There’s no such thing as a country.
Nation states are a shared figment of the imagination, defined by invisible, imaginary, interim lines on maps.
There is no such natural thing as a country: maps, borders, coasts and people have changed over time. That’s one of the facts that highlight the pointlessness of nationalism. Who now is a Nationalist for Byzantium? For the kingdom of Aragorn? For the ancient Kingdom of Fife? Who now defines their identity by the Holy Roman Empire? Where most people live, used to be called something else. Or used to be part of somewhere else. Or didn’t used to be part of where it is. Unions are normal. Interdependence is Normal.
“Look over the past, with its empires that rose and fell, and you shall see the future too.” –Marcus Aurelius
You can’t touch me, I’m part of the Union.
Political unions are agreements between different countries or regions to cooperate and work together in certain areas, such as defence or trade. There are several different types of political unions, each with its own characteristics and objectives.
One type of political union is a confederation, which is a loose association of independent states that come together for specific purposes, such as defence or trade. In a confederation, the member states retain a high degree of independence and sovereignty, and the central government has limited powers. Examples of confederations include the Swiss Confederation and the Confederate States of America. Before the United States were united, but after independence, they were a loose confederation of independent states, and there was much resistance to the centralisation favoured by the likes of Alexander Hamilton. There were fears that states would lose sovereignty and autonomy – and of course, to some extent they did – but they were, and are, better together when they moved from a confederation to a federation.
Federations are a type of government in which power is shared between a central government and regional governments. In a federation, the member states have a high degree of autonomy, but they are also bound by the laws and decisions of the central government. Examples of federations include the United States and Canada. Gordon Brown has proposed making the UK more federal. In many federal states including the US, the division of power in the branches of government is done in such a way as to protect minority states’ rights – for example by giving smaller states above proportional representation in second and revising chambers. This is a trade-off between states’ rights and cooperation that benefits everyone in the compromised.
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The United Kingdom isn’t the only United Kingdom. A United Kingdom is a sovereign state that consists of a number of countries or territories that are united under a single monarch. The most well-known example of a United Kingdom is our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which consists of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, with the monarch serving as the head of state and a Prime Minister serving as the head of government. Other examples of United Kingdoms include the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which consists of the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten, and the Kingdom of Denmark, which consists of Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. Home to 56,000 people, Greenland has its own extensive local government, but it is also part of the Realm of Denmark. Each of these countries has its own system of government and its own unique cultural identity, but they are united under a single monarch.
Belgium is a united kingdom, a constitutional monarchy, which is made up of several devolved regions with their own parliaments, languages and powers – and where one region is significantly larger than all the others. It’s strange how some Scottish nationalists insist that “the UK is not a country” – yet they don’t even question that Belgium is.
The fourth type of political union is a customs union, which is an agreement between countries to eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers between them. In a customs union, member countries also agree to adopt common policies on trade with non-member countries. An example of a customs union is the European Union, but there is also the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which consists of 55 member countries. The AfCFTA is intended to create a single market for goods and services across the African continent.
In general, political unions are formed to promote cooperation and collaboration between member states in order to achieve common goals. The specific characteristics and objectives of a political union will depend on the type of union and the needs and goals of the member states. Unions are normal. A lot of modern nation-states are made up of smaller once independent states and devolution isn’t an aberration: there’s plenty of it about: if we can take devolution to mean the transfer of powers from a central government to regional or sub-national authorities. This process can take many forms, and the extent of devolved powers can vary greatly between different regions within the same country.
Catalonia is a semi-autonomous region located in northeastern Spain. The region has its own parliament and government and is responsible for a range of policy areas, including education, health, and infrastructure. However, the Spanish government retains control over key areas such as foreign policy and defence. Catalonia does not have a right to unilaterally secede from Spain.
Texas is a federal state within the United States that enjoys a high degree of autonomy. Like all states in the US, Texas has its own constitution, legislature, and judiciary. It is responsible for a range of policy areas, including education, healthcare, and transportation. However, the federal government retains control over certain matters, such as foreign policy and defence. Texas does not have a right to unilaterally secede from the union.
