Division or an (imperfect) unity?

Just over 200 years ago, (in 1798) my namesake Henry Monro was hanged in front of his house in Lisburn, Northern Ireland for his support of a united Ireland. Son of a Presbyterian father and Anglican mother, he was a regular attender at Lisburn Cathedral. He was also on very good terms with local catholics, and they all often attended services in the Cathedral and the local Chapel, for Communion or Mass. He was highly respected for this, and his stance that Ireland should be united with ALL religions playing their part in governing it. This was to be his un-doing as he was a temporary Commander in the United Irishmen and was entrapped and summarily tried and executed.

Fortunately they have moved-on and, whilst still divided by a nominal line on a map, much co-operation has been achieved amongst the various factions. They have learned to forgive (if not forget) their history, and have seen that a political and social life is possible even when differing political viewpoints are seen. I think there are very few people there who would want to return to the divisions of the past, and one has to commend them highly for this.

Scotland has had a simmering element of Nationalism since the 1930s and almost a decade ago, power was achieved by them at Holyrood. There was an immediate and worrying sense of division in the populace; for and against independence from the rest of the UK. This was seen to be an ill-founded desire as in 2014 the populace voted quite strongly, and rightly in my opinion, to remain within the UK, and be politically attached. The SNP Government has steadfastly and stubbornly refused to accept this message, and appear to want to have another ‘once in a lifetime’ referendum. Nothing positive or constructive has come from all the discussions held at the time, but this idea of ‘Independence or Bust’.  Increasingly, time is taken up in the press, and Holyrood about trivial, or highly-controversial proposals, which have increased the deep-seated divisions in our society. I have seen nothing which could be seen as unifying this nation, of which I am proud to have been a part for over 50 years. It seems to be that there is even a fear growing about declaring one’s affinity for UK unity. The fact that it has worked pretty-well for over 300 years seems to hold no importance in the minds of those who want to divide. Even with increasing powers given to them recently, it has still to be proved whether or not they can handle the responsibility of ruling for ALL the people of a country.

Lady of the House, and I have just returned from visiting our Dutch friends from Limburg, in the Netherlands. Whilst they are definitely Dutch, they are only minutes from the German border, and are very close to Belgium and Luxembourg. They very kindly took us round to see as much of these countries as possible. We were treated by all we met with extreme courtesy, interest, and enquiries about why Scotland would want to separate from England, and why the UK would want to cease its involvement in the political life of the European Union. It was only for a short stay, but I sensed a group of people who had become used to each other. It is indeed a Union of many diverse countries, cultures, languages, religions, beliefs, histories, and political agendas, and yet they have each handed-over some of their powers to a central administration, in the interest of ‘togetherness’.  Like the USA, it is a family, with all the expected frictions, disagreements, and name-calling which appear within almost all situations where people come together. You never get everything you want, but it is a great lesson in realising that others have a right to be heard, and their opinion might well be more useful than yours. I voted for Ted Heath’s Common Market in the ’70s, and I don’t think we all knew that it would develop so far. It has, however, and we are where we are. Life and time are one and the same thing, a bit like the flow of a river. Reversal is not possible in either concept, and I believe that we must continue to move on or end up in a back-water (to continue the analogy). Even with the various problems with which it is beset, it is vital to be there, using our experience at the political table to continue to modify it for the better, instead of being ineffectively on the side-lines.

As if to indicate a confirmation of my views, Lady and I attended a Concert by the RSNO a few days ago, and the final piece was Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, called ‘Ode to Joy’, and the music was sung to words written in 1785 by Schiller.

The music was chosen in January 1972, by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to be the European Anthem of the EU. The words, being German, have no international status, but it is true that they do hold part of the answer to mankind and his dealings with others.

Let’s not be known as the generation which threw out the EU with the bathwater of our complacency about what it has achieved. For two generations, in Europe we have had relative peace.

Let’s be happy about that, because there are a lot of possible friends out there!

 

 

True Independence…fact or fiction?

At one time, I think politics was simple….or at least simpler than it is now…..

I obviously can’t really comment on the era of the Whigs and the Tories, as they were only presented to me on the shiny pages of my history school books, so I can only relate to the mid-20th, and early 21st Century.

Basically it would start with our parents, and where they felt they were in the pecking-order of life. If you were in the upper echelons of employment or had a ‘profession’, you could be thought of as being ‘Conservative’. This was presumably that you wanted to retain the status quo. If you had dirty fingernails or had a ‘trade’, working for an employer, you believed in the concept of ‘collective negotiation’ to get better working conditions. You might well follow your parents’ choice, and wives might have followed their husbands…but not now methinks!

It was really as simple as that. You voted for the candidate whom you thought would help to fulfil your aspirations….one, or the other.

We were each part of a community, Local Council, United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Nations, Eventually were added the Western Alliance, NATO, European Union (originally called the Common Market), United Nations, O.P.E.C, and numerous others. The discussions and decisions to join these were mostly taken at Government level, with little or no input from the population at large. The exception which I remember was Ted Heath’s Common Market populist vote, which took us into what is, today, something quite different to what we voted-for.

