Alan Bissett: Road-map For The Union: A Modest Proposal



A blow was dealt last night to the SNP’s plans for an independent Scotland, after the publication of a report which sets out a future for the Union in the aftermath of a No vote.  Professor Douglas McLeish of the University of Aberdeen has researched the viability of a bold, new ‘road-map’ for Britain, which has been warmly welcomed by the Unionist parties.

Professor McLeish begins his paper by recognising that, ‘The referendum is taking place because of a perceived imbalance in power between London and Scotland, but there are obvious steps which can be taken to rectify this, ensuring that the spectre of Scottish independence never again raises its head.’

The report suggests that, to demonstrate the equality of the constituent nations, Westminster should transfer control over all of the UK’s political, economic, defence, immigration and welfare decisions to Holyrood.

The UK’s Central Bank, currently the Bank of England, will be renamed the Bank of Scotland.  Revenues from Britain’s natural resources will flow to the Exchequer in Edinburgh, which will issue ‘block grants’ to the rest of the UK (in respect of England’s larger contribution they will receive a slightly higher grant).  This would allow Britain to finally afford a vital high-speed rail-link betwen Carlisle and Aberdeen.  The Trident nuclear submarine, meanwhile, would be removed from Faslane and rehoused in the Thames Estuary.

Westminster would remain active as a de facto English parliament, controlling the devolved matters of education, law and health.  One example of the benefits of this, cited by McLeish, is that it would allow the English exam board to ensure that every child studies a single playwright, novelist or poet from England.

The McLeish Report includes further proposals for Arts and Culture.  BBC Headquarters will be relocated to Pacific Quay in Glasgow, and, to reflect this, the larger share of programming will be set in Scotland.  While most reporting will be be devoted to Scottish events,  Wales, N.Ireland and England would, of course, still receive ‘regional’ news following the national news from Glasgow.

Scots would be encouraged to apply for all of the top arts posts in England, their experience and prestige accured in Scotland ensuring success in this regard.  To redress this, the world’s largest arts festival would be moved from Edinburgh to London, although the report recognises that most performers would likely be from Scotland’s elite universities, such as St Andrews.

McLeish reccomends this arrangement for the next 300 hundred years, before power is transferred to Cardiff in 2315 and Belfast in 2615, finally returning to London in 2915.

This report for a strengthened UK has been warmly welcomed by the Unionist parties.  The Secretary of State for Scotland, Alastair Carmichael, has said,

This blows a hole in the SNP’s plans for independence.  What Professor McLeish demonstrates is the ways in which the United Kingdom can serve the people of Scotland, while remaining perfectly fair to the rest of the UK.”

Prime Minister David Cameron has also recognised the value of the proposals.

These are sensible, rational suggestions for the future of the Union, putting equality squarely at its heart.  Speaking as a proud Brit and an Englishman, I know that I would not mind ceding power to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast for the next thousand years, given London’s extensive run at the helm.  If that meant the survival of the United Kingdom I think it would be a price worth paying.”

The SNP, however, have dismissed the McLeish Report.

 If these proposals are implimented they would fail to address fundamental issues of democracy.  Why should any country in the UK have the power to determine what happens in any other?  All this would mean is that, further down the line, England would be agitating for independence and we’d be back in the same boat.

“But let us be clear.  Were England to vote for separation they would not be able to access our BBC, would not be keeping our Queen, and their soldiers would still be fighting for our army.  Should we allow them to use our Sterling, furthermore, it would be entirely appropriate for the Bank of Scotland to set England’s interest rates.”

The Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, could not be reached for comment.

Alan Bissett
Author, Playwright and Poet



About Alan Bissett

Alan Bissett is a novelist, playwright and performer from Falkirk, who now lives in Glasgow. His plays, novels and short films have won numerous awards, including a Scottish BAFTA and the Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Writer of the Year 2012. His YouTube poem 'Vote Britain' has become one of the key texts in the Scottish independence movement.