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Foreigners reading this blog might be interested to learn that one of the UK's quaint political customs is to hold general elections at random intervals of no more than five years. That is to say: the Prime Minister can seek the royal assent to dissolve parliament and go to the country at any time, but must do so in any event no more than 60 months after the previous election.

It is probably no secret that Labour are going down in flames. (More here, not to mention "there" and "everywhere" — google is your friend.) The upcoming general election is the Conservatives to lose — and it'd pretty much take something like the shadow cabinet being found in bed with a dead goat and a live boy to turn the tide at this point.

(NB: I am not planning on voting Conservative. I am not planning on voting Labour. Being a Volvo-driving granola-munching Guardian-reading liberal media beardie weirdie, I am voting for the Other Lot, aka the Third Party, the Forlorn Hope: the Liberal Democrats. They don't stand a hope in hell of winning, but I will take great pleasure if their candidate in my constituency kicks out the lying apparatchik who's currently occupying a seat in the Commons, and it's still possible, just barely, to daydream about a hung parliament.)

Anyway, this is a digression. The point is: unless they rig the election as shamelessly as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Labour are going to be out on their ear and we're going to have a Conservative government. What are the consequences for Scotland?

So far I've mostly noticed a deafening silence on this matter from the mainstream press, with the honourable exception of a very perceptive opinion piece in the Guardian by Jackie Ashley, titled: Cameron could well be the last ever UK prime minister.

To those of you who aren't familiar with Scottish politics, that might sound a little apocalyptic. But I've been living in Edinburgh for 14 years, and I wouldn't rule it out.

The conservatives are going to win a general election in England and Wales. But north of the border, they might win as many as two out of eighty seats. They're still widely hated in Scotland, as a result of Thatcher's legacy — Thatcher basically ran Scotland as a fiefdom from London, sucking oil and revenue out of the north and lavishing it on the Tory heartlands down south. (A parliamentary question asked of the COI in 1997, just before the election that swept Tony Blair to power, "what was the net difference between tax revenues raised in Scotland and tax revenues disbursed in Scotland between 1980 and 1990?" The answer from the Central Statistical Office was: £40Bn. That works out at about £4,000 per person, per year, flowing south.)

Here in Scotland we've now got a devolved parliament of our own, and that one's due to have an election no later than mid-2011.

The current government is a minority one (yes, we've got a hung parliament): the Scottish National Party are in charge, although they rely on other parties to get legislation passed. The SNP are formally in favour of outright independence for Scotland, as an EU member nation; and they're committed to holding a referendum on independence in 2011, before the next election. (Labour and the Lib Dems oppose this. The Tories do too, but they're so marginal that nobody pays any attention to them.)

Here's the rub. As things stand, the SNP would lose a vote on independence at this point. But under a conservative government in Westminster — especially one that's wielding the axe of public service cuts, which is going to happen whoever wins the election and which will disproportionately hit the less well off, which includes a lot of Scots — well, I'd handicap things by giving the pro-independence vote an automatic bonus of 10%.

A sensitive, caring, next-generation Conservative government will therefore be at pains to tread lightly north of the border, and to attempt to defuse nationalist sentiment. Or will it?

On the one hand, to give them their full title, they're the Conservative and Unionist Party, dedicated to preserving the union. But if they cut Scotland loose, then, in a 650 seat parliamentary system, they lose 80 seats, 78 of which belong to their rivals. Leave aside the fact that Cameron is committed to reducing the number of constituency seats in the UK: the 10% of them elected by Scotland are overwhelmingly not conservative. Ditching them will give the Conservatives an electoral lift that will last for a generation.

That's got to be a temptation, even to a leader who "loathes the idea of being the last ever prime minister of the United Kingdom".

PS: No, I don't like the SNP either. My position is that religion has no place in politics in a multi-ethnic secular society: as the SNP are in bed with homophobic fundamentalists you should find it easy to understand why I've got a problem with them. Why can't we have a box on the ballot for "none of the above"?

PPS: Just to make it glaringly clear what the stakes are, Civil Service contingency planning for Scottish Independence began last year.




Ummmm, because "none of the above" has a horrible record for governance (for example, in Somalia)?

I know, I know, it was a rhetorical question. Still, if I can find a way to trade you the California governmental system (along with the critters who currently inhabit the legislative and executive branches), I'd be happy to do so.


H: actually, I'd prefer a "re-open nominations" option -- re-run the election, with a ban on all declared candidates in the previous iteration registering for the new one.

You can keep California's system, thanks. Not Pretty.


Hi Charlie - as a paidup member of the LibDems, I have to say that I have a tad more optimism about their chances. That said, its clear that Nick Clegg and his team are working on the gains-by-default theory of campaigning, ie that Labour is going to crash and burn so spectacularly that the LibDems could take additional dozen or more seats.

Personally, I am appalled that Clegg isn't presenting a clear, left-of-centre alternative to the country. It infuriates me whenever I hear well-meaning senior party figures coming out with the 'Left/Right politics are defunct' - after all, it is starkly clear that the majority of the problems we face, locally and globally are the direct result of right-wing policies and greed.

Also, might interest you to know that I could have been in the running to be a candidate down here in Ayrshire - sadly, I have a book to write between now and May, ie just before the likely date of the GElection. Ah well, maybe in 2015!


I just love that your government has things called "The Shadow Cabinet" and "The Shadow Chancellor".


Pretty much ideal.

2011 for a majority in the devolved chamber, another year or two before a referendum vote that could be accepted, another few years for organising the split. That should take us out to at least 2015.


Effectively not much oil left, but all those lovely close down costs, etc. that can be left to the scots to pickup. Cameron would think his Christmases has all come at once.


Is it economically viable for Scotland to go its own way considering that oil output from the North Sea is declining ? I remember how angry people in Scotland were about the Poll tax 20 years ago and reading from afar, it seemed like this tax did much to set in train the current situation.


I'd be a lot happier about voting "yes" for independence if everyone in the SNP made a solemn vow to retire from politics on the day after a successful referendum, but I'll probably do it anyway. Firstly, no more Tory governments, ever. Secondly, no more Westminster brain drain, meaning some competent Scots might stick around to run the place. I'd feel a twinge of guilt about dooming the English to endless Tory dominion, but there's always the chance that the example of a successful social democracy north of the border might cause middle England to rethink their political options.


The scottishmediamonitor link isn't working. What homophobic fundies are the SNP supposed to be in bed with?


@heteromeles I must disagree with you there. Especially in the case of Somalia. Shity as it may be, things have gotten better since Somalia has no more government.

According to the data, of the eighteen development indicators, fourteen show unambiguous improvement under anarchy.

Life expectancy is higher than in the last years of government;
infant mortality has improved twenty-four percent;
maternal mortality has fallen over thirty percent;
infants with low birth weight has fallen more than fifteen percentage points;
access to health facilities has increased more than twenty-five percentage points;
access to sanitation has risen eight percentage points;
extreme poverty has plummeted nearly twenty percentage points;
one year olds fully immunized for TB has grown nearly twenty percentage points, and for measles has increased ten;
fatalities due to measles have dropped thirty percent;
the prevalence of TVs, radios, and telephones has jumped between three and twenty-five times.


The Mgt: Brian Souter (more here).

