The English case for Union

British lion statue in front of a Union Jack

What vested interest have the English in the preservation of the United Kingdom?

Historically, England has won many battles against the French—Crecy, La Roche-Derrien, Poitiers, Agincourt, to name but some. Those battles were won despite English kings having to leave forces behind in the north to guard against opportunistic incursions by Scots. E.g. 1346, when a Scottish army marched south to eventual defeat at the Battle of Neville’s Cross; given what Edward III achieved with his curtailed forces, imagine what he might have achieved if he could have taken not only his northern armies with him, but a Scottish army too. The Angevin Empire might exist yet—and stretch to the Rhine (or the Volga). The point being, that if the lost opportunities of the past are not recognised, similar opportunities in the future risk being lost as well.

For centuries, English and Scottish kings have tried to nullify the respective threats from their borders; this was to some extent achieved with the amicable relations established between our James VI and England’s Elizabeth I. The shortcoming of convivial relations between leaders of separate countries is that the cordiality cannot be guaranteed to outlast the leaders themselves. Uniting the two countries obviates that issue.

While an independent England today need have no worries about invading Scottish armies, it will have to worry about a hostile SNP-run state.[1] A state that would seize every opportunity to act against England’s interests (just as the Republic of Ireland has proved a poor friend[2]) and cause mischief as part of any international institution it is allowed to join—one more vote against England in the UN, etc. Perhaps Sturgeon will even do a Merkel and invite the 3rd World in, many of whom will then flow south.

That since 1603 we are an island nation—a superb natural obstacle to any invader—is one of our greatest assets. E.g. at Corunna and Walcheren in 1809 and Dunkirk in 1940: instead of a defeated army run into the ground, our lads were evacuated to recover and fight again. If we had not been an island, Napoleon or Hitler would have rolled right over us, just as they rolled over every other nation except for Russia. Instead, we recovered most of our forces, and from the security of our island, were able to reassess what we were doing wrong, resolve, reinforce and re-equip, then go back at a time and place of our choosing. Not only today but for the foreseeable future, our surrounding seas and English Channel are a massive obstacle against any would-be invader;[3] and while there are currently no obvious potential invaders, no-one can know what the geopolitical situation will be in 100 years or 50 years or even in 10 years. (No-one anticipated WW1 becoming the slaughterhouse and destroyer of empires that it did, even in June 1914.[4])

Currently, the main threat to our borders is illegal immigrants. Again, our island affords us natural advantages: we need only ensure adequate coastal defences, which can be reduced as they go further north (no immigrants are rowing across the North Sea to the Orkneys). Unless an independent Scotland agrees similar immigration policies, a reduced England would be forced to the expense of building, maintaining and manning a substantial border barrier in addition to coastal defences. Certainly well within the resources of a reduced England—but why bother when all is needed is to extend existing coastal patrols & airport controls that we can share the cost of maintaining?

The British military was weakened by southern Ireland’s departure. Whereas in WW1, Ireland provided (without conscription) 206,000 servicemen,[5] in WW2 this was reduced to less than half (38,000 volunteered from NI and 43,000 from RoI). Our war against the U-boats was hampered by the loss of Ireland’s Atlantic ports—and airfields on Ireland’s west coast would have substantially improved the range and loiter time of our Coastal Command aircraft. Ireland gave us our greatest general with Wellington—who knows what other military genius we are missing with RoI gone? The loss of Scotland will not break the English military but it will weaken it, even more than the loss of southern Ireland: unlike Ireland/Northern Ireland where it was too politically sensitive to introduce conscription in either war or National Service post-war, there has never been a problem with conscription in Scotland—a decent reserve of manpower, if needed.[6]

