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Dec 16

One way or another, after 2014 the Scots can expect a colder England

Lucius WinslowLucius Winslow has an MA in politics, and is currently studying to be a solicitor. Follow him on Twitter @Lucius_Winslow

At the risk of (further) boring people by providing yet more spiel about Alex Salmond’s big fat Scottish divorce I wish to venture into the counterfactual, namely, what England’s reaction is likely to be after the vote.

Much has been made of the possible repercussions of a yes vote. The divvying up of the national debt, the ramifications for sterling, the nuclear submarines on the Clyde etc. The British government’s official line is that no hypotheticals have been discussed, and there simply has not been any contingency planning. Nobody believes this fad, but it is vaguely useful in denying Salmond the ‘inevitability’ argument.

But if Scotland were to vote in the affirmative, what would happen in London is fairly predictable. Having been rejected by Scotland, British politicians would be in no mood to grant the sort of nonsense concessions Wee Eck seems to want, such as a seat on the Bank of England. So Scotland would have to adjust to hard reality in any case. However it is likely to be even harsher than that, as the rest of the Kingdom would be dominated by Conservatives, based in England, with no sympathy for any part of Salmond’s agenda, and a determination to stick up for their own country’s privileges, even if that were to inflict actual pain on a new independent Scotland. This much is somewhat obvious.

But what happens if (when!) the Scots vote no? Well once the laughter over Salmond’s humiliation dies down, and the relief in Downing Street over the Union is spent, a new emotion is likely to dominate the Edinburgh-Westminster devolution discourse: contemptuous disinterest.

This is most likely to be an asymmetric phenomenon. The Scottish establishment, particularly the SNP, will continue to press London on all manner of issues, asking for concessions and subsidies hither and thither. But the English political class, much like the English public (particularly in the South) are likely to spurn them utterly.

The reasoning is fairly straightforward: when asked to stay or go they stayed – they can’t then continue to whine about the vagaries of Union life. So whereas previously there has been obfuscation, delay, or indeed concession, in future Westminster is likely just to say no. For they know that they no longer have to fear the ultimate bogeyman of the plebiscite.

Now, it is possible that a closer vote, with a narrow victory for the Better Together, could continue to yield pressure. But this is unlikely; constitutional fatigue would set in amongst the political class in a way which it has already filtered into the wider public.

For that’s one thing this referendum has created; the foreseeable end of English patience. The Scots can vote yes or no in 2014. The English are likely to say no regardless thereafter.

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5 comments

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  1. David B. Wildgoose

    They have to have made preparations – it would be gross dereliction of duty not to be prepared.

    And those preparations must include the immediate breakup of the House of Commons – Scotland cannot negotiate with itself over the terms of its separation.

    Which implies the following:

    http://www.englishstandard.co/2012/01/it-pays-to-be-prepared-what-if-the-scots-vote-yes-for-independence-2/

  2. David

    I hope Scotland don’t vote to leave but, if they do (and opinion polls worryingly suggest it is a lot likelier than the lackadaisical political class think it is), what is the point in having clingers-on like Northern Ireland and Wales.

    If they do vote to say, I don’t think the colder reception from us Englanders is a given. Over 10% of the commons is Scotch and the upper echelons of the main parties have been infiltrated by Caledonian Mafia types.

  3. Stephen Cooper

    Luke,

    not sure about two things.

    First, as the referendum gets closer, the UK government will make it increasingly clear to the Scottish electorate that the things you mention will be policy, ie, currency isolation, re-entry to EU, defence and military severances and so on.

    Secondly, in the event of Scotland wishing to remain in the Union, I suspect that the nationalist movement in Scotland will suffer a crushing and near fatal blow, (as what purpose can they serve other than becoming a bunch of ‘has beens’ sniping from the sidelines to the equivalent of what were disparagingly termed as ‘little Englanders) and the union will be strengthened in an unprecedented manner, and will perhaps become more cohesive and secure.
    A narrow victory would however present a problem as you point out; it would not quite eradicate their dogma, but dampen it for another cycle, until the electorate return at the next election and it may start all over again.
    To that end, I would urge the UK government to insert a caveat that if the vote is for the better together campaign, then no referendum should be recommended for the foreseeable future and the prospect of a majority of nationalists being returned in any subsequent election should not be allowed to initiate the same demand for another referendum.
    If that caveat is not inserted, then your assertion that the English, (and the rest of the UK for that matter), will become increasingly miffed at the Scots and could ultimately damage relations, even to the point of the other constituent members holding their own referendum to ask the complainant to politely leave!
    In the case of a decent return of opinion advocating staying in the union, the irony of Salmond delivering a more robust and cohesive UK is not lost on me, and in the aftermath, many unionists might want to shake his hand in defeat and thank him for securing the union that little bit more, especially in these days of social media and instantaneous detachment from historical and nationalistic traits, due to the distraction of surviving and providing for families and prioritising thus.
    Perhaps Salmond could end up to be one the greatest Scottish unionists of this century?

  4. David Kelly

    “…the rest of the kingdom would be dominated by Conservatives, based in England…” I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Cameron has showed that he is no friend of England, even though England is the only nation in this ‘union’ (excuse me while I ROFLMAO) that votes for his party in meaningful numbers.

    I’d love to know who are the English political classes. There’s a venomously Anglophobic British political class that’s based in England, but that’s all that’s ‘English’ about it.

    I’m worried about what the Brits will do to England next year. If the Scots decide to leave, the Brits will react like petulant brats and look to take their anger out on someone. The Scots would clearly be beyond their reach, and they won’t want to antagonise Wales or NI, so that will leave them with their usual whipping boy, England. If the Scots decide to stay, the Brits will still make us suffer somehow. Either way, it promises to be ugly for England.

  5. Steven Davis

    The English political class? I think you mean the British political class as personified by the Conservative, Liberal, and labour parties. Nothing English about any of them. I’ve spoken to many and you cant even get some of them to recognise England’s right to exist. As for the conservatives they wont abandon Scotland all the time Cameron is in charge. And if they go on making themselves as unpopular as they have been, with more cuts south of the border than north of it, and after what they’ve done to Portsmouth, the Tories might need Scotland- more than Scotland needs them- as a refuge.

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