Current Affairs Politics

Scottish Troubles?

The partition of Scotland the new Greater England
The partition of Scotland – and the new Greater England

Two weeks ago I reported on calls by some politicians from the British (Unionist) minority in Ireland, notably former senior UUP leader John Taylor, for any future independent Scotland to be “partitioned” in order to ensure that those regions with a significant pro-British voting population were retained in the “United Kingdom”. Taylor’s exact words were:

“Northern Ireland is not only geographically close to Scotland but shares more with Scotland than with any other country. When the majority in Ireland voted for independence from the UK… Northern Ireland remained within the UK as was the desire of most people in that part of Ireland. Should there ever be a majority in Scotland for independence it should not be binding on all the people of Scotland.

If, say, Strathclyde or the Lowlands prefer to remain in the UK then that decision should be honoured by a partition of Scotland.”

This caused quite a reaction, coming as it did with demands from the English Democrats urging the London government to redraw the boundary map of the North Sea to ensure that the maximum amount of the current UK oil fields remained under British (for which one should read, English) jurisdiction. John Taylor’s party leader, Tom Elliot, also made several hostile attacks on Alex Salmond and Scottish (and Irish) nationalists culminating in the claim that:

“…the constitutional approach of Alex Salmond appears to pose a greater threat to the union than the violence of the IRA.”

Shortly thereafter news came that the two main British separatist parties in Ireland, Elliot’s UUP and Peter Robinson’s DUP, were now considering launching a joint campaign in Scotland to fight the SNP and the independence referendum. Considering that the historical reaction of the British ethnic minority on the island of Ireland to democratic outcomes they didn’t agree with was (and is) a ready recourse to violence and the threat of violence, many people in Scotland were alarmed by the implications of these aggressive moves by the UUP and DUP (not to mention the insidious influence of British terrorist groups based in the north-east of Ireland upon “Unionist” communities in southern Scotland).

Now we are beginning to see the slow creep of the idea of a partition of Scotland from the wild fringes of the British national minority in Ireland to the mainstream of British nationalist politics in London, with news from the BBC of some high-level support for the basic concept:

“A former Conservative minister has said Orkney and Shetland should have the right to remain part of the UK if Scotland votes for independence.

The Earl of Caithness has tabled amendments to the Scotland Bill, which gives further powers to Holyrood.

He said a referendum vote favouring independence should not be binding on the Northern Isles, unless the majority of islanders voted “yes”.

The Scotland Bill is due to be discussed in the Lords later this week.

The Tory peer’s proposed changes to the bill are among a number of newly-published amendments.

Malcolm Sinclair, the 20th Earl of Caithness, said a “yes” vote in a Scottish referendum should be followed by a referendum held throughout the UK, a proposal he sets out in an insert to the bill that the peer has labelled subsection (2B).

In his amendment, he said: “A vote in a referendum held under subsection (2B) of this section which results in Scotland leaving the United Kingdom shall not be binding on the residents of the Orkney Islands or the Shetland Islands unless a majority of the residents of the Orkney Islands and the Shetland Islands who voted in such a referendum voted that Scotland should leave the United Kingdom.”

The Earl of Caithness has also proposed that the North Atlantic islet of Rockall should remain part of the UK in the event of Scotland becoming independent.”

It is notable that British claims to Rockall would be reinforced through UK control of southern Scotland, and part of the western seaboard south of the city of Glasgow, and the extension of British territorial waters north-westward, including from north-eastern Ireland (not to mention the claims on large swathes of the North Sea by retaining control of south-east Scotland). Coupled with the “exclusion” of Shetland and the Orkneys from a Scottish nation such an arrangement would virtually “squeeze” an independent Scotland between various “British” jurisdictions, rendering much of its independence and sovereignty moot. In fact, just as the partition of the island of Ireland deliberately crippled the economic sustainability of a separate Irish state with the loss of its natural tax-raising base and home-market (not to mention the former industrial heartland of the north-east), a partition of Scotland would hobble a free Scottish state from the very start.

The potential loss of agricultural and industrial zones in the Borders and some of the Lowland regions (along with their populations), lack of control over cross-channel trade and movement with north-eastern Ireland (and the revenue derived from that), and the redrawing of Scottish territorial waters and seabed jurisdictions in the North Sea and Atlantic (leading to the loss of substantial oil and fisheries reserves) would be a heavy financial blow for any future self-sustaining Scotland. As with Ireland, it would probably be a form of permanent national disfigurement and a source of continuous instability.

However such a situation could well match future British strategic interests, whether political, economic or security. For no London-based state or government would wish to see a strong political and economic rival to the north, anymore than they wanted to see one to the west in Ireland.

If the Scots think 21st century Albion is immune to 19th century perfidy then they may be in for a shock.

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