A Force For Good was outside Inverness Town House on 28 July 2018 when we counted 3,386 SNP-marchers and not the 14K they lied about!
In the olden days, the centre of government – whether in Scotland or England – was where the Monarch had his or her Royal Court. If it moved around, then the government moved with it.
In the modern era, the first time the British Cabinet – the highest ranking Ministers of the Crown – met outside London was on 7 September 1921, in Inverness Town House (pictured).
This year is the centenary of that event.
The Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, was on holiday in Gairloch, Wester Ross. He had received a letter from Eamon de Valera, and he called his Cabinet to Inverness to discuss. It took place at 11am and 16 members including Lloyd George, Stanley Baldwin and Winston Churchill were in attendance.
A Force For Good has always advocated that the British Cabinet should rotate around the United Kingdom at least once and, ideally, several times a year. The idea of "Regional Cabinet Meetings" was started by Gordon Brown, but has since fallen into abeyance. We mentioned the idea in our Wee Book for the Union.
This should not be too difficult to really push. It is a colourful idea which helps to educate about our constitution and history, and, importantly, it is a chance to bring the beating heart of British democracy closer to other parts of the UK.
It helps to move away from the 'London-centric', 'Westminster bubble' and 'Metropolitan elite' elements of Britain's government.
Where could these Cabinet meetings be held?
They could be held at the devolved assembly buildings, Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont. These places already have the infrastructure, resources and security in place. This would help to integrate the devolved assemblies with the British Parliament in the public mind, rather than leaving the impression to linger that they are in opposition to each other.
Or they could be held at a British Government building such as the new Queen Elizabeth hub in Edinburgh.
We are pleased to note that this is already being considered; and that after 21 years of devolution, there is visible evidence of the British Government in Edinburgh again! According to this report (10-8-20) the 'hub' includes Scotland's first dedicated UK Government Cabinet meeting room. Glasgow is also going to get one of these 'hubs' too, which is more good news!
Indeed, the huge Union Jack on the side of the Queen Elizabeth hub means that even if the place did nothing else, it's already paid for itself in terms of propaganda, as we stated in this video.
The Cabinet meetings could also be held in towns or villages which have historic relevance for the United Kingdom. This would have the effect of helping to educate about our history and the way it is tied into our democratic constitution; helping to craft a story of our coming together and co-operation through time.
For example, and in no particular order, the following immediately occur:
Arbroath – the Declaration of Arbroath
Runnymede – the sealing of the Magna Carta
Stirling Castle and Linlithgow Palace – sites of the Royal Court of Scotland
Dunwich – the capital of the Kingdom of the East Angles
Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, which has a long history in British politics
Sutton Hoo – the possible burial place of King Rædwald of East Anglia
Scone Palace, in Perthshire...
Locations are limited only by our imagination, and hopefully many people will have their own suggestions. If there is no suitable office nearby then use the local museum, or a church, or put up a tent!
Or they could be held on a ship! We advocate that it's time for a British National Flagship. The Flagship would be a way for the British Cabinet to meet around the British Isles. It could dock in historic British ports, and the Cabinet could convene in it – if not travel in it. The 'Cabinet Tour' could become a regular event, visiting a different place each year.
There is also a recent precedent of a British governmental institution moving its business around the country. For example, on 12 June 2017, the UK Supreme Court sat in Edinburgh instead of London.
Lord Neuberger, President of the Supreme Court said prior to the event:
"We make every effort to ensure our proceedings are accessible throughout the UK via our free live streaming service. However, nothing beats being able to observe courts at first hand. We look forward to welcoming members of the public as well as lawyers during what is intended to be the first of a number of visits to the capital cities of the devolved nations."
Let us encourage a government which believes in uniting the kingdom to take this idea forward in a major way.
In the meantime, the centenary of the 7 September 1921 event is a good opportunity for another Meeting in Inverness!
Postscript: Rotating the Parliament?
Could the entire British Parliament rotate around the UK? That would be harder, but not impossible. Perhaps it could do it for half the year, or every 5 years.
Westminster is undergoing repairs and the idea of moving out completely has already been mooted.
According to this BBC article (16 July 2020):
Boris Johnson has suggested Parliament could move to York while the Palace of Westminster undergoes renovation. In a letter, the prime minister said the government was considering establishing a hub in the northern city and 'it would therefore make sense to consider this as a potential location'.
The possibility of the second chamber, the House of Lords, being moved outside of London, has also been mooted according to this report in The Sun (20 Jan 2020):
Ministers yesterday confirmed that relocating the second chamber out of London is 'one of a range of things' being looked to shake up politics. York is the favoured new location for it, and Birmingham is also in the running.
There is a precedent within the British Isles: The Tynwald – the Parliament of the Isle of Man – sits in 2 different places!
The EU Parliament rotates between Brussels (Belgium) and Strasbourg (France), while the Secretariat-General sits in Luxembourg City.
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