Cyberwasteland: this discussion is about Scottish politics, not Somalia. Further discussion of Somalia from a libertarian perspective will be deemed off-topic and may be censored without notice. See the moderation policy.


Oh, that. Has the abominable Souter gained anything from this other than a lighter wallet?


fmackay@7 I'd be more than happy to repatriate Gordon back north of the border!


Actually, I am interested in how an independent Scotland might game out. Assuming the price of independence is finding a new, non-oil based economy and cleaning up the mess left by Thatcher, what would kinds of things would Scotland do next? Become the next Celtic tiger, with all the good and bad that phrase implies? Rebuild Hadrian's wall to keep English refugees out?


I think that Scotland should have gotten independence long ago. Regardless of any economic considerations.

If you have a two party system, and almost no Scottish people vote for the Tories. Then they're not represented when the Tories is in power. That's simply wrong, and not democratic.

But, it will never happen. GB keeping it's nukes in Scotland, is one reason.


There's more up-to-date polling data on the Ipsos MORI website here: http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/poll.aspx?oItemId=2481
The issue of relative funding for various regions of the United Kingdom is a thorny one; there's an interesting article on the Barnett Formula here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnett_formula, or for the irredeemably bored there's more here: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/funding_scottish_parliament_wales_assembly_northern_ireland_assembly.htm
The impact of public sector cuts won't be restricted solely to recipients of the services the public sector provides; Scotland has a very high proportion of public sector workers (see here: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/elmr/07_08/downloads/ELMR_Jul08_Barnard.pdf).
As for Civil Service contingency planning, the convention is set out here: http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snpc-03318.pdf


Charlie must be very confused about the number of Westminster MP's in Scotland. There are only 59 not 80 and even before the General Election in 2005 there were only 72. Where does the 80 come from?


"Here in Scotland we've now got a devolved parliament of our own, and that one's due to have an election no later than mid-2011."

Yeah, and how's that working out for you?


So if Scotland becomes independent under the Conservatives they win a generational electoral advantage, but lose a big chunk of taxpayers, other tax revenue and a vital source of energy in the process?

"Hey, we get to rule a much poorer country for years longer!" What politician wouldn't jump at that deal?


Michael @16: Where does the 80 come from?

My memory. But the corrected figure doesn't change the overall picture significantly.


It is a but of a stretch to make out the SNP are "in bed with" fundy religious types. If this is the case what favours have they extended to them? Sod all really. I know a lot of gays in the SNP so I really think this line is absolute bollox considering I've not seen one iota of evidence for any homophobic agenda.

Remember the SNP raises about 800k a year, the great majority from normal members. If you want to accuse them of being homophobic you need evidence not vague insinuations.


I spent a number of years in both Leeds and Edinburgh and was shocked how dramatically English and Scottish opinions of the UK differed (some of my English buddies were too). Frankly I think it's inevitable - in the long term I can't see how the Scots can stay in the UK with their ingrained dislike of it's biggest member state.


TheMgt@11: Strangely, things like the rail link to Glasgow airport have been cancelled. Can we guess who runs the buses to Glasgow Airport?


No! Don't leave us to the tender mercies of the Tories!


Sounds a bit like Canadian politics, with the large vote for Bloc Quebecios by the French Canadians. I guess we should be glad that Australia and New Zeeland didn't get bundled together as one country so they could experience the same thing.


Andrew G - In fact, New Zealand's joining is still in Australia's constitution. All they have to do is answer the invitation. We don't have to change our constitution to get them to join our Federation. Actually, they are all moving to Australia anyway, so it's becoming moot. Probably, we will just have to wait for NZ to go broke (shouldnt be long), and then get to pick up the pieces.


Although I was at one point a fan of the lib dems, since finding out about the orange book and how its authors now constitute the party's leadership, I've become more than a little skeptical of them.

So I've been reduced to supporting either the SWP or the Greens, who both really are inconsequential :(


@22 come on that's a huge stretch, yeh I'm sure the SNP cut the airport link just to give soutar bus money. I'm sure the budget being slashed this year had nothing to do with it at all. Who gets the bus contract is a matter for the airport anyway, and I think Glasgow council has a say as well. Or are they in the bed as well? What next, did they oppose the Edinburgh tram project to appease soutar, and not because trams offer no advantages over buses except being more expensive and middle class?

And of course the lib dems are utterly and completely illiberal in Scotland, always calling for megrahi to rot in jail, and with close ties to hardcore fundies up north as well. If being liberal was my aim, I'd be ashamed to vote for that lot, basedc on their awful Scottish form.

Fact:the SNP don't have one single policy and haven't committed any legislative action that can be interpreted as fundy or homophobic. You strosses just have an aversion for whatever reason. You should try and locate the real reason so you can be honest with yourself.


Yes, the SNP are somewhat repellent. But really -- any less repellent than the others? Warmongering Labour? The Bullingdon Tories? The LibDems -- basically an apology for the Other Two? They're all bloody awful.

I'll be voting SNP, again, with a clothes peg on my nose, because independence is the only way that my vote will ever mean anything nationally. It is the only way that Scotland might ever move its national dialogue leftward; the only way we might be able to comfortably vote for something other than (read: left of) Labour. Because the only reason we so overwhelmingly vote Labour now is that we *have to* in order to *keep the Tories out*. It's a negative vote.

And there'll be no question of whether the SNP 'dissolves' after a successful bid for Scottish independence: they won't have to. No bugger will ever vote for them again. They're only in the moderately powerful position that they are because Scots are utterly furious with a Labour party that has deserted its base.

Oh, and while I'm ranting -- I thought cyberwasteland made some good points. His post wasn't OT; it spoke to how comparatively well Somalia has been doing without any sort of government, which is instructive in any political discussion.


Bc: start by talking about faith schools, their refusal to secularize the education system, lobbying for Catholic adoption agencies to be given an exemption from legislation to ban discrimination against gay adoptive parents. Salmond is a proponent of faith schools; at the same time, he seems to be rather averse to answering questions from the Equality Network.

Not "committing any legislative action that can be interpreted as fundy or homophobic" is quite possibly a consequence of the SNP being a minority government who can't pass legislation without cross-party support. It will be, as they say, "interesting" to see what they get up to if they ever obtain an electoral majority.


Robert: as far as Westminster goes, I have the luxury of living in a Labour marginal with strong Lib-Dem opposition and the Tories barely clinging on to their deposit.

As far as independence goes, I'd vote "yes" in a referendum: but I'm not sure I could bring myself to vote for a party of god-botherers. Spoiling my ballot (something I've never done before) is an option, I suppose.

I am not optimistic about the SNP going away once they get an independent Scotland. They're an organization, and organizations have a dynamic all of their own -- they don't just curl up and die when their mission is complete. (See also: the ANC, for example.)


Charlie: Wait, you're angry that the SNP won't secularise schools? I can understand wanting to secularise schools, because I would like to see that happen as well. But not one single party has a policy of secularising schools in scotland, because it would be deeply and utterly unpopular and controversial in many parts of the country. I don't see why you are singling out the SNP for a problem that isn't even of their making (labour was the prime force behind the religionising of scottish schools).

What are they going to do, bring forward a policy of radical reorganisation of scottish education system that'll see them lose a huge chunk of their support at the next elections and be a gift to the labour party? You'd be better off voting SSP if you want pure uncompromising idealism and suicidal policies.

