Poll finds support for ‘united Ireland’ at just one in five…
Last week, I wrote that the Prime Minister ought not to allow herself to be fooled by neo-Remainers pulling the old ‘fragile Union’ con trick.
This was after news reports that the Government was spooked by new polling showing that Northern Ireland might leave the UK over Brexit – fears based, apparently, on a single highly skewed poll commissioned by Sinn Fein.
Now a new poll, commissioned by Queen’s University Belfast, has found that support for the Province leaving the Union after Brexit stands at just one in five – with fewer than half of Catholic respondents saying they would definitely vote for annexation by the Republic.
This in the same week that another poll, commissioned by Policy Exchange, found not only majority support for the UK in each of the four Home Nations, but a majority saying their support for the Union had either held firm or risen in recent years.
…as Davidson calls for ’emotional bonds’ of the Union to be strengthened
All of this is fresh evidence that, as Ruth Davidson acknowledged in an article for the Financial Times this week: “contrary to popular belief, Brexit has not eroded support for the UK despite a majority of Scots voting for Remain. If anything it has reminded folks that constitutional change brings insecurity and uncertainty.”
(This development will not have come as such a surprise to readers of ConservativeHome.)
However, that above-mentioned ICM poll for Policy Exchange also found that people’s fears for the future of the UK are rising, even as support for it strengthens and separatist parties suffer setback after setback. Clearly that ‘popular belief’ in the fragility of the is very strong – in part because it is wilfully propagated by some Remainers.
So the Scottish Tory leader is right to stress the need to renew the ’emotional bonds’ of the Union, as the Guardian reports. Unionism is too wont to fall back into its comfort zone of balance sheets and fiscal transfers, making the case for a contract rather than a country. A joint four-nations bid for the World Cup, which she suggested, would be a good start.
Varadkar wants more Northern Irish voices in the senate
Leo Varadkar has argued for more representatives of Northern Ireland in the Republic’s upper house, according to the News Letter.
This might be introduced as part of a package to introduce French-style ‘diaspora’ constituencies for Irish citizens living in other parts of the world.
But the Taoiseach seems especially keen to increase unionist representation, highlighting how half of the seats in the first Free State senate were assigned to unionists. As most unionists do not claim Irish citizenship, a separate arrangement would need to be made for them.
Varadkar recently appointed a unionist, Ian Marshall, to the Seanad. However, Marshall’s credentials as a representative of unionism have been criticised because of his deeply anti-Brexit views, which are out of sync with the majority of Northern Irish unionists. Being defended by Sinn Fein probably didn’t help.
SNP face daunting costs as they prepare new independence drive
Nicola Sturgeon is preparing for a ‘summer offensive’ to try to stir up support for another referendum on Scottish independence, according to the Scotsman.
This comes after the publication this week of the long-delayed report by the SNP’s Growth Commission. Titled ‘Scotland – The New Case for Optimism: A Strategy for Inter-generational Economic Renaissance’, it claims that independence will make Scots around £4,000 a year better off.
However, it does concede that an independent Scotland would require both higher taxes and more immigration – tough topics for the SNP, which traditionally tries to present separation as being all things to all people.
Meanwhile Professor Ronald MacDonald, described by the Daily Telegraph as “the country’s most eminent macroeconomist”, has warned Sturgeon that the Scottish Government would need to find £300 billion in order to prop up its own currency after independence.
The battle for hearts and minds is being waged on even the smallest fronts. This week Luke Graham, the Tory MP for Ochil & South Perthshire, highlighted at Prime Minister’s Questions how the SNP are leaning on retailers who use British branding on Scottish products.
Hamilton ousted as UKIP leader in Wales
Another bizarre episode in the story of UKIP’s short ascendancy this week came to an end when Neil Hamilton lost the leadership of its Welsh Assembly group, according to Wales Online.
Hamilton made headlines when he staged a putsch against Nathan Gill, UKIP’s established Welsh leader, for leadership of the AMs immediately after the party made its breakthrough into the Welsh Assembly.
This coup directly cost UKIP one of its seven seats when Gill resigned and his successor refused to caucus with the party. They have since also lost Mark Reckless, the former Conservative MP, who now sits as an independent with the Tory group.