The field of Gommecourt is heaped with the bodies of Londoners; the London Scottish lie at the Sixteen Poplars; the Yorkshires are outside Serre; the Warwicks lie in Serre itself; all the great hill of the Hawthorn Ridge is littered with Middlesex; the Irish are at Hamel, the Kents on the Schwaben, and the Wilts and Dorsets on the Leipzig. Men of all the counties and towns of England, Wales and Scotland lie scattered among the slopes from Ovillers to Maricourt. English dead pave the road to La Boisselle, the Welsh and the Scotch are in Mametz. In gullies and sheltered places, where wounded could be brought during the fighting, there are little towns of the dead of all these places: ‘Jolly young Fusiliers, too good to die.’ Masefield, John. The Battle of the Somme. London: Heinemann, 1919. 94–95. Print.It is often difficult to find any achievement or sacrifice, success or failure, that is wholly Scottish or English or anything else; it is nearly always a joint effort. For a random example, Al Murray in one of his Pub Landlord routines: ‘You say Bannockburn, I say Culloden.’ He is wrong in thinking Culloden a counterpart to Bannockburn: it was the final battle of a British civil war, a dynastic struggle, with Scots, English (with enough English Jacobites to form a ‘Manchester Regiment’) and Irish on both sides (something of a Scottish civil war, many of the Scots fighting for Hannover being the Protestant, more urbanised Lowlanders versus the rural, Catholic Highlanders). Or there is one of Britain’s—if not the world’s—greatest political philosophers, John Stuart Mill, born in London to a Scottish father and English mother. Arguing over whether Mill is Scottish or English is a hiding to nothing. As Aristotle wrote, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’.[7]

There is also the loss of prestige that a reduced England would suffer. We weathered the loss of Southern Ireland—as far as the world was concerned, we had just defeated three major world powers (Germany, Austro-Hungary and the Ottomans), considerably expanded our Empire (at German and Ottoman expense), and Ireland was not granted complete independence but rather dominion status, and it could reasonably be presumed the Irish Free State would become as loyal as the Union of South Africa had, despite the bitter war we had fought against the Boers. But there are no such distractions now: a reduced England would stand disgraced before the world, a nation unable to maintain its own territory and borders—in the face of a majority of the surrendered territory’s inhabitants being loyal and even its disloyal minority being entirely passive, not exploding a single bomb or firing a single bullet or even throwing a single brick. (N.b. One of the factors contributing to Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands in 1982 was the announced withdrawal of HMS Endurance, as this was thought to portend a lack of commitment to defending the islands. If withdrawing a ship armed with only two 20mm cannon can cause a war, what would surrendering loyal territory without a shot being fired do?)

Only defeated countries cede territory: thus France ceded Alsace-Lorraine after losing the Franco–Prussian War; and Austria-Hungary was split up and Germany ceded territory after they lost WW1; and Germany ceded still more territory after losing WW2; and the USSR ceded territory with the collapse of Soviet authority after losing the Cold War. Has Britain lost a war?

One can also reasonably wonder how long an independent England would remain intact. There are already calls from Cornwall,[8] Yorkshire,[9] Wessex[10] and now London[11] for devolution and/or independence. Scotland becoming independent will only encourage and strengthen the various separatist movements.[12]

Finally, there are constitutional consequences arising from the loss of Scotland: the Act of Union (Ireland) 1800 that united Ireland with Great Britain is the legal basis for Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom. However, while the Act of Union 1707 united the parliaments of England and Scotland, the Act of Union 1800 united the parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland; if Great Britain ceases to exist, the Act of Union 1800 ceases to have effect, and Northern Ireland would de jure, if not de facto, no longer be under British rule. That will matter little to English separatists, some of whom make common cause with Irish Republicans; but few patriots will easily see Northern Ireland lost, and the deaths of over 720 British servicemen and women wasted.

Of course the majority of ordinary English are as steadfast and loyal as ever; but it is disturbing that there are increasingly vocal separatist elements in England (as with Scotland, their vocalness is in inverse proportion to their numbers), and even amongst the political elite, e.g. journalist Simon Heffer,[13] author Roger Scruton,[14] and career politicians who would make short-term political advantage of gerrymandered constituency boundaries in England to ensure Conservative Party success to the long-term detriment of the nation.

It is as much to the advantage of the English as it is to the Scots and Welsh that our island remain united as one nation. It’s our island: fight for it.

WW1 recruiting poster: It’s Our Flag. Fight for it. Work for it.