Also, the SNP have a policy of letting gay couples adopt children. Even though this annoys religious types: see here - hardly compatible with the bizarre picture you're painting is it?

"A spokesman for the Scottish government said: “Ministers are clear that the most important concern is meeting the needs of the child, regardless of the sexual orientation of the fostering couple. Where fostering by a same-sex couple is the best option for a child, that route should be available.”" => gosh, clearly they're religious fundys who h8 gays!

You're resorting to divining what you imagine the SNP think, and not paying any attention to what they actually say and do. This is because they nave never passed any legislation that is homophobic or fundy, and they have never suggested doing so, and there was never any element of their manifesto that could be interpreted as such. So you are resorting to "oh I think the SNP think this or *really* want to do that".

If the SNP are in bed with homophobes and fundys, they have a funny way of showing it, going about voting to repeal section 28 and voting for gay marriage. In fact their actual voting record is the opposite of what you state it should be. Funny that.

In reality the SNP are a social democratic party much like many others throughout europe. They're not socialists and they're not right wing maniacs - though opponents of different stripes like to claim they are one or the other "in disguise".


Gleg @25:

"New Zealand's joining is still in Australia's constitution. ... Actually, they are all moving to Australia anyway, so it's becoming moot."

That's true. As a NZer of my acquaintance pointed out, it increases the average IQ of both Australia AND New Zealand.


Thatcher basically ran Scotland as a fiefdom from London, sucking oil and revenue out of the north and lavishing it on the Tory heartlands down south.

But wasn't all that oil revenue just passing through Scotland on its way south from Shetland?(/flippancy)

I am voting for the Other Lot, aka the Third Party, the Forlorn Hope: the Liberal Democrats. They don't stand a hope in hell of winning, but I will take great pleasure if their candidate in my constituency kicks out the lying apparatchik who's currently occupying a seat in the Commons

I was living in Bath in 1992 when Chris Patten got kicked out, and that was excellent. There was a weird vibe around town beforehand, as people started to realise we could actually get the guy. It felt like revolution, or actual democracy at any rate.


Can I Be Frank? Here in the USA virtually every single successful candidate in the South is a Republican. So when the Democrats are in power, the South has no influence on government. And conversely in New England when the Republicans are in power.


If David Cameron gets a chance to run a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty it seems likely that England would vote against the treaty and Scotland, at least, in favour.
That result would highlight divisions in the UK and could act as an additional trigger for an independence vote in Scotland; if having a tory government in Westminster were not in itself sufficient.


I'm a bit curious, what's expected to happen to the monarchy if Scotland goes independent?


Charlie, I still think you need to address what would an independent Scotland look like in 30 years. Scotland was relatively poor until the North Sea oil strike. Now that this is in terminal decline, how is Scotland going to organize it's economy, especially if England is effectively behind an immigration & tariff border?

Now supposing that an independent Scotland still has a decade of oil revenues to capture that will not be diverted to England, how would those revenues be best used to develop the economy?


I personally think that Scotland should be pushing for even more autonomy in a British federation. However, if they go the independence route, I don't think they will have any serious problems. Ireland seems to have done nicely... and they started off from a much lower economic base than Scotland and a vicious civil war to boot.
As for the "Tory" threat, you can always throw them out again after four years. Though I must admit four years is a rather long time... This is one reason I like the three year terms we have in Australia.


Andrew G: the future of the monarchy is probably irrelevant -- for roughly a century prior to the Act of Union the monarch was separately king of Scotland and king of England at the same time (see King James VI & I).

Although it'll be interesting to see if Scottish sentiment post independence would favour a republic rather than a reversion to direct monarchy.


robert@37: "Ireland seems to have done nicely..."

You are kidding, right? Ireland's growth for the last 20 years has been based on huge influxes of capital, partly due to the tax holiday for relocating firms and partly due to EU development money. Now that the spigot has dried up, it's economy is imploding.


Charlie @ 38: That's what I was wondering about. You're right that it doesn't really matter, apart from the nice history and tradition that comes with the institution. I suppose Scotland has a couple reasonable paths it could take. Ireland's, and become a full republic. Australia/Canada, with a Governor General representing the Queen. Or just undo the Acts of Union and have separate crowns of Britain and Scotland, in a personal union.

On another note, without Scotland, could the UK really call itself the United Kingdom of *Great Britain* and Northern Ireland? Technically Wales is a part of the Kingdom of Enland, and Great Britain refers to the union of Scotland and England. And they did change the name after Ireland left the UK.


What fraction of the UK's nuclear weapons would an independent Scotland get?


Andrew G@35: If the Scots wanted to keep a monarchy, there's nothing to stop the Windsors keeping the role with Scotland as a separate kingdom - as things were before 1707. Or choosing another family (I believe there are still Stuarts around...)

On the other hand, they might want to be a republic instead.


So if Scottish retains the monarchy post-independence, and the current monarch is still on the throne, she'd be Elisabeth the II and I, right? Scotland not having had an earlier Queen Elisabeth.


I'm not sure by what sleight of hand she isn't already. The UK as currently constituted never had an Elizabeth either so she should already be Liz I & II - didn't the nationalists target postboxes in the 1950s because of the "E II R" logo?


Jon @43
As in James VI and I, James VII and II; note the order.
Strangely Edward VII and Edward VIII were never designated either I and VII nor II and VIII, respectively.
I would say, I wonder why? Except I know.
The Queen has a closer claim to the Scottish throne than to the English one, by the way.


Another interesting consequence of Scottish independence is what happens to Northern Ireland? The Unionist/Protestant community there has its roots in Scotland not England. Who would they prefer to go with? And would a separate England feel it has any bond with NI?


@44: I believe the official line these days is that the UK monarch's regnal numbers will be a continuation of whichever sequence, English or Scottish, is higher. So Brenda is Elizabeth II because 2 (England) is higher than 0 (Scotland), but should we ever have another King James, he'd be James VIII because, Jacobite claims notwithstanding, 8 (Scotland) would be higher than 3 (England). Interestingly, if you tried to apply this rule retrospectively, no monarch since the Union in 1707 would have had a "Scottish" number.


Alex @ 36. One of the reasons the SNP is in favour of the EU is that the rump United Kingdom (of England, Wales and, maybe, N. Ireland) would not be allowed to erect tariff and immigration barriers against an independent Scotland. Scotland might even decide to join the "Schengen" fast-track. The worst problem would be if Scotland qualified and opted for Euro-zone membership.

Things could, conceivably, be different on the tariff/immigration front if the rump was to leave the EU, but that seems a stretch unless the UKIP/BNP loonies take power in England. But the rump would be out in the cold even with the remaining EFTA/EEA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) which have pretty much abandoned tariff controls (though not immigration so much).


James @41: The SNP is s"Trident"ly against nuclear weapons; back in the 60s the US Navy parked a depot ship out in the Holy Loch in the Clyde eastuary that was used as a tender for American nuclear missile boats and hunter/killers. This was a great bone of contention for the SNP during their revival in the late 1960s. Given that the British "independent" nuclear deterrent is now totally dependent on leased American Trident missiles, even if the new Scottish government decided against all its historical utterances to become the world's smallest nuclear-armed power we'd still have to negotiate a deal to lease our own Tridents from the Yanks. What we could fire them from, I've no idea. All the nuclear weapons research, manufacturing and refurbishment facilities are in England.


