Britain: On the Verge of Breakup

Scotland is due to hold a referendum on its independence on September 18. As the “yes” answer is making progress in the polls, the British prime-minister Cameron and the EU engaged themselves 100 percent on the side of the “no” variant. Why are they so partial? Could the reason be simple: the dismemberment of the UK would mean a blow to the EU’s prestige and an almost zero chance of Mr. Cameron’s staying in power?

Studio guest, Vladimir Kozin, Adviser to the Director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, John Curtice, Professor of Politics from the University of Strathclyde, and David Jamieson, a writer and activist in the Radical Independence Campaign - currently preparing a book with the working title - Scotland in the American World Order, shared their opinions with Radio VR.

If Scotland indeed votes for its independence, do you think that would mean Cameron’s resignation?

Vladimir Kozin: Yes, I do. I do believe that his resignation is imminent, even despite the fact that a number of opposition parties in the UK supported the main view of London on this upcoming referendum.

What are the prospects of Scotland actually separating from Britain, in your opinion?

John Curtice: Those prospects have certainly increased over the last ten days or so, following the publication of a number of opinion polls from companies that hitherto suggested that no side will vote ahead, maybe the “yes” vote being a little more than 40 percent. But those companies that have been hitherto putting forward that view, are now saying that actually it is much closer. One of those companies, for example, only last Sunday said that the “yes” side was slightly ahead, on 51 percent. This morning they are it is back down to 48 percent, but they are still saying that the race is much closer than it was. And this now brings these companies in line with other polling companies, which have for some time been saying that the “no” lead was quite narrow and around 47-48 percent.

I think one has to say, what is the best guess at the moment is that the “no” side are certainly still the favourites. Most opinion polls still put them narrowly ahead. But it is only narrowly. And to that extent, at least, given there are still half a dozen days to go, maybe the “yes” side could just pull it off. But certainly, it is a much closer, a much more exciting race than we had not so long ago.

Don’t you think that the British Government is to a certain extent also to blame for what happened? Because Britain was all for the independence of Kosovo Albanians. And it reminds me of the story when Britain supported the revolution in Egypt.

John Curtice: You are certainly correct that the consistency is never always an attribute that any nation or state displays in its position. Perhaps, the most remarkable thing about what is happening in Scotland, is that what is usually one of the most difficult issues to be resolved in politics, and that is the constitutional status of part of a state. So, in this case we have some people in Scotland saying they want their nation. Everybody accepts that Scotland is a distinct nation, that that is nation which is currently part of the wider state.

Whether it should remain in that state or whether it should leave, this is the kind of issue which commonly gets resolved often through armed force. It often leads to the spilling of bloodshed. And in this occasion the central state – the UK Government – has agreed with the nation that a referendum should be held, that the result of this referendum should be binding on both sides, there should be an extended period of campaigning with agreed rules, which ensure that both governments have to be neutral in the final weeks of the campaign, and that the people residing in that territory are going to decide the issue on both sides.

It is very-very rare that this kind of issue, of whether a territory should be in one state or in another, is solved in this way. And to that extent, perhaps, there is something of an example for the rest of the world to consider.

What do you think would be the consequences?

John Curtice: If Scotland were to vote “yes”, the consequences, not just for Scotland, but for the rest of the UK would be considerable. For a start, the remaining UK would consist of England – a very large part of the UK already – Wales and Northern Ireland. This clearly has raised the concerns, first of all, in Wales, because would then be in a sense almost on its own, living alongside England. What would, therefore, Wales have to seek? Try and seek a further autonomy within the framework of the UK?

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, where its territorial status has long been the subject of dispute, those who want Northern Ireland to remain inside the UK will clearly be concerned at the prospect of Scotland leaving, because if Scotland is going to leave the UK, then why is Northern Ireland staying in it. Doesn’t it signal that it really should join the rest of the island of Ireland? And for the English community in the Northern Ireland that is not something that they want to have to contemplate.

Secondly, what will happen to the party politics in England is very-very difficult to forecast. We do have the rise of the very strong anti-European, anti-immigrant party – the UKIP. And it is quite possible, given the way in which it turns tap into the English national sentiment, that its support may even go up further, as the result of Scotland leaving the UK.

Then, of course, the international implications are quite considerable. Above all, of course, the UK’s nuclear weapon facility is located on the River Clyde of the west coast of Scotland. So, Scotland becoming independent in itself leaves the UK with an issue, because its nuclear weapons would no longer be on the UK’s soil. The current head of the Scottish Government, the Scottish National Party wants those nuclear weapons removed. Whether that will happen, we can’t be sure, because there is no guarantee that the Scottish National Party will be in power in the independent Scotland.

What are the prospects in your opinion?

David Jamieson: I absolutely agree with your previous guest. I actually think, if anything, many commentators are underestimating the geopolitical changes that could be brought about the by the Scottish secession. Apart from anything else, Scotland leaving the UK would diminish the UK. And we have to remember that in the recent decades in particular the UK has played a key role as the key American ally in the EU, and inside NATO. So, the entire sphere of American influence through the European continent could be changed, and that has ramifications for the competition between Germany and Russia, and the continued US influence across the EU, as well as the implications for the UK stock of nuclear weapons and similar issues to that.

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