David Calling

Great Britain, R.I.P.?

Great Britain might no longer exist a few days from now. On September 18 the Scots are holding a referendum to decide whether to break away from the union with England and become an independent state. Earlier in the summer the No-to-independence vote had a lead of 22 percent. When I met Professor Vernon Bogdanor, who has claims to be the leading expert on the British constitution, he assured me that there was no question of the Yes-to-independence winning. That 22 percent has vanished. For the first time, the Yes-vote is in the lead.

Panic is in the air. “Right: it’s time to speak for Britain,” is the opening sentence in a fighting article in today’s Daily Telegraph by Boris Johnson, one of the few politicians who may survive in the event of Yes-victory. He makes the point that Britain’s history, its empire, its contributions to law, government, medicine, invention, are joint efforts of all British people. The present fiasco of separation has been wished upon us by sheer ineptitude. Tony Blair is one culprit. Under a policy known as devolution, he gave the Scots a parliament with limited powers. Devolution was bound to lead to the demand for independence, but Blair ludicrously argued the opposite, that it made independence impossible. David Cameron is another culprit. His concession to the referendum was thoughtless, conceitedly assuming he’d get the vote he wanted. He’s probably lost Scotland as stupidly as Lord North lost the American colonies.

The prospective victor, the uncrowned king or future president, looks to be Alex Salmond. He has persuaded fellow Scots that the English do them down. His is the usual nationalism built on grievance and self-pity. A socialist on top of that, he keeps promising equality and justice and prosperity, none of which he can deliver. Nationalists and socialists are proven carriers of disease, not doctors. Currency, debt repayment, banking, defense, membership in the EU, are among the unknowns. Expropriation of Scottish estates seems quite likely. The English will have to live through the malign consequences to the pound, the flight of the disillusioned away from Scotland, and all the economic, social, and psychological consequences of rejection.

And to think that this creepy and outmoded manipulator could well go down in history for doing what Philip of Spain, Napoleon, and Hitler couldn’t do: bring down Great Britain.

David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

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