I too have been wondering whether a Conservative government at Westminster would hasten independence. Another factor is that they would likely cut Scottish central funding, which is currently determined by the Barnett formula. Labour have not done this because they want support in Scotland; as you have explained, the Conservatives have less reason to care and they are looking to make cuts. The Barnett formula would be an easy target and one that would be popular south of the border (despite the fact that London gets a higher allocation per head than Scotland).


Robert Sneddon @ 49: (E)ven if the new Scottish government decided against all its historical utterances to become the world's smallest nuclear-armed power we'd still have to negotiate a deal to lease our own Tridents from the Yanks. What we could fire them from, I've no idea.

What about reviving the Auld Alliance? I'm sure France could do you a good deal on a couple of Triomphant-class boats and the launchers/warheads to go with them. Chuck in a squadron or two of Rafales with tactical nukes to deter land attack, and you'd be sorted.


Right. First off, when people say 'Scotland would do this' or 'Scotland would do that', one wonders which Scotland they're talking about. Because, like cities only much more so, a nation is a patchwork of communities and in Scotland those communities vary wildly in income, health, environment and aspiration. Not one of the main parties has anything like the mandate to speak for everyone living in Scotland.

Second, anyone who thinks that life in Scotland after independence would be comparable to conditions even as they are now are completely delusional. Commentators are forgetting that there is still a sizable, vociferous and tenacious loyalist faction embedded in Scottish culture (y`know, along with all those other cultural factions). To them, it wouldnt matter if independence was passed by a 51% majority or 71% as they'd resist it to the bitter end and beyond. Independence would bring about violent strife that would make the 30-year Ulster Troubles look like a minor skirmish. Ulster, population 3/4 million; Scotland, population 5 million-plus. Do the math.

Personally, I do admit that I have a personal axe to grind. My mother is Scottish and my father is English (and I also have Irish antecedents), thus independence strikes at the very foundation of my family origins. It appeals to the worst in human nature; independence says that Scots deserve a better existence but THOSE people on the other side of this line on the map, those ENGLISH people, deserve none of it. Not our concern. England? - pah, just another country. Which makes my blood boil, this veiled racism which SNP politicians scrupulously avoid in public but which is the keystone of the motivations of their supporters. Someone above said something about the ingrained dislike Scots have towards the English - what an witless, blanket generalisation. There is no ingrained dislike, except among a few, parochial communities; don't mistake football songs for genuine positions.

Finally, I confess to being appalled that so many posting here could discuss independence so calmly, even approvingly. I thought the SF community was ultimately about the one-ness of the human race, about the opening-up of interaction and exchange of views and mutual support as Humanity progresses on into the future. Enlightenment is not served by division and communal illusions.


Mike @52: You're complaining about people treating "Scottish" as a term that rigidly defines all the people to whom it applies, and then happily state what the "SF community" is "ultimately about"? Sorry, but the only thing the SF community is "ultimately about" is reading/writing/watching/whatever SF. That might suggest a certain general interest in thinking about the future, except that of course there will be people who only do it for the special effects, or the romance subplots, or...

Roy @46: Since Mike has brought the subject up, I'm tempted to suggest that the majority of "rump UKers" would be in favour of giving NI forcibly to the Scots, if there was the faintest hint that either side wanted it. Let someone else deal with the armoured police stations and hope the problem doesn't come back south/east, I suspect. (But I may be unjustifiedly cynical ;-)


Chris@53: Needless to say, I dont subscribe to the corrosive cynicism of Chris' comment. Gee, how gauche and logic-busting of me to draw a distinction between a broad, territory-based community of communities (with countless bonds of all kinds to other communities the length and breadth of the British Isles) going under the name Scotland, and the intellectual community of SF readers, writers and dare I say it, thinkers. How naive of me to imagine that this aforementioned intellectual community harbours a collective altruism and progressive mindset.

No, clearly Chris has his finger on the pulse of SF, whose community is ultimately about "reading/writing/watching/whatever SF". Dammit, of course! We're just another consumer demographic jerking or squeeing off to the latest screen-wad of hitek visual icing. Feck, wished I'd consulted good ol' Chris before blurting out all that stuff about mandates and factions and violence and ulster.

Kinda makes me wonder where Chrissy hails from - my money is on the States, some red state I`d warrant.


Mike@52 Your attitude towards the right of a group of people to self-govern is the comparable of that of the PRC to Taiwan (Taiwan alone cannot decide it is independent of China, all of China must decide, and the PRC majority says NO). Yes, there is strong variance of political opinion within Scotland, but it's also on average much more left-wing than England. A single political system over a diverse group of people can't hope to please everyone, especially now that the big two parties are so similar.

You may have a point regarding loyalist violence, but I'm reasonably sure that allowing terrorists to dictate terms through threats of violence is a Bad Idea.

Personally, my view on independence is pragmatic, as I abhor nationalism. I don't really care if Scotland is independent, but my political views are better served if is and it would provide a nice kick up the arse for all the political parties across the UK.

And in case you think to make assumptions about me for personal attacks like you did with Chris, I'm a socially progressive fairly left-wing Scot currently living in Oxford.


Mike, my personal take on the subject is that representative democracy doesn't scale well to communities much larger than five million people.

Take five mill people; add two hundred representatives. That's 25,000 constituents per representative, call it 20,000 voters. It's small enough that a good rep can be personally familiar with the concerns of those voters who are interested in participating in the political process -- call it 1 in 10, or 1 in 20.

Make the system bigger and you cut out the direct accountability of the representatives to the people. You end up with large-scale lobbyists and pressure groups acting as intermediaries for public opinion, and travesties like the current US healthcare debate (where there are six full-time lobbyists for each legislator, and they've spent nearly $400M on propaganda in the past six months -- almost of all of against the public interest and on behalf of large insurance corporations).

So I'm all in favour of splitting up nation-states that are one or more orders of magnitude larger than that size.


There's a lot I get animated about around the concept of Scottish independence, but the key thing is what we're actually talking about is breaking up the UK into at least two chunks. It seems utterly wrong to me that one part of the group that is being broken up has a vote and the other doesn't. That those people who happen to be living in one particular part of the UK should have a vote on dissolving the UK, while those who happen to be living elsewhere in the UK don't is absurd.

I felt much the same way about devolution - which has led to several absurdities that might well best be dealt with by dissolving the Union - we've never got close to dealing with the West Lothian question for one. Whether you think Edinburgh's trams are a good thing or not, it's clearly absurd that Alastair Darling was able to cancel such schemes across England in his role as Transport Secretary while elected from Edinburgh and without even having the power to make that decision.

I know I'm not the only English conservative who feels much the same way, and for the same reasons, and with as much rightness or wrongness, about the way that we essentially now have a Scottish Labour government running England as those Scots did when we essentially had an English Conservative government running Scotland.


Calum@56: Generally speaking, one undertakes major, life-changing policy decisions with a rational purpose in mind, ie trying to solve a serious and deleterious problem. One weights the consequences of the policy against the consequences of inaction. Therefore, we have to ask just exactly what overridingly serious problem is independence meant to solve, and are there other ways to address such difficulties, short of putting barriers between people and families?

