Think Again: Let go of the United Kingdom

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Did you know that the Scottish Nationalists have recently come to power with a huge majority? Probably not, given that we’re talking about the Scottish Parliament. But commentators across the country have been predicting and lamenting the end of the UK as we know it. I think the union, like the empire before it, has run its course. Let it die peacefully.

Here is an important fact: we never conquered Scotland. Following a crackpot get-rich-quick scheme in Panama where all the nobles lost their money they joined us. This puts them in a completely different ballpark to Wales or Northern Ireland. However much we may like to, we are unable to stop the Scotland leaving the Union if they vote to do so. And you can be sure the SNP will push for a referendum, and that a fair few Scots will vote for separation.

So why defend the union? It’s half dead anyway. Devolution has granted Scotland its own parliament with law courts, its own health service and control over income tax. In fact, the only thing they really lack is a separate foreign policy, which their first minister Alex Salmond is trying to create by appointing an ‘external affairs’ minister. They’ve even got different banknotes, different sporting leagues, and a different language.

What does the UK really mean to us anymore? It’s something on our passports and is wheeled out for royal weddings. Here in England you would barely notice if it was gone.

Scottish unionists have pointed out that devolution without independence has brought massive benefits to Scotland, a point I would agree with. Free tuition fees anyone? Not to mention much more investment in the NHS. But fees don’t grow on trees (a problem our present government has yet to come to terms with) and, due to the notorious Barnett Formula, the extra money comes from England. I’m trying hard to avoid satisfying a Daily-Mail reading, angry taxpayer, ‘southern softy’ stereotype here, but don’t you think that’s a unfair? I know plenty of places in London and the North-East every bit as deprived as a Glasgow slum. Non-Scottish residents are already being treated as second class citizens in the present system. Let’s remove this spending disparity by letting the Scots pay for their own services.

Scotland is a very, very long way from Oxford, both geographically and of course culturally. Their social issues and politics are very different to ours. And Scotland is following a fundamentally different path of development to us. While we have become a service economy, the Scots have considerable natural resources, including fisheries, timber and the North Sea oil reserves. Their political aspirations are also dissimilar to ours. How exactly does the election of only one Conservative MP North of the border give the Conservative-led coalition a mandate to govern Scotland?

The truth is we’ve got few connections left. We used to go up there on holiday, yet the substantially warmer beaches of France and Spain have tempted us southward, while surprisingly few Scots have made the journey down to London. The same situation applies to Ireland, which is fully independent. An independent Scotland, under EU law, would still have open borders, at least for us, and you would still be able to settle there if you wished.

Maybe it would be helpful to see Scotland as part of our declining empire. We unified in 1707, the same century in which we fought over America, discovered Australia and began laying the foundations of the Indian Raj. Since then we’ve lost all three, and our borders have slowly receded back to our own shores. Surely Scotland is next on the list?

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