SCOTLAND is facing a choice between independence or staying in “very nationalistic” British state, according to one of the architects of the 2014 referendum.

Professor Ciaran Martin, who was previously a senior UK Government official, said much less attention is being given to what staying in the Union would mean, compared to what an independent Scotland would look like.

Writing in the journal Political Insight, he said there has been an “aggressive strategy” to curb devolution and compete with the devolved governments as a way of shoring up the Union. This pursuit of “muscular Unionism” by the UK Government poses a risk to the Union itself, he argues.

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“At a time when British nationalism is standing firm against a second referendum choice for Scotland, they are reframing that choice, when it eventually comes, to a binary one between leaving the United Kingdom or staying in a highly centralised, very nationalistic, British state,” he wrote.

Martin, professor of practice in the management of public organisations at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, was formerly constitution director at the UK Government’s Cabinet Office. He was the lead official who drew up the framework for the 2014 referendum on the UK side.

In the paper Can The UK Survive Muscular Unionism, published in this month’s Political Insight journal, he said the Union “remains in peril” despite recent polls showing variations in support for independence.

The National: Yes campaign material as the campaign ahead of the Scottish independence referendum continues. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday September 8, 2014.  The more information people have in the run-up to the independence referendum, the more

He noted the 45% recorded for Yes in the 2014 referendum could have turned out to be a ceiling of support, but instead it has “proved to be a floor”.

“The stability of the Union involves pulling clear of this very dangerous polling zone,” he said.

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“But Unionism has singularly struggled to articulate its vision as to why Scottish voters should be persuaded.

“For too many English Unionists, the merits of what Great Britain has become are so self-evident, they don’t need to be explained beyond slogans like ‘Our Precious Union’ and the ‘Awesome Foursome’.

“The problem here is that it implies that around half of Scots have taken leave of their senses by declining to support something so obviously beneficial to them.”

Martin said there had been “genuine and obvious concern” in the UK Government when the Covid pandemic highlighted the powers held by the devolved nations.

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“Now, fortified by the triumphant attainment of a ‘sovereignty first’ Brexit, this unease is giving way to open hostility,” he said.

He described the UK Government’s pursuit of "muscular unionism" as also being “know-your-place" Unionism.

Examples of this include Brexit, where the idea of compromise to make it more palatable to Scotland was “completely abandoned” and the “extraordinary constitutional land-grab” of the UK Internal Market Act.

He said the idea of federal model for the UK was impracticable and unviable as England will never vote for it and a new British nationalism is now redesigning the state.

“It is now looking to push back the messy but workable arrangements invented and expanded over the past three decades to reconcile different nationalisms and national identities within the United Kingdom,” he said.

“It is pushing forward a single, British nationalist vision of the future, working to shape government policy to realise it, and relying on an English electoral majority to deliver it. And if you don’t like it, know your place.”