The UK Rump State
January 11, 2012 2:02 PM   Subscribe

What would be the future of the British state without Scotland?

There's been a lot of debate about how independence would impact Scotland, but what about the rest of the nation? Although Scotland represents "only" around 10% of the population, it has significant oil reserves, banks, land mass , and I can't find any articles or studies on what effect this would have on the state that remains, despite this being a huge issue to consider.

This article studies the security implications, and even goes so far as to suggest the UK could veto EU membership if Scotland insists on the closure of the nuclear base at Faslane- although I'm not aware of any precedent for this within the EU.

But what about the wider implications. What would the country even be called? Would we still use the Union Jack? Would we always have a Conservative government?

I'm not against independence at all, so please no political mudslinging, just considered projections.
posted by welovelife to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The name of the country could remain the UK -- currently it is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, so even if the largest island can't be called Great Britain, it could still be the United Kingdom of, er, Southern Britain and Northern Ireland or something like that. (In reality, I suspect the name wouldn't change).

The flag would have to change, I think; it's harder to defend.

Politically, I think there'd be a huge upheaval in England and Wales. Labour can't remain a force -- without the Scottish MPs they have practically no hope of ever gaining a majority. There would have to be a recalibration, either with a split and reformed Liberal taking what remains of the Left, or with the Conservative & Unionists fracturing into right and very-right (anti-EU) sections. That's the very interesting part.
posted by fightorflight at 2:23 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would imagine it would fuel greater moves toward independence or autonomy for Wales, as well.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:36 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Scottish independence, especially if proven successful, could have Northern Ireland reconsidering its place in the grand scheme of things. That tends not to go so well.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:21 PM on January 11, 2012

Yes the main issue would be the devastation of the Labour Party, with some 50 seats lost.
posted by wilful at 3:23 PM on January 11, 2012

Financially I get the impression that on balance there wouldn't be a massive impact (Scotland has more natural resources and revenue from that, but a lower personal tax take and higher welfare spend per capita).

A lot of government departmental service delivery stuff, and associated budgets, is already devolved (education, criminal justice, healthcare etc), but there would be some things that Scotland would need to set up from scratch. Impact on the UK would be minimal from that respect - yes, there are economies of scale in some areas, but Scotland's population is still quite small and the current UK government's localism agenda will mean that a lot of this happens anyway.

The impact on the political landscape for the UK-minus-Scotland is a big one and others have mentioned that. And yes, Wales and NI might like to follow suit, but financially it makes less (no?) sense for them so that's less likely to happen in the short term.

I'm assuming that the borders would remain open and that the right to live and work in either Scotland or the rest of the UK would remain, and they'd retain the £ as the currency.

The thing I'd be curious about is how they would determine citizenship. Who is Scottish? Who is British-but-not-Scottish? If Scotland were able to issue passports, who would be able to apply? Most UK citizens define themselves as English, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish. But that doesn't necessarily relate to where they live. I acquired British citizenship by residency rather than birth, and was never given the option to choose - I live in England but my family background is majority Scottish.
posted by finding.perdita at 5:08 PM on January 11, 2012

The thing I'd be curious about is how they would determine citizenship. Who is Scottish? Who is British-but-not-Scottish?

Is there some reason it wouldn't be determined by place of birth and residence, maybe going back a generation or two, and allow dual citizenship? Seems pretty straightforward; there's already a border, after all.

I live in England but my family background is majority Scottish.

Meh. The issue of Scottish ancestry vs. Scottish citizenship kind of went out the window in the 18th and 19th centuries, when most Scots were forcibly shipped overseas, their homes burned down to make room for grazing sheep. There are almost as many Scots in the United States alone as in Scotland itself. Add those of us in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and, well, there'd be a hell of a lot of passports to mail out.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:48 PM on January 11, 2012

I'd imagine issues of citizenship would be settled in the same way as with the Republic of Ireland.
posted by salmacis at 7:06 AM on January 12, 2012

The impact would be enormous, and the political ramifications would go far, far beyond the question of party representation at Westminster. Anyone interested in following this issue should bookmark the Constitution Unit Blog and Alan Trench's personal blog Devolution Matters, which have been exploring some of the constitutional implications.

As far as the Union is concerned, it's not clear at present what Scottish independence would mean. However, there's a good case for arguing that it would mean the effective repeal of the 1707 Act of Union, and the return to the looser sort of union that existed between 1603 and 1707, i.e. a personal union of the English and Scottish crowns. (The SNP is not currently proposing to remove the Queen as head of state.) In that case, there's no reason why the Union flag should have to change, as it's existed ever since 1606 (not quite in its current form, but near enough) and could continue doing so as long as the two kingdoms remained united under a single head of state.

Politically, who knows? your guess is as good as mine, but Prof Robert Hazell has suggested that there might be a quid pro quo in which the UK retained its submarine bases on the Clyde in return for allowing Scotland to join the EU. In terms of public funding, the Barnett formula would have to go; the SNP proposes to replace it with a system whereby 'the Scottish Parliament would make a payment for Scotland's share of ongoing UK services such as pensions, foreign affairs and defence'. In practice this could prove complicated, as the Barnett formula is generally reckoned to work to Scotland's advantage (or as a bribe to keep Scotland in the Union, depending on your point of view). This could put the UK government in a strong position at the negotiating table.

One of the big unresolved issues is the role of an independent Scotland within the EU. There's a real fear that Scotland might free itself from domination by Westminster only to hand itself over to domination by Brussels. Jim Sillars has suggested that Scotland should assert its independence from the EU by issuing its own currency (the 'Scottish dollar') backed by oil revenues. This strikes me as pretty far-fetched, but it's important because it's a sign of a deep-seated disagreement within the SNP which could ultimately wreck the whole independence project.

And the impact on politics at Westminster? In the short term, it limits the coalition government's room for manoeuvre, as Cameron knows that any strong austerity measures (or any strong anti-EU rhetoric) will be unpopular in Scotland and are likely to strengthen the case for Scottish independence. The approaching referendum is a strong incentive for Cameron to keep Scottish voters sweet (which is one reason why he wants to get it over with as soon as possible, and why the SNP want to delay it as long as possible).

I personally doubt that the referendum will deliver a mandate for Scottish independence. But if it does, the implications for UK politics are enormous. If the SNP's draft constitution, or anything like it, were to be adopted in Scotland, then the case for constitutional reform in the UK would be overwhelming.
posted by verstegan at 12:06 PM on January 12, 2012

« Older I want the best of both worlds   |   If stopped by the police, what details do I have... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.