Monday, May 16, 2011

'There will always be a United Kingdom'

In this whole debate about "independence-lite" that has suddenly sprung up, one catchphrase that is really beginning to get on my nerves (purely on the grounds of a lack of accuracy and linguistic precision) is Professor James Mitchell's "there will always be a United Kingdom in some form", which he repeated again tonight on Michael Portillo's documentary about Alex Salmond. Portillo was evidently so taken by it that he used it himself on This Week last Thursday.

Stripping away all the speculation about how a new confederal arrangement with the rest of Britain might work, I presume what Mitchell is really getting at is simply that the SNP support the retention of the monarchy. But that doesn't in itself assure the United Kingdom of a future. After all, we currently have the same Queen as Canada, New Zealand and Jamaica - does that mean these countries are all part of the "United Kingdom"? Of course not. The constitutional relationship between the different Commonwealth realms is, to all intents and purposes, what used to be described as a 'personal union' - different kingdoms ruled by the same monarch. (And of course the concept of being 'ruled' is a purely nominal one in the age of constitutional monarchy.) That's almost certainly the model an independent Scotland - whether of the 'lite' or 'full fat' variety - would follow.

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