There have been recent fears expressed that the No campaign against Scottish independence is too complacent and could lose. I would be most surprised if that happened. My recent visit to Scotland found a business and professional community worried about the idea of a split from the UK, but a community cowed into public silence by fears of the Scottish government’s displeasure if they spoke out.
As the Yes campaign has proceeded it has looked more and more like a campaign for devo max rather than for independence. The so called nationalists want to stick with the pound, the Bank of England, the Queen and the full UK single market and borderless free movement between Scotland and England. Their forecasts rely heavily on optimism about continuing oil revenues, when decline in Scotland’s oil output is likely. If even the main advocates of independence do not seek true independence, it would be surprising if the Scottish people voted for it nonetheless. Much would hinge on the subsequent negotiations with England, with the Scots seeking all sorts of concessions having voted for out. The Scottish government is not simply prepared to leave the UK and get on with doing everything for itself.
Meanwhile, our constitution is unsettled for two other crucial reasons. The first is the continuing federalist drive of the EU and the ECHR, a force that remains most unpopular with a majority of UK voters. The second is the continuing attempts to break up England or to deny England its identity and voice. Just as Mr Salmond hoped, English nationalism is on the rise in response to both the pressure for more independent government by the other countries in the UK union, and more expressly by the studied disregard for England from the EU and elsewhere.
England faces cultural attack from the BBC. They are ever keen to stress independent Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish identity, but rarely allow England a say or even name us. They are keen along with their friends in the EU to try to split England into a series of artificial regions which carry little support or weight with English people. I am not a “Rest of the south easterner” nor a “South easterner” nor even a “Thames Valley er” or a “Bucks Berks and Oxon er”. The more they try to make us fit into these varied and meaningless places, the more we prefer to be English.
England faced a political attack from Labour in government , but they gave up when they lost the referendum to create an elected government for the then most Labour of regions, the North East. They were forced to recognise the reality, that England does not wish to be balkanised.
I predict that the only big force of unrest with our current constitution in 2014 will be the wave of Euroscepticism generated by unpopular EU policies on energy, migration, human rights and the rest. Politics in 2014 will be dominated by our relationship with the EU, and maybe more people will come to understand that when we are discussing energy prices, living standards, jobs and even public services, the EU involvement is now big and often damaging.