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Top UK Official Warns of Breakup

Some interesting predictions coming out of the not-so-United Kingdom: Sir Gus ODonnell, the head of the UK Civil Service, wrote in the Telegraph recently that he thinks that the Kingdom might not be United for too much longer:

Sir Gus’s comments about the Union highlight the fact that British voters and politicians are facing serious questions about the future of the UK as a single country.

Alex Salmond’s Scottish Nationalist Party dominates the Scottish parliament and has promised a referendum on independence before 2016.

When the nationalists won a resounding victory in the Scottish election in May, David Cameron promised to fight “with every fibre” to keep Scotland in the Union.

Sir Gus may hold a non-political position in UK government, but his statements are taken quite seriously in the country’s political world. His job position is much more high-profile and important than any career bureaucrat in the United States.  It’s almost the equivalent of the chief justice of the US Supreme Court warning that the union might break up.

Probably nothing will happen.  The Quebeckers have been talking about secession for decades but they never quite pull the trigger.  Ditto the various secessionist movements in Italy and Spain. Threatening to secede but never actually doing it is a good way for regions to extort goodies from the center.  But the Scots are serious people; secession can’t quite be ruled out.  One wild card to think about in all the turmoil of the EU-UK relationship: if the Parliament at Westminster votes to leave the EU, the Scots might well take the opportunity to exit the UK.

This should give English euroskeptics pause.  The French, one suspects, would be happy to give a Scottish application for EU membership a warm and generous welcome.

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  • LarryD

    Arguably, Quebec’s failure to pursue independence has more to do with demographics than anything else.

    There is also the point that much of the rest of Canada got to the point of being willing to throw them out, which made the whole issue something of a bomb no politician outside of Quebec wanted to play with.

  • Eric

    As an Aussie with proud Scots ancestry (of Girvan) I can say I hope my historical compatriots do not do this thing.

    The economics would be disasterous for Scotland, especially when the signs are poor for the economic success of the EU. England would cease subsidising the north. EU transfers are going to get smaller for all countries. Does anyone think the French would helpfully forgo some of their cherished CAP subsidies to give money to Scotland?

    The North Sea oil is running out. I have seen no signs that coal seam and shale gas is common in Scotland, whereas it is in England. Soon the petro-revenues will be in south not in the north. A Scotland in the UK will share in these, an independent Scotland would not.

  • Steven E

    The really interesting thing becomes, what way do Shetland and Orkney jump? If we use votes for the SNP as a proxy for support of secession, they are very anti-secession — of they stay in, the “United Kingdom of England, Northern Ireland, Orkney, Shetland, and Wales” winds up controlling essentially all of the North Sea oil.

  • WigWag

    If Scotland becomes too obstreperous Prime Minister Cameron could always follow the example of Abraham Lincoln and send in the army to save the Union.

    Oh wait; that won’t work. Because of his budget cuts the United Kingdom no longer has much of an army. The Glasgow Police Department could probably fight the British military to a standstill.

    Yet Professor Mead keeps telling us that David Cameron is Margaret Thatcher in trousers.


  • Marshall

    Which way does the money flow? (and how much)?
    If it is England –> Scotland, I doubt the Scots will jump.
    If it is the other way (which I doubt), then ….

  • Cris

    Marshall, many Scots firmly, proudly believe it flows N to S. Most independent sources indicate the opposite is true.

  • Cris

    Many Scots proudly believe that the money flows N to S, that ‘London’ is draining them dry. Most independent reviews suggest the opposite is true.

  • Kris

    Long Live Free Scotch!

  • ErisGuy

    Scotland in the EU. Gales of riotous laughter. Both sides will get what they want and deserve. I’ll bring the popcorn.

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