For the unlettered among you, the heptarchy is a collective name for the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, Dorne, the Kingdom of the Isles and Rivers, the Kingdom of Monuntain and Vale, the Kingdom of the North, the Westerlands or Kingdom of the Rock, the Kingdom of the Reach, and the Kingdom of the Stormlands …
The heptarchy is a collective name for “the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of south, east, and central England during late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, conventionally identified as seven: Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex, and Wessex. The Anglo-Saxon kingdoms eventually unified into the Kingdom of England.”
Like you care? You should. Following the vow made to the Scots by David Cameron in order to win the referendum of devo max to the limit of my credit card, the West Lothian question has come back to bite him.
The West Lothian question is easy to ask and almost impossible to answer. As posed in 1977 by Tam Dalyell, former MP for the Scottish constituency, it demands to know why MPs from Scotland (and now Wales and Northern Ireland) should be able to vote on issues such as health and education that affect England when English MPs have no power to vote on social and other policies that are devolved to the parliament in Edinburgh (and now also the assemblies in Cardiff and Belfast).
Because welfare issues are devolved, members of the Westminster parliament elected from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have no power to decide how these policies should affect their constituents; ironically, they can vote only on welfare issues as they affect constituencies in England.
One solution to this might be simply to have the same type of devolution for England as is already present for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. (Yes, I know that the arrangements for all three regions differ, but I’m just thinking in broad terms.) The trouble with that is that England has a population of 53 million as against Scotland’s five million, Wales’ three million and Northern Ireland’s 1.6 million. Quoting the same Guardian article by Joshua Rozenberg on the West Lothian question as above,
Vernon Bogdanor, research professor at the Institute of Contemporary British History at King’s College London, pointed out recently: “There is no federal system in the world in which one unit represents more than 80% of the population … Federations in which the largest unit dominated, such as the USSR, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, have not been successful.” He also points out that there would be little appetite for a new English parliament, separate from Westminster.
So maybe we could split England up into smaller electoral regions for the purpose of voting on English matters? It has been tried. Almost nobody wanted it. Only the proposed North East England Regional Assembly ever appeared to have anything like enough support for anyone even to bother putting it to a vote, and the proposal was decisively rejected. The main reason for that rejection was that voters saw it as just another layer of politicians and bureaucrats whose salaries and fancy offices would have to be paid for out of their taxes. A less well-articulated but still significant reason was the feeling that it was all a plot to Balkanize England hatched by the European Union and England’s oikophobic elite. Which it was, though probably not one made consciously. Yet another reason was that the proposed regions were cultivated in a petri dish and hatched from a test tube. Many have loved the north east of England but nobody has ever loved “North East England”. No poet has ever penned such stirring lyrics as “To arms, citizens! Will ye stand back when enemies imperil our Regional Unit?”
It is an attractive idea to bring back the traditional counties of England. It is also an attractive idea to dig up the body of the man who abolished them, Edward Heath, and stick his head on a pike, but that won’t happen either. The counties are just too small.
So if we are to have petty kingdoms, let them at least be kingdoms. Men have loved the Kingdom of Mercia. Men have died for the Kingdom of East Anglia – notably at the hands of men of Mercia, but there you go. Men of all the ancient nations of the Saxon have followed the greatest of the Kings of Wessex to glorious victory against the Vikings. Divide and conquer that, Eurocrats! Also it would serve the Vikings right for subjecting me to all those irritating pictorial instructions.
Sorry, Scotland, I’m afraid that the contemporary Kingdom of Strathclyde will not be restored to the full extent of its ancient holdings where they stretch into modern England. As in post-colonial Africa, for the avoidance of bloodshed the external borders established by the imperialism of the Kingdom of Alba must remain in place. Whether Scotland should restore its own ancient sub-kingdoms within its present borders is naturally a devolved matter.
Scotland votes NO fairly decisively. Oh well, I was looking forward to adding a new separate blog category for Scotland, but somehow I will weather the disappointment. And so former Maoist Alex Salmond warms Cameron to make good on the pledge for more devolution.
Indeed I think Scotland needs to be given full control over the share of the national budget, institutions and taxation powers within Scotland equal to their population, minus defence. And then they need to get not-a-penny from any other part of the UK. And the West Lothian Question must be answered properly this time: Scottish MPs (et al) need to have as much say in the affairs of England, other than in matters of collective defence, as MPs elected in Indonesia or Peru.
