The British state in its current form is unravelling. Scottish politics now diverge dramatically from English patterns. Scottish independence would not only transform the nature of the British state, but it would also have significant effects on Wales, and, particularly, on Northern Ireland, with further consequences in turn for the politics of the Republic of Ireland. The Forum for British and Irish Political Thought aims to bring clarity and informed expertise to current debates about political relationships among the constituent nations of these islands, whether within or outside the United Kingdom itself.
The current crisis of the British state is, in part, of course, a symptom of immediate discontents. However, it also derives from deeper-seated issues in Anglo-Scottish-Welsh-Irish relations going back to the middle ages. It was no accident that the Referendum on Scottish independence was held in the year of the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. Medieval themes still have rhetorical purchase on the politics of the 21st century present.
The Forum for British and Irish Political Thought brings together those interested in the British and Irish Questions from across these islands, from academia and politics, and from across a range of disciplines. By political thought the Forum means much more than political philosophy; rather, it examines thinking about politics across a range of genres and idioms. Political thought, it is now recognised, is a subject which is intrinsically multi-disciplinary, a concern not only of political scientists and public lawyers, but also of historians and even literary critics, for the imagination too has a large part to play in the construction of national identities. Fiscal issues constitute another major theme in territorial politics, which will also be addressed.
The Forum seeks both to inform public debate and to provide expert analysis to policy makers who are faced in the case of the British and Irish Questions with issues deep-rooted in the historical past, well beyond the normal expertise of the political classes, whose horizons are inevitably present- and future-oriented. The Forum seeks to facilitate engagement between academics and other interested parties, including politicians, civil servants, and think tanks. A key feature of the Forum will be the aim to provide a relaxed and unthreatening setting for constructive discussion, in which politicians from across the major divides on constitutional issues, both nationalists and unionists of different sorts, can feel comfortable exchanging ideas and, perhaps, finding some common ground.
The Forum is non-partisan. Its membership includes unionists and nationalists, from inside and outside the United Kingdom, and does not pursue any party line.