The apocryphal story of King Canute and the tide, tells of the monarch who demonstrates the limitations of his powers compared to that of the almighty. This story often misrepresented with Canute actions seen as futile, with the king presented as believing that it was in his authority to control nature.
The misrepresented usage could be an example to describe the state of modern-day unionism. To some unionists, there seems to be a sense of futility. To them, the days of the United Kingdom are drawing to a close and so it is futile to resist. Polling conducted by Lord Ashcroft of English based supporters of the Conservative Party suggests they would be willing to accept the break up of the United Kingdom.
Douglas Ross MP leader of the Scottish Conservative Party was right to call this out in his speech to the virtual Conservative Party Conference. For too long, unionism in England has been in retreat to the detriment of the United Kingdom. As Ross stated it is time for the Conservative party to rediscover unionism. Symbolic gestures and rhetoric will not suffice.
In Wales, Paul Davies MS the leader of the Welsh Conservative group in the Welsh Parliament has stated his desire to respect devolution. Davies aspires to delineate the competencies of the Welsh Government so that the Welsh Government is not assuming competencies that are exercised by Westminster.
Ross in Scotland and Davies in Wales, are just some examples of a much-needed change in ethos. Coupled with announcements from Boris Johnson that the UK government will try to take forward the much needed M4 relief road as well as the fixed link between Northern Ireland and Scotland. It appears that Conservative politicians are coming to realise that a change of emphasis must occur if the Union is to survive.
It is right for Westminster to step up to deliver for the people of the United Kingdom. For instance, the devolved Welsh government stood for election on a manifesto that included a pledge to build the M4 relief road. The Welsh government has failed to deliver on this manifesto pledge to the detriment of the people of Wales, so it is right for Westminster to look to deliver the project.
As part of a more assertive approach to the Union, the Westminster government must address the replacement for the EU Structural and Investment (ESI) funding, to do so would allow Westminster to be seen to deliver for people across the United Kingdom. The Union must be about more than just finance however an alternative to ESI funding would help dispel some of the myths that Westminster has scant regard for the constituent nations of the United Kingdom.
An assertive form of unionism can help safeguard the integrity of the United Kingdom. One that acknowledges the unique nature of the constituent parts of the United Kingdom while actively delivering for its people.