Let’s face it. Whichever way the vote goes next week, the English have all along got it wrong about their Northern neighbour. And I think it is only fair to say that the Scots, for their part, are on the verge of getting it all wrong, too.
As a result – and perhaps largely because of an opinion poll over the weekend showing the Yes camp pulling ahead – the entire country, north and south of the border, is in a high state of unease.
Tension is laced with foreboding, on both sides. The markets are starting to reflect it. In the past week the pound has fallen four per cent on the foreign exchange market, perhaps the early signs of exodus from a currency that can no longer be trusted because its underpinnings are about to be irrevocably altered.
No one, I suggest, will end up happy with a Yes win.
The Scottish nationalists will rejoice, of course, having finally squirmed out, as they see it, from under the boot of English oppression. It is a pretty flimsy excuse for a party but a party there will be. But inevitably comes the morning after. Then they will have to confront the economic consequences, which at best are unpredictable and at worst could be disastrous. Unpredictable to disastrous is not a range of options that should appeal to anyone of sound mind, even prejudiced Scottish minds. ‘No’ voters are wondering now what has happened to their campaign. More importantly they must be wondering what might happen to them. Rampant nationalism, especially when it fails, has an ugly face.
The English will be looking for someone to blame; not only those who find the notion of a reduced United Kingdom a tragedy, but also those who claim to be only too glad to see the back of the kilted complainers. The recriminations, like the negotiations to separate the two countries, will be lengthy, diverse and ultimately inconclusive.
All three of the leading political parties would have contributed to what most people will see as a bloody mess.
Tony Blair and Labour set the ball rolling with swathes of devolution and the formation of a Scottish parliament that was bound to become a hot-bed of nationalist intrigue. David Cameron and the Conservatives might have headed of the nascent nationalist movement with some sensible concessions, or at least gestures of friendship, but they largely chose to ignore it, which explains why the Conservative Party has been reduced to a single Scottish seat at
If government economic policy has divided
Meanwhile, Nigel Farage is creating havoc in the English political world, and may even be changing the landscape. Alex Salmond is only doing the same thing north of the border. Both are natural-born separatists. Rabble-rousers and mischief-makers they may be, but both men have an oleaginous charm, and they have deployed it to good effect in exploiting voter perceptions of government neglect and economic decay. The only difference between the two is that Farage hates the European Union and Salmond, embracing club membership for once, embraces it.
The entire Kingdom – soon perhaps to be searching for a new title and a new flag – has been reduced to a shambles. A democratic and civilised shambles, maybe, but a shambles all the same. We may not even be able to hold a general election until the entire complex apparatus that joined
Someone is going to have to pay for this mess.
Step forward, please, Mr. David Cameron. Oh, and Messrs. Miliband, Clegg and Osborne, we shall want to talk to you later. Even Mr. Salmond may yet have to face the music.
Perhaps none of the events described will happen.
We can only hope so.
Right now, though, the whole country resembles a garage used as a storage pod that has not been cleaned out since cars had illuminated arms as indicators.