A year after the Scottish independence referendum, former Director of the Scotland Office Alun Evans, now Chief Executive of the British Academy, set out his personal view today on what the United Kingdom could do to avert a second referendum that could result in Scottish independence.
In a lecture at the British Academy titled ‘Getting ahead of the curve: How to stop playing catch up on Scotland’, he argued that the best way to save the union would be for the United Kingdom to make a “big, bold and generous offer to the people of Scotland” and offer Home Rule within the United Kingdom.
Alun Evans spent almost three years from 2012 – 2015 working at the Scotland Office. He helped to negotiate the Edinburgh agreement of 2012 and witnessed the run up to the referendum and its aftermath at close quarters.
He outlined the history of the UK’s relationship with Scotland, drawing in particular on the independence movement and the SNP’s evolution from a fringe party to one that gained 50% of the votes and over 90% of the MPs in Scotland at the 2015 General Election. From his close personal experience watching the run up to the referendum, he said it appeared that the SNP and the “Yes” campaign were calling all of the shots, with supporters of the union consistently behind the curve, playing a game of catch up with the independence bandwagon.
In his recommendations for a bold way forward, Evans urged the UK Government to make an offer of ‘Home Rule for Scotland’, echoing the words of Charles Stuart Parnell and the Irish nationalism of the late 1880s.
On the current situation and possible ways forward, Evans said:
“The time for incrementalism is over. Playing catch up with the SNP has not worked and probably will not work. The time is ripe now to get ahead of the curve and so help to secure the union. I would argue that the time has come for the United Kingdom to make a big, bold and generous offer to the people of Scotland.”
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