‘Angry’ Scotland should be more like Wales and accepts its place in the union says Scottish academic
‘Angry’ Scotland should be more like Wales and accept its place within the union, a British academic and former Conservative Member of the Scottish Parliament has said.
Prof. Adam Tomkins, returning from a holiday in Pembrokeshire, said that Wales felt “much more at ease with itself than Scotland” because it did not have an adversarial relationship with England.
Instead, it demonstrated a “collaborative unionism” that sought to fix the problems of the United Kingdom rather than leaving it.
“Britain would be a happier place if both England and Scotland paid more attention to Wales,” Adam Tomkins said in the Scottish Herald.
“Returning from two weeks’ family holiday in Pembrokeshire, I was struck by how comfortable and confident Wales is at wearing both elements of its identity at once.
“Everywhere you go the Welsh flag and the union flag are flown together. Wales is distinctly not England, but it does not measure its Welshness in units of anti-Britishness.
“Once upon a time, Scotland was much the same. But, unlike Welshness, Scottishness has now become much angrier, asserting itself by reference to what Scots are not (we are Scottish not British) rather than by accommodating and embracing both at the same time.
“In Wales the sense of pride in strong national identity is both palpable and ubiquitous, but it is offered as something to celebrate rather than in any adversarial spirit of us-versus-them.”
In Scotland, Adam Tomkins said, the Scottish and UK governments were failing to engage with each other because of the demand for independence on the one hand and a refusal to concede any power on the other. “Each position is as thoughtless as the other,” he said.
“It is the Welsh who are leading the thinking on the future relationships our governments will need to have with one another. But their work is like tumbleweed in the corridors of power in both Edinburgh and Westminster.”
He added: “The Welsh know that the future will need more shared governance, not less. Whether we are talking about public health or international trade, this is manifestly true.
“The Welsh also know that the current structure of the UK state is astonishingly poor at managing shared governance in practice. We have a tendency either to devolve and forget, or to over-centralise: it’s either your problem for you alone, or our issue for us alone.
“Yet, as the Welsh Government says, this is the opposite of a strong and durable settlement. It is a weak and brittle way of approaching power and, unless we adapt – unless we become more like the Welsh – it will snap and break.
“A kinder, gentler nationalism, and a more constructive, collaborative unionism. These are the hallmarks of Welsh politics. Both Scotland and England would do well to take heed.”
Adam Tomkins was a was a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Glasgow region from 2016 until he stood down at the 2021 elections. He is the is the John Millar Professor of Public Law at the University of Glasgow School of Law.