The United States went through a crisis in the 1860s, in which the Southern States determined to separate their destiny from that of the North. In the end the Union was not destroyed: it was the South that was destroyed; but only at the end of a long and very bloody war in which three quarters of a million people died.
There has been no war here. How much wiser to settle the issue by a peaceful referendum instead! But we can only say that because there was a “No” vote. A “Yes” vote would have settled nothing. The future, after a “Yes” vote, would have been perilous indeed. In an earlier article, I suggested that after a “Yes” vote, Scotland would not actually leave the UK. But most people assumed otherwise and very probably they were right.
Imagine a future in which England has left the EU but Scotland remains a member. The EU, which had never been democratic but started as a peaceful economic union, has subsequently acquired its own armed forces and centralised security forces and the Scots have found themselves in a police state. The French have contributed their nuclear expertise and the European Army, officered at the top mainly by Germans, has continued the great Prussian tradition of the Wehrmacht. The Brussels Government has never been reconciled to English independence and European forces mass on the Border……
Have we forgotten something important about international relations in our eagerness to be tolerant and accommodating? International frontiers work best, of course if they correspond closely to the national preferences of those who live within them. But unfortunately that cannot be the only factor to be considered. The reason why Ireland was never allowed to assert its separate identity from Britain, despite Irish feelings, was mainly strategic. The British thanked God that England and Scotland were a single loyal country and there was no land frontier to defend. And our Navy, in those days, ruled the waves. But we were grateful also that no continental war could be complicated by the presence of a hostile power between Britain and the Atlantic.
The Referendum is over. Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom. But only the political maturity of the Scots has saved us from our own folly. Why did we need a referendum? Opinion polls now exist – the result of the referendum was predictable, and was in fact successfully predicted (Editor: bar one rogue YouGov poll which Peter Kellner, their boss, has said he regrets as it used a trial polling method). And opinion polls would have told us – still no doubt do tell us – that many people in Scotland are very unhappy with the government under which they live. We in UKIP will not find that at all surprising. David Cameron’s reaction was to say to the Scots “If you don’t like my government, go your own way!” That reaction was a terrible abdication of responsibility. He gambled on a “No’ vote but he was very lucky indeed to get one. Now, he has got one, his reaction is likely to be to give the extra concessions to which he has unfortunately agreed, but otherwise to carry on as if nothing has happened.
We have had a very lucky escape. We British must never let this happen again.