I think it is grotesque in the extreme to compare Scotland's position with that of Taiwan, since this implies that England is equivalent to the PRC. See? - yer bias shows itself. Still, following the analogy, perhaps Tibet is a closer match, eh? Aye, we here in Scotland can certainly identify with the tribulations faced by the Tibetans in their struggle against the Beijing Government. I mean, we've not had anyone shot or stuck in a prison camp, but still we`ve got to put up with English weather reports and cricket commentaries. God, its hell.

I think you get my point.

I do also note that the needs of them other folk on the other side of that line on the map (uh, where you are the now, I guess) dont seem to figure for you. Whereas for me, I am not concerned with a f**king line on a f**king map. The needs of people are the same wherever they are on this small island. My political views are better served by direct argument with the alternatives, rather than a cosier, more limited arena. Sorry if this sounds like a personal attack to you - I can assure you that my curiosity about Chris' origins are pertinent to the ongoing 'exchange of views'.


Charlie - Sorry, matey, but can't agree. Seems that the probs you focus on are more a consequence of flaws in the mechanics of representative communication (not to mention lack of scrutiny by an authentic truth-seeking press); the healthcare imbroglio in the US is more to do with the crazed distortions of corporate power and money than with the procedures of democratic debate and policy formation. America would be better off demolishing the megacorporations than balkanising itself; after all, wouldnt a US balkanised into a bunch of statelets become but tasty kibblebits for the likes of Halliburton and Time-Warner etc?

Nick@58 - I have to ask, why does it matter? Would London/Home Counties voters feel more or less ire if Brown et al came from Yorkshire, or Cornwall? As for the West Lothian question I'm curious to know how this kind of remit question is dealt with in more federated areas of Europe, say. But I'm also curious to know how you feel about people in other parts of Britain; do you feel a commonality or do you just, well, not?


I just want to say that I do not recognise in any way, shape or form the claim that Mike Cobley makes in #35, and thus have no idea what he thinks would cause such an outrageious occurence:

"Independence would bring about violent strife that would make the 30-year Ulster Troubles look like a minor skirmish. Ulster, population 3/4 million; Scotland, population 5 million-plus. Do the math."


The schematic you describe is an eerie inversion of the U.S.
There are three broad political tendencies: the leftish, the rightish, and the racist. For a long time, there was an odd configuration with the racists adhering to the (otherwise) leftish party, because Lincoln had the label now attached to the rightish party. Lyndon Jonson knew he was dynamiting that relationship when he passed Civil Rights and Voting Rights legislation, but he went ahead and did the right thing anyway.
The old configuration gave both parties relatively broad ranges. The new configuration, much less so. Once upon a time there really was a constituency called "moderate Republicans". The best current examples are Bill Clinton and Barak Obama.


The UK & Scotland are much more like Canada and Quebec than the PRC & Taiwan. Except that Scotland has a much better chance of becoming an independent country.

As for post-independence relations, I don't see why things would change that much for Scotland & the UK apart from some tension over who owns what. Both would be members of the EU, I'd think. Given the mixed population, there'd likely be a continual cross border movement. The US and Canada can manage that, and NAFTA is a lot weaker than the EU.

And apart from the political differences that are causing the current angst, Scotland and the UK are very close culturally. Having Scotland an independent voice in the EU would only strengthen Anglo-derived values within the union. You'd have 3 English speaking countries with a common history.


guthrie#61 - I would have thought the proposition was clear enough. It goes like this; if a population of 3/4 a million (when divided by seemingly unbridgeable positions) is able to create enough fools committed to bullets and bombs, then a population of 5 million is likely to create a greater number of the same, given a sufficiently divisive cultural/political crisis. So the question is, would Scotland end up being partitioned as well?

No need to be shocked. As an SF writer this is my job I`m doing, imagining the worst possibilities in the road ahead so that we can avoid them.


Mike @55:

You might want to try reading what I wrote - your apparent belief that all "members of the SF community" must think alike (and just like you) is every bit as blinkered as the people who think that everyone in Scotland must think alike. There isn't a single "SF community" any more than there's a single "Scottish community". Let me say it again: the only thing members of the SF community have in common is an interest in SF. Some of us want to think about the future; some want to think about how to shape the best future (for a whole range of values of best, some of them frankly scary); others just want to have fun reading about spaceships or watching the pretty visuals. Personally, I don't have any problem with the existence of the last group (whereas you seem morally opposed to them) - but that doesn't mean that I'm one of them. I find SF a good way of provoking thought about the future - and, by extension, about the present.

As for your desire for utterly irrelevant information about my location and politics: I live closer to Calum than you do, and I think that Scottish Independence is something that's really largely a matter for the Scots to decide on. More generally, my only problem with the basic principle of communism ("From each according to ability; to each according to need") is that it suffers the usual failure mode when confronted with people who fundamentally disagree about needs. (Whether that's because they both need that sheep - indeed, each honestly believes that they are the only person who needs the sheep - or because one of them is insane and needs to kill ten million people who the aliens have said are plotting against him....) The problem is that that's human nature, and I'm not sure that there is a way of avoiding that failure mode without some kind of non-human decision maker (which could potentially include a democratic consensus system, although I'm not sure how that could be made to avoid the problem completely rather than tiptoe round it. Suggestions on a postcard, please:).


Mike@59: The needs of people (which I'm taking to mean mainly what people want politically, correct me if you mean otherwise) aren't the same wherever they are, as there *is* a correlation between location and political views/wealth. Within the UK there are already dividing lines in the form of constituencies, which exist (in part) to address this. Like Charlie, I don't think large states are a sensible idea, but geography/history/cultural divisions come into play whether we want them to or not and I have a hard time seeing the UK ever splitting into many little chunks. (megacorporations are a similar situation to large states, as both involve weighing the advantages and disadvantages of an economy of scale. I'd prefer for the advantages to be obtained through the cooperation of multiple moderately-sized entities if possible).

I'm neither in favour nor against the broad notion of an independent Scotland, as that could exist in any number of forms. I certainly don't favour an independent Scotland that has anything short of incredibly strong ties and openness with the UK, and anything that puts a real barrier between people is a terrible idea. I would be content with more localised representation (across the whole UK) on the reserved matters: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/18060/11555

As for the PRC/Taiwan thing, I apologise if I caused offense. I shouldn't have used it as an example. The point was to illustrate (and this also applies to Nick@58) that if a small part of a political body wishes to self govern, it is virtually impossible if the entire body gets a say, even if the net effect on the larger body is relatively minor compared to the smaller body.


Mike @53

It's always struck me that the "SF community" was largely right wing in nature (Heinlein, Niven, Pournelle, Benford) and not at all concerned with the oneness of the human race.
I agree that writers of SF from this side of the pond (who tended all to be English back in the day) may not have had quite the same agenda but I didn't notice paeans to peace and love either.

Nick @58 There wasn't a referendum in the rest of Britain when Ireland went independent in the 1920s. (Nor on Indian independence, nor Ghana's. nor Nigeria's etc, etc.)
And if Scotland voted for it how democratic of English voters would it be to say, "No. You can't have it.?) That would be a recipe for strife.

As far as a possible apocalypse goes the separation of Norway from Sweden in 1903 and of Slovakia and the Czech Rep went off fairly smoothly.


Don't leave us with the Tories. Seriously...of course, the end point of this argument is that London itself declares independence from the United Kingdom of South-Western England.


