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Henry Hill Red, White and Blue

Henry Hill: McLeish supports the Union - but not if it includes Conservatives

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.

Henry McLeish supports the Union - but not if it includes Conservatives

Henry McLeish, formerly Labour First Minister of Scotland, has claimed that with “Tory extremism” in control south of the border Scots might reach the ‘tipping point’ they need to vote for independence.

The tone of his contribution is very much “a Labour Britain, or none”, with the idea of having to accept being outvoted by other members of a larger polity an unacceptable state of affairs. In line with this thinking, he condemns the ‘discredited’ Westminster system and opines that a Tory majority is the “nightmare scenario” that might push Scots into voting against the union. Following that logic, he has called on Labour to withdraw from the ideologically impure Better Together campaign.

Coming from a self-identifying unionist, that position is scarcely tenable.

The fact that Scotland may well end up sometimes seeing a British government that didn’t win a plurality in Scotland (very possibly a Conservative government, even) is a fact of the Union. The legitimacy of a government elected on a pan-UK vote to govern reserved matters in Scotland is something that anybody who purports to oppose independence (as does McLeish) has not only to accept but to argue for in public debate.

The essence of union is the pooling of sovereignty and yes, that means that sometimes ‘you’ (whichever smaller collective you identify with) will lose out. Selling this notion is the big challenge that might throw unionist politics into McLeish’s supposed ‘crisis’.

McLeish, on the other hand, takes a different tack. The rules for his fantasy-land, hyper-conditional unionism are simple: no cooperation with the Conservatives in Scotland, and no Conservative governments in London – or else. His approach to the knotty issue of persuading Scots of the legitimacy of institutions shared by people with different inclinations is not to attempt persuasion at all, but instead attempt to wish those differing inclinations out of the picture.

Labour being part of Better Together is nothing less than a concession of the blindingly obvious: that maintaining the Union involves sharing a house (whether a campaign or a country) with Conservatives. If McLeish can’t reconcile himself to that, the utopian-socialist wing of the nationalist movement would doubtless be happy to have him.

Villiers rules out lengthy ban on Northern Ireland parades

The Northern Ireland Secretary was responding to a call made by the chairman of the Police Federation, Terry Spence, after 56 police officers were injured in Belfast during a loyalist protest at a republican march.

Although sympathetic to the position of the police, Villiers claimed that a lengthy ban was ‘not viable’. The idea of a ban was support by the SDLP but the DUP, TUV and the chairman of the Parades Commission all opposed it.

Andrew Marr warns against ‘Anglophobia’ and recrimination in referendum campaign

Returning to public life after a period of convalescence following a stroke, Andrew Marr told a Scottish audience to be careful of anti-English sentiments gaining a platform during the campaign.

By way of an example, he highlighted the treatment dished out to Nigel Farage, claiming that UKIP’s ambition to get the UK out of the EU is not so different to the SNP’s desire to lead Scotland out of the Union.

“But your neighbour's nationalism is always toxic and xenophobic and your nationalism is always good”, he continued, highlighting the double-standard that sometimes appears to operate between British and Scottish nationalists.

Although he affirmed that he would choose a Scottish passport over a British one in the event of separation, Marr’s return to the stage was dubbed by the Independent as ‘bad news for Alex Salmond’. Despite this, he posed tough questions for British policymakers about the extent to which they comprehend the consequences of losing the campaign – a prospect he judges more likely than Nate Silver supposes.

After four decades, two suspects arrested for loyalist murder

The PSNI have arrested two men in connexion with the 1973 murder of eighteen-year-old Seamus Gilmore, who was gunned down whilst working at a north Belfast petrol station by men believed to be from loyalist terror group the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

One suspect, 59, was arrested in Falkirk whilst a 61-year-old was picked up in London, and they are being questioned in Glasgow and London respectively.

Yes Scotland call police over potential email hack

The campaign for Scottish independence suspects it has been hacked, after receiving press enquiries which appear to be based on private correspondence.

Yes Scotland first called in BT, who examined the suspect account and produced a printout which apparently shows the account being accessed multiple times from an IP address not associated with the organisation. In light of that information, they have made a complaint to the police.

Although they do not claim to know who is behind the possible attack, and not levelling accusations at anybody, Yes Scotland claimed not to believe that a former employee is responsible.


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