A Union in Peril

Published on 11 May 2021 at 13:10

The election results in the UK of the past week may, whether all involved are aware of it or not, spell the end of the Union as we know it.


With an SNP majority in Scotland, the Tories utterly dominating in the English context and a growing degree of Welsh Nationalism, the Union’s existence has never looked more precarious than it does right now.


With Boris Johnson now riding a wave of support, which we could not have predicted at the outset of his Premiership, he can now reforge Tory policy and outlook in his own image for the foreseeable future.


Such outlooks include an extremely strict view on Unionism and the necessity of preventing any potential breaking apart of the bonds which tie the four nations together.


However, this blustering and aggressive approach may in the end prove to be counter-intuitive and ultimately accelerate the process which initially began with the unexpected success of the Brexit referendum.


In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon declared victory despite lacking an outright majority and expressed her intentions to push forward with a second referendum on independence. This could pose more than its fair share of issues for the Union at large.


At present the majority of the UK’s nuclear arsenal is stored in Scotland, it provides a large portion of the population and contributes more than its fair share economically to the Union. In response to this threat, Boris replied with the negative instead noting that any such referendum would have to succeed as a challenge in the Higher Courts for it to go ahead.


This hardline stance towards the independence movement may win the Prime Minister much in the way of support in the English context. Yet is hard-line extremely unlikely to prove successful in the long term.


Refusal of consent, will not make the Scottish Independence movement go away, nor would it suffice should appropriate traction be garnered for a Border Poll in terms of Northern Ireland.


This leaves the United Kingdom in a peculiar situation, as the bonds which once brought the nation together look increasingly frail.


The NHS, direct state intervention in the economies of each nation and a set of devolved parliaments which gave further independence to each nation, may not be sufficient in the coming years. 


While the coronavirus vaccination programme has been an immense success, one which Boris has attempted to publicise as a British victory by asking for the Union Jack to be placed on each vaccine, this may only prove to be a temporary solution.


The impact of Brexit and a seemingly incoming recession, may mean that the doctrine of public spending will not survive the onslaught. In particular in the context of Northern Ireland, the artificial nature of its economy which was never intended to be workable, may suffer most. 


This is combined with a doctrine of neglect and disinterest which has been perpetrated by Tory politicians for decades. This is evident within the continued ignorance of the increasingly united Welsh Nationalist movement.


This is no new development, as the concept of a Welsh identity distinctly separate from the Anglo-Saxons has been growing for a number of years. The evidence of such has been clear to see for anyone willing to do even the most basic research.


In particular the immense work which has been conducted on the part of the Welsh people to revive their language, which has shown greater success than any of their other Celtic counterparts.


While the focus will now turn to the Scottish dilemma, this movement should not be disregarded and the reputation of Wales as the forgotten element of the Union may yet prove to be untrue.


In the meantime, the lack of an outright majority in any of the nations mentioned to push for independence, leaves the situation firmly in the hands of the Prime Minister.


Yet as has been evidenced by his blustering and aggressive approach to date, rather than attempt to reconcile the disparate parliaments he seems likely to take an aggressive strict approach to such.


Therefore, while the Union at the given moment may be in a perilous situation, given the lack of a popular majority the Union may continue to stagger ever onwards, until a breaking point is reached.


While the outcome of this current predicament remains to be determined, the focus placed on Scotland is rightly considered. Should Scotland led by Nichola Sturgeon press on with a successful Independence Referendum it could prove to be the domino which ultimately breaks the Union.


Plans to rejoin the European Union and enjoy the benefits of such membership, which the state never intended to set aside will be at the forefront of the minds of Scottish politicians.


It is often forgotten just how much of an English led movement Brexit has been and how the other members of the Union have responded to such blatant disregard of their interests.


The primary reason why this has not led to a second push for Independence has been the impact the Coronavirus pandemic has had on geopolitics in general.


Yet as the UK and the developed world at large seems to be emerging from the pandemic, the issues which had been pushed to the back of the minds of many in the UK will once more come to the forefront. Should the Prime Minister continue in his antagonistic manner towards such Independence movements throughout the Union, it could also prove to be the end of the political entity as we now know it.


As in all things however, there is an element of uncertainty and it remains to be seen how events will play out in the coming months and years.

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