If the three-year saga of Brexit tells us anything, it is that the United Kingdom is irretrievably breaking apart. Beyond the glaring fact that Scottish and English politics now have almost nothing in common, there is a deep sense that Brexit is testing some of the UK’s already-fragile institutions to destruction. Even if a Labour government at Westminster succeeded in calming things down by getting to grips with some key social and economic problems and handing Scotland more power, a great mess of unresolved disagreements within England – about immigration, the country’s place in the world, and the basics of what it is to be a modern country – would still fester away, and hold back progress across the UK.
Which brings us back to 2014. Self-evidently, there was much more to the campaign for independence than the SNP; indeed, just about all the most exciting, mould-breaking ideas about a new Scotland came from a coalition of forces – Greens, the radical Scottish left, droves of people new to politics – that a new referendum would presumably revive. If one of the most basic arguments for the end of the union was that Scotland and England were now hopelessly estranged, this now looks almost unanswerable. The UK’s exit from Europe, moreover, surely shreds arguments against other radical changes, pretty much by definition: so if leaving the EU can be accomplished whatever the resulting disasters, why not Scottish independence? [Continue reading…]