Saturday 4 April 2015

The road not taken

18th September 2014: Unexpectedly poor weather for September keeps turnout down in the Scottish independence referendum. Large groups of Yes supporters, however, attend polling stations en masse despite the wind and the rain. In an intimidating atmosphere No supporters stay at home.

19th September: It becomes clear from the early morning that Yes has a chance of victory. Eventually at 8 o’clock David Cameron has to phone the Queen. She is devastated and makes immediate plans to leave Scotland vowing never to return. Cameron on the steps of Downing Street announces that Yes has won the referendum by less than 0.1 percent. He congratulates Alex Salmond and the Scottish people and promises that the UK Government will do all in its power to facilitate Scottish independence. However, he immediately resigns both as Prime Minister and MP. He reflects that a short campaign with the question “Should Scotland remain a part of the UK?” would have been won easily and regrets forever that his weakness and overconfidence broke up the UK. The pound falls immediately by 20%, and UK Government bonds come under pressure from international markets. The Bank of England raises interest rates by 2% with the prospect of more to come if necessary. That evening the major ratings agencies reduce the UK’s sovereign debt rating to A-. There are mass celebrations throughout Scotland. Every major pro-UK Scottish party leader congratulates the Yes side and promises to respect the result and work together for the future of Scotland.

20th September: Some Unionists attempt to demonstrate in favour of the UK remaining together in Glasgow’s George Square. They are condemned by all sides as being undemocratic. Yes supporters condemn anyone who is unwilling to accept the result or who attempts to overturn it. Some UK supporters come up with the slogan that they are the 49.99 %, but it is met with a simple response from the Yes camp: You lost - get used to it!

23rd September. George Osborne acting leader of the UK Government and provisional leader of the Conservative party announces that he intends to work with the Scottish Government so that currency union between Scotland and the UK is maintained. He has no choice. Uncertainty in the financial markets means that he has been advised by the Bank of England that this is the only way to maintain stability. It has been pointed out to him that a Scottish exit from the Poundzone would be, as traumatic if not more so, than a Greek exit from the Eurozone. It just would not be possible without wrecking the UK economy. EU leaders over the weekend have been discussing what will happen to an independent Scotland’s application to join the EU. They say that they will look favourably on it, but the decision on the terms will have to wait until the day on which Scotland becomes independent. Spain is particularly concerned not to encourage separatism and is intent on driving a hard bargain.

15th October: After a period of relative calm owing to Osborne’s announcement about the pound, the UK stock market crashes by 25 %. This sets off market crashes throughout the world and makes difficult economic conditions in the Eurozone still worse. The UK is tipped back into recession. People in the rest of the UK express resentment that Scotland has damaged the UK economy. Ordinary British citizens start to blame Scotland for their loss of jobs.

18th October: A team of Scottish politicians from all parties join together to begin the process of independence negotiations. UK politicians from all major parties are represented also. Everyone promises to work together for the good of Scotland and the rest of the UK.

9th November: Nationalists from all over Europe emboldened by the success of the SNP come together to plot secession. Large numbers of people vote in an unofficial referendum in Catalonia. The Spanish Government promises to ignore such illegal referendums and attempts at secession. The EU backs this stance describing secession as the enemy of the EU process of integration. Every EU Government with secession movements vows to declare all attempts at secession illegal. They look on the UK as weak and foolish and don’t intend to go down that path themselves.

22nd November: It has become clear over the previous two months that an exodus has begun from Scotland. The major financial industries in Scotland have decided to move to England. Huge numbers of people from other parts of the UK have been withdrawing their money and their business. Many No voters have decided to vote with their feet. An especially high number of people from other parts of the UK feel no longer welcome in Scotland and have either left or are making plans to do so. Some reflect that they don’t want to live in a foreign country. The response to this from Yes supporters is “Good riddance”, which tends only to increase the exodus.

11th March. The full extent of the fall in world oil prices becomes clear and that this is liable to continue for some time. Scottish Government figures show that Scotland is being subsidised massively by the UK Government. Anti-Scottish feeling in the rest of the UK has increased. There is a demand from the UK electorate to stop subsidising Scotland.

28th March. Some Scottish pro-UK voters wish to turn the General election into a second referendum on independence with the goal of getting the UK Government to overturn the result. This campaign gets nowhere however as none of the Scottish, formerly pro-UK leaders are willing to back such an undemocratic attempt to ignore the result. Moreover, George Osborne says he no longer wishes Scotland to be part of the UK and would not allow such a change of mind. “You chose to have a referendum,” he says, “you chose to leave. Now you must leave.” The UK parliament decides that while Scottish MPs will be elected, they will not be able to vote on matters affecting a country they are soon to leave. The UK Government states that it intends to implement Full Fiscal Autonomy for Scotland as an interim measure prior to independence.

8th May: The Conservatives win an overall majority in the House of Commons, owing to Scottish MPs no longer being allowed to vote on matters affecting the continuing UK. The election in Scotland is almost ignored as being completely irrelevant. On a low turnout the SNP emerge as the largest party, just beating Labour. No-one notices.
June: Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth die within a few days of each other. The Queen left broken hearted by the imminent break-up of her kingdom, had not been seen for months. The nationalists in Scotland say that they intend to hold an immediate referendum on abolishing the monarchy. Charles III announces that they need not bother as he has no intention of even visiting Scotland, let alone being its monarch. Balmoral is sold and becomes the country house of the First Minister.