Endnotes

[1] The corrupt SNP, as they showed with rigging the electorate as far as they could get away with for the 2014 Referendum, would do their utmost to contrive any constitution of an independent Scotland to ensure their nearly perpetual rule.

[2] The Irish Government interfered with Britain’s fight against IRA terrorism by dragging us to the ECHR in The Republic of Ireland v The United Kingdom: ECHR 18 Jan 1978. Despite us helping to bail the RoI out(*) in 2010, their government asked the ECHR to reopen the aforementioned case in 2014. Now the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny backs charging UK for leaving the EU. (* ‘Bilateral loan to Ireland: legislation and credit facility agreement’ documents (HM Treasury); ‘Bilateral loan to Ireland’ collection (HM Treasury))

[3] The Lockheed C5M SuperGalaxy, of which the USAF has 52, can carry two 61-tonne Abrams main battle tanks, while the Boeing C17 Globemaster can carry one. Impressive—however, e.g., the US 1st Armored Division has 159 Abrams MBTs, along with 173 Bradley MICVs, 36 M109 155mm SPGs, 18 MLRSs, 30 Avenger air defence systems, plus 49 helicopters; an armoured division cannot feasibly be deployed by air—certainly not into contested airspace. (1st Armored Division Association. 1st Armored Division: WWII & Beyond: the History, the Stories, the People. Nashville: Turner, 2005. 19. Print.)

[4] Two days before the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and 39 days before Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm’s health was being toasted by Royal Naval officers on his visit to the British fleet at Kiel.

[5] 134,202 for army alone: War Office. Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire During the Great War, 1914–1920. 1922. 363. Print.

[6] The War Office’s 1922 Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire during the Great War contains the following table:
Table: Population, and Recruiting for the Army in the Empire.
As percentages of both total and male populations, Scottish recruitment to the army compares favourably to that of England and Wales (marginally worse than England with 0.07%/0.31% fewer and slightly better than Wales with 0.54%/2.19% more). Ireland, however, provided noticeably fewer to the war effort in terms of percentages of available population.
Note that the English figure will include recruitment to units such as the London Scottish, London Irish Rifles, Liverpool Scottish, Liverpool Irish, Tyneside Scottish and Tyneside Irish.

[7] As a further example, there is that iconic model of Victorian engineering, the Forth Bridge.
Forth Bridge under construction, 1888
When I journeyed up to Scotland a few days ago, travelling on the Highland Express over that magnificent structure, the Forth Bridge, that monument to Scottish engineering and Scottish muscle …
Richard Hannay, delivering an impromptu address to a Scottish audience. (The 39 Steps. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, performances by Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll, Gaumont, 1935.)
Fine words, and no harm in them; but not really true. The Forth Bridge, was initiated by our North British Railway, who formed the Forth Bridge Railway Company to build it—this being composed of the North British Railway, along with England’s Midland Railway, North Eastern Railway and Great Northern Railway. Its design was by Yorkshireman John Fowler and Somersetian Benjamin Baker. Construction was headed by Englishmen Sir Thomas Tancred and Joseph Philips, Irishman Travers Falkiner and the Scottish Sir William Arrol; the actual construction work was carried out by mainly Scots and Irish.

Even our famous local regiments tended to have a smattering of ‘foreigners’—Scots in English regiments, English in Scottish, etc. E.g. the famous Welsh victory at Rorke’s Drift was not quite that Welsh: ‘Of the 122 soldiers of the 24th Regiment [later titled the ‘South Wales Borderers’] present at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, 49 are known to have been of English nationality, 32 were Welsh, 16 were Irish, 1 was a Scot, and 3 were born overseas. The nationalities of the remaining 21 are unknown.’ (Holme, Norman. The Noble 24th: Biographical Records of the 24th Regiment in the Zulu War and the South African Campaigns. London: Savannah, 1999. 383. Print.)

That said, how ‘foreign’ were these various ‘foreigners’? How did Norman Holme define nationality? Were his ‘49 … of English nationality’ actually English, or merely born there of Welsh parents? Such questions, of human interest but minor consequence to Britons, assume otherwise unmerited importance when separatists deny the contributions of brother nations.

