Letter: Labour is the party of constitutional reform, and unionists must lobby Sir Keir Starmer to ensure they are part of the conversation
Half of England separates me from Scotland and the Irish Sea separates me from NI, so I may have this wrong.
But, I think, the greatest danger to the Union is Scottish nationalism and the mishandling of the independence referendum in 2014 underscores this point. If we can heal the wounds there we can heal them elsewhere too.
The modern Labour Party offers some hope. It is a thoughtful party of constitutional reform. The Conservatives, with many notable exceptions, are less inclined to thoughtfulness and they tend to annoy, quite understandably, a significant part of the Scottish electorate.
NIO Minister Steve Baker recently reflected on referendums and the failings of the 50%-plus-one-of-those-voting model as it applied to Brexit. It may be counterproductive to decide irreversible historic constitutional changes on a small margin of those who actually vote in any given plebiscite.
Some politicians in the Republic have warned against this line of thought as it might apply in the case of a border poll. They are quite right. Difficult conversations must be handled carefully, over a period of years. We do not want to alarm anyone and we care about their legitimate perspective.
But people have to be realistic. A certain kind of Irish nationalist saw opportunities in the Brexit/Johnson/Truss chaos, as well as the earlier Salmond/Sturgeon hegemony in Edinburgh. That is largely over now, but there is no returning to the status quo ante. In fact, we now have to "build back better" and correct the systemic faults that we have identified.
Just as there are conversations about a "new Ireland", it is only right that we should have conversations about a new United Kingdom, including arrangements for any future referendum on Scottish separation from the rest of us, then moving on, eventually, to the best constitutional arrangements for NI and any future border poll.
Politics evolves, politicians in the Republic should not become too focused on the past. We should build on the past, including past agreements, which should grow organically over time. We should also be relaxed about being different where this is unavoidable. The response of the Dublin political class to the Israel/Hamas conflict reminds us that the Republic really is quite different from most of us in the West. This exceptionalism must be respected, although strategic nationalists will realise that the greater the exceptionalism, the more likely their dream of an all-Ireland republic remains just that.
Returning to Scotland, perhaps there should be no future independence referendum until it seems that there is overwhelming demand for it. Even then, perhaps a majority of the electorate should vote for it, not just a majority of those who are able to vote by post or on the day. There is a further debate about whether even that threshold is enough, when the trauma of massive constitutional change is being decided.
Only Labour in Scotland can lead this debate over the next decade or so. All unionists can do is lobby them, and Sir Keir Starmer, quietly, calmly, over a number of years, as part of a conversation about a new UK.
John Gemmell, Wem, Shropshire