Breakup of the “United” Kingdom

Scottish independence: a matter of time?

Without rejuvenation, the Union will be gone within ten years. Brexit and Covid have combined to seal its fate. A recent Ipsos Mori poll found the highest ever level of support for independence, with 58% of Scots who have made up their mind saying they would vote Yes, and only 42% saying they would vote No. Among young voters, support for independence was even more clear-cut, with 79% of 16- to 24-year-olds opting for Yes. The pandemic has helped to make the case for separation, “in that it has already led to the effective reimposition of a border”. And although Edinburgh has made many of the same mistakes as London, Nicola Sturgeon has “cleverly” deflected the blame for any failings onto Westminster. As the poll also recorded, 72% of Scots are satisfied with Sturgeon’s performance, while 76% are dissatisfied with Johnson’s.

But the contest isn’t over yet. It’s worth noting that, though Scotland voted 62% to 38% to Remain in the Brexit vote, there was no sudden surge in support for independence after it. That has come about essentially because of the “personae of Sturgeon and Johnson” – the Scots’ affection for Nicola, and their dislike for Boris. With his approval ratings so low, Johnson will not allow a second independence referendum to happen on his watch. And when the time finally comes, a “whole range of other factors” will come into play, including the same tough questions, “about currency, pensions, the economy and whether Scotland will rejoin the EU”, that undid the Yes campaign in 2014.

To preserve the Union, we’ll have to tackle the consequences of devolution. It allowed the SNP to use the Scottish state to campaign for separation, while “hoarding enough power” in Westminster to allow them to blame London for all ills. The Covid crisis has exposed the absurdities of our “centralising and controlling government”. If the United Kingdom is to survive, it will need to decentralise, and make the four nations a “smarter and more coherent” whole.
(Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times; Ian Swanson in the Edinburgh Evening News; Nick Timothy in The Daily Telegraph; and comments in the Sunday Times, 24 October 2020).

My comment: All this represents the inexorable trend towards breakup that comes with Tory obsession with centralization (but inability to govern justly when they do get power). Thus it has been for decades and the show will continue unabated until, who knows?, London becomes a city state and the rest of the country (what country) is left to get along as best it may. Cheerful prospect!

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