Charlie and others in Scotland, how do Scottish people feel about the euro these days? My (possibly outdated) understanding is that an independent Scotland would be obliged to adopt it as a condition of joining the EU. (Existing members had their chance to opt out but new ones do as they're told, and Scotland would be new for these purposes, AIUI.)

Mike @ 53 and after: But wouldn't this same reasoning mean that Ireland made a big mistake leaving the UK? If the political divergence is that great, ISTM that each side going their own way is win-win. (I mean, I wouldn't wish the Tories on anybody, but if that's what they actually want...)


Guys, thanx for the replies, plenty of food for thought and further wrangling. Shame I`m literally about to head off to the Dream Theatre gig at the SECC. But I will say to Chris@65, you have a point in that, from a strictly consumerist viewpoint, the SF community is just a group of fans of skiffy looking and sounding STUFF(tm); you might well say that science fiction itself is just a genre brand, just another variant on costume drama and god knows there`s plenty of that kind of SF around. But when SF fulfills its social and cultural function it reaches heights seldom equalled by other genres, mainly because SF is not defined by its tropes. SF is about us all, and is about humans individually and collectively, our pasts but especially our futures, the meanings we are given and the meanings we create for ourselves. For me, and many many others, the true quill of SF is a touchstone for hope about the future that is actually hard-headed and practical.

And with that, I bid yiz adieu.

Also, sorry Chris, I was mislead by the way you framed some phrases into thinking you were extra-Britannic!


It won't happen, but IMO it would make the most sense to revive the Heptarchy and dissolve England. Give Parliaments to Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex - plus a Cornwall modeled on Wales. :)

Then you have a UK made up of the 7 English countries, plus Alba, Cyrmu, Kernow, and Ulaidh. An 11 member UK seems much more stable and democratic. Maybe a separate London as well.

The populations would be fairly even too, with Northumbria being the largest if London is separate from the others.


I think the SNP will discover, as the Parti Quebecious did, that you get more from threatening independence than do from actually going through with it.

My guess is that the referendum on independence in 2011 will be held and will narrowly fail to pass after Scotland is promissed all sorts of things. The Tories will then basically do a deal with the SNP throwing their votes to them in the national elections. This will split the Scotish vote more evenly, culling the number of labor seats, and SNP will become a partner of the Tories with a couple of cabinet positions.

I like the idea of a more federal approach the Andrew G @71 suggests. It seems to me, that even from my somewhat distant observation point that the further you are from London, the less consideration you get. A federal approach will help ameliorate that. Either that or move the capital of the UK to York.


Dissolve England? Certainly, I don't believe in it myself. If it exists, it's the Lincolnshire-through-the-gap-between-Brum-and-London-to-Dorset Torystan.


Mike CObley # 64 - no, I'm not shocked, there isn't anything I can think of that can shock me, and very little you can imagine no doubt. I'm just wondering how you can easily imagine a very large number of Scots trying to separate starting massive internecine warfare.
I can't, because 1) We don't have the history of divisions of Ireland (although my knowledge of Irish history is broad rather than detailed) including ingrained ethnic and class divisions along religious lines 2) we seem to have reached a broad consensus that voting about stuff is good and works, eg the North of England turned down its own parliament. 3) There is no empire and associated gubbins to maintain, 4) apathy in those who live here. Maybe you meet different folk than I do, but I've not met anyone yet whose itching for a fight over independence from the UK.

You seemed to write like it is inevitable, but later turn the tables and claim you are only imagining a worst case scenario. Well we can all do that, but in your case you state your idea that UK loyalists will fight to the death without any hint that you are only suggesting a possibliilty. Sure, its a posibility, but then you havn't stated what would bring it about except a vague claim that indpendence would. When all that I have experience, read, seen etc suggests that the reaction would be vocal and include many written words, but slowly quieten down. Or do you know of the secret loyalist training camps?


Will an independent Scotland vote for the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest?


Guthrie, Mike lives in Glasgow.

Shane: I just had a vision of the Scottish eurovision entry -- performed by the JAMMs, song by Momus.


Alex @40. Your Irish analysis is wide of the mark, and out of date. It applied in 1997, but not in 2009. Since '97 the Irish economy enjoyed 5 years of growth fuelled by both inward and internal investment until c. 2004, then coasted on the fruits of a hyper-inflated property bubble for the four years to 2008, when the sub-prime debacle triggered a collapse in the property markets. Then the general world recession came along which, along with the collapse of the pound against the Euro (50% plus of exports sold to the UK, remember), delivered a series of sucker-punches to the already battered economy. Watch this space though - in 2-3 years the Irish will be back on a more stable economic footing, with infrastructure levels finally comparable to other European locations, and the lowest-cost English-speaking location in Europe. Just as the post-recovery Far Eastern corporations begin looking for the right place to locate their EMEA hubs...

Ireland is a good example of what a small English-speaking country can do to differentiate itself in the European stage, and Scotland has significantly better infrastructure than Ireland (though they are gradually catching up). Ireland's far from perfect, don't get me wrong, but there are lot of positive economic lessons to be learned from here, ones that Northern Ireland was trying to emulate almost as soon as the Regional Assembly was in place.


What will be interesting for the British will be the effect on the English of having a land border. Northern Ireland was a bit of the special case: at least, so people would have said.

It might be a big excuse for an ID card system.

Butter smuggling--we'd both be in the EU, so the Dutch/Belgian motive wouldn't arise, but there are other reasons. Variations in porn laws? We already have the internet.


Mike Cobley @ 60: "America would be better off demolishing the megacorporations than balkanising itself; after all, wouldnt a US balkanised into a bunch of statelets become but tasty kibblebits for the likes of Halliburton and Time-Warner etc?"

actually has a good point here. The individual states in the U.S. tend to be governed even more badly than the federal government. See California and New York's current governments for particular examples.


Dave Bell @ 78: If I've understood correctly, new EU states have to join the Schengen area as well as the euro, so you could presumably expect camps of Afghan asylum seekers along the border, waiting for the next moonless night. Admittedly the climate's a bit more camping-friendly in France, but summer in Gretna Green can't be that much worse than winter in Cherbourg or the Pas de Calais.


Andy: Scotland wouldn't be a new EU state -- treaty obligations of new nations are inherited from their parent entity at independence (if they're recognized by the parent entity, and there's no way an independent Scotland would exist without recognition by the whatever-the-UK-is-called-afterwards). There's been some rumbling from other EU states -- notably Belgium -- but that's more to do with their own internal politics (Scottish independence would have interesting implications for Belgium, which seems to be held together by wet chewing gum and wishful thinking, never mind string and duct tape); by default Scotland would be expected to inherit the UK's existing treaty obligations, i.e. EU-but-no-Schengen, NATO, and so on.


you could presumably expect camps of Afghan asylum seekers along the border, waiting for the next moonless night

On which side of the border?

by default Scotland would be expected to inherit the UK's existing treaty obligations, i.e. EU-but-no-Schengen, NATO

And the Five-Power Defence Agreement. "Her Majesty's Scottish Ship Strathclyde, currently taking part in a joint air defence exercise with Australian, New Zealand, Malaysian, and Singaporean forces off Penang..."


