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More than 70 MPs have formed the Conservative Union Research Group to work for the success and survival of the union in the decades ahead.
The move comes as Nicola Sturgeon prepares the ground for a new independence in Scotland and Sinn Fein predicts a majority in Northern Ireland will vote for Irish unification within 10 years.
The new group is chaired by Robin Millar, who last year won the Welsh seat of Aberconwy. He says two-thirds of the group are newly elected MPs – many from former Labour seats – who cannot be “dismissed as nostalgic flag-wavers”.
Arguing that preserving the union is “essential” for the challenges ahead this century, he said: “We have formed the Conservative Union Research Group with one aim: support the government in strengthening the union. We believe the United Kingdom is no small matter, or marginal concern.
“We believe its effects are evident in almost every part of life, that it is a potent force for good and it is fit for use in the 21st century.
“This UK has deep and strong roots. Every corner and community of these islands gave its own, united in defence of liberty, to ensure a world free from Nazi tyranny.
“The NHS – conceived in Wales, delivered in Manchester, free at the point of use – only survives with the support of the UK’s economic strength. The language of our union dominates the globe because of our success in trading, powered by the combined strength of our union.”
Exclusive polling for the Sunday Express by OnePoll sheds new light on attitudes to the union.
When asked if it would be better or worse for everyone in the UK, including the Scots, if Scotland became an independent nation, only four out of 10 (39.61 percent) thought it would be “worse” or “much worse”.
Just over a third (33.66 percent) said it would be “better” or “much better” and more than a quarter (26.72 percent) did not know or chose not to say.
Mr Millar and his colleagues want to strengthen the union at every opportunity.
He insists the new group is not about “bashing the SNP”, saying they are “entitled to a view”. He is more interested in reaching people who are “trying to make their minds up”.
He said: “One of the strengths of the union has been to accommodate difference and I would hope that our vision for the union is big enough to include those who do not want to be part of the union.”
Comparing the different nations to one big family, he said: “Families argue like no other but actually it is the strength of the bonds that hold that family together and allow that kind of strong debate, so I’m confident that we will find a way through it.”
Mr Millar does not support a move to a “federal” United Kingdom in which England – like Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – has its own government with a separate UK Government dealing with affairs for the entire UK.
“I don’t think there is any appetite for more government,” he said.
The OnePoll research also asked people to set aside their opinions about what would happen to Scotland if the nation leaves the UK and consider whether this would make life better or worse for those in the remaining parts of the country.
More than a third (34.27 percent) thought England, Northern Ireland and Wales would be “better” or “much better” off. Close to four out of 10 (38.71 percent) thought the remaining nations would be “worse” or “much worse” off – and 27.02 percent did not know or preferred not to say.
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