September: A year on from the independence referendum the effects of full Fiscal autonomy are being felt in Scotland. The SNP Government is forced to raise taxes and cut spending in order to try to reduce the size of the deficit which is one of the highest in Europe.

November: It becomes clear that it will take longer than estimated to break up the UK. Each side negotiates with good will, but it is not easy to untie a 300 year old country. Almost all of the energy of both the Scottish and UK parliaments is devoted to these negotiations. Neither parliament has much time left to do anything else. Having made large gains in the UK parliament UKIP continually demands a referendum on the EU, but are told that this will have to wait until the negotiations with Scotland have concluded. This leads to still more resentment in England and a further rise in nationalism there. There is tension moreover in both Northern Ireland and Wales with nationalists seeking to use the breakup of the UK for their own ends. Northern Ireland in particular sees a renewal of terrorist activity from both sides.

March 2016. The date of the intended Scottish independence day passes with no end yet in sight to the negotiations. The Nationalists have been trying to use the location of the Trident missiles as a negotiating ploy. The American President visits Mr Salmond and explains the concept of soft power. We ruined the Russian economy, we can certainly ruin yours. You will lease the submarine base to the UK in perpetuity. Mr Salmond agrees.

May 2016: The SNP loses the election to the Scottish parliament. A new party made of hard left-socialists and greens, called an SIRIKA an acronym meaning “The Radical Coalition of the Left” in Gaelic sweeps to power on the promise that it will reverse the SNP’s austerity measures. Alex Salmond has become a hated figure in Scotland, while his deputy Nicola Sturgeon is compared to Margaret Thatcher owing to the harshness of the cuts she has presided over.

March 2017: First Minister and first leader of an independent Scotland Tommy Sheridan just has time to speak to the independence day’s crowd, which turns out to be rather disappointing, before he is called to an urgent meeting with George Osborne, the governor of the Bank of England and the leader of the IMF. They explain that Scotland cannot keep running its unsustainable deficit without reaching bankruptcy in a few months. Mr Sheridan says that he will not be bullied, that the debts which Scotland cannot pay are the fault of the English who should pay reparations owing to the fact that they repressed and exploited Scotland for 300 years.

May 2017: Although English voters would like to see Scotland default and be kicked out of the Poundzone, the governor of the Bank of England explains that this is not possible without hugely damaging the UK economy. The UK agrees to reintroduce the Barnett formula renamed the Osborne formula, but only on condition that the UK Government has the right to oversee Scotland’s budget. The 3 members, soon to be known as the Troika, visit Edinburgh each month in order to tell First Minister Sheridan what he must do.

October 2017: The UK votes to leave the EU. In the years since the independence referendum the EU has moved beyond the crisis over Greece and implemented policies which will create a new nation state called the United States of Europe. It rapidly becomes apparent that there are two choices, either join the Eurozone or leave the EU. The UK chooses the latter. Scotland, too, decides not to continue with its application to join the EU. It is explained to First Minister Sheridan that if Scotland wishes to become a member of the EU, it would have to set up its own currency prior to joining the Euro. It would also have to be part of the Schengen zone, which will mean a manned border between Berwick and Gretna. The governor of the Bank of England once more explains about what is possible and what is not possible, that Scotland leaving the Poundzone would be as disastrous for Scotland and everyone else as it would have been if Greece had left the Eurozone. The logic of monetary union is followed and Scotland joins the UK outside the EU.

October 2019. The UK concludes negotiations with the EU. It is in both sides interest to continue free trade. The UK, moreover, concludes new trade agreements with its major trading partners around the world. Scotland has to negotiate on its own and owing to the size of the Scottish economy is rather disadvantaged in the negotiations.

May 2021. Sick of socialism, after five years of Tommy Sheridan, the Scottish electorate votes for a radical alternative. They choose as a new First Minister Ruth Davidson and the map of Scotland is painted blue. Her party has a brand new name which does not mention the word Conservative, but it is still universally known as the Tories. Scotland introduces radical free-market policies and begins to become much more prosperous. The brain drain south begins to slow, then to cease and finally to reverse.

September 2022. It is decided that it would make sense if the devolved parliaments in Northern Ireland, Wales and England plus the independent parliament in Scotland could have a forum to debate their shared interests.  This parliament meets in York, but owing to a disagreement has to shift periodically to Inverness.

September 2023. This shared parliament decides that it should have a goal of bringing the people that they represent closer together. It is decided that there should be a goal of ever closer union.

September 2024 A major economic crisis means that the monetary union of the Poundzone is put under great strain. It rapidly becomes clear that the logic of monetary union means that the Poundzone just like the Eurozone all those years earlier must choose to either break up or join together and form a single state. After some debate and advice from central bankers, it is decided that Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England will henceforth be known as the United States of Britain, commonly to be called simply called Britain.

September 2114. Historians look back on the ‘time of troubles’ when Scotland briefly became independent as a rather perverse moment in British history. It seems unimaginable to people living in North Britain that they should be separated from people living in South Britain or West Britain. The former identities that people apparently held and the idea that there were even four countries in Britain seems hopelessly old fashioned and quaint. It would be like saying ‘I’m from Wessex’ or that ‘I’m a Pict from Pictland’. Everyone looks back and is pleased that they have moved beyond such archaic notions of nationalism. Pub quizzes frequently ask about the figures involved in the brief breakup of Britain, but it has become as forgotten as the Schleswig-Holstein question. Something to do with fish some people vaguely remember but can’t quite think why and wasn’t there someone from Cameroon? 

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