Charlie: I understood that the relevant EU mandarins were taking a hard line on the matter, but that's based on an Economist article I read two or three years ago, and I can't find anything to back it up online. (Also, I'm going to take a wild guess that The Economist is less than neutral on the subject. ISTR a certain glee at potential Scottish difficulties.) I can see how the Belgians would be worried though: the thing is, AIUI they've got enclaves of one language/national group inside the other's territory, so they'd have a job getting a clean separation. French TV has already had improv comedy groups turning up in Calais, pretending to be Belgian refugees fleeing ethnic cleansing. Funny enough now, but...

Alex @ 82: On which side of the border?

Going by the handful of TV interviews I saw, the guys who got rousted in the Cherbourg camp mostly wanted to go to England because they had family there.


A generation of single-party politics won't, in my opinion, be the consequence even of a removal of ~80 seats. A general move towards conservatism, perhaps, but after several terms of that, the system will move back to the narrow-margin homeostasis that is the benchmark of all high-functioning democracies. The conservative-progressive pendulum swings back and forth, but on the long time-scale, the world moves towards a progressive climate.


William H Stoddard@34:

Hi William. I see what you're saying. But I'm a spoiled Dane: I'll admit I don't like the British/American system, where each district elects *one* candidate.

In my country, if a party gets 3% of the votes, it will get 3% of the parliament. Regardless of where the voters live in the country. (The exact rules for a Danish election is somewhat complicated, though.)

It seems that the US south needs a democratic freedom movement.... Good luck.. :-)

In conclusion: Freedom to Scotland, freedom to the US south. And also freedom to Greenland, which is still a Danish colony, for some reason that I don't quite understand.


Can I be Frank?@85 (and William H Stoddard@34): the tight linkage of the USA South to the Republican (righish) party is a relatively new thing; I have (older) relatives in various parts of the region that grew up when the South always, always voted Democrat. My mother (who lives in Oklahoma) regularly teases my stepfather with things like ``You'd vote for a donkey if it were a registered Democrat, wouldn't you?''.

I don't live in the region anymore, but based on infrequent visits and communication with people who do, I'm expecting it to shift back in roughly 25 years, but I'm also expecting an end to the USA's two-arty system within 50, so I might just be crazy.

To someone barely familiar with current EU politics, an independent Scotland seems like a reasonable idea, but I wonder how the experiences of the other economically-smallish member nations have turned out, given the deregulation-recession.


Ah! If only Labour hadn't reneged on it's promise to bring in PR elections...



"But wouldn't this same reasoning mean that Ireland made a big mistake leaving the UK?"

Well the case could be made that it was a big mistake - but to check we'd need access to a whole host of alternate universes where the South of Ireland remained in the UK for some reason.


Martin @77.

Interesting place for an EMEA hub, pretty much on the northeast rim. Though anyone who has spent a Monday morning or Friday afternoon in Wroclaw/Bresslau airport (geographically pretty much at the centre of Europe) will have been impressed by the number of people heading to/ from the Dublin call centres.

However the inexorable trend has to be eastwards, as more and more corporations, including Indian outsourcing operations, tap the highly educated and lower cost labour forces in Poland and Romania. (And Hungary and Ukraine and ...)

Perhaps a more hopeful example is the cyber crofting already on Lewis. Surfing's better there as well.


Eamon @87: if they'd done that, we wouldn't have had three consecutive parliaments of misrule and corruption by petty-minded control-freaks.

On the other hand, if they'd done that we wouldn't be facing three consecutive parliaments of misrule and corruption by rapacious elitist aristocrats and their hangers-on.

Apropos @88: I suspect in most of those parallel universes, the consequences for Ireland of being held within the UK would have been significantly worse than the civil war and ensuing theocracy and poverty of de Valera's rule. (Read: a much blooder, longer-lasting civil war and insurgency combined with de-facto foreign occupation punctuated by periodic rebellions.)

Luckily for everyone, the pressure for Scottish independence doesn't come close to approaching the tensions that led to Irish independence: it's like comparing a polite disagreement at a vicar's tea party to a riot.


Would have got a reply back to this thread on Sunday but I had to dash out the house to go see the Dream Theater gig. But hey, rock is rock!

So, independence - my basic disagreement specifically with the SNP policy is that it doesn`t address the real problems we face now and the crises lying up ahead. Its all about parochial ego and an ersatz resentment. It divides people when we should be united, especially in the light of the kind of global, antidemocratic financial hegemony which is being born right now. An independent Scotland would be even more powerless to confront or defy international financiers and investment empires whose only concern is profit. We are a crucial stage in the development of a global culture, and unity not division is vital.


Scots-English border... Where did I put my copies of the Lymond Chronicles?

You could get TV comedy out of the whole thing... And there really are shops in the USA sited on the State line to take advantages in differences in the laws.


I guess like everything else, The South remaining in the UK would depend on a number of factors. In my personal view Southern-UK relations have had a whole host of tipping points - and are never as simple as the 'Irish hate the Brits' theme that dominates the popular perception of Anglo-Irish relations.

Most people think it was the Easter Rising that put the nail in the coffin of Irish Home Rule - not so, the Conscription Crisis of 1918 had a far bigger effect
When you consider the volunteers of the Rising were booed by Dubliners waving Union Jacks whilst being led off to jail and that the leading Irish Newspapers, even the Nationalist ones, were calling for the death penalty it shows how 'odd' actual Irish History is.

If Westminster had a bit more sense...if Nationalists gave a bit on Home Rule...if Unionists did similar...lots of ifs!


Eamon: I'm inclined to blame Gavrilo Princip for that, as for much else.

If the first world war hadn't happened, or had been "over by Christmas" (1914, that is), or had held off for another five years, things would have been very different. WW1 was a tragedy for civil rights in the UK as a whole. Consider that until May 1914 the UK looked to be on course for female emancipation and a peaceful settlement with Ireland -- instead we got the Official Secrets Act, the Defense of the Realm Act, and both emancipation and Irish independence postponed for the best part of a decade (never mind the horrible effects of the war itself).


Another consequence of Ireland remaining in the UK: the Germans bomb it more frequently (in our time line, the Germans bombed the Republic of Ireland on at least six occasions, including an attack on Dublin that killed 34 people, but the Germans were very careful to say "oops" each time.)


Charlie @ 94: And WW1 might also have been avoided if the UK hadn't tied itself to France with the Entente Cordiale. The Kaiser would have successfully invaded France in a repeat of the 1870's, and that would have been that. War over by Christmas 1914. No kick-start for the Nazis. No WW2. And maybe no Bolshevik Revolution too. So no Stalin/Cold War/nuclear proliferation/Bush either.
Bloody French...


But to get back on thread, if Scotland declares independence, and England & Wales follow suit, does that mean that we in Northern Ireland get to keep the title 'United Kingdom' all to ourselves??

If Scotland were to make a break from the rest of the UK, I suspect our unionist politicians would fight to keep their places in Westminster rather than make an arrangement with Edinburgh. The latter option might mean having to admit that Dublin is closer, realpolitikally as well as physically.

I've always understood that it is part of the Irish Government's foreign policy (in a nice subtle manner) to encourage separatist cravings within the UK and its territories. For example, when Scotland's First Minister (or of Wales, Jersey, Isle of Man) visits Dublin he is treated like a visiting Head of State, not just a Head of Region: a convoy with sirens from the airport, a handshake with the President, etc. They're not going to get that treatment in any other European capital, and the clear message is that this is what it could be like if only you'd go the whole way...

