No matter how hard the BBC try to bury the story, it just isn’t going away …
Next May is the 300th anniversary of the Union of the Scottish and English Parliaments, which followed the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and began the United Kingdom. It should be a cause for much celebration of one of the most successful Unions the world has ever seen, one which (along with the Welsh and the Ulster-Scots) dominated the 19th century through the British Empire, played a crucial role in seeing off the great 20th century evils of fascism and communism and which remains an important economic, diplomatic and military power, even in the 21st century.
But instead of celebration the air is thick with talk of divorce on both sides of the border. What was put together in 1707 might soon be about to come apart. It has not yet dawned on the rest of the world that, in the foreseeable future, there might not be a United Kingdom.
LONDON: A majority of British voters support Scottish independence and the breakup of the country’s 300-year-old union with England, a poll released Sunday suggests.
Fifty-two percent of Scots polled by ICM supported Scottish independence, as did 59 percent of English voters.
The 1707 Act of Union joined England and Scotland under a single Parliament and monarch. Scottish independence has risen on the political agenda since the country was granted its own parliament, with power over many domestic functions, by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government in 1999.
One of the more astonishing features of our politics is the way in which really quite clever and experienced people fail, from time to time, to see the blindingly obvious. One example is the way in which some of those around Tony Blair — and for all I know Mr Blair himself — have believed, on and off over the past few years, that it might be possible to stop Gordon Brown becoming PM. Another was the even more foolish, and much more widely held, fantasy that granting devolution to Scotland would not, sooner rather than later, lead to a rampant rise of Scottish nationalism. As the more astute among you will immediately realise, these two concerns are inextricably linked.
So, what’s the worst that could happen? If the opinion polls are broadly correct, and the SNP is returned as the largest party in May, what could be the realistic downside, given that most people seem to have dismissed Tony Blair’s forecasts of constitutional apocalypse?
he reaction to the government’s warnings about families being split asunder and the nation being left defenceless has been one of bemused disdain in the Scottish press - traditionally a bastion of unionism. Times change.
I think the word is panic. Last week the prime minister, chancellor of the exchequer, home secretary, defence secretary, trade secretary and Scots ministerial expatriates galore travelled in a posse north to a Labour conference in Oban, like a bunch of Spanish hidalgos racing back from the fleshpots of Madrid to quell a revolt in their home province.
Their objective was to suppress one man, Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National party. An opinion poll had shown support for Salmond’s crusade, an independent Scotland, rising to 52% of the electorate. Those regarding themselves as Scottish had risen from half to three-quarters in 25 years, while those saying “British” had halved to just 20%.
This is raw politics. Labour desperately needs its 40 or so Scottish seats at Westminster. Gordon Brown, probably the next prime minister, wears his distaste for England on his sleeve, and English voters sense it. Already devolution has subverted the legitimacy of Scots MPs in voting on English bills. Just when the 300th anniversary of the 1707 Act of Union is about to be celebrated, it seems to be falling apart, and Labour’s electoral fortunes with it. Battle will be joined next May in the Scottish parliamentary elections.