How Bike License Plates Could Break the Union

The idea of ​​number plates for bicycles is bad enough on its own – so bad, in fact, that Transport Secretary Grant Shapps rejected him almost as quickly as he suggested. But even hinting at such unnecessary and draconian measures could have far more serious consequences than forcing the government into an embarrassing reversal – it could help destroy the UK.

Hear me out: this type of legislation, which only serves the interests of Londoners and is totally unnecessary north of the border, is exactly why we have a Potemkin parliament in Edinburgh which is causing so much trouble. I know this from personal experience. My negative epiphany occurred when I realized that the window shapes of new houses to be built on the Isle of Barra were controlled by legislation intended to stop ribbon development in the south of England after the Second World War. The idea that the Town and Country Planning Act (1947) should govern house design in the Outer Hebrides in the 1990s seemed to me like metropolitan autocracy completely unleashed. I decided to do the only effective thing I could and vote for the Scottish National Party.

Although a staunch Unionist, I was so enraged by the English presumption that their problems are everybody’s problems, and that we must all be put down equally in order to preserve national legal uniformity, that I voted SNP for thirty years.

Likewise, I refuse to be subject to rules like those offered to cyclists. I refuse to be micro-managed by pale-fingered control freaks in airless offices. Londoners are urged to destroy freedom of physical movement in their city in any way they see fit. It’s their mansion. But this is my country.

Cyclists may or may not be a problem in the South East of England – I don’t know, having not visited in over a decade. But they are certainly not here in offshore Argyll. Every day I cycle about 11 km along the shore here for a breath of fresh air and some exercise. Almost the entire route is on single lane roads where everyone travels slowly. Although I was sure to exceed the speed limit on some downhill sections, I never found myself in conflict with a driver, pedestrian or sheep. I don’t use protective gear; I don’t wear cycling clothes. When the mood takes me, I simply put on a raincoat or a sun hat, depending on the season, and get on my bike. Without that kind of freedom, cycling becomes another aspect of the national conspiracy to chain everyone to chairs and smartphones. It can hardly be said too loudly: This is not London. No, we have far more pressing matters to attend to, from Nicola Sturgeon to failed ferries, national bankruptcy and – uh – Nicola Sturgeon.

So I give the necessary warning – I will revert to voting for the SNP if ever this law is ‘touched by the scepter’, as the legislation was in the old Scottish parliament to come into force. I make this point because I know this is the mood in Scotland today. Thousands of people, especially in rural communities, will return to voting for the Nationalists if there is much more of this type of Anglocentric Sovietism.

I would rather deal with the hordes of screaming barbarians we saw outside the Tory roundups in Perth last week (which may also provide useful exercise) than with hairy-faced British bureaucracy when in the mood to destroy the freedom of simple cycling in the great outdoors in a beautiful country like Scotland. It’s not London, like I said. Nor will it be Britain unless this type of repression stops.

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Ian Mitchell is the author of The Justice Factory: Can the Rule of Law Survive in 21st Century Scotland? (2020) and is working on a parliamentary biography of Nicola Sturgeon.

The columns are the author’s own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.

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