THE authorities at Westminster seem to have come up with a clever way to dispose of pesky questions of Scottish and Welsh independence and Irish reunification forever – by quietly reclassifying Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland as "regions of England".

The descriptor appeared in a section of the official website of the UK Parliament giving a breakdown of constituencies in the House of Commons. Westminster authorities hurriedly blamed the apparent annexation on a software error.

The issue might appear trivial, but it speaks to the way in which the smaller nations of the UK are themselves trivialised by the authorities of the British state. The mistake was not picked up on until concerns were raised by the poet Gillian Ferguson on Twitter – this means that the mistake had passed unnoticed by the Westminster IT team for an unknown length of time.

READ MORE: 'Aye, right': Scots react as UK 'software' brands Scotland a 'region of England'

The error seems to have arisen because Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland were assigned individual URLs on the Westminster website but England was not, meaning that the data heading for England appeared by default when there was a glitch with the correct URLs for the other nations.

While this was just a software error, the uncomfortable truth for Scots who oppose independence is that many people south of the Border do indeed see Scotland as being an adjunct to England, as is proven by the fact that on the Westminster website England was the default setting and the other nations were defined in reference to it.

There are numerous other examples of this kind of thing, each of which is trivial by itself, but together they paint a picture of a Scotland which is indeed perceived as a region of "greater England". For example, on a recent episode of a BBC quiz show, a contestant confidently answered Ben Nevis to the question: "What is the highest mountain in England?"

The contestant looked genuinely perplexed to be informed that the correct answer was Scafell Pike.

The National:

More seriously, last year Scotland Secretary Alister Jack said that he disliked referring to the United Kingdom as being composed of four nations, and instead preferred to think of a single "British" nation with its various "regions" – which he conceded might have "dialects" of their own.

That "British nation" which Jack so loves is functionally indistinguishable from England. If Jack had his way, he would indeed reduce Scotland to the status of a region. During his term in office he has done his utmost to by-pass, marginalise, and neuter the ability of the Scottish Parliament as much as possible.

The logical outcome of the centralised post-Brexit British state which the Conservatives are pursuing is a Scotland which is effectively nothing more than a region of a centralised Britain, an area with the exact same political and constitutional standing as a region of England.

In that regard the descriptor of Scotland on the Westminster website as a "region of England" was not merely a software glitch, it was also a prophecy.

Very local politics

There was a by-election in South Ayrshire council in the Girvan and South Carrick ward yesterday, which was held due to SNP councillor Peter Henderson retiring on health grounds. The ward was taken by the Tories, leading to much jubilation by Conservative MSPs on social media. However the Conservative self-congratulation is likely to be premature.

Turn out for the by-election was paltry. The ward has a population of 10,871 according to the council website, but only a mere 2770 votes were registered. This still suggests a negligible turn out.

This happens to be the council ward in which I live, and even though I take an active interest in politics, I had no idea that a by-election was taking place. I and my husband certainly did not receive polling cards in the mail and neither did a local friend of mine.

In this area there are traditionally "independent" candidates who are well known locally and who often vote with the Conservatives on the council. This time round there was no independent candidate and this will have boosted the Conservative vote.

Extrapolating from this result to a future General Election, or even to the possible result in an independence referendum as some more excitable British nationalists on social media have done, is simply risible.

Ferry links

Talks are underway to restore a direct ferry connection between Scotland and the European mainland. The ferry connection between Rosyth in Fife and Zeebrugge in Belgium ceased operation in 2018. The ferry had provided a valuable service for freight lorry drivers, allowing them to by pass the long drive through England to the often congested Channel ports.

Fife MP Douglas Chapman told The National that a ferry operator has been lined up to provide the service and "high-level talks" are going ahead with a European port. Due to issues with the availability of berthing space at Zeebrugge, talks are underway with an alternative European port for the resumption of a service to the EU from Rosyth.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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