And whilst we are at it, we need London to devolve a great deal more political power to the rest of the UK so that they can screw up their own affairs themselves. But what we do not need is a new second tier of troughers looking to justify their existence in an English assembly.
All things considered, together we do pretty well in this very imperfect world.
I have many Scottish friends, both north and south of the border. My views have nothing to do with ethnicity, it is entirely about political culture. And if other Samizdatistas want to say why they want a NO vote, by all means do so.
I am of the view that English political culture has become steadily more toxic, hollowed out by multiculturalism and moral relativism, resulting in shocking incidents like the Rotherham scandal. Indeed the Tory party is hardly a conservative party at all, and is increasingly interchangeable with Labour and the LibDems. The mere fact the Tories chose David Cameron as leader tells you something about the state of the Stupid Party, a man unable to win an outright majority against probably the most inept, least charismatic and most spectacularly unsuccessful Labour Prime Minster since Harold Wilson. Yet the best Cameron could manage was a coalition.
But there are quite a few counter currents. The classical liberal tradition is not dead and buried, and it is by no means impossible to posit plausible scenarios in which the values of Cobden, Acton, Burke, Mandeville and… Adam Smith… and other followers of what Hayek called the “British Tradition” such as Montesquieu and de Tocqueville, once again informed a mainstream political movement. Those traditions of thought are not dead, they are just… waiting. At least in England.
But it has long seemed clear to me that as toxic as the political culture had become in England, it is even worse in Scotland.
And so my support for an independent Scotland is not because I do not think there are many fine classical liberals and other friends of genuine liberty north of the border, but rather there are just not enough of them. It is an exercise in ‘political triage’ on my part. Much as I would love to see Scotland once again embrace Adam Smith and Hume, I cannot see that happening any time soon. I may admire those willing to stay and fight for a better Scotland than the one they will get under the likes of Salmond, but I think it is a fight they cannot win.
And that is why I support Scottish independence. I see it as a gangrenous limb in need of political amputation, or we risk loosing everything it is attached to.
The Scotsman reports (emphasis added):
FORMER SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars has claimed there will be a “day of reckoning” for major Scottish employers such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life after a Yes vote.
Speaking from his campaign vehicle the “Margo Mobile”, Mr Sillars insisted that employers are “subverting Scotland’s democratic process” and vowed that oil giant BP would be nationalised in an independent Scotland.
Earlier this week, a number of banks, including Lloyds Banking Group and RBS, said they would look to move their headquarters south of the border in the event of a Yes vote.
Mr Sillars, who earlier this week claimed he and First Minister Alex Salmond had put their long-held personal differences behind them to campaign together for independence, also revealed that he would not retire from politics on 19 September but said he would be “staying in” if Scotland became independent.
He claimed there is talk of a “boycott” of John Lewis, banks to be split up, and new law to force Ryder Cup sponsor Standard Life to explain to unions its reasons for moving outside Scotland.
He said: “This referendum is about power, and when we get a Yes majority, we will use that power for a day of reckoning with BP and the banks.
“The heads of these companies are rich men, in cahoots with a rich English Tory Prime Minister, to keep Scotland’s poor, poorer through lies and distortions. The power they have now to subvert our democracy will come to an end with a Yes.”
He added: “BP, in an independent Scotland, will need to learn the meaning of nationalisation, in part or in whole, as it has in other countries who have not been as soft as we have forced to be. We will be the masters of the oil fields, not BP or any other of the majors.”
The most recommended comment on the Scotsman website is from someone called “Common Sensei”:
Who would want to live in a post Yes Scotland run by these scarey people?
Academics who cross them get phone calls to their employer.
Companies scared to speak out against them.
Business leaders scared to sign a No letter for fear of retribution.
Media outlets who tell the truth get vitriol thrown at them.
No campaigners shouted down and mobbed.
No campaigners scared to put No signs in their window.
Yesterday Salmond attacks the BBC about telling the truth about companies moving south, and today Ex SNP Deputy Leader Sillars (who shared a stage with Salmond this week) threatens companies who have dared to tell the truth about what would happen in a separate Scotland.
