December 8, 2011


Whitehall's own Scottish nationalist (Gerald Warner, 10 December 2011, The Spectator)

The notion of Scotland being reoriented as a 'Scandinavian' country, at the expense of links with England, the Commonwealth and Europe, is odd enough; but stranger still is the revelation this week that the plan -- part of a massive 'Prospectus for Independence' -- is being put together by a branch of the UK civil service. These servants of the Crown have been tasked by Alex Salmond with selling separatism to the electorate, in advance of an independence referendum. For Scots it was a shock, but not a surprise. This is only the latest demonstration of how what ought to be part of the British government machine has been made an instrument of separatist propaganda.

This subversive scenario was never supposed to happen. The architects of devolution designed it on the premise of a seamless United Kingdom administrative structure, with the head of the Scottish Executive's civil service reporting to the Cabinet Secretary in Whitehall. The political masters might come and go, but the government machine would remain unionist. All such safeguards are failing in Scotland, to the bewilderment of Westminster. It was supposed to be impossible for the SNP to command an overall majority in Holyrood, thanks to the proportional representation system; unthinkable that Scottish Labour and the Scottish Tories would collapse in the way both have done.

Yet even Alex Salmond must be taken aback by arguably the least expected development: that Scotland's most senior civil servant, an Englishman, would apparently reinvent himself as a separatist. The seemingly partisan conduct of Sir Peter Housden, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Executive, is becoming a scandal -- and one with profound implications for British politics. Lord Forsyth, the last Tory Scottish Secretary, raised this in parliament two months ago, asking why the head of the Scottish Civil Service could advise officials to go to see a play depicting an English army of occupation in 11th-century Scotland on the grounds that it 'does genuinely speak to our present condition as a nation'.

There is no Britain.

Posted by at December 8, 2011 4:59 AM

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