[8]Mebyon Kernow … a progressive left-of-centre party in Cornwall … is leading the campaign for the creation of a National Assembly for Cornwall …’
Campaign for a Cornish Assembly
‘This week, a shadowy militant group calling itself the Cornish National Liberation Army allegedly threatened these two celebrity chefs in Cornwall, suggesting that their presence is not welcome.’ (Hicks, Nigel. “Cornish independence is back on the menu.” Daily Telegraph. 15 Jun. 2007. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.)

[9] ‘The Yorkshire Party is a progressive political party … We call for a Yorkshire Assembly (with real powers similar to Scotland) …’
‘The Yorkshire Devolution Movement … set up in 2012 to campaign for a directly elected regional parliament for Yorkshire.’

[10] ‘The Wessex Regionalists – the party for Wessex … are a progressive, party believing in social, economic and environmental justice. We campaign for a minimum of devolution for Wessex, with the same powers passed to a Wessex Assembly as those devolved to Scotland.’

[11] “Petition for London independence signed by thousands after Brexit vote.” BBC. 24 Jun. 2016. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.

[12] ‘[T]he Free North Campaign … want the North of England to become an independent socialist republic where economic and political power is decentralised to a regional, community, industry and workplace level.’ Note also how the assorted separatist movements inspire and promote each other.

[13] Heffer writes that ‘in the early 1990s … I detected a movement in Scotland that would demand Home Rule’. Given that the SNP were founded in 1934, won their first seat in 1967 and had previously (and wrongly) thought to have been on the cusp of victory when gaining 30.45% of the vote (22.78% of the electorate) in the October 1974 General Election, Heffer could not be said to have his finger on the pulse of Scottish politics. He continues: ‘One reason I regard Gladstone as one of our greatest leaders is that he realised … the impossibility of coercing Ireland … and since the notion of English troops enforcing the Union on the streets of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen was unthinkable, it occurred to me that they had better have [Home Rule].’ With Irish separatists killing and planting bombs in England from the 19th Century onwards (Manchester policeman murdered in 1867; 1867 Clerkenwell Bombing; The Fenian Dynamite campaign 1881-85), and bombing Coventry before Göring, it is little short of retarded to compare the Irish issue with the Scottish, who have been quiescent since 1746 (and even then more Jocks fought for the King than for the Pretender). While our current batch of separatists embarrass Scotland by their existence, they remain a minority, albeit a substantial one, and limit themselves to mainly verbal abuse (the worst physical act they have done is throw water at people). And in the face of this fairly pathetic minority, Heffer wants to throw in the towel. Cowardice, thy name is English separatism.

Furthermore, our military are subject to the same Common Law obligations as all other British subjects to act in aid of the Civil Power when called upon (see “Operations in the UK: The Defence Contribution to Resilience.” Joint Doctrine Publications 02 (2nd Edition). Sep. 2007. Web.) Having a fit of the vapours at the prospect of a few squaddies on our streets is beyond silly. While putting troops on Scotland’s streets is ‘unthinkable’ to Heffer, we have done so before without the skies falling, and our nation remains intact.

With regard to Ireland, although the 1918 election notoriously saw Ireland’s electoral map painted green, examining the election results in detail is revealing:
Irish votes in 1918 as share of their electorate
Irish nationalists obtained votes from only 36% of the electorate, with almost half of Ireland’s electorate not voting. If we had held a referendum on Irish independence—presenting the Irish electorate, as the Scots were in 2014, with a single question of remaining with or separating from Britain, divorced from party baggage and complicated manifestoes, and where every vote counted—we would definitely have won if requiring a ‘supermajority’ to vote for independence; and could well have won on a simple majority of vote cast. We let down many loyal Irish by leaving as we did.

