Friday, 25 January 2013

A few thoughts for Burns night

The other day, I was watching Michael Powell's early masterpiece "The Edge of the World." Inspired by the evacuation of St Kilda, it tells the story of a community torn over the way forward - do they stay and make the best of the only life any of them have ever known, or do they cut their losses and leave?

Of course, Scotland has been gearing up to ask, and answer, a similar question for some time now, with a final agreement reached last year on a referendum for 2014 on whether it should remain part of the United Kingdom. As in Powell's film, there are voices on both sides of the argument, but it is a fairly fundamental question that faces the Scots - stick with the UK, or go it alone; reset the clocks to pre 1707 and forge a new path.

I've always been fairly persuaded that the SNP would lose that vote.  But now we have to factor in something else. Europe.

The prospect on a referendum on the UK's future in the EU is a potential disruptor for the unionist cause.  If the majority of the UK votes to leave the EU, but there isn't a majority in Scotland, then Scotland would presumably be taken out of the EU along with everyone else, but against the wishes of its population.  Scots might presumably look over the border between now and 2014 and wonder what the English are thinking.  The unionists have been saying that a vote for independence would be to introduce uncertainty over Scotland's future, particularly with regard to automatic continued membership of the EU. This is a fairly convincing argument.  However, if we're now saying that the only way to guarantee continued Scottish presence within the EU (even if there has to be a hiatus while they apply for membership) is a vote FOR independence then the rules of the game have changed slightly.  All of this presupposing of course that the Scots are more pro-EU in the first place.

Since devolution a lot of genies have escaped from a lot of bottles, and now that's happening on both sides of the border-that-currently-isn't-a-border. Mr Cameron could be shaping up as the Prime Minister who took Britain out of Europe and presided over the break-up of the UK.  Well, it's certainly a legacy.....

Interesting times.

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