“a day of reckoning”.
It’s genuinely scary stuff, the SNP and yes camp makes Scotland appear like a wannabe soviet state or banana republic.
No wonder Salmond admires Putin…
It is perfectly possible to be in favour of Scottish independence and have views very unlike those of Mr Sillars. But, as Common Sensei said, this is not some random cybernat talking; it is the former deputy leader of the SNP.
I think Common Sensei is also right to say that No campaigners have some reason to be scared to put up signs. A few days ago the Times columnist Melanie Reid, herself a Scot living in Stirlingshire whatever the commenters denouncing her plain speech may think, wrote,
“Every roadside No poster in fields between my home and Glasgow has been vandalised, an unpleasant message of violence and denial of democracy.”
Such behaviour is certainly a common and bitter complaint in the comment threads of Scottish newspapers. My friend Niall Kilmartin, who up until a couple of days ago was happy to let Twitter pass him by, signed up simply to express his anger at the way that so many No posters in his area had been vandalised. He posted some pictures he took of smashed signs (all of them on private property) under the hashtag #vandalnats .
What’s the difference between Jim Davidson and Frankie Boyle?
One is reviled as a right-wing Tory and thus an obvious racist whilst the other is an ardent far-lefist whose jokes about black mentally handicapped babies are not racist but absolutely hilarious and the sign of comic genius.
– Samizdata commenter Lee
The comedian Jim Davidson has been described as a “throwback”. Criticisms that his style of humour cynically courts outrage are not confined to the politically correct. It takes a lot for me to feel sympathy for someone who jokes about rape victims.
I think what happened to him in 2013 qualifies as “a lot”. In fact a better description might be “kafkaesque”. Daniel Finkelstein writes in the Times (paywalled), regarding Davidson’s book No Further Action:
Perhaps the most fascinating part of the book was to read detailed accusations put to Davidson that couldn’t possibly be true: someone who claimed to have been assaulted in an upstairs bar of a place that doesn’t have an upstairs bar, or to have travelled with him in a gold-coloured Bentley that Davidson didn’t possess. Someone who said that they were assaulted at the London Palladium stage door and then, when that was disproved, said it was at the Slough Pavilion, which couldn’t have been right either.
Yet I think the most important aspect of the Davidson case is just how long the whole thing took. He spent the best part of a year waiting for the allegations to be dismissed.
It is hard not to warm to him as he tells of the strain he was under. The whole thing cost him hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost income and more in legal fees.
So we return to the justice of the Devil’s Mark and the extra teat.
Janet Daley, the expat US lady who has spent the past few decades writing about Britain, is none too keen on the idea of what is on offer from the Scottish National Party:
What Scotland would become is a kind of East Germany, sitting smack up against its prosperous English neighbour. There would be another flood of migrants heading South to escape the dead-end last redoubt of Old Labour, draining the Scottish economy of youthful talent and ambition. How long before they build a wall along the border?
Judging by the reaction of the City to the possibility of Scottish independence (falls in sterling, etc), people are getting worried. It should be noted, though, that for some time any Scot with a lot of ambition has tended to go abroad, given that the place is not a big country and smaller nations will often see their best and brightest, for a while anyway, head overseas for fame and fortune. My wife, who is from Malta, is an example (she hasn’t yet found a lot of fame and I am most annoyed she is not a billionaire yet).
Until this matter is resolved, and even for some time if it is, no major business will be comfortable about investing north of the border. Consider what happens if you have heavy borrowing in sterling, or have issued sterling-denominated shares and there is a risk of a big change, such as eventual euro membership. And look at the sort of people in the SNP with their leftist politics. Not a happy prospect. There is a free market tradition in Scotland, but it is nowadays very hard to find it.
I might as well add my two penny-worth on this issue (or whatever currency the Scots might end up using, Ed). Scottish independence is now a very real prospect, not just a distant one. There is a flurry of commentary in the media at the moment about how any divorce could be painful and bitter: rows about how to divide up responsibility for the National Debt; relocation of defence forces from Scotland; North Sea oil rights; EU and Nato membership (Scotland could arguably be kicked out of both and might not be able to reapply soon), etc. Boris Johnson, London’s mayor, has a bit of a weepie on the subject.
