Curtain Call for “The United Kingdom”?

We’re living through an interesting and potentially groundbreaking peroid of history at the moment with “The Arab Spring”, the very first African-American  President of the United States taking and retaining office, the economic balance of power shifting eastwards, and seeing the biggest challenge to Capitalism since the Bolshevik Revolution and “The Great Depression” of the 1930′s.

However, if you live in the United Kingdom there is another potentially historic development arriving in 2014: Scottish Independence. If you’ve not been following the news or do not live in the UK I’ll give a rundown of what I’m about to address. All of the nations which currently make up “The United Kingdom” were not always part of it; Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland to be exact. Scotland has been part of the UK for just over three centuries, since the 1st of May 1707 to be precise when the Acts of Union merged the Scottish Parliament with the Westminster British Parliament. With it’s foundations secured Britain went forth and forged the greatest empire known to man, an empire which stretched the width of the globe and brought many nations under it’s influence… “The sun never sets on the British Empire” was a term which was not too far from reality when it was coined.
Despite being immensely prosperous for the British Empire the imperial model was an unsustainable system, financially and socially, and sure enough nation after nation began either demanding autonomy or outright independence from the British Crown. Although the American War of Independence (1775 – 1783) had shaken the foundations of the British Empire the real killer blows came with the Boer Wars (1880 – 1881 & 1899 – 1902), World War One (1914 – 1918), and World War Two (1939 – 1945). In addition to almost bankrupting Britain these wars had also proven that Britain could no longer guarantee the safety of it’s colonies, the Japanese bombing of Darwin being a good example, and in the aftermath of World War Two many of these colonies began seeking new partnerships such as the ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty) Treaty of 1951. Despite it’s worldwide empire fast falling to pieces Britain could be safe in the knowledge that it still had Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (Republic of Ireland was recognized in 1922) to maintain the title of “United Kingdom”.

Now even that appears to be in question as the Scottish Parliament has recently taken the extraordinary step of deciding to hold a referendum on whether or not Scotland should remain part of the UK. If the vote in favor of ‘Devolution’* passes in November 2014 that would mean with immediate effect that Scotland will become it’s own state completely independent from British politics. That would only leave England with Northern Ireland, which is experiencing ongoing tensions with it’s republican neighbor, and Wales, who’s future in the UK also seems in question.
* Devolution essentially means the transfer of powers from the UK parliament in London to assemblies in Cardiff and Belfast, and the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

Devolution

What this essentially means is that “The United Kingdom” would lose it’s second biggest member leaving England, Wales, and Northern Ireland as the remainder of what was once a global empire. The world has seen the death of the British Empire (if you’re one of those patriotic zealots who believes Britain still has an empire you’re delusional) and I genuinely think we’re about to see the death of the United Kingdom. If Scotland leaves the UK what does that mean for Wales? Even more so what does that mean for Northern Ireland, will it join it’s republican neighbor?

UK Scotland

Sceptics have said that without support from England Scotland would fail to keep itself afloat, pointing to the recent Euro bailout of The Republic of Ireland as a fear-inducing example. However, consider this… Scotland is not part of the Euro currency and has shown little inclination of ever joining it. It has a considerable advantage that many sceptics overlook when addressing this issue, the size of it’s population. As of 2012 England has a staggering population of roughly 60,000,000 people whilst Scotland has a mere 5,000,000. Nay-sayers will eagerly point out the potential costs Scotland will face without support from Westminster but the fact remains that Scotland has a tiny population to care for compared to England and that any public services bill would be minute compared to the ever-rising English bill. Scotland has the means to care for itself outside of finance, something that England is now learning the hard way (thanks for that Maggie Thatcher…). It is already rearing it’s own livestock, cultivating it’s own land, and has access to North Sea oil which can help sustain it’s economy for the time being.

English critics of the 2014 referendum generally sound like parents who are desperately clinging onto their children and who don’t want them leaving the nest. I think that a more suitable analogy is that of overly-protective grandparents taking care of their grandchildren in a similar manner, except they are stuck in a time warp and cannot get over the fact that the British Empire is dead-and-buried.

Can Scotland stand by itself come 2014?
Who knows.
We won’t know until we let them try though, it’s time to let Scotland decide it’s own future.

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111 comments

  1. The Rambling Man (aka The Night Hawk Photographer) · · Reply

    Reblogged this on The Ineffable and Unutterable Musings Of A Mad Man and commented:
    A very interesting piece, quite level-headed. Wonder what my friends think (on both sides of the border)?

