I realise as a Unionist by conviction the vast majority of the articles haven’t been written for my benefit or from my viewpoint, but even so, having looked at Perryman’s introduction, there is one fundamental weakness in his approach immediately apparent...Britain, at the ballot box, is showing no inclination whatsover to break up!:
"A civic nationalist politics now exists in Scotland and Wales prepared to push the devolution settlement to it limits, its breaking point."
It does, but in both cases this "politics" is still very much a minority viewpoint in terms of the total electorate opinion- in the last Assembly elections, the SNP gained 33% of the vote in Scotland, Plaid Cymru 25% in Wales.
Opinion polls show the percentage of the population in both countries in favour of independence as much lower-
The mere existance of this "civic nationalist politics" is therefore nowhere near heralding the Break-up of Britain where it matters, ie at the ballot box.
"In Northern Ireland Irish Republicanism is now the majority party representing the nationalist community."
Again, yes. But again, as a percentage of the total population, their views on Irish "unity" are, according to opinion polls, held by about only a quarter of the population. The truth is that whilst Sinn Fein remain a party wedded to their philosophy of exclusive ethno-nationalism, their chances of persuading the numbers needed from outside their own (as they would define it) “community” remain as close to zero as to make no difference.
Which leaves England:
"In England a growing body of opinion and ideas demands that England must find a part to play in this process too."
It’s always hard to quantify bodies of "opinion" or "ideas" (back to a process being driven by the "chatterati" or the blogosphere again?) ; the only sure thing we can say at the moment is that it’s not a body of opinion or ideas which is finding its expression in terms of electoral power or success.
So, in terms of the numbers at the ballot-box or in the opinion polls, are we any nearer the "Break of Britain" than we were before the introduction of the devolution experiment? No, not really.
In terms of the damage already caused and the potential that could be caused by the separatist or even, (unbelievably) unionist parties pushing the present devolution system to its limit?
Well, that is something we who believe in the the continuance of a truly United Kingdom need to be very careful and aware of, the danger of us sleepwalking out of the Union is a much greater one than the risk of a majority in any part of the UK voting for separation. However, I feel the awareness of that potential danger is much higher now than it was at the instigation of devolution over a decade ago and I really think we are long way from stumbling in a:
"A direction towards states of independence in which we will surely witness a reformation of four nations after a Union that has run out of time."
Despite all that, this is still a book I'm looking forward to reading and hopefully being challenged by and I'll be reviewing other segments of the book over the next few days.