THE “muscular Unionism” exhibited by Liz Truss in the Tory leadership race is equal to “imperialism”, a constitutional expert has said.

Iain McLean, a professor of politics at Oxford University and a fellow of Nuffield College, pointed specifically to the now Prime Minister’s claim that the “best” thing was to simply “ignore” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

He also highlighted comments from David Frost – the former Brexit lead negotiator who was handed a life peerage by Boris Johnson – in which the top Tory said: “The Scottish ‘Government’ is not the government of a state in confederation with England. It is a subordinate entity within the UK.”

McLean remarked that such statements tend to benefit the pro-independence side more than the Unionist.

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In a column for The Times, the political author wrote: “This embodies their muscular Unionism. The phrase is new, but the concept is not. It ended badly last time and there is no reason to expect it will end well this time. Muscular Unionism benefits nationalists, not Unionists.”

The professor looked at the idea of “parliamentary sovereignty”, which says that Westminster is supreme, and can enact any law it likes – except to block a future Westminster from acting.

He noted the Sewel Convention, which says that Westminster will “not normally legislate” in devolved areas without Holyrood’s consent, despite having the power to.

“However, that section is a dead letter,” McLean wrote.

“The UK Parliament has already legislated on devolved matters without the consent of the Scottish Parliament. Court challenges have failed on the grounds that what is ‘normal’ is for politicians, not judges, to decide.”

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He further drew parallels – with caveats – to what happened ahead of the run-up to the creation of an Irish free state in 1921.

McLean wrote: “We can’t know if ‘kind’ Unionism would have worked [to ‘kill’ any ideas of Home Rule], but for sure muscular Unionism did not.”

He went on: “The parallel that remains valid is this: ignoring the wishes of the people elected in Ireland didn’t work. Nor will ignoring the wishes of the people elected in Scotland. Muscular Unionism is not truly Unionism. It is imperialism. That did not end well last time, either.”

Muscular Unionism was the go-to tactic for Boris Johnson’s government in their attempts to quell support for Scottish independence, which in 2020 hit highs of as much as 58%.

After a fevered time at the Downing Street “Union unit”, which saw two bosses quit in the space of two weeks, the UK Government appeared to swing more towards “kind Unionism”.

Reportedly thanks to the influence of Michael Gove, the Tory government began exerting controls over funds brought in to replace EU money lost to Brexit in an effort to seem more closely relevant to people in Scotland.

However, Gove was fired from Cabinet by Johnson at the same time as more than 50 MPs resigned from his failing government.

The former senior Tory said he did not expect to be welcomed back into government by the new Prime Minister, Truss, and it remains to be seen exactly what style of Unionism she will employ.

McLean has co-authored several political books including 2013’s Scotland's Choices and 2005’s State of the Union: Unionism and the Alternatives in the UK Since 1707.

He also directs a public policy research unit at Nuffield College.