The headstrong parts of the United Kingdom are kicking up again, most notably Scotland where SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon is demanding a second referendum on the grounds that, contrary to the English, the Scots voted to remain in the EU by 62 per cent to 38 per cent. But nationalism does not rest there, in Northern Ireland Sinn Fein are now within one seat of the Democratic Unionists after Assembly elections. To nationalists the dream of a united Ireland now seems just a step away. It’s proving quite a headache for our new Prime Minister.
It seems both the SNP and Sinn Fein would much prefer to be part of the Europe project than the United Kingdom’s, which I find odd to say the least. But perhaps that desire to break away, is based on centuries of historical hatred for the English or in Ireland’s case, the Protestants. Reclaiming powers from Westminster and transferring them to Brussels and then being reduced back to provincial status with even fewer powers seems all a bit pointless to me. And yet, who are we to criticize? Brexit was all about our own desire for independent self-government as a sovereign state based on our history, institutions and cultural ties.
Nonetheless, where is the practicality in all this? Take Scotland for example. How will they cope on their own exactly? The Scottish economy is growing at a third of the speed of the UK. Oil revenues, which were considered the cash cow for independence, have collapsed, and by the SNP’s own figures Scotland would begin its independent life with a deficit amounting to 10 per cent of GDP. Scotland would also have to join the back of the queue for countries joining the EU and it would probably have to give up the pound for the Euro. And that’s if the Spanish agreed for them to join, which is unlikely, in all likelihood as they also have regions that wish to peel off such as Catalonia. It doesn’t add up.
I agree our nation is in many ways an artificial construct, so yes it could still be dissolved. But for all our differences the UK is still rooted in geography, language, law, religion, ethnicity, history, institutions and culture, something the EU is not. The EU is the real artificial construct.
I believe the case for the UK has to be made all the time because nothing is certain; romanticism and populism are being stirred in regional and tribal uprisings jeopardising the ancient unity of our British Isles. It is proving fertile ground for the opportunists. Independence could easily happen. We need to make the case louder and stronger that we are better together as a sovereign nation than apart in the wider world.