A British Union

Beware the Ides of March.

Nicolas Sturgeon managed to upstage Theresa May’s parliamentary triumph yesterday (the passage of an unamended bill authorising her to trigger Article 50 taking Britain out of the EU) by calling for a second Scottish independence referendum, less than 3 years after losing the first one.

Despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of Scots (65%) don’t want another referendum, Sturgeon clearly felt support for Scottish independence (and/or the Scottish National Party) ebbing away and, in the fallout of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, determined to seize what is perhaps the best chance for Scottish independence in the foreseeable future.  Even so, the headwinds are strong: thanks to collapsing oil prices, Scotland is in a much worse economic position than it was 3 years ago (an independent Scotland would currently have the largest deficit in Europe) and the prospect of being a relatively small country existing (at ... Read More

The day after the night before

Wow, what a surprising night. Going into the election results last night I expected what most people were expecting: the Conservatives to win the most votes, up a handful over Labour, but unable to form a government; and Labour and Ed Miliband limping into power on the back of a shaky supply and confidence agreement with the SNP.

Which would have been a disaster, regardless of what you think of Labour, Ed Miliband and the SNP, because it would not have been a stable government: every single vote in the House of Commons would have been subject to such horse trading that in this increasingly hyper-partisan world the only measures which would be able of mustering a majority would be precisely those bills which were so short-term and pandering that they should never have seen the light of day. What a relief, then, that instead we have a Conservative majority government.

Alongside ... Read More

The Day After

I’ve written before about why Scottish independence is such a deeply depressing prospect. But, three days out, to me this feels like one of the many elections I’ve observed where my side has narrowly lost (although we can still hope Salmond may have peaked too soon). There’s a reason why Westminster is (finally) panicking. Momentum is with the “Yes” campaign, and the normal rule that when in doubt people choose the status quo is less likely to help here: to the extent anyone fails to turn out on Thursday, it’s likely to be people who would vote “No” if forced but would rather not have to take an “unpatriotic” stand. “Yes” is exciting and positive; “No” is dull and contrary.

No doubt if Scotland does choose independence the recriminations will follow swiftly and with a vengeance. It is ridiculous that Cameron allowed the separatists to ... Read More

Scottish Independence: to What End?

Sometimes divorce is the right answer. Even Jesus, whose statement in Matthew 19 that “anyone who divorces his wife… and marries another woman commits adultery” is one of the most emphatic biblical condemnations of divorce, makes an exception for cases of “sexual immorality”: i.e., where the covenant of marriage has been irretrievably broken down due to a party’s unfaithfulness. But divorce still remains a “nuclear option”: it is not something to be done lightly, on the basis of individual advantage or flight of fancy. Although the grass may appear greener on the other side, such wishful thinking does not justify the trauma of separation.

While the analogy of divorce has been applied to the Scottish referendum on independence, it is an indictment of our age that neither divorce nor the possibility that Britain might be rent asunder are considered with due seriousness. As Martin Wolf comments in the Financial Times, ... Read More