Andrew Tickell assures us that “there are reflective Unionists”. To whatever extent this may be so. one has to wonder what it is that they are reflecting on. Evidently, not the inability of self-proclaimed Unionist politicians to explain precisely – or even vaguely – what it is that makes the Union so ‘precious’. Nor does the content of the constitutional discourse suggest that any Unionist has spent so much as a moment reflecting on the matter of why upwards of half the people of Scotland find the Union markedly less than ‘precious’.
When the best explanation for Scottish antipathy to the Union offered by those who might reasonably be expected to provide a distillation of Unionist ideology is a failure to adequately smother Scotland in the symbols of British Nationalism, then “reflective” is surely not the first word anyone would reach for in attempting to characterise Unionist thinking.
An argument could be made that it is unfair to judge all Unionists by Matt Hancock’s vacuous nonsense about the need to ramp up the ubiquity of Union flags that are already exceedingly hard to avoid. It could be argued that it is unjustly selective to highlight Jeremy Hunt’s “vapid non sequitur” about Adam Smith and grotesquely contrived reference to Culloden. Such arguments could be made – but for the fact that these are very far from untypical of Unionist rhetoric. Indeed, I doubt there’s anyone experienced in debating the constitutional issue who couldn’t provide more and better evidence casting serious doubt on the existence of such a creature as a reflective Unionist.
Of course, experience of debating the constitutional issue with Unionists must, itself, be something of a rarity as said Unionists are famously reluctant to engage. Which might be taken to imply that they have nothing to bring to such debate. The rehashed lies and reheated scare stories left over from Project Fear can hardly be presented as the product of rational reflection.
It is said that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And this may be true, in a general sense. But when a claim is made for the existence of something which, if it exists as claimed, must leave some trace of its existence, and no such trace can be discovered, then it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that the claims of its existence have been greatly exaggerated.
The ‘positive case for the Union’ is very much a case in point. If such a thing existed, or ever had existed, there would surely be some lingering trace of it in the utterances of those who seek to portray themselves as champions of the Union. If there was such a thing as a reflective Unionist, surely we would have heard from them by now.
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