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Henry Hill Red, White and Blue

Henry Hill: Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales welcome their future sovereign

Henry Hill is a British Conservative and Unionist activist and writer. Follow Henry on Twitter. He is also editor of the non-party website Open Unionism, which can be followed on Twitter here.

Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales welcome their future sovereign

Despite much American news coverage apparently forgetting that they existed, politicians from the UK’s devolved administrations have, for the most part, welcomed the news of the birth of the new prince.

Alex Salmond, who publicly claims to support the continuation both of the Scottish monarchy and the union of the crowns if he wins the independence referendum, described himself as “absolutely thrilled” at the news. His congratulations join those of many other Scottish figures, including Ruth Davidson, Anas Sarwar, and church figures. Public and military officials in Edinburgh apparently restrained themselves from making a fuss, which is a pity.

In Northern Ireland the news was, predictably, greeted with less unanimity. Big-R Republican Martin McGuinness joining such small-r republicans as the leader of the Green Party in extending his best wishes to “all parents and new babies born today”. SDLP MLA Conall McDevitt struck a similar tone: “Many thousands born today will someday share their birthday with a King.”

Amongst the traditionally-royalist Protestant and unionist sections of the province, things were much less equivocal. The difference in emphasis is perhaps best exemplified by Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who hammered home that “a Prince and future King of our United Kingdom is born”. First Minister Peter Robinson, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and NI21’s John McCallister all offered the Duke and Duchess their best wishes.

Edward Stevenson, Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, was particularly fulsome: “The new-born’s arrival will be celebrated across the whole of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and indeed the wider world.

“Today’s announcement will be met with great joy particularly here in Northern Ireland, where the Royal family is held in such high esteem and unrivalled affection. Members of the Orange fraternity around the globe, including the Republic of Ireland, will also be heartened by this magnificent news.”

My thoughts go out to the Republic of Ireland’s royalists, whoever they may be.

In line with recent tradition, Northern Ireland marked the royal birth with a flag dispute. Due to being governed by different legislation, Belfast City Hall flew the Union Flag to mark the occasion whilst Stormont, home to the Northern Ireland Assembly, did not. The former is subject to guidelines set by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport whilst the latter is governed by a piece from legislation from 2000. Happily, riots were avoided and Stormont is apparently looking to review its own flag-flying rules.

With the inevitable exception of Plaid’s republican leader Leanne Wood, the news was warmly received by the Duke and Duchess’s “adopted homeland”, with both Welsh Secretary David Jones and First Minister Carwyn Jones offering their congratulations. Yet neither of them topped the generosity of Anglesey’s Asda, which has gifted the royal couple with a specially-reserved royals-only parking space and in so doing offered perhaps the strangest commentary on how the younger generation of royals are adapting to modernity.

SNP woo oil companies whilst downplaying their importance to Scotland's post-Union future

Yet despite the happiness over the birth, politics doesn’t stop. The SNP have marked the latest step towards 2014 by producing a paper outlining what they envision to be the role of North Sea oil in the future of an independent Scotland.

The future of the resource, and its centrality to post-Union Scottish government finance, is hotly contested. For many nationalists oil is a foundation stone of independence, whether as simply an alternative to current UK investment or the key a golden, Scandinavian future, where a Nordic-style social state coexists without growth-choking taxation due oil revenues. The emotive cry of “It’s Scotland’s oil!” has long been prominent in the nationalist hymn sheet.

Yet with North Sea extraction on the wane and fossil fuels going out of fashion, the idea of an independent Scotland dependent on oil taxation to maintain even current spending is less palatable than once it was. So the idea of selling oil as a ‘bonus’ to Scotland must be appealing – it downplays the risks of having a resource-dependent economy whilst keeping the promise of oil riches to lure voters towards separation.

Yet the Treasury have issued a “detailed rebuttal” which claims that Salmond’s estimates are 12 times those of the Office of National Statistics, whilst others have accused him of conflating the total worth of the remaining oil under the North Sea with the amount that the Scottish government will see in tax revenue.

That oil will be vital to an independent Scotland’s immediate prospects was further confirmed, in another blow to those who see independence as the vehicle for a radical new left-wing alternative to British government, by the new plans the SNP announced alongside their paper. These include an ‘open door’ to government, advance warning of any relevant legislation, and the promise of no tax increases.

PSNI prepare for ‘Northern Ireland’s Olympics’

Northern Ireland is gearing up for its largest ever sporting event, as over 7,000 competitors from across the world converge on the province to take part in the World Police and Fire Games. Entrants are serving and retired police and fire officers from 67 countries. PSNI officers taking part in the games (over 700 of them) are being given three days paid leave to do so.

The PSNI have also announced they will not be throwing a ‘ring of steel’ around the event, despite recent violence over Twelfth of July parades and the ever-present threat of dissident Republican terrorism. Despite weeks of off-putting news reports there have apparently been no cancellations, although several contestants have requested that their names and pictures not be used by the media when reporting the events in which they are competing, citing safety concerns.


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