  2. Scotland will be fine on its own if that’s what they choose, though the opinion polls show independence is not what the majority of the Scottish public want. We’ll see.

  3. As you said in your post Britain used to be an empire. And personally I still see the United Kingdom as a powerful monarchy since it has a great history and it achieved a lot in the past. Scotland is and should stay its part for future, in my opinion. Though I am not British, the Isles have always inspired and amazed me with its history, culture, politics and distinctness from the continent. I would like to see the English and Scottish parliaments finding a compromise. After all, it is all about conversation. I think that one part needs the other to lead the country to brighter future. “More heads, more brains”, I often say. So people should concentrate on what unites them, not what divides them.

  4. If Scotland were to become an independent state, I’d be interested to hear what the Scottish proponents of the European Union would have to say about it having to reapply for EU membership.

  5. It would be awfully hard to blame the Scots for wanting to cut themselves free from the imbeciles currently running the UK into the ground in Downing Street. But it would be a great shame to lose Scotland for the UK as a cultural force, nevermind economically.

  6. Spent the last few years living in two relatively small ex-UK ‘colonies’, both with smaller populations than Scotland.

    The current one has a far smaller population than Scotland and has managed quite well for 40 years since independence, so I don’t think the population size will have much to do with how they manage.

    I agree with dorkarama…I think England will miss Scotland more than Scotland will miss England.

  7. [...] Curtain Call for “The United Kingdom”?. [...]

  8. I just wonder if the voters, when faced with the moment of truth, will still want to take that leap into the unknown. My money says they’ll pull back from the brink.

  9. I enjoyed the article, it is a wonderfully balanced piece. Brilliantly sums up the important bits about what is going on.
    I’m of the opinion that we are four individual countries, and if independence is what the people want, what can we do to stop them.

  10. Very informative.

  11. Great article. I’ve blogged on the problems facing the ‘Yes’ campaign such as I see it. Would be interested to hear your comments. The ideology of indifference. http://wp.me/p2Tb57-7i

  12. I say we let Scotland, Ireland and Wales go their way (oh and Argentina can have the Falklands). Once that’s all done ‘n’ dusted we can start rebuilding the empire from scratch – first and foremost “City of London” and “London” are two different entities and I say we sort that … London Wall isn’t what it used to be and we can rally the troops in the East End – I’ll step up to lead the charge, join me in whitechapel, bring your oyster card… ;)

  13. Abroad, especially in the east Britain is still regarded as a super economy and monarchy, I see this first hand whenever i hand over my British passport at the Chinese immigration here. Its just sad that back home that’s dwindling.

  14. Interesting piece- although, if you don’t mind me saying I sense perhaps a little Scottish-leaning bias in your tone.. Just an observation though! Well researched piece too.

  15. I don´t really know about that. One thing that I have learnt here is that Scots call themselves British, which includes Englis, Welsh and Northern Irish.

  16. This is the first time I’ve heard about this question (of independence). Should Scotland be independent, I am definitely going to watch their transition closely. Hopefully though, whatever the decision of the Scottish people may be, may it lead them for the better.

    At the same time, I do hope that if they become independent, that they remain to be in the Commonwealth as “Scotland.” I find the relationships of the Commonwealth states to be very good for any member state’s citizens — visa-free entry, working holidays, etc.

  17. Well me being an American, I’m kinda of neutral on the subject. Sad for UK if it happens but yea Revolution!

  18. I was stationed in Scotland, Thurso, Caithness County, and lived there for four years. Though an American, I’m also an Anglophile. The UK has always been special to me. This was a very interesting article for me, thanks!

  19. Scotland and wales could decide to split but they probably would ‘t because at the moment as it stands, the majority of taxes received for public sector funding such as NHS etc. come from the English tax payers. So they’d lose that income support.

    There is also the fact that the world at large sees the uk as one and the process of branding and getting the rest of the world to accept them as a separate entity could take time and also result in greater financial strain for them. Things like valuation of the new currency etc.

    Unless they’re planning to be treated like the British isles where they are separate but not totally. In which case they’d still get some of the perks of being associated with the uk (same passport, currency being valued and treated the same as the british pound on the international money markets etc.)but get to govern and fund themselves.

    1. I guess what I’m saying is that I think Scotland or Wales as it stands would probably vote against leaving because at the moment they probably need to be part of the Uk more than the Uk needs them. If they want to go though then I think they should and I wouldn’t be against it.

