Tuesday, December 05, 2006


English in Scotland Cannot Prevent Independence

The article by Professor TM Devine, of the University of Edinburgh today offers an interesting angle on the possibilty of Scotland(Holyrood pictured) sailing away from 'mainland' England and Wales as the Union proceeds to break itself up. The polls that showed 52% of Scots as favouring independence has almost made this prospect an expected outcome in the medium term future. Devine offers a timely dose of realism to this nationalist euphoria. He points out that both nations have intermingled to an astonishing extent since the Union was effected in 1707. Between 1841 and 1911 a quarter of a million English moved north of the border and at the current figure of 400,000 they are the largest by far immigrant group. By the same token hundreds of thousands of Scots have moved down to join the rest of us, a fair number of them, as has been noticed, the result of being elected to Parliament and going on to occupy seats in the Cabinet.

Maybe it's the work of the sub-editor but the article seems to argue that all these folk of southern provenance will frustrate the ambitions of the narrow minded nationalists. If this is the thrust of the piece, I'm far from convinced:

i) An SNP First Minister would hold a referendum on independence one presumes. While 400K is a big chunk of 5 million people, it would not necessarily swing the decision either way.

ii) Referendums on devolution to date have entailed simple majorities- apart from the ones in the seventies which specified a 40% of voters requirement. The English contingent would not prevent a simple majority from being returned for independence.

iii) Who is to say people of English descent have not been converted to the idea of independence? I know a few English immigrants to Wales who have got weirdly entusiastic about Plaid Cymru and I'm sure there are more than a few in Scotland for whom English roots are irrelevant.

iv) The poll registered 52%, presumably including immigrants of all kinds.

Professor Devine has not convinced me the danger to the Union is any less than I thought before reading his article.

Skipper, I'm not a constitutional expert, but are you sure it would be within the power of an SNP First Minister to decide to hold a referendum? Doesn't the Scottish Parliament have to vote for it? As for "the union in danger", I do hope so.
Well, yes, I'm sure it has to be the whole parliament, but as in the Commons, the PM is the key decision-maker. Personally, as a boder Celt, I'd not like to 'lose' Scotland and Wales from the Union.
But the difference is that the PM leads a party with an overall majority in the Commons; an SNP First Minister (should such a thing happen) would probably lead a minority administration; and the other three main parties are all unionist.
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