Making Scotland a British region

Day 150
Day 150 by Matt Preston, on Flickr.
Effie Deans (a.k.a. Lily of St. Leonards), who is well-known for suggesting last year that Unionists should vote tactically to keep out the SNP, has written a long article about how to defeat the independence movement and the SNP.

It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here’s the main argument:

There’s only one good argument for an independent Scotland. But it is a very good argument indeed. It can be stated in the following way:

  1. Scotland is a country.
  2. Countries ought to be independent.
  3. Therefore Scotland ought to be independent.


In order to defeat an opponent it is necessary to put forward his best argument and then refute it. The only way to refute an argument is by either refuting the reasoning or the assumptions. […] In order to defeat the SNP we must defeat their assumptions. The initial assumption “Scotland is a country” must not be allowed, for if we do allow it, the rest of the argument follows as a matter of course.


We must attack the SNP at their roots. I have tried to outline how to do this in the past few weeks. First, accept that the UK is one nation, that is indivisible. Therefore, cease treating the parts of the UK as if they were really countries. […] It has turned out to be a long-term historical mistake that in a number of respects the parts of the UK have been treated as if they were independent countries. No other nation state in the world allows its parts to have separate money and separate international football teams. […] Secondly, rule out any further referendums ever. No-one would allow Aberdeenshire a referendum on independence. Well, on the same basis we should say that Aberdeenshire is to Scotland as Scotland is to the UK. Because it is an indivisible part of the whole, there is no right to secede. […] Thirdly, don’t make any sort of deal with those who have only the goal of destroying our country. Don’t work with them even if they pretend to be our friends. They are nothing of the sort. They are the greatest threat to the UK in over 300 years of history. Treat them as such. […] Fourthly, we must find a way to bring about more unity into the UK and promote a feeling of common identity.

Effie Deans is not very explicit here about what exactly will need to happen to stop Scots from perceiving Scotland as a country, but I reckon it will include the following:

  • Abolish Scottish separateness in sports, such as the Scottish national football and rugby teams and the Scottish football leagues.
  • Abolish Scots law and introduce English law in Scotland.
  • Abolish the Scottish education system and introduce the English curriculum, GCSEs and A Levels in Scotland.
  • Force all charities to set up UK-wide bodies (outlaw Scottish charities).
  • Merge the Scottish NHS with the English NHS.
  • Remove all powers from the Scottish Parliament that wouldn’t be granted to an English regional assembly (if these are ever created).

In my opinion, Effie Deans is both right and wrong. She’s right that only by making Scots think of Scotland as a British region (like Yorkshire) would the dream of independence ever die. However, she’s wrong to think that a plan such as this could ever gain widespread support in Scotland. I reckon only a very small part of Scots (perhaps 10%) think of Scotland as a region of the UK, and the rest of us agree that Scotland is a nation within a political union called the United Kingdom — we just disagree whether this union is a good or a bad thing.

Unless I’m completely mistaken, any plan to execute Effie Deans’s plan would cause opinion polls to show at least 80% support for independence within a fortnight, and Scotland would become independent soon afterwards.

Perhaps her plan could have been implemented successfully in the 1980s, when Scottish self-confidence was at a historic low. Not today.

That said, many leading Unionists — both in Scotland and in England — might quietly agree with Effie Deans, and we should watch out for any threats to Scotland’s status as a constituent nation of the UK. They’d probably start with small things and only deal with the highly symbolic areas (such as the education system) after many years.

Finally, I’d like to quote her request that many more Scots should join the SNP:

Some people who voted No in Scotland will object to what I write here. My answer is as follows. If you think that Scotland is a country in the same sense as France is a country, you should join the SNP. If you don’t feel particularly British, you likewise should join the SNP.

I very much agree, but how she can possibly think that’d help the Unionist cause is beyond me.

14 thoughts on “Making Scotland a British region”

    1. I don’t agree. I think it’s completely fair and honourable to consider yourself 100% British and not Scottish at all — it’s just very much a minority point of view, so spelling out the consequences of it as clearly as she does is likely to harm Unionism much more than it helps it.

  1. Interesting article. Scenario sounds very much like like the tactics of Russification employed by Tsarist, then Soviet Russia. It came in waves but could never overcome peoples sense of local identity. In Scotland’s situation we have maintain strong cultural and social institutions that re-enforced Scottishness- i.e. independent religion, law and education (in a way we have to thank the last independent Scottish parliament of 1706 for negotiating such enablers of identity to be embedded and preserved). I think it would be very foolish for the unionists to try that one out, as a large number of pro-union Scots are very much attached to their Scottishness. Such moves would surely push them towards independence support.
    So I think yes we have to be alert for such attempts, I think it is very much in the realms of cloud cuckoo British ultra-Nationalist land, up their with Kippers , Ulster Unionism and fellow travelers inhabit currently

    1. Yes, I very much agree. It’s interesting, btw, that it seems to be a year in Russia that pushed Effie Deans towards extreme unionism. I spent a year in Georgia (1996-97), where I saw what it means to be living in the early days of an independent nation, and if anything it pushed me away from unionism. I guess she might have reached different conclusions if she had studied Ukrainian in Ukraine instead.

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