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November 27, 2006
Will The UK Try Partition For Itself?

The United Kingdom has had a long history of imposing partitions in its former colonies, including Ireland, India, and the entirety of the Middle East, all of which has spawned wars in the following years. Now a new poll conducted on behalf of the London Telegraph show that the British might want to try out partition for themselves. A solid majority of Brits support the full independence of Scotland and a more clearly English Parliament (via Instapundit):

A clear majority of people in both England and Scotland are in favour of full independence for Scotland, an ICM opinion poll for The Sunday Telegraph has found. Independence is backed by 52 per cent of Scots while an astonishing 59 per cent of English voters want Scotland to go it alone.

There is also further evidence of rising English nationalism with support for the establishment of an English parliament hitting an historic high of 68 per cent amongst English voters. Almost half – 48 per cent – also want complete independence for England, divorcing itself from Wales and Northern Ireland as well. Scottish voters also back an English breakaway with 58 per cent supporting an English parliament with similar powers to the Scottish one.

The poll comes only months before the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union between England and Scotland and will worry all three main political parties. None of them favours Scottish independence, but all have begun internal debates on the future of the constitution.

The dramatic findings came as Gordon Brown, the favourite to succeed Tony Blair as Prime Minister, delivered an impassioned defence of the Union at Labour's Scottish conference in Oban yesterday.

In an attack on the Scottish National Party, against whom Labour will fight a bitter battle for control of the Edinburgh-based parliament next May, the Chancellor claimed: "We should never let the Nationalists deceive people into believing that you can break up the United Kingdom."

England did not start colonialism, but it might be its last real practitioner. The natural end of that era would have come from the dissolution of ties between Northern Ireland and the UK, which might have been the UK's least successful partition in that it never resulted in the severing of their responsibilities in their colony on Ireland. Scotland, however, has been part of the kingdom for centuries. Its loss would spell a clear end to the idea of a "united kingdom" and press for a much more English Britain.

It seems that Gordon Brown and Labour might find themselves on the wrong side of history. Defending the definition of Britain to include Scotland when neither the Scots nor the British believe it any longer puts Labour in the uncomfortable position of being de facto royalists, normally the position of the Tories. One would expect that the tradition of iconoclasts in Labour to inform a position closer to the apparent tenor of the populace, and that it would remain for the Conservatives to plead for the notion of a kingdom. If, as the Telegraph reports, none of the political parties support complete devolution as of now, one of them soon will, and Labour might have blown a chance to lead that effort.

What would the dissolution of the UK mean for international relations? One would have to expect that Britain -- or England, if Wales becomes independent -- would have less to offer militarily and diplomatically. After all, they would speak for fewer people, and their military assets would assumably get distributed to the newly-independent nations that would have paid for them over their history as part of the core kingdom. It might call into question their permanent seat on the UN Security Council, although Russia inherited the Soviet seat with little difficulty. It would almost certainly leave the US with a less vigorous partner in global relations.

Freedom might mean a new era of explicit significance for the Scots, and perhaps the Welsh and Irish, depending on how far devolution goes. It might just as easily usher in an era of decline for all of the components of a former empire that has spent the last century in contraction as their relevance could wink out entirely, ending the twilight of British influence on world culture. Considering all of the ills and benefits that have come from the remarkable history of these island peoples, that would be a tragedy both for themselves and for the world today. One hopes they choose their next steps wisely.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 27, 2006 6:35 AM

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