Luke Springthorpe is Executive Director, and Alan O’Kelly is Director of Operations, at Conservative Progress.
Despite holding a “once in a generation” (Alex Salmond’s words, not ours), the Scottish National Party are preparing to renew their demands for a second independence referendum.
Ever since the 2014 Scottiish referendum the SNP have run a concerted and aggressive campaign to re-run that referendum. This campaign has been marked by a specific attempt to turn neighbors against each other, setting up a narrative of Scotland versus England.
Alongside this has been an attempt to craft a narrative where Scotland is “different” from the rest of the Union, to such an extent where it cannot be governed by the same institutions. This has been all the more apparent with the emergency response to Covid, where there has at times been an almost farcical attempt to adopt virtually the same measures as England, but with the slightest of changes to the language used or categories for tiers. The end result hasn’t been a more effective response, but confusion for people who travel between various parts of the UK, not to mention businesses reliant on clear and easy-to-understand legislation.
In Wales, too, there is an increased focus on the Union as the crisis has enflamed relations between Westminster and Cardiff Bay, and as advocates of independence square off with a growing anti-devolution movement.
As a result of this nationalist narrative, a recent YouGov poll indicated that 49 per cent were not concerned should Scotland leave the Union – the first time less than half of the population of England and Wales had indicated such a preference.
The nationalists have had the run of the airwaves for too long. Supporters of our United Kingdom, by contrast, are often much less loud about our own beliefs. It is less trendy – not to mention more difficult – to be enthusiastic about the status quo than the radical agenda offered by the separatists, even though the promises of the latter are illusory and it would inflict huge damage on both Scotland and the rest of the country.
It’s time for unionists to push back. Conservative Progress has set up the Love our Union (LoU) campaign, which seeks to highlight the deep political, cultural, and economic ties which bind the home nations together as well as cherished shared institutions such as the Armed Forces.We are building a grassroots campaign that will aim to highlight these benefits and discuss how we can strengthen our Union.
The highlight of the first phase of this campaign takes place today with our first annual #LoveOurUnion day. The Love our Union day will ask everyone who supports the Union to stand up and demonstrate this visibly, loudly and proudly.
Of course, with the times we are currently in, this will be a virtual event. But, all being well, we hope to host future Love Our Unions days with events & rallies across the country.
We are asking everyone to Tweet and to post on Facebook and Instagram with their support to get the #LoveOurUnion hashtag trending. We want to show in no uncertain terms that support for the United Kingdom – together – remains strong. We also want any waverers to understand why it’s worth fighting for and, in time, to join us as passionate advocates for this country and its future.
— Conservative Progress (@ToryProgress) November 30, 2020
Over the course of the day, we will be tweeting out support from MPs, MSPs, and MSs in support of the Union. We have reached out to a range of organizations, including many of the Conservative Friends of groups, who will be also showing their support.
This will be our biggest event of this campaign to date, but over the last few months we have run a range of others exploring the future of the Union. The first event was our ‘Four Points’ event, with leaders of the voluntary party across the country and the Chair of the parliamentary Conservative Union Research Group, Robin Millar MP – as well as ConHome’s own Henry Hill!
Second was our ‘Love Our Union: Scotland’ event, with Douglas Ross MP, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives. Third was our ‘Love Our Union: Wales’ event, which saw Paul Davies, the leader of the Tories in the Senedd, as well as Millar and Glyn Davies, the Welsh Conservative chairman, in conversation with guests.
In 2021, we will be moving the campaign up a gear, with more events focusing on the cultural, defence, and other ties that bind us together. We will be doing everything we can to support the Conservative and Unionist party in Scotland and Wales ahead of elections in May. All of this will lead up to our annual conference, which will focus on the future of the Union and bring together hundreds of activists, politicians, and others to discuss how we can further strengthen the United Kingdom.
Both of us are excited about this campaign, and believe that together we can help demonstrate the huge support and emotional connection to the Union amongst the British people.
We would like to thank those who have already supported today by submitting quotes and videos, which we will be releasing during the day. We also look forward to thanking many more who we hope will tweet their own videos and messages during the day! Just don’t forget to use the #LoveOurUnion hashtag, as we will be emailing our 16,000 supporters with some of the highlights.