In the Outer Hebrides, on the edge of British malaise

It’s half past midnight on Benbecula Island, and Angus MP Brendan MacNeil has finished warming up. “If you want Scotland to stay, then you should get Ireland back too,” he says with a twinkle in his eye, a beer in his hand, certain that he has me this time. I make the mistake of hesitating, so he perseveres.

Send Ireland back into poverty and depopulation like Wales and Scotland! Tell them how lucky they are to have the money coming from London! That Limerick would have had no roundabout without it! Long live the United Kingdom!” I grant you, he is not wrong.

Angus MacNeil is a farmer turned politician from Barra, an island about a hundred miles south of Benbecula. It is the last of the archipelago called the Outer Hebrides, to the west of which there is only ocean all the way to Canada.

He is an independent candidate in the legislative elections of July 4th. “an independent separatist on independence day”, he claims – after being kicked out of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in 2023 following a dispute with the group’s chairman. Angus MacNeil was furious that the party does not defend Scottish independence vigorously enough after Brexit.

“GB Energy” marks the return of the State

His main rival and favorite in this constituency is a journalist friend, Torcuil Crichton, who was a reporter for Daily Record before joining the Labour Party. Both speak the Gaelic of these islands; only Torcuil Crichton is a Unionist. The latter is convinced that the British state can use its power to improve life in the Hebrides, particularly in the field of the green energy revolution. I realise that with “GB Energy”, a public renewable giant, Labour is proposing in its manifesto the first interventionist and comprehensive strategy for the whole of the United Kingdom in decades. Will it be enough to save the Union in the long term? That is not certain.

Angus MacNeil’s argument about Ireland is, in my view, the main challenge facing the British state today: is this state functional? Little is said about the fact that Ireland was the poorest region in the British Isles when it seceded and is now the richest. For people who, like me, have an emotional attachment to the Union, feel British and would like Britain to continue to exist, l

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