BTW, do you have PR voting for the Edinburgh parliament? Here in Northern Ireland we have both the Single Transferable Vote (STV) - as used in the Republic of Ireland - for domestic and European elections and the archaic first-past-the-post system for Westminster elections. I know which I prefer.


Adrian @96:
"War over by Christmas 1914."
Er, no. There's that pesky treaty with the Belgians, and the equally pesky fact underlying it - the British don't like a great power controlling Antwerp. And there's that Russia vs Austria Hungary thing that kicked it all off. But apart from that, yes.


Scottish & English politics .....
ALL THREE main parties, AND the Snottish Nutters Pandemonium (No I DON'T like A. Salmond, or any of his incredibly narrow-minded followers) ...
Are crawling up the vermin-infested arses of religions, various.
Locally, the Lemocrats have been crawling to the muslims (ugh) though, recently, the others have backed off a bit.
Perhaps the arrest of three, and conviction of two (the third is to be re-tried) people, who were then living less than 800metres from me, of conspiracy to commit explosions - has caused them to think about the non-virtues of fundamental religious belief.

Now who do I (in London) vote for?
The Greens?
Forget it - they are anti-nuclear power, because it's EVIL.
They've got some funny friends, as do the tories inside Europe.
If our old MP was standing again (N. Gerrard) I'd vote for him, but he's standing down, they are putting some appartchik in. And Labour are so anti-education, based on merit, that it isn't true ....

Side-issue, WWI
IF the Imperial Germans had headed East, and just manned the French frontier, no Brit involvement.
Invade Belgium - oops.
Try reading Barbara Tuchman on the subject.



I think I've still not made my point clear; let me try another angle....

There isn't a single SF community; there are several different (overlapping) ones. For any definition of "SF community" other than "people interested in SF", you'll wind up with some groups of people who regard themselves as "part of the SF community", but who are excluded from it by the definition used. People who have no interest in thinking about the future but happily spend hours writing Star Trek fanfic will think of themselves as part of the SF community, with just as much justice in doing so as our host - who thinks about the future a lot, but isn't interested in their kind of SF at all, and thus isn't a member of their SF community. (And, of course, even within the "community" of people interested in thinking about the future, there are sub-communities - consider the relative views of Charlie and, say, Heinlein....)

I'm still not sure why where I come from is relevant, though? :)


Re WW1: The problem with 'just heading east' is that one of two things are going to happen. Either the German offensive is going to bog down around Warsaw, or it's going to head on for Moscow. Either way, the French are going to launch Plan XII, and then the Germans have to react. Given that, British involvement gets more and more likely. There was this Entente, see.

More to the point, since 1897 the German General Staff only had the one plan. It may have been stupid, but it was industrial-grade stupid. In other words, I'm not going to read Tuchman, for any number of reasons.


What I don't understand is why a referendum on whether or not Scotland should get independence should only be held in Scotland? Isn't that like asking MPs to vote on whether or not they get a pay rise (oh ... wait).

Surely the referendum should be amongst all affected parties, ie the UK.


Andy: a referendum on Scottish independence should be held in Scotland only, for exactly the same reason that a referendum on whether Ireland should accept the Lisbon Treaty should be held in Ireland, not Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, Poland, and every other EU state (including Ireland): the folks who will be primarily affected by it are the ones who should get to vote.

MPs should indeed be allowed to vote themselves pay rises. We are, after all, allowed to vote them out of the job if they offend us through their conduct in office. (If our votes aren't enough of a deterrent to stop them drinking too deeply at the trough, well, that tells you something about the state of democracy in the UK.)

PS: polling suggests that if a referendum on Scottish independence were held UK-wide, then it would probably pass. A lot of English voters don't much care whether Scotland stays in the union or goes ...


I haven't dared look yet, but I suspect this thread has been much more productive than the Star Trek one.


So when the Democrats are in power, the South has no influence on government.

This is empirically false, as we have seen again since January 2007. Unless your definition of "in power" is "sixty or more progressive Democrats in the Senate." And many of the so-called Blue Dog Democrats-in-name-only in the House of Representatives are from south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

It seems utterly wrong to me that one part of the group that is being broken up has a vote and the other doesn't.

Curiously enough, there are those who might apply similar logic to the involuntary annexation of the Kingdom of Scotland into the UK to begin with.

the tight linkage of the USA South to the Republican (righish) party is a relatively new thing; I have (older) relatives in various parts of the region that grew up when the South always, always voted Democrat.

Erm, yes, but Neil in Chicago has already pointed out a dominant reason for that shift (see, e.g., Strom Thurmond, Trent Lott, et al.). Given the specific circumstances of the shift of the US Republicans primarily to a regional party of racists and radical religious fundamentalists, I'm less sanguine that the pendulum will naturally swing back, at least until the terms "War of Northern Aggression" and "Christian nation" lose enough traction.


Charlie @ 103:
(I'm American and don't have a dog in the fight)

I would assume that all UK citizens, whether or not in Scotland, would be "primarily affected" by Scottish secession. Specifically, all UK citizens would be affected by the transition period where arrangements would have to be made about who gets the national debt, state assets such as Sevastopol^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h Scapa Flow, etc. In the long run, Scotland's citizens would be more "primarily affected", but the short run is important too.


(silly me to not know that Scapa Flow closed fifty years ago)


Scottish independence? Yes.

Scottish independence as a result of the actions of Scottish voters? Maybe.

For some time there's been (by virtue of the population size differences) more English in favour of Scottish independence than Scots. But recently I've been seeing opinion polls that suggest that a higher *percentage* of English voters are now in favour of Scottish independence than Scottish voters.

That's a pretty significant turning point and suggests that celebrations over Scottish independence south of the border will overshadow those in Scotland itself (you really need to live in England for a while to understand just how completely the Union flag has been replaced in public view by the cross of St George over the last 10-15 years - not on govt. buildings, just everywhere else).

Those in favour of the continuation of the union (I'm not one, rather looking forward to waving a fond farewell to Scotland) have only two hopes:

1: That on the English side the current inclination to loathe Scotland is a spillover from Gordon Brown's unpopularity.
2: That on the Scottish side enthusiasm for independence wanes as the recession continues to bite (which has been the trend in previous economic downturns).


Humans will never be able to reliably hand power over to others without a true system of verified trust. Sadly, any mechanism of verification must itself be verified. Quite a mess it leaves us in. About the best I think we could hope for is either full 100% invasive telepathy (via computers) or an AI benevolent dictator compiled on a distributed platform with an open source software framework.

So, basically, we're screwed.


Hey Charlie - wot Dennis said! Scotland leaving the Union _does_ affect the rest of the UK.
That is totally different from (The Republic of) Ireland voting "to ratify" over Lisbon because all other interested parties SHOULD have also had their say - luckily Gordon Clown was able to side step the issue for the UK because "Lisbon" was not "The Constitution" (or something like that) and hanging on for the general election until the last nation ratifies could well usher in President Bliar.
That the EU would have kept getting (TRo) Ireland to vote until they got the _right_ answer is a separate issue entirely - do they vote again next year to make it a best out of three I wonder!


I'm neither in favour or against English independence. I wouldn't vote to push you out or against you going. If Scotland does go independent then good luck.

How will intellectuals from the neighbouring power expect to fair in the capital of the new state?

(I'm English, in Australia this week, it seems ever further away.)