In the final dying days of his Government John Major flew to every corner of our country in one last forlorn and largely forgotten attempt to warn the British people that the Union was in danger. He knew that the establishment of a Scottish Parliament would open up enormous possibilities for Scottish and English nationalism. The last Tory Prime Minister’s fears look increasingly likely to be realised.
An ICM poll for tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph puts support for Scottish independence at 52% amongst Scots (almost identical to the level suggested by a recent Scotsman survey) and 59% in the rest of the UK. 48% of English voters want independence from the rest of the UK. SNP leader Alex Salmond has always understood that devolution was a stepping stone to independence and told The Sunday Telegraph:
"The onset of devolution has made people realise that since we have a devolved parliament, it’s time to have a real parliament with real powers."
It may still be possible to keep the Union together but not without significant poison entering the political bloodstream. It certainly makes Gordon Brown’s position much more difficult. Is he the man to persuade the Scottish people of the merits of the Union or will he find himself rejected by the English as Scottish nationalism ignites English nationalism?
Related link: Christine Constable on ‘City Regions, the West Lothian Question and the future of England’