, the vote was officially counted as a Yes vote because it was considered to be a positive statement. However, if you wrote "No" in the No box it was considered to be a "Double Negative" and the vote was disallowed!

Now, in Glasgow, there were scores of people doing this! All the ones who wrote "Yes" in the Yes box were counted as valid votes, and all the ones who wrote "No" in the No box were disallowed.

Naturally, we objected at every single one of those "Double Negative" decisions, but our objections were over-ruled. The Returning Officer pointed out that they were working from an official guidelines manual which stated that this was the proper decision in such instances.

So there were scores of these disallowed No votes in Glasgow alone. We can only imagine that throughout Scotland, it must have run into a few hundred, which at the end of the day can be decisive. We certainly lost votes that way.

So point 3: A written "No" in the No box (if we are going to use this structure) should be allowed in future!

As for the Question and Answer – at the very least, we can argue for a neutral question to be posed.

Using the EU Referendum structure from 2016 we could say:

Should Scotland stay in the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom?

- Stay in the United Kingdom -

- Leave the United Kingdom -

These are all things which we can be thinking and talking about, and promoting...right now, rather than puzzling over them at the last minute! We can't leave it to a bunch of clueless civil servants to wonder about, and get wrong!

8. Protect the UK with Constitutional Safeguards

Our group, A Force For Good, believes that the idea that Britain can be broken up by 50% of the vote on the day, plus 1 person, is absurd and unacceptable.

It is absurd because it is far too easy a route. The bar is set too low. We have to put it out their reach, and then watch their enthusiasm decline.

And it is unacceptable because such a close result would leave Scotland bitterly divided.

We see the UK as a Unitary State and One Nation which cannot and should not be defeated by a simple one-off political device, such as a referendum.

We want to encourage our politicians to see the UK as a genuine Nation in and of itself, which has been politically united for centuries, and which has been uniting socially and culturally for millennia.

Our Nation must not be allowed to be broken up by such a result.

We need Parliamentary Protections. We need Parliament to Rule out a 2nd IndyRef (as above) and ensure a Four-Fifths Vote Required at Westminster in order to pass a Referendum Bill.

We need to ensure Threshold Requirements. That is, we need to consider a Minimum Turnout Threshold, a Minimum Majority Threshold and a Minimum Entire Electorate Threshold. All these can be factored in (we demonstrate 6 worked examples at the link).

The point in all this is to ensure a sufficiently high number of people in Scotland indicating overwhelming support for the Separation Proposition in order to avoid a country going into the future irreconcilably divided.

The bar must be set high! The situation at the moment where the UK can be destroyed by a mere 50% of the voters who happen to vote on the day, plus 1, is an unacceptable constitutional absurdity!

POLITICAL POLICY TO STRENGTHEN THE UNION

9. Build Up Britishness in Scotland

If we want to build up belief in the United Kingdom then we must give the idea of the UK Substance.

If you create the physical Substance, then this helps to transmit the Spirit, which in turn helps people want to remain part of the Substance...which encourages more Spirit...which creates more Substance.

Without getting too mystical about this, if you are not doing something, then it is not existing.

We can strengthen the Union by maintaining and raising the profile of the British identity in Scotland; by building up Britishness!

The SNP certainly understands the cultural battle. That's why they are trying to take down the Union Jack. That's why they want to abolish institutions in Scotland with the word "British" in their title – such as the British Transport Police.

So, one of the reasons why our group, A Force For Good, meets the SNP/ScotNat Marches with our Red, White and Blue Union Flags, and posters and colours (above, Glasgow 15-9-18) is deliberately to maintain the presence of British symbolism in Scotland, at what are, otherwise, highly anti-British events.

Because if we were not there, people would forget that there even was another side to this argument. They would forget that the United Kingdom even exists! There would certainly be nobody standing up for it!

People who want to join us at these events should contact us! And if you can't be with us, then become a Union Supporter and donate monthly or please send us a one-off donation.

10. Make Brexit a Great British Success

The SNP want to "weaponise" Brexit as a way of creating political instability in order to promote division in order to promote a second referendum, but if we look closely, we can see that they are scared of its potential to bring Britain together.

Once Brexit gets underway a Vision for Britain must focus on these 4 points:

1. All four corners of Britain coming together to make this work.

2. Britain being free in new ways to invest, re-industrialise, and create jobs.

3. Britain remaining committed to the peace and prosperity of Europe through

a) serving in the NATO alliance, and

b) continuing to trade.

