The current government’s credo might be ‘together in the national interest’, but as Conservatives championed their concord with Liberal Democrats in Birmingham, a rather different coalition was forged in the UK‘s Celtic regions. To coincide with the Tory conference, the devolved executives from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales issued a joint statement against Westminster cuts which they contend go “too far, too fast”.
Comprising Welsh Labour, separatists of various ferocity and Northern Ireland‘s noisiest unionists, they form an assembly of rogues around the pork barrel. In truth this is a coalition brought ‘together against the national interest’ and the non-nationalists in its ranks, in particular, are playing fast and loose with English grievances and with Westminster‘s sovereignty over the whole United Kingdom.
Look for instance at the role of Peter Robinson, whose most vociferous arguments are against a cut in capital expenditure for Northern Ireland. The DUP and Sinn Féin were promised this money by the previous government, in order to update the Province’s aging infrastructure.
There is, no doubt, a legitimate case for the total spend, amounting to some £18 billion, to be retained, in order to build the foundations for a flourishing economy. There is also a strong argument that the financial climate has changed completely and such an extensive investment is no longer viable.
The First Minister, rather than confine himself to the first line of reasoning, with Martin McGuinness maintains that the UK is bound by international treaty to honour financial commitments undertaken in the wake of the St Andrews Agreement.
First of all, the premise that the Agreement, which is registered as an international treaty, should include subsequent back-room bribes, is patently ridiculous. Secondly, it is absolutely extraordinary that a self-professed unionist can argue that Westminster’s sovereignty over part of the UK should be limited by international undertakings to the Republic of Ireland!
Robinson is prepared to demolish the constitutional building blocks of Northern Ireland‘s UK status, in order to pocket short-term financial gain, so shallow and self-interested is his interpretation of unionism.
Certainly, by a nationalist analysis, the current government draws its strongest endorsement to cut spending from England. Even the most nominal unionist, however, will respect that its mandate to tackle the deficit encompasses the entire United Kingdom.
The Celtic administrations have, admittedly, refined their argument from basic special pleading. They now ask for a nationwide slow down in cuts, which would, presumably, include English regions, rather than preferential treatment.
Their logic still requires that the coalition sets aside its better instincts and ignores the will of a majority of voters. The government has to look at the UK economy as a whole, it cannot sacrifice the greater good to the needs of the periphery.
No-one would seriously suggest that politicians from Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales should not put their regions’ respective cases forcibly. However self-styled unionists should, at the very least, refrain from undermining the very basis of Westminster’s sovereignty over the United Kingdom. Allying with nationalists, against the national interest, is a fundamentally anti-Union act.