Scotland: “Devo max” – the formula that could save the UK

13 January 2012 – The Guardian (London)

While most Scots reject a complete break with the UK, they favour a form of autonomy which would include powers to raise their own taxes. The reluctant English should accept this, argue Simon Jenkins.

Here we go again. Ireland gone. Scotland going. Next is Wales, and then where? Cornwall? The Isle of Wight? There is no knowing what the ineptitude of London politics may do to the British confederacy. The latest row over yes or no to Scottish "independence" is mere play-acting. The real issue is option three, "devo max". London hates it. Scotland craves it.

For the past week constitutionalists have been dragged from their cobwebs to pore over laws and documents. This is pointless. When dissident provinces are set on separatism, the minutiae of referendum law will not stop them. Look at Bosnia, Slovakia, Kosovo, Macedonia – each different but starting from the same source. Britain went to war to break up the Yugoslav union. Many Britons yearn for the break-up of the European one. Why do they fight to sustain the United Kingdom as it manifestly crumbles?

The answer is that English tribalism trumps hypocrisy. David Cameron has only conceded a binding referendum on Scottish independence because polls say it will be rejected. He opposes any delay because that makes such an outcome less certain. The nationalist, Alex Salmond, thinks the opposite – and for the same reason. Neither wants to risk defeat. Thank goodness elections at least are ordained by law.

The longer London derides the aspirations of the non-English peoples of the British Isles, the stronger those aspirations will grow. Ireland departed the union in exasperation at London misgovernment in 1922. Only last year could the Irish tolerate a day visit by the Queen. Resistance to devolution cost James Callaghan his majority in 1979 and decimated Labour support in Wales. The imposition of a poll tax on the Scots in 1989 contributed to Margaret Thatcher's downfall and all but wiped out Scottish Toryism. Read full article in The Guardian...

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