Quebec is a province within Canada that has a distinct francophone culture and history. The province has its own parliament and government and is responsible for a range of policy areas, including education, healthcare, and transportation. However, the Canadian federal government retains control over certain matters, such as foreign policy and defense. Quebec does not have a unilateral right to secede from Canada.
Flanders and Bavaria
You can practically stick a pin in a landmass at random and find more examples. Flanders is a region located in the northern part of Belgium. It is home to around 6.5 million people and is known for its strong economy, with industries such as textiles, chemicals, and food processing playing an important role in the region’s economy. Bavaria, located in southeastern Germany, is the largest state in the country by area and is home to over 13 million people, as well as Oktoberfest. Both Bavaria and Flanders have their own government and have been granted a certain level of autonomy from their national governments.
In Bavaria, the government is led by the Minister-President, who is elected by the people of the state. The government is responsible for a number of important areas, including education, infrastructure, and economic development. Bavaria does not have a right to unilaterally secede from Germany.
In Flanders, the government is led by the Flemish Minister-President, who is also elected by the people of the region. The government is responsible for a number of important areas, including education, health care, and economic development. Flanders does not have a right to unilaterally secede from Belgium
There’s a pattern here.
Normal independent countries like the United Kingdom are made up of historically smaller countries. The Federal Republic of Germany is made up of several smaller states, including Bavaria, Saxony, and North Rhine-Westphalia. Prior to the unification, Italy was made up of several small states, including the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Papal States, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Unions are more common than independent medieval nations. Interdependence is normal. Scotland is a country within the United Kingdom that has a long history of semi-autonomy. The country has its own parliament and government and is responsible for a range of policy areas, including education, healthcare, and transportation. However, the UK government retains control over certain matters, such as foreign policy and defense. Scotland does not have a right to unilaterally secede from the UK
Powers Vary, but what you choose to do is at least as important as what you can do.
The devolved powers of semi-autonomous regions vary. Catalonia, Texas, Quebec, Flanders, Bavaria and Scotland all have their own parliament and government, but the extent of their autonomy varies a little. They also, to some extent, have their own independence movements, but Quebec nationalism has collapsed, following decades of harm done by the created instability. Bavarian independence is in the high twenties and low thirties level of support- but people certainly aren’t up in arms across Europe at a democratic outrage because the German supreme court won’t allow Bavaria an independence referendum,
Interdependence is Normal
Scotland is one of the most powerful devolved regions in the world. We are probably somewhere between the powers of a region of Belgium and one of Germany. These countries and regions all seem to manage pretty well, so why are Scottish Nationalists so desperate to cry democratic outrage? Do they really expect you to believe that things are so unbearable here compared to any of these other regions? Or do Scottish Nationalists also call for the break up of Spain, Germany, Belgium the USA and Canada?
We deserve a government that makes devolution work
Our devolution is far from perfect, there are many areas in it that could be improved – from a second chamber to quality check Holyrood legislation, to stopping list-only votes gaming D’hondt, to giving committees real teeth to hold the government to account. But it CAN work. In fact, in many areas it does. Some Scottish nationalists claim that some of the policy differences between Scotland and England – on free prescriptions or tuition fees for example, are signs of irreconcilable differences that are a reason to separate from the UK. In actual fact their very existence shows that within the UK different policies are possible. The differences show that devolution can work.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
If there is a major flaw in devolution, it is in voters misreading the intentions of those the plurality has put in control of them. We were told that the SNP would be competent in government in order to win voters’ trust that we could be independent, Yes, Some things are failing in Scotland – education levels are falling, A&E waiting times rising, and we have the highest drugs deaths in Europe – and not by a little, we are way out ahead. Other devolved regions in other countries, by and large, have governments focussing on the day job of running devolved services.
Imagine the state Scotland would be right now if every penny, every hour, every effort spent on independence since 2007 had instead been spent on Scottish Health, Scottish Education and Scottish transport. Instead in Scotland, we have a nationalist government whose core belief, main commitment above all others, is making devolution fail. We are better off cooperating. Interdependence is Normal.
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