  20. hollybourne · · Reply

    Fascinating. I would simply suggest that England declare independance from the UK, and exit the EU at the same time. Let the Scots, Welsh, and Orange sort out their destinies without the English (including me) telling them what to do.

  21. mathskool · · Reply

    guess there is no other option than to sell our dearly beloved nation of Scotland, we’ll miss you chaps.

  22. Well as an Irish Brit (born in Dublin btw), and one right now in the USA (semi-retired), though also a retired RMC (Royal Marine, Reserve)… I say that if Britain ever wants to be “Britannia”, and Great Britain again, she must become One people: British! Just note how many Scots and Irish live in England!

  23. Great one. The way I feel is if Scotland go away and UK breaks up EU, England will face a political and economic blow from Germany and France In Europe and outer Europe, there are many nations already have shown that, for example India’s biggest air force purchase deal is sealed by France whereas UK’s biggest charity goes to India.

  24. Interesting! I love the United Kingdom! It has a fascinating history. It may be time to cut the apron strings from Scotland. Let them see if they can sustain themselves without Westminster’s guidance. Not sure what it’ll do to tourism though. I would think that would be one of the biggest trades in that country.

    1. Scotland already have the highest number of visitor world wide then England or Wales, if you think that the film ‘Brave’ has done more for brining tourists in to Scotland then ‘Braveheart’ I have a connection with Dunnottar Castle which the makers of Brave visited and used what they found there into the film, if you have never heard of Dunnottar Castle its on the desktop slide show that came with Windows 7 its there and it is one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland and during the English civil war the Honours of Scotland (Scottish Crown Jewels) were smuggled out into a fish basket by a local ministers daughter while the castle was under siege by Cromwell’s armies, they were taken to a near by church and the minister buried them under the floor by the alter and dug them up every 3 months to air them. to know more go here http://www.dunnottarcastle.co.uk/ This is just a single story of a castle. Now imagine how many castle are around Scotland, how many mountains and Munro’s for skiers, climbers and walkers, how many Lochs, for sailors, watersport enthusiasts, we have culture, we have food and whiskies, wine made locally from fruit grown in Scotland, the islands with their own subcultures, the people of those isles who still keep the Sabbath, they still have on the Island of Harris people working on manual looks making Harris Tweed for the worlds market, kilt makers despite the cheap poorly made kilts with stolen tartan, work at home making kilts, sporrans, jackets and shirts and proud to do so and proud to wear them….yes people some tartan belongs to families and you need permission to copy it. Lastly the people of Scotland, those who welcome everyone with open arms, the country that tolerate all races, all classes, we open our doors to the world and guess what? We love it.

      We will welcome the world as Scotland welcome its freedom.

      When Scotland cuts the apron strings we will be ready, we will be ready to support our government, our people and our country. We love our country.

  25. I think Scotland should go independent. Tourism would be even bigger, as worldwide, we are famous. Also, the biggest problem in Britain is not Scotland, despite what the media say.. It’s,London. It has drained the north of England of jobs and resources. Yes, it makes money, but at great cost to the rest of the country.

  26. And to be British, is not necessarily to be CoE or Anglican, Protestant or Independent, or Roman Catholic, and we must not forget our Jewish Brethren. But a Brit is a Free-Man/human! This has been hard fought and won, and may we not give it away so easy!

  27. I was very pleased to see this on Freshly Pressed. reasoned arguments, and an intelligent perspective. I wrote something on a similar theme this month, entitled ‘Disunited Kingdom’, and it is, shall we say, less balanced. Here is a link, should you be interested…

    http://beetleypete.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/disunited-kingdom/

    Excellent stuff by the way, well done. Regards, Pete, England.

  28. Some rambling views of a Welshman…

    Firstly, l honestly don’t think we will ever see an independent Wales. Scotland may just survive (personally l don’t think it’ll happen. Just my opinion) if they go for independence. We won’t.

    Wales, is tied to Westminster even further than Scotland and whilst we are more established as a tourist destination, we have nothing else left (our natural resources have been stripped fairly bare in the name of Britain but lets not get into that….) and tourism alone wouldn’t generate enough to sustain an economy.

    At least the Scots’have the North Sea Gas as mentioned in the (very well written) article.

    And from a more selfish perspective… l also think – if Scotland goes it will make it could even erode the Welsh national identity.

