Friday, May 29, 2015

First Post, An Introduction

Welcome to Hand's Across the Pond!

     This is a blog that will be dedicated to expression of views about the United Kingdom and its future from an American who has great admiration and respect for the country, its history, culture, peoples, and its special relationship with the United States.

      Some of you may know me from engaging on Twitter and Facebook on the referendum that occurred last last year, and on events since then, including the recent UK General Election, which produced an electoral triumph for the Scottish National Party (SNP), the party that advocates for Scotland to separate from the rest of Britain. It won 56 of Scotland's 59 seats in the House of Commons, leaving the three main pro-Union parties - Labour, Conservative, and the Liberal Democrats - with one Member of Parliament (MP) each.

      This of course, came only eight months after the referendum in which 55% of Scottish voters decided against the separation and for keeping the Union together on a record turn-out of nearly 85% of the electorate. However, 45% decided to opt for separation and to break up Britain, and the SNP successfully converted that 45% into votes for the General Election, which resulted in half - a slight majority - of voters voting for the SNP on a turn-out of 71%, and this translated into the SNP taking nearly all of Scotland's seats in the Commons.

      On the face of it, it would appear that the SNP represents all of Scotland, but this belies the fact that Scotland is a divided country - with another of half of voters not voting for the SNP. However, since that vote was largely split between the three main pro-Union parties, it meant that the party of separation was able to pull off its impressive victory.

     With this has come the feeling that Scottish independence is now all but inevitable, especially since the election also produced an unexpected Conservative Party parliamentary majority throughout the United Kingdom as a whole - the first in a generation - under Prime Minister David Cameron, who had previously governed in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. In Scotland, the Conservatives (a.k.a., the Tories) took 434,097 votes, which was an increase of 20,000 votes from the last General Election in 2010, but on a reduced share of 14.9%, resulting in them retaining their sole MP north of the Border.

      The narrative for the last 30-40 years has been that Scotland has had Tory governments it didn't elect, and now that Scotland has seemingly rejected all of the main UK parties for the SNP with a majority Conservative government running the whole of the UK, it has become easy to say that the end of the Union is upon us.

     There is no question that the situation does not present the best circumstances for the pro-Union parties and for the people in Scotland and throughout the UK as a whole who believe in the Union and wish for it to continue. However, to say that the end is inevitable may be premature. Again, despite winning nearly all of Scotland's parliamentary constituencies, the SNP secured only a razor-thin majority of the popular vote, and the party is still some way off from convincing a majority of voters to opt for separation, especially in light of the economic circumstances and question of whether an independent Scotland could be economically feasible.

     There is still a case to be made for keeping the UK together - economically, socially, and politically - and this blog will attempt to do its bit in doing that. On a personal level, I see the UK as a great country with a rich history and enormous potential going forward, and it would be an absolute tragedy to see it broken up. Yes, it is not perfect and has many faults, and it is also understandable that there is cynicism and dissatisfaction with the political system. However, too much is a stake to see the country break-up altogether.

     This blog will not try not to focus too much on the past referendum, for this will be the focus on my book on the three years of the referendum itself, which is currently in progress.

      What I hope to do here is discuss the current situation, including the politics and economics as it relates the UK and Scotland's place within it. There will also be discussion on the way forward for a Britain that appears to be heading down the road of federalism, and how such a system - far from weakening the Union, can actually serve to strengthen it as a lasting constitutional settlement. The problem with devolution thus far is that it has been asymmetrical and piecemeal - with seemingly little regard for how devolution in one part of the UK affects other parts, as well as the UK itself as a whole.

     A federal settlement decided by a convention or commission will, in my opinion, go a long way in bringing stability to a system that has so far gotten by on tradition, custom, and inertia.

      But of course, it will take more than a settlement on paper to ensure that Britain remains together. On this point, I also intend to discuss the UK as a social and cultural, as well as economic and political entity - with a focus on the institutions and people that make the UK what it is. The UK is greater than the sum of its constituent parts, and I hope that I can talk about how everyone from Shetland to Land's End contributes to British culture, society, and identity.

      Scotland voted decisively to maintain the Union. Now it is time to ensure that this decision stands and forge ahead with bringing Scotland and whole of the United Kingdom (including Scotland) together for a better future.

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