Wednesday 18 December 2013

“Henceforth and forever annexed and incorporated”

That, according to the 1536 Act, is the status of Wales in relation to England.  It’s pretty clear and unambiguous; and unlike some more recent acts, there’s no ‘sunset clause’ in this one. 
There was another, unrelated, story a few days ago about a list of laws which the UK Government was planning to repeal.  They inadvertently included an act making it a crime to even imagine replacing the monarchy.  But the Windsors can sleep soundly; the government realised its mistake and removed that act from the list.  Imagining such an unthinkable thing will continue to be considered by the law to be an act of treason.
I don’t expect, however, to be writing my next post from the Tower.  The UK’s unwritten constitution has a curious ability to be able to ignore itself whenever it is convenient so to do.  Nothing, however deeply etched into the fabric of the law, has the timelessness intended by those who thought that their power was greater than it was at the time that they made these laws.
When it comes to the question of Welsh independence as well, the government knows that relying on what a king decreed almost half a millennium ago to simply deny the right of the people to express an alternative will would be an utterly self-defeating approach.  There may well be little demand for such a step in Wales at present, but simply outlawing those who argue otherwise would be counter-productive.
The same is true when it comes to the union between England (including Wales) and Scotland.  That union, too, was intended to be indissoluble and to last for ever.  But relying on the intentions and the wording of the acts of union to prevent the Scots from even having the choice would be foolhardy in the extreme.
And yet…  Why are those unionists who recognise the sheer folly of such a legalistic approach when applied directly within the UK so content to rely on exactly the same argument by proxy?  How many times have we heard them arguing that Scotland has no chance of EU membership because the Spanish Government, faced with its own ‘internal’ independence movements, will never allow it?
As we have seen over the last week or so, Spain is, indeed, determined to block any attempt at holding an independence referendum in Cataluña, and is relying on the indissoluble and everlasting character of the wording of the Spanish constitution as its justification.  Far from Spain’s stance vindicating the position of UK unionists, as they seem to think, this actually means that they are simply relying partly on the same sort of argument themselves – an argument that they would never dare to make directly.
I don’t know whether the Catalans will eventually vote for independence or not; what I do know is that it will not be the wording of laws or constitutions that ultimately stops them.  Trech gwlad nag arglwydd - the will of the people is ultimately stronger than any law, and that’s as true in Wales as it is in Cataluña or Scotland.
The issue we face – whether unionists or nationalists – is about persuading the people to one view or another, not about what any laws, ancient or modern, might say.  Especially not by proxy.


Anonymous said...

'The issue we face ..... is about persuading the people to one view or another ....', quite so! But such democracy does not come without a cost.

The nationalists need to recognise this, as do the unionists. Neither Wales nor Scotland will ever again benefit from any major public investment programmes relating to matters of national security, including healthcare and citizen management.

Or not so long as they retain the rightful option to vote on staying within or leaving the Union.

In the end, democracy necessitates that everyone loses!

Spirit of BME said...

Hear! Hear! - Good post