4. Britain re-establishing strong relationships with the Commonwealth and the rest of the world.

There is vast potential in new trade deals with the world, especially for Scotland. This needs to be constantly emphasised. We have the positives on our side.

The British economy is one of the largest in the world!

It can and will prosper outside the EU where opportunities abound when we base a programme upon trade with 194 other countries world-wide, instead of only 27 in the EU.

The potential economic prosperity that could come from inspired post-Brexit leadership can help to cement the Union.

The ScotNats wish for it to fail, but it will be successful, our unity will prevail, and Britain's future together is assured!

11. Oppose Federalism and More Powers

The first thing to point out is that Federalism is not Unionism. It is not an 'alternative' to Unionism or Independence. It is a stepping stone to Separation.

For our part, as Unionists, there is little point in the SNP losing Holyrood in 2021, only for a Labour/Lib Dem Coalition to start advocating Federalism – or in this case, basically even more "Home Rule" powers for Holyrood!"

This would be especially dangerous if there were a Labour or Labour/Lib Dem Coalition to follow at Westminster in 2022; and if it had gone into that General Election promising "Federalism for the UK".

In Scotland, all this would be doing would be to lay the groundwork for a situation where Scotland had so many powers, that it would soon be independent in all but name.

This would mean it would be very easy for the SNP to achieve its goal by simply pointing out that nothing substantial is going to change.

This could happen within one Holyrood Parliamentary cycle!

It just takes the SNP to get re-elected again, next time round! Lo and behold, it will find it has been given almost all the powers it needs to make another, perhaps successful, attempt at a break-away!

Therefore, one of our Political Aims at A Force For Good is to oppose Federalism/More Powers by campaigning to explain and educate about its dangers on an on-going basis.

In any case, more powers make absolutely no difference to their demand for Scottish independence because their demand for "independence" is not primarily based around some kind of localist argument about which legislative powers are best utilised at the level of Westminster, Holyrood, or Local Councils!

The SNP's demand for "independence" is based upon a belief in a fundamental difference between the Scottish and English, which (in their minds) can only be satisfied with complete separation.

THE PERSONAL

12. Each of Us: Making a Unionist Difference

Our final point here is directed specifically towards each one of us. Here are some ways we, as individuals, can strengthen the Union and keep Britain together.

We spoke about the importance of Raising the Profile of Britishness in Scotland at the political level. Here are some things we can do as individual.

Speak Up! In conversation say, "I'm British, I like the United Kingdom and I want us to stay together". Just that alone will surprise the ScotNats and make them wonder!

Wear the Union Flag on your clothing. Buy British – the SNP wants to remove the Union Jack from supermarket products, so the least we can do is buy British! Fly the Flag in your window and elsewhere. Remove SNP/ScotNat stickers in your vicinity – if you don't remove them, who do you think will?

And...register and remember to Vote! Far too often, there are SNP local councillors in areas which should be unionist. But they have SNP councillors because the pro-UK people have not bothered to even vote!

Finally, if you are unable to do very much yourself, then at least support those who are doing!

We've been standing for the Union since 21 March 2012, and we have no intention of stopping. We need your help. We're looking for 200 Union Supporters to come forward and support our work with a minimum donation of £5 a month. Please do what you can here.

REFERENCES

Here's those 12 Ways again, linked to their detailed articles:

1. Change the Devolution Settlement and get it the Right Way Round

2. Stop Calling the Holyrood Administration "a Government"

3. Stop the Civil Service Being Used to Break Up Britain

4. Build Up the Scottish Office Again – How to do Devolution Properly

5. Rule Out a 2nd IndyRef

6. Use the British Parliament Franchise at a 2nd IndyRef

7. Get the Ballot Paper, and Question and Answer Right

8. Protect the UK with Constitutional Safeguards

9. Build up Britishness in Scotland

10. Make Brexit a Great British Success

11. Oppose Federalism and More Powers

12. Each of us: Making a Unionist Difference

Further Reading on our Legacy Site

20 LESSONS LEARNED from the OFFICIAL and UNOFFICIAL NO CAMPAIGNS: Or, Why the Vote was so Close and Should Never be so Close Again

BEWARE the BRAVADO of the 'BRING IT ON' BRIGADE: 18 Reasons to be Careful

View the Speech here:

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