The classical liberal in me says that so long as Scottish people who want to be fully self-governining do so for broadly pro-freedom reasons, that is not at my expense and I wish the new, separate nation luck. I will, however, take a far less benign view if there is any nonsense from Edinburgh about how the evil South must pay it off, by shouldering all accumulated debts, or demanding continued financial disbursements from the rest of the UK, or controls over matters not in its purview any more. I feel no very great emotional attachment to Scotland these days (I am about one-fifth Scottish through my mother’s family), although I certainly do respect and admire the great contributions to human civilisation from Scotland, as demonstrated in this excellent book published a few years ago by Arthur Herman.
It is perhaps naive to think that an independent Scotland would take its cue from the pro-market traditions most gloriously established by the likes of Adam Smith and other figures in the Scottish Enlightenment. (The Adam Smith Institute has had smart things to say about an independent Scotland, by the way.) There is no reason in principle why that cannot happen, of course, but looking at the sort of political figures who are prominent in Scotland these days, the picture is not encouraging. Perhaps the Scots, free of the ability to blame London for their ills and forced to rely on their own resources, might experience independence as a bracing learning experience and an understanding of the need to be pre-enterprise will take hold. As long as SNP leader Alex Salmond is around, the prospects don’t look good. He comes across as a bit of a thug and a bit too pleased with himself.
A final thought: if the Scots do break free (will that mean lots of visa queues at the border? Ed) it could galvanise separatist movements in other parts of the world, such as in EU member states such as Italy (Lombardy) and Spain (Catalonia). And even in the US, Scottish-influenced parts of the country will take a closer look. When countries break up, it raises possibilities. The Scottish independence vote is not just a private matter for these islands.
A new study shows first-born children are more able and ambitious. So, why have we been ruled by a succession of younger siblings as prime ministers? So, why have we been ruled by a succession of younger siblings as prime ministers?
Because the able and ambitious go off to do something more interesting than tell the rest of us how to live our lives.
I mean seriously: where’s the sodding ambition in straining to reach a position that Gordon Fucking Brown managed to gain?
– Tim Worstall
Ben Macintyre argues in the Times that the proliferation of road signs that order, warn, chide, and harry drivers, not to mention giving involuntary Welsh and Gaelic language lessons to those navigating busy roundabouts, has become a danger in its own right. “We’ve lost our way when it comes to road signs”. I suppose that link should have been preceded by:
…but I thought it would be more fun to place the warning where it was too late for you to do anything about it.
Now, where was I? (as the actress said to the bishop coming on to the M6 from the A38(M)). Oh, that’s right. I did enjoy this exchange from the comments:
Sometimes I think there aren’t enough signs. Such as when negotiating an unknown town and directions to your destination just disappear. So you drive in circles until you pick up the relevant signs. I never have this problem in France.
I also never have this problem in France.
It is one of the many advantages of not going there.
When my father first went to France, he disregarded the road signs. He relied on his map and the fact that he was sitting in the turret of a tank.
Thirty years ago, a custody sergeant beneath Nottingham Magistrates Court told me (I was then a young solicitor and we were chatting as I waited for a client to be brought up from the cells) that there were many “honour killings” in the city but that his colleagues routinely accepted the families’ ludicrous explanations; e.g. that the girl had committed suicide by pouring paraffin on herself and setting herself alight. The detectives believed these deaths were murders, but feared their bosses would think them racists if they pursued the cases. So they let murderers walk free.
To my shame, I disbelieved him and called him a “racist”. He looked at me sadly and said “then you, young man, are part of the problem.” He was right. He was an honourable man who thought all lives of equal value. He was rightly disgusted at the true racism of holding these families to a lower standard of behaviour. I, fresh from my Marxist professors, had bought into political correctness. I was refusing to open my mind to a disturbing possibility that did not suit my world-view.
Twisting language and contorting truth to suit your political beliefs is not some game to amuse the semi-educated self-righteous. It has consequences; including those we now face in Rotherham and will probably face in other British towns. We need to face reality even when it doesn’t suit us and do the right thing regardless. Probably there will be some effort to do so now, but how long before the Guardian and its readers raise the cry of “racial harassment?”
– ‘Tom Paine‘ commenting on Samizdata.