Saturday, 24 January 2009

A Social Union?

"The United Kingdom is also a social Union."
- Calman Commission, First Report, Page 36

"6.49 The extent to which the UK is a social Union."
- Calman Commission, First Report, Page 68

"4.49 The people and the nations of the United Kingdom have many elements of shared identity, established through history, and expressed in common aspects of culture. These were described by Bryce as "bonds of sympathy". Not all may be tangible, but they are very real and widespread...These connections are a powerful unifying force, and this sense of shared identity is expressed by many institutional links."
- Calman Commission, First Report, Page 34

"A great many Scottish families have relations living or working elsewhere in the UK. Similarly, there are few citizens of other parts of the UK who do not have a family, educational, business or cultural link with Scotland."
- Calman Commission, First Report, Page 34

An odd one for Calman to spend so much time on. It's as if they are implying that this social union is under threat if we don't have MPs at Westminster. Making it all the more strange is the fact that the SNP actually promotes a continuing social union.

This interview on the Andrew Marr Show, 30th March 2008, has Alex Salmond saying:

"Well the social union between Scotland and England in particular, but the other countries in these islands, is the union of families, of relationships, they don't depend on Scotland being devolved or independent. These relationships will continue and flourish when Scotland becomes an independent country...We don't want to disrupt the social union, we just want the right to decide for ourselves how we're governed, not just over some issues but over all issues."

Further reference to the social union is also made here:

"Independence also means the maintenance of the social union between Scotland and England, and the other nations of these islands, based on a 21st-century relationship of equality."

And here:

"...the SNP have made clear that the social union with England will be retained, including a common head of state."

Also odd is the reference to the people and the nations of the United Kingdom having "many elements of shared identity, established through history, and expressed in common aspects of culture".

It is very narrow definition if Calman is suggesting that they can only be retained within the United Kingdom.

Take for example piping. Bands from all over the world play at the World Pipe Band Championships. In fact in 2008 the winners were Canadians - not part of the UK.

Or how about Saint Andrew's Societies. These are also worldwide. As are Burns Clubs and Highland Games.

Then there is football which doesn't even have a UK representative body - with England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland fielding their own teams within the world.

So just what point is Calman trying to make since common aspects of culture are governed at the level of the constituent countries or shared beyond the UK's borders? None of these are under threat by constitutional change.

Likewise is its reference to Scottish families having "relations living or working elsewhere in the UK".

Again what point is Calman trying to make? Yes we relatives in other parts of the UK but we also have them thoughout the world as census figures from those countries show.

Then there is Ulster (both Northern Ireland and the Republic) and those Scots whose families have come to Scotland in the years, decades and centuries gone by such as from Poland, Italy, Lithuania, South Asia and Eastern Europe.

The question for Calman is why it has made such an issue of these family ties and made them part and parcel of constitutional construct when they are under no threat from constitutional change?

Then there is its reference to a "sense of shared identity...expressed by many institutional links". What "institutional links" are they referring to?

The International Star Trek Fan Association is an institution with a sense of shared identity as is the European Quilt Association and the Elvis International Fan Club. None of these require the UK to exist.

However to be less flippant and pertinent there is one institution that has a unionist focus which doesn't require the UK to exist and also practices independence for its Scottish organisation - the Orange Order.

As the site of the World Orange Council shows they have separate independent members from Australia, Canada, England, Ghana, New Zealand, Scotland, Togo, United States of America, and Ireland.

Furthermore they also say: "Other Countries with have Orange links are Poland, Italy and Argentina. Countries who have had Orange links include South Africa, Bermuda, Spain Brazil and Cuba. The Council only recognise one Grand Lodge in each Country."

So if the ostensibly unionist Orange Order can exist with independent Scottish membership, and still enjoy institutional and constitutional links outwith Scotland, why doesn't Calman address such models?

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