Gordon Brown’s poll methods discredited

By stewartb

Ready to be a nation-state: Unionist poll finds ‘Scots Back Cooperation Not Conflict’!

A prominent feature of Unionist messaging from ex-PM Gordon Brown is the importance of cooperation between Westminster and Holyrood. Indeed the basis of the pronouncements lapped up by the media (on 10 May) is an article published by his ’Our Scottish Future’ organisation entitled ‘Scots Back Cooperation Not Conflict’: it justifies the headline with survey evidence. When asked direct questions most folk, in terms, expressed a preference for cooperation rather than conflict between the governments in Edinburgh and London. Well, blow me down!

If asked a binary question between cooperation and conflict what would you answer? Cooperation or conflict with say Russia, China, Iran, Iceland, Vanuatu, your business partner, your next door neighbour, members of your family, etc., etc.? It’s probably not too hard to guess the common sense response most people in Scotland – indeed sensible people anywhere – would give in most circumstances. Yet somehow this result on Edinburgh/London relations seems to get bent into an indication of support for the Union.

Cooperation over EU membership

Of course we could ask Mr Brown why, in urging cooperation with Westminster, he appears to downplay the fact that Scotland voted to retain cooperation on economic, social and environmental matters with 27 countries in the EU. And does he forget that by opting to retain EU membership we would also have retained cooperation with 65 preferential trading partners – benefiting from being part of a truly ‘global EU’?

However, as we well remember, the wish of a majority in Scotland was over-ruled, first on EU membership and then again on the form of Brexit that followed. The whole Brexit process revealed a clear rejection by Westminster of meaningful cooperation. Based on a serious democratic test, not an opinion poll, we already knew that a majority of Scots back cooperation – within Europe. But without agency this matters for naught!

Independent nation states cooperate

Do the brains behind Our Scottish Future deny this ineluctable truth? Independent nation-states cooperate. It is perfectly possible – moreover it is desirable – that after Scotland achieves its independence it commits to enhancing mechanisms for cooperation with (what to call the country?) the Kingdom of South Britain and Northern Ireland (the KSB) on matters of common interest. Would the KSB not reciprocate?

The suspicion must be that for now the answer will be ‘no we won’t’ but after independence the response will change to ‘but of course, that’s the only sensible thing to do’!

Nordic Council model

The Nordic Council provides a cooperative model of what can be achieved, including between nation-states which are within and some outside the EU. The Council is the official body for formal inter-parliamentary cooperation between Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Greenland and Åland. Formed in 1952, it has 87 elected members, politicians drawn from national parliaments and nominated by party groups.

The Council’s website states: “First and foremost, the Nordic Council’s politicians are driven by the desire to make the Nordic region one that people want to live and work in. This is also the primary objective of the ideas and proposals for co-operation that are borne out of the Nordic Council.” The scope of the Council’s work is broad: it has a budget which enables it to undertake activities to enhance cooperative objectives.

The nation-state of Scotland could/should participate pro-actively in an organisation such as this with its  immediate neighbour and others. After all, as we know ‘Scots back cooperation’!  But we also now know that meaningful cooperation – beneficial to all participating parties – will only come from equality of status which in turn is more likely to establish necessary mutual respect.

British-Irish Council model

The bare bones of a cooperation model already exists that could be built upon to facilitate cooperation between an independent Scotland, the KSB and others – the British-Irish Council (BIT).

The BIT is a Ministerial Council. Established as part of a multi-party agreement reached in 1998, it presently comprises representatives from the Irish Government; UK Government; Scottish Government; Northern Ireland Executive; Welsh Government; Isle of Man Government; Government of Jersey and Government of Guernsey.

We learn from its website that the formal purpose of the Council is: “to promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships among the peoples of these islands… the BIC will exchange information, discuss, consult and use best endeavours to reach agreement on co-operation on matters of mutual interest within the competence of the relevant administrations”.

An independent Scotland could/should participate pro-actively as an independent nation-state in a Council that has – and takes seriously – such objectives!  We should commit to learn from the Nordic Council model and others internationally: we should commit to enhance cooperation where beneficial between the independent nation-states across ‘these islands’!  And why not? As we know, ‘Scots back cooperation’!  Would the KSB not engage in enhancing cooperation too?

Cooperation across an external EU border

Another example of a cooperation mechanism between an independent nation-state (Ireland) within the EU and one outside the EU (the UK) operates across the land border on the island of Ireland.  This is the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) established under the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. It aims to develop consultation, cooperation and action within the island of Ireland.

Across six Areas of Co-Operation, common policies and approaches are agreed in the Council and implemented separately in each jurisdiction. These areas are: transport, agriculture, education, environment, health, tourism.

After independence, Scotland could/should advocate a North South Ministerial Council with the Kingdom of South Britain in which representatives of two nation-state governments of equal status consult, cooperate and act to further mutually beneficial matters within the island of Great Britain. This is desirable and feasible not least because ‘Scots back cooperation’! Would the KSB not also engage cooperatively?

Cooperation and The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth describes itself presently as “a voluntary association of 54 independent and equal countries. It is home to 2.4 billion people, and includes both advanced economies and developing countries .,..” (It’s worth remembering that not all members of The Commonwealth have the British/English monarch as head of state.)

So would The Commonwealth accept an independent Scotland as a member of this cooperating family of independent countries? It’s hard to conceive of rejection if Scotland wished to join. And why would this matter? Well, The Commonwealth’s “members work together to promote prosperity, democracy and peace, amplify the voice of small states, and protect the environment.”