    The balance of the UK without Scotland is then weighted far too heavily towards England.

    At present, l have to explain to most mates I have who are Non-European, that it is NOT Wales,England.

    If the Scots go the amount of people referring to Britain mistakenly as England will rise and we will be no more a separate nation in the eyes of the WorId than Cornwall is currently.

  29. If the Scots and English can’t live together, one wonders about the prospect for peace among more recent ethnic arrivals. Lets take for example Southall situated on the outskirts of West London, now just suppose the Asian community decided to break away from the United Kingdom, and than decided to split the areas between Muslims and Sikhs communities?

  30. Here’s another rhetorical question. Suppose the good people of Bradford or Liverpool wanted self-determination and voted to leave the United Kingdom. If it is good enough for Scotland, is it not also good enough for other regions of Britain too? In principle, is there any reason why the Island could not be a conglomeration of city states?

  31. Greatly put together. Thanks for such a good piece, although I missed a bit of implication… I always want to know what people think about these issues.

  32. I noticed a few ‘We should let Scotland..’ including the very last paragraph of the article which I think is otherwise excellent and well reasoned. To the ‘We should’ brigade I say it is not your right to ‘let’ anything and the impression that England is the higher authority is a fallacy that unfortuntely is believed by a lot the world’s nations. The referendum is a democratic process in which England is powerless to affect. Should Scotland decide to go that way the UK has to accept that and support the new nation through its infancy in the way that Scotland supported the UK and the Commonwealth, I could go into great detail to support that last statement but won’t do so here. It will be very difficult to start with and nay sayers will call this a failure and ‘we told you so’ will be bandied around. It will be a long time before a success or failure could be declared. In closing I will predict if they decide to leave that Scotland will be sorely missed but will succeed on it’s own. The sun never sets on the British Empire because they cannot be trusted in the dark evidenced by the imperialist wrongdoing with the commonmealth countries controlled by Westminster predominantly English representatives.

  33. murraycr · · Reply

    Thanks for writing about this interesting topic.
    Just a couple of points; like Canada, Australia and New Zealand ceased to be colonies in before WWI.
    Politically, Scotland would remain part of the E.U. so perhaps the change might be more symbolic. The financial consequences for Scotland would prove to be interesting since there is a great deal of money flowing one way from London to Edinburgh. The province of Quebec in Canada has a similar relationship and Quebec benefits greatly from large sums of money that keep them sweet and support their cultural independence.
    As for Northern Ireland, the whole of the British Isles would breathe a sigh of relief if somehow N.I. could be absorbed into the Republic of Ireland. As with Scotland, the cost of maintaining Northern Ireland is a huge drain that English taxpayers would love to see the back of.

  34. daskunk · · Reply

    Reblogged this on Gazza's Blog and commented:
    I think they could certainly make a better job of it than the English are currently doing… Lets face it the bunch of useless no good for nothing government we have at the moment are not doing anything to help us so let Scotland help themselves. Mind you watch out for government low down dirty reprisals, they are good at that, just look at the past history. The English have always been a nation of pirates and bullys nothings changed

  35. Real interesting post, It has always played on my mind, if Scotland became independent,what would it mean for national identity for us living in England. I have always considered myself British not English. Being English is something we are not made to feel proud of being in England and are taught from a school age to consider our self British. The loss of Scotland and the Scottish people would be something us persons who consider our self British would miss. For me Scotland is as much a part of my identity as is England and Wales.

    1. Wow, as an older 60′s Irish Brit, I have always thought of myself as closer to an Anglo-Irish (English), but then hey I was a RMC, Royal Marine Commando (retired officer, reserves, but over 10 years active duty). And in combat many times. Just a point of age, education and choice I suppose!

      1. I think you are right in regards to being a point of choice. The point I wanted to make is, for me The union Jack represents my sense of patriotic pride and the country I live in more than than the Saint George cross. Not that I do not feel happy to call myself English but it for me is like loosing my identity if either Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland decided on independence from the UK. I truly feel the the Union Jack represents the struggle for social democratic freedom and rights we see today that is something we have fought for and achieved together.

      2. I am English but have lived in Scotland for 32 years I lived in England 17 years, I have denounced my Englishness, I hate being English, I hate the reputation England has around the world, I don’t wish to be tarred with same brush. I have been told many times that I am mor Scot then English as I have given more to Scotland the England and that is what I am proud of. Inwill never live in England again.

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