To an unusual degree, governments in Celtic nations (Ireland, Scotland and Wales) are more progressive than Celtic voters. Relevant measures reflect social justice ideology – recently, the Irish hate speech law has been controversial – yet have a wider basis than social justice ideology, the Welsh government regulating
Agree re positioning towards the English "other" but also surely heavily determined by the massive tax subsidies given to Wales / Scotland by English taxpayers. Each person in England on average benefitted from public spending worth £91 more than the taxes they paid: in Scotland, Wales the figures were £2,543, £4,412. Huge subsidised public sectors, given free money and indulged. The real test would be facing the fiscal realities absent massive subsidies and Welsh and Scottish public's having to actually pay for the various progressive policies and the nannying of bureaucrats.
There is a similar puzzle re Canada, Australia and NZ, all of which are more monolithically progressive than the US or UK. On its face the size explanation doesn’t work quite as well for those countries, as you note re Canada. I wonder if there is a cultural component as well, specifically more conformism. This could work in conjunction with your theory re size by making it more difficult to disrupt the elite consensus constructed by activists. The US clearly has a strong libertarian streak, and I wonder if a culture of conformism explains the blue / red state divide. The class structure in the UK perhaps results in less conformism across classes?
I think this is especially true with a conservative government in Westminster - Brexit probably also plays a role.
I guess the model is that (small-c) conservative people who identify primarily as Scottish, and are pro-independence currently have mixed feelings. They think that the UK government (and public) is correctly conservative on economic and social issues, but they would also still rather be governed by a conservative Scottish party. So, whether they land closer to the conservative party or the SNP, they aren't feeling particularly impassioned on either side, so they become less politically active.
Progressive, pro-independence Scots, however, are currently doubly aggrieved, being ruled by a conservative in Westminster, who also happens to be an English "other'. This makes them particularly incentivised to be politically active in this period.
If we saw a genuinely progressive UK government, I suspect the trend could go the other way- I doubt the Scots would try to outdo the progressive English. Instead, conservative, pro-indy Scots would become more politically active, and we might see more conservative social policies across the Celtic regions. With a centrist Starmer government, it's hard to tell.
It is striking in Ireland how the criminal justice system is so at odds with the majority view. It would only take people to express themselves and the policy would change pretty quickly but apathy is the activist’s best friend.
Interesting point! Seems right: "But when agendas enjoy support among global and internal elites, small countries seem prone to radicalism"
Regarding those that joind the EU as new acension members in the 2000s, I think there's obviously a degree of cultural and political inertia that comes with size. Modernising bureaucracy and infrastructure becomes massively more difficult when you are a huge country not a tiny Baltic state.
And all of the post Soviet/Communist states have long term issues with their pensions funds which are much harder to fix in larger countries.
Size does seem to lead to a natural degree of conservatism, simply because costs and difficulties seem to be cubed rather than doubled as you go up in population and land mass.
I think a large part of the issue is that the Celtic governments seek to define themselves as different from the British and English. This was very visible during COVID, where they always took a harder line than London government did. To some extent all the Celtic nations have part of their identity wrapped up in being different to England, so this is relatively logical.
As far as being more progressive than their people, it's worth remembering that these Celtic politicians in the UK are second tier, and during EU membership were third tier. There's simply not that many people who are worthwhile and talented career politicians in a country with only a few million residents. That means you're always skewing towards who is available and keen on a political career - hence the prevalance of the very progressive politician. Add in the fact that the best are taken up by the British system, and those on the right tend more towards more business oriented activies and the talent pool starts to explain some of the policy.
This interesting article reminds me of one from NYT's Ross Douthat which discusses why wokeness seems so powerful in Britain and Canada compared to America. I think it all comes down to Americanization. Small countries with greater consensus are more likely to pass through legislation.
That's a very ery selective reading of Irish politics - ignoring the Irish abortion and same sex marriages referendums which both showed the voters were more progressive then government.
V interesting, especially the point of Néolibéral Baltic States which is often overlooked. Wonder what you thought about Nigel Biggar's claim that obsession with decolonisation, ID politics etc in the Celtic nations is used as a buttress for independence, specifically through showing that you're not "evil" like England and it's past colonising sins? Would explain Wales' treatment of Thomas Picton (in this case Drakeford gov outdoing Plaid). Winger if situation in eg. Catalunya is similar?