[14] Link is to a February 2014 interview on BBC Radio 4, where Scruton declared:
Scruton’s words, with background of the ignominious surrender of British troops at Singapore, February 15, 1942.
Separation ‘strengthening the friendship between our countries’? One hopes that he never becomes a marriage counsellor: ‘The only way to save your marriage is to divorce.’ Had he ever descended from academia’s ivory towers to enlist, he might have coined that infamous line: ‘We had to destroy the village in order to save it.’ As for, ‘It was thanks to independence that the Americans were able at last to confess to their attachment to the old country …’, he seems ignorant of the War of 1812. Since the 1783 Treaty of Paris ended hostilities between the American rebels and Britain, the new nation was in a virtual Cold War with Britain until ‘The Great Rapprochement’ at the end of the 19th Century. Apart from the ‘Hot’ War of 1812, it almost went hot again on other occasions:
Lyman Cutlar touches off Pig War between U.S. and Great Britain on June 15, 1859.’:

The shooting ignites a long-simmering dispute between the United States and Great Britain over ownership of the San Juans, as both nations send troops to occupy the island. The hostile forces face each other for more than 10 years from camps on opposite ends of the island before the dispute is settled[.]

The Trent Affair, 1861’:

Although British officials continued to advocate a policy of neutrality, they did order troops to Canada and additional ships to the Western Atlantic. Neither the United States nor Great Britain wanted war, but it was clear that, at best, the Trent incident had sparked a major diplomatic disagreement and, at worst, appeared to have pushed Great Britain and the United States toward the potential for armed conflict.

Venezuela Boundary Dispute, 1895–1899’:

[I]n December 1895, President Grover Cleveland asked Congress for authorization to appoint a boundary commission, proposing that the commission’s findings be enforced “by every means.” Congress passed the measure unanimously and talk of war with Great Britain began to circulate in the U.S. press.

For further reading, see: Tuffnell, Stephen. “ ‘Uncle Sam is to be sacrificed’: Anglophobia in late nineteenth-century politics and culture.” American Nineteenth Century History, vol. 12, no. 1, 2011, 77–99. Web.
Since then, the ‘Special Relationship’ has been rather one-sided, from the US’s shutting Britain out of the Atomic Bomb programme, to refusing to extradite IRA terrorists or shut off IRA funding from NORAID. The Suez stab in the back was a prime example, when the US opted to side with an Egyptian dictator over their allies, Britain and France, a mere 3 years after all three had fought side by side in Korea and barely ten years after fighting against Germany and Japan.

So, in summary, Scruton advocates at least 110 years of Cold War between an independent Scotland and England with at least one Hot War, followed by a ‘special relationship’ where Scotland helps England when perceiving advantage in it, and stabs England in the back when perceiving advantage in that, while tolerating and funding English terrorists.

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2 thoughts on “The English case for Union

    1. Thanks for your compliment.

      I am afraid the entire political scene in Britain is dire—Golgafrinchams endlessly arguing about what colour the latest cack we’re plastering on the outside of the wheel should be. If you want to see a Brit vacillate between rabbit-caught-in-headlights and shocked-at-social-faux-pax impressions, just suggest ‘Hey x is really performing badly, why don’t we reverse those changes and go back to when x was working okay, better than it is now anyway?’

      I really don’t understand why I find so many English giving up on the Union, even after the Brexit victory. Although there are some Americans of similar mindset in respect of ‘Calexit’, e.g. this Townhall article from John Hawkins: ‘Liberals Want California to Secede? Godspeed, Libs…’ Hawkins is lightweight but he’s still a ‘conservative’, yet he’s willing to throw nearly 4½ million Trump-voting Republicans—including conservative luminaries like Bill Whittle and Mark Dice—under the bus without a fight? And on our side of the pond, there’s a fair few English Brexiteers ready to throw in the towel to a party representing barely a quarter of Scotland’s electorate and whose most extreme supporters rarely throw even a punch (bless their cotton socks, as irritating as they are on social media, they smash teacakes not kneecaps).

      I can’t remember how I discovered reactionary thought—one of those internet things. Following one link after another and then one day, there it was: Unqualified Reservations [cue heavenly choir and ethereal light]. ‘Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.

      I like your essays, btw, but I’m still learning about the reactionary scene and have yet to find another angle so that I can contribute something better to your posts than endless ‘Hey, good article’-type comments.

      Like

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