Thu Jan 18th, 2007 at 05:00:27 AM EST
There is already a diary which marks the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union and discusses the possibility of disunion, but I thought that an article on this subject in today's Independent merits its own diary.
Neither the diary nor the article discuss what a breakup of the UK would mean for Europe, so I'll say a couple of words about that. My hypothesis will be that such a breakup would break the stalemate that currently exists between Atlanticism and pan-Europeanism.
From the diaries -- whataboutbob
The Big Question: What would happen if Scotland achieved its independence?
Today is the 300th anniversary of the signing of the Act of Union between England and Scotland, and if the latest political opinion polls are to be believed it may be one of the last. In little over four months the Scottish parliamentary elections could see the Scottish National Party (SNP) win power, or at least enough votes to hold the balance of influence and push a referendum on independence. And according to recent polls, around 52 per cent of Scots would back moves to dissolve the Union of 1707, which means that after three centuries of shared blood, toil and tears, the marriage of convenience that turned a small island into a world power is shaping up for divorce...
If countries such as Malta, with a population less than Edinburgh's, can be self-governing, supporters of independence believe there is no reason why Scotland shouldn't. Optimistic nationalists claim Scotland could be as prosperous as Ireland, Norway, Denmark or Iceland with enough revenue from oil, gas, renewable energy and other industries to invest in a fund to look after future generations. The idea would be to invest revenues in a permanent reserve fund and use the interest to fund public services, pensions and other expenditure for years to come.
According to UK government estimates only about half of the reserves of oil in the North Sea have been extracted so far, which means that there is still enough to support a population of just five million people.
An international convention has determined that the North Sea north of the 55th parallel is under Scottish jurisdiction, which means some 90 per cent of the UK's oil and gas reserves are within Scottish waters.
As far back as 1975, experts recognised that oil could make an independent Scotland one of the richest countries in Europe. A government report saying as much was labelled incendiary, classified as secret and hidden away for 30 years until it came to light at the end of 2005 as a result of Freedom of Information legislation...
As a member state of the European Union, Scotland would possibly have more of a role in international affairs than now, as its politicians could argue their own case. Unionists have warned that an independent Scotland might not be able to join the EU if the UK was split. However, such a situation is highly unlikely, not least because the same argument of denying membership could be applied to an independent England. Similarly, many countries share overseas embassies and assets and there is no reason why Scotland and England couldn't continue to co-operate...
The SNP has already said it would scrap Trident, the nuclear submarine deterrent, and would prevent Scottish troops from taking part in any future illegal wars - such as the invasion of Iraq. This, they claim, would likely make Scotland less of a terrorist target. However, Scotland would continue to have a conventional military defence that would work alongside English forces in the mutual defence of the British Isles...
With a population more than 10 times the size of its northern neighbour England will always be the dominant force in the British Isles but without Scots troops and revenue, it would probably have to adjust to a diminished role on the world stage. And while England would retain Britain's nuclear deterrent, it would mean having to find a new base for the Trident fleet and supporting it from a smaller national defence budget. It is also possible that if Scotland made a success of independence, this would hasten calls for Wales and Northern Ireland to seek self-determination of their own.
It is well known that one of the things preventing Europe from emerging as a world power in its own right, one that adheres resolutely to European values such as social democracy and non-aggression, is Great Britain's consistently acting as a Trojan horse for the United States. Clearly, if Scotland left the union, it would ally itself with "old Europe", not the US. That could finally break Britain's strangle hold on Europe, preventing Europe from finding its own way in the post-Cold War era.