In his first major policy speech delivered on 2 December, 2016 as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson’s theme was ‘Beyond Brexit: a Global Britain’. He referred both to free trade and specifically to cooperation over trade with countries in The Commonwealth, stating: 

“… it is our historic post-Brexit function, as the PM has said, to be the leading agitators for free trade. Again confounding those who are willing to misread Brexit by seizing the moment to campaign for openness and open markets across the globe beginning with some of those dynamic commonwealth economies that are already queuing up to do free trade deals.”  

Post-independence, Scotland’s government could/should commit to membership of The Commonwealth: Scotland could then cooperate to take advantage (if necessary) of the UK government’s prior statement of intent on free trade with Commonwealth countries! After all we know that ‘Scots back cooperation’! Would the KSB not welcome an independent Scotland as a member of The Commonwealth?  And unlike with other members of The Commonwealth, would it refuse to work cooperatively with Scotland over trade?

End note

This article of course just touches the surface of the range of needs and opportunities for cooperation with other nation-states facing an independent Scotland. These will be realised through many bilateral and multilateral mechanisms,  And many will include cooperation with our immediate neighbour – some by necessity and some by choice.

Independent nation-states cooperate – the government of an independent Scotland will have the capability, the capacity and the desire to do so too.  Its citizens will expect nothing less – we now know ‘Scots back cooperation not conflict’ after all!

14 thoughts on “Gordon Brown’s poll methods discredited

  1. The more important question which may take just a few words is , will england want cooperation or conflict ?
    We have seen england send war ships to Spain and to France since brexit it does not suggest cooperation does it.

    So often the questions that should be directed at england
    are directed at Scotland ?
    Weird ,
    And in my opinion its a form of english propaganda

    Liked by 2 people

    1. They are about to send quite a few ships off tho the far East . . . South China sea? I Believe one of Brown’s Peace Giving Carriers is included.

      Him and his moral compass!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Another “clever” question was asked off an SNP voter on last night’s ITV 10pm news . . . . “Does the NHS make you proud of Britain”


  3. An article today (?) in the Telegraph suggests that in order for a Referendum to be granted there should be a deal on the table so that voters know what Independence would look like.
    The highlights were that the UK would retain all assets (and value thereof) of present day assets not located in Scotland. That Scotland would carry a full population share of existing UK debt.
    That Scotland would become liable for pensions in payment and on it goes.
    This being the Telegraph I imagine that such weird propositions will have an audience within the ranks of Tory policy makers.
    I offer this in the context of ‘cooperation or conflict’ and suggest that should Tory thinking run anywhere close to this bullshit then clearly, conflict will be the chosen position.
    Saor Alba.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Looks like Scotland needs an island of lawyers then!
      Yep, they really are attempting to scare the people of Scotland. In fact I’d say their binary question is more a threat than anything. What’s it to be Scotland, cooperation, or our paratroopers on your streets, huh huh? Kick kick.
      Only days after the election and outstanding win for the SNP, against all odds,
      and the not so indirect threats have started.


  4. Bodger Brown appears to think he can support Scotland’s democracy while shunning extant international law. Which defines the appropriate boundaries of state action, is an integral component of the rule-of-law, so can not be engaged with in an arbitrary fashion. So your man Brown may have had the best intentions, but his British nationalist ideology posses a threat to the potential for justice in and for Scotland.






  6. I appreciate I have rather a lot to say for myself, but I’ve been encouraged to believe that constitutional legal practice which is not coherent and compatible with international human rights law, will struggle to be compatible with the principles of contemporary democratic and constitutional theories (see Brexit).

    I’m happy to be corrected, but I’m more than a tad concerned with the intensely neo-liberal nature of the ongoing legal change in and relating to Scotland. As the neo-liberal colonisation of the law is a known obstacle to global economic, social, and environmental sustainability. So it would be helpful if our legal and political Establishment could sort themselves out, and acknowledge the foundational values of the law and how they relate to public reason. As law that is grounded in anti-foundational values, is inescapably bound to be arbitrary and authoritarian in nature.



  7. To paraphrase an expression used by a BBC presenter during indyref1,
    “Devo Max,let’s call it independence”.
    The problem that Broon and the other cheerleaders for the British state have is that the London establishment has shown no appetite for the sort of radical changes required in order to accommodate Scottish aspirations.
    Why would a right wing Tory government with a majority of 80 wish to change anything?
    As far as Broon goes it is definitely,a case of,fool me once,shame on you……
    Only die hard unionists are going to listen to him next time.


  8. A very thought-provoking piece. Plenty of options.

    Would Scotland be prepared to cooperate in a Union called, say, the BEU (British Economic Union) with close economic links but complete political autonomy for all 4 nations? It shouldn’t take long to set up. After all, it could be based on the EU model.

    After all, let’s not be parochial. The current set up is grossly unfair to all 4 nations. Yes, even England, which doesn’t even have its own Parliament, let alone a civilised voting system. NI has a world of trouble by not being able to sort out its own problems with the RoI and Wales likewise has problems through not being able to deal with its own foreign affairs.

    And those poor people in Westminster, trying to apply one lot of rules to and meet the needs of such a disparate population – politically, culturally, geographically, economically. It must be a strain, don’t you think?

    If Scotland would cooperate, would England? Were they asked or are we, like them, just assuming?


  9. Westminster was historically England’s parliament, and still is. It has no impediment to articulating English cultural/political preferences through the law (see Brexit). It simply self-identifies as being the parliament for the whole UK, but tends to predominantly have an ear for the English voice, as the bulk of the MP’s were voted for by those voices, and they also speak in such a voice.

    We certainly live in uncertain and dangerous times, such is the environment created through letting the Tories decide the nature of the law.

    The Death of Socio-Economic Rights


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