WHEN Theresa May decided in 2019 that a review should take place into strengthening the UK Union, she showed much more foresight than was demonstrated throughout much of her time as prime minister.

Seeing the inevitable outcome of the Brexit vote, in which Scotland watched Ruth Davidson’s promise of “vote No to stay in the European Union” become an overnight liability, the former prime minister began preparing for a sharp rise in support for independence.

Unfortunately for May, the knives were out long before she had a chance to see Tory peer Andrew Dunlop’s final report.

When the finished report finally did arrive on the desk of Boris Johnson in early 2020, it was to little fanfare – and the resounding silence that followed suggests it may have “accidentally” ended up down the back of Johnson’s couch with the red wine stains and long-forgotten bank notes that reside in such places.

With that it was almost forgotten – until last week, when a small group of MPs representing the devolved nations banded together to demand that the report be published in full.

With the UK falling to pieces faster than Johnson’s expectations of what it would be like to be Prime Minister, it seems almost bizarre that a report that could save our crumbling political union would withhold its findings. Unless, of course, it could do no such thing ...

There are, I suspect, three potential reasons the review has never seen the light of day. Firstly, Dunlop’s report was a bust. There is every possibility, even probability, that a clear path to saving the Union just no longer exists.

And is a member of the House of Lords even capable of making the kind of recommendations that would have a radical impact on the relationships between the four nations that comprise the UK?

I would suspect that any meaningful democratic reforms, such as scrapping the role of unelected peers at Westminster, does not feature high on the list of recommendations from Baron Dunlop.

Without the will to seriously challenge the status quo, what are we left with?

A governmental leak last year revealed that one recommendation from the report would be to move Whitehall officials out of London to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in a bid to ensure “policy takes into account the differences within the country”. While potentially headline-grabbing, it’s difficult to see how a change like this would have any meaningful impact in the lives of your average member of the public.

Westminster governments have repeatedly shown they have little interest in the needs of anyone outwith the south of England. Local issues aren’t about to be given the time they deserve just because some Whitehall officials have to talk about them over Zoom now.

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The Dunlop Review allegedly contains more than 40 recommendations the UK Government can follow to repair the deteriorated relationship Westminster has with all devolved nations, but if this is the calibre of thinking I’m not surprised the document has spent the last year gathering dust.

However, I suspect the real reason that the review has spent the past year in relative obscurity is because the UK Government just isn’t interested in following any of the recommendations.

The House of Commons, and its brooding Etonian sycophants, are steeped in a history of traditionalism, exceptionalism and privilege. Only Britain could have birthed the born-to-rule class with such enthusiasm, and its innumerable politicians with more triple-breasted suits than morals.

To think the House of Commons could make meaningful changes to the UK’s institutions when MPs still need to spend six hours walking through doors to decide what to have for dinner is laughable. I suspect the suggestion of moving officials out of Whitehall would be viewed as outright insurrection by some of Britain’s elite.

A few small changes from the review have allegedly started moving forward already. In publishing the review, the UK Government would only be highlighting the lengths to which they won’t go to save the Union. Finally, and most cynically, perhaps the reason Johnson’s administration has kept Dunlop’s recommendations under wraps is down to the fact they view them as ammunition in the coming referendum.

Given the general behaviour of successive Conservative governments since the independence referendum in 2014, it would be hard to take any generic promises of more powers as a serious potential outcome of a second vote against independence. The fact Scotland has been so consistently sidelined, ignored and even undermined in the following years must have led to an understanding that any promise of further powers or benefits will need to come with a little more than a handshake – and the Dunlop Review could hold those answers.

The problem for the Conservatives on this front is that, fundamentally, this approach undermines any claim that the Tories are working to strengthen the Union. If they can resolve longstanding inequities of the United Kingdom right now, but choose not to lest it leaves them with less influence in a future referendum, that would only underline how delivering for Scotland comes second to maintaining power in Scotland.

Until the Dunlop Review sees the light of day, it’s impossible to really know exactly why it has remained absent from the public eye. However, the fact that its recommendations, and even its early implementation, have remained hidden from the devolved administrations that it directly relates to tells me that the Union remains beyond reform.