So we were inextricably joined in a criss-crossing network of nations, striving to reach voluntary compromises,,..not perfect…but which allowed even the smallest of nations to have their say on the world stage.

There were other groupings of course, such as the great Russian empire, which started to crumble, when some of the nations wanted to break-away, with subsequent terrible violence, atrocities, and bloodshed. The opposite also occurred in places like the USA, and Italy which were properly formed as great nations, when all the warring areas handed-over some of their status to a greater centralised power to provide unity. Again, not perfect, but better together.

The decisions made in Great Britain to become part of each of these power-blocs were often passed across party lines, as it was realised the benefits of strength in unity. All the conflicting evidence for and against couldbe calmly analysed and assessed by all the experts involved, before a final decision would be taken in Parliament. They were therefore not part of electioneering every four years.

So let us get one thing straight. Almost NO country is ‘independent’. We all rely on other countries for our world-wide defence systems, rescue services, oil, raw materials, trade (both ways), places for holidays, breathing spaces to allow our over-worked environment to recover etc. We are not independent, we are all MORE inter-dependent than we ever have been!

We need to be at peace with our (world-wide) neighbours. If we do not get-along together, we will all fail together!

……..But politics and the Party system are now much more complex. The old walls of Boss v Working Man, have been greatly disfigured if not broken down entirely. The large change in the ethnic demography in these islands over the last 60 years has meant that our representatives in government have more complex problems relating to service provision, and employment prospects for those with language and cultural. differences. Many of our representatives in local, national, and international governance are from parents who were not born within the UK.

This diversity is to be welcomed, (because where would we be without the Indian and Thai curries, the Italian pizzas and pastas, as well as Chinese, Cantonese and Vietnamese food? ) But it does bring the realisation that the’ British Person’, (if ever such an animal existed) and the’ British Nation’, are not as we knew them 50 years ago. We have moved on, but not in an isolationist sense, where it is ‘Us’ against the ‘Rest of the World’.

I would repeat that we have all become more integrated whether we like it or not. The thought of untangling it all is awesome!

Other parties came into the frame such as Lib Dems, UKIP, Green Party, etc and all made your one vote much more valuable as you had more options, and with women freed from following what their husbands said, and younger people voting, we now had much more cross-voting. A fluidity of voting patterns, much more difficult to forecast, and pollsters’ projections did not hold the validity they once had…..Some folk changed their allegiance from Local and National elections, and were much happier to vote on the opinion of the candidate on a specific issue instead of the party they represented in general. What a mess…..

For many decades we have had, in the UK, political parties who wished to influence the Government of the day to provide funding and support for the history and culture of their specific nation. I have no problem with this, as this was well within their sphere of expertise and experience. Even without seats in any legislative assembly, they punched well above their weight, in the influence they could bring to bear. The Sinn Fein attempt to break up all of the UK failed, but now perhaps we are seeing a set of (faltering) steps in the path of peace with power-sharing. Plaid Cymru in Wales (left-wing social democratic) is still very much a minority party, but manages to make its point.

In Scotland we have a devolved Parliament in Edinburgh controlled by the SNP, which has had very little experience in real power. Their sole raison d’etre seems to be Independence, Independence, Independence. They have been given an un-precedented amount of devolved portfolios, and are struggling badly trying to handle them…..and yet they want more. They have a poor grasp of financial, and international affairs (both very necessary in 2015!). A considerable amount of money has been spent on a ‘Scottish Marketing’ exercise involving Gaelic signs and language education. None of this is remedying the faults in the economy or the financial demands they have made. It appears to be for internal gratification alone, and gaining more votes….but why?

If you want to establish an independent nation (and a majority in 2014 said they did not want independence) you need to build relationships with all of those who pay the piper, and also other countries, and institutions. This they are blatantly failing to do, and by omitting them, they are making it even more difficult for the next administration to recover the lost ground, and bring us out of this quagmire.

Can I come back to my original question…….is true independence possible in the 21st Century? My assertion is that it is NOT possible to be totally independent and dictatorial in this day and age. It is also a universal truth, in business, that you can be promoted, or promote yourself, to your level of incompetence. What we currently have is such a scenario, where continual whining about how little comes from central funding and trying to operate in areas of their non-expertise, whilst ignoring the failings within their own financial capacity to handle, they are building up an enmity which may well take many decades to cure……..

I HAVE JUST LOOKED AGAIN AT THIS POST, IN JULY 2019 AND THE SITUATION HAS WORSENED DRAMATICALLY, WITH SCOTLAND HEADING FOR AUSTERITY, AND NO SIGN AWAY FROM THIS. HATRED AND ENMITY, LIES AND MISREPRWSENTATION HAS BEEN THE HALLMARK OF THIS SNP ADMINISTRATION, AND THE SITUATION DOES NOT LOOK GOOD. THE BREXIT TROUBLES ARE NOW VERY SELF-EVIDENT, AND SEEMS LIKE IT WILL GO AHEAD WITH OR WITHOUT AN AGREEMENT………WHAT A MESS!