Last Wednesday on the day we were all able to recall and acknowledge Armistice day, a small group of Conservative MPs asked their own Government how our National Union could be strengthened. Given how much unity existed during both World Wars this was a very suitable day for the debate. Sadly the reality is that our Government has been challenging the Union over the last 52 months since England along with Wales voted to depart from the EU while Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in the EU. The overall vote was very close with 52% of voters across the whole Union voted to Leave and 48% voted to remain. Sadly the Government ignored the more detailed aspects and indeed failed to adopt the need to come up with any alternatives to simply leaving without a deal or without any benefits. The added challenge which the Governments also seemed to have overlooked, partly because of the resignation of David Cameron, was what he had told Scotland during their Referendum campaign in 2014. By remaining part of the UK he told them, Scotland would remain in the EU. Now of course his promise that the Referendum would be for a lifetime ignored the fact that his EU promise would only last around 20 months.
The four Conservatives that asked the question to Alister Jack who is the Secretary of State for Scotland are Caroline Ansell, Ben Everitt, James Grundy and Simon Jupp. They all asked him
What steps his Department is taking to strengthen the Union
There were some secondary comments but this is the response from him.
The good news is I did bring this answer with me. This Government have always stressed the importance of the Union. The UK is a family of nations that shares social, cultural and economic ties that together make us far safer, more secure and more prosperous. As we have seen throughout the covid crisis, it is the economic strength of the Union and our commitment to the sharing and pooling of resources that has supported jobs and businesses throughout Scotland. It is the strength of our Union that will enable us to rebuild our economy following the crisis.
After all four MPs along with the Minister had satisfied themselves with a series of other very brief questions and answers that did not touch on the real issues facing the Union, two SNP MPs then asked additional questions. The first was Peter Wishart who asked this question
The Secretary of State is doing such a fantastic job of strengthening the Union that support for independence is at a historic high and has been at a sustained majority all year. Saying no to a majority in Scotland is only going to drive support for independence even higher. Apparently, he was only joking when he said that there would be no indyref for 40 years, just after John Major said that there would be two referendums in the next few years. The Secretary of State is renowned for his legendary wit and humour, but the Scottish people are not finding this democracy denial funny anymore. What is the difference between denying a majority in the Trump White House and denying a majority in the Scotland Office?
Sadly the response was not very credible but here it is
That is quite a tenuous link, but I will answer the question. To be quite simple, my belief is that we should stick to the referendum from 2014 and respect it. It was very clear—the SNP said it at the time —that it was a once-in-a-generation referendum. I do not believe that we should go into a process of neverendums, which are divisive, unsettling and bad for jobs in Scotland. We should respect democracy, and that is what I am doing—democracy that was handed out by the Scottish people in 2014.
Sadly this response and the second one to Philippa Whitford both indicated that the UK Government is not serious about resolving the challenge which faces our Union as has been the case for the last 52 months. The real challenge is what is going to happen in the next few days in the UK and then over the next few months in Scotland. Sadly it seems inevitable that if Britain does not lay down its demands to depart that Scotland will want to leave the UK. There are ways forward but our departure will prevent that as things currently stand.