The End of Britain Is Nigh
If the latest opinion poll proves accurate, in just over a week the United Kingdom will cease to exist. The latest figures from YouGov show that 51 percent of Scots plan to vote “Yes” to independence, compared with 49 percent for “No.”
Why? What could cause the end of a 500-year-old harmonious marriage? The answer can be summed up in two words: government handouts. The entire breakup debate has descended into an argument over which side can give Scots the most government money.
The material distributed by the pro-independence campaign is basically made up of two parts: a vague emotional appeal to Scottishness (e.g., “Independence—it’s what we all want in our lives, why shouldn’t our country be independent too?”) and a promise that with independence the government would be able to give out more money and goodies.
The latter argument stands out most on the “Yes” campaign’s home page. The website’s Answers section has nothing on Scotland’s post-independence standing in the world. Nothing about how it can be a greater nation or play a greater role in the world. However, there’s plenty about pensions, healthcare and social services. The idea is that independence will turn Scotland into a socialist utopia. The country that gave the world Adam Smith wants to swap him for Karl Marx.
Meanwhile the “No” campaign’s main argument has simply been, You’ll get the same amount of money and goodies, or perhaps even more, if you stay in the union.
Neither side has a vision of what a united Britain can do to help the world. Their views are completely insular and self-focused. What a horrible reason to end the most successful political union of separate states in history.
Such a separation will, in time, rank as one of the worst calamities ever to befall either nation.
A Joint History to Be Proud Of
The kingdoms of Scotland and England formally came together as one nation in 1707. But in many ways, that union dates back to 1603, when King James vi of Scotland became King James i of England.
It was at this time of peace between the two kingdoms that Britain first became a major power in the world. Until then, the British Isles had been a provincial backwater. England was all but incapable of fighting a major war with any nation without Scotland. As Shakespeare put it:
For once the eagle England being in prey,
To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot Comes sneaking and so sucks her princely eggs, Playing the mouse in absence of the cat, To tear and havoc more than she can eat.
Any time England went to war, her enemies allied with Scotland and had an easy backdoor into England. Once the fighting between England and Scotland was ended, the two could turn outward and, together, they changed the world. Without that union, it was impossible for either to be anything other than a second- or third-rate power.
During the time of the empire, roughly one 10th of Britain’s population lived in Scotland, yet the East India Company was roughly half-Scottish. Scots were over-represented in just about every colony.
“Much of the explanation for this disproportion lay in the greater readiness of Scotsmen to try their luck abroad,” Niall Ferguson wrote in his book Empire. Thanks to the union between the two countries, “Scotland’s surplus entrepreneurs and engineers, medics and musketeers could deploy their skills and energies ever further afield in the service of English capital and under the protection of England’s Navy,” he wrote.
It wasn’t just a sense of adventure or a desire to profit that drove Scots abroad. They were heavily involved in sending missionaries to set up schools and hospitals abroad. The most famous of these, Dr. David Livingstone, presumably familiar to all, was a Scot. Many of the beliefs of these men may have been wrong, but they were motivated by a desire to make a positive difference in the world. Contrast that to the “more-benefits” argument that prevails today.
Together, both nations invented the modern world. It was a Scottish engineer, James Watt, backed with English capital, who improved the steam engine and ushered in the Industrial Revolution. It was a Scottish scientist, James Clerk Maxwell, who lived and was educated in both nations, who paved the way for the succeeding era of electronics through his discovery of the laws of electricity and magnetism. A survey of 100 of the world’s top physicists voted Maxwell the third greatest physicist of all time, after Einstein and Newton.
Together both nations saw Germany’s attempt to dominate Europe and then the world, in World Wars i and ii. Decades afterward, patriotic Scots were proud of what they had achieved within that union. Neither could have resisted so effectively alone.
Even today, division will undoubtedly weaken both nations’ standings in the world.
The Catastrophe of Independence
An independent Scotland would cripple Britain’s military. Hundreds of years of history have shown that defending Britain without Scotland is all but impossible. The only way the Romans managed it was to build a 75-mile wall along the border.
The defense entanglements go far beyond these weapons. “From early in the 20th century, when the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet assembled at Scapa Flow to defend our shores against the Kaiser, to more recent efforts to intercept rogue Russian warplanes and naval ships challenging British-controlled territory, Scotland has been our first line of defense,” the Telegraph’s defense expert Con Coughlin wrote earlier this year. “Even today, when British politicians of all persuasions are keen to avoid military confrontation at all costs, it is no coincidence that many of our front-line defense capabilities are based in Scotland.”
He points out that three out of Britain’s five Typhoon combat squadrons are based in Scotland. “Add to this the network of radar early warning systems that are scattered around the Scottish isles, as well as sundry other military assets, and it is clear that Scotland plays a vital role in helping our Armed Forces to maintain a high state of readiness and vigilance,” he wrote. He continues:
Apart from forcing the Navy to find a new home for the Trident submarine fleet at a conservative cost of £20 billion (us$32.2 billion), Scottish independence would require the raf to relocate more than half of its combat squadrons south of the border. As for the Army, at a time when it is struggling to cope with the coalition’s demand to cut its standing strength by 20 percent to 82,000, the establishment of a separate Scottish defense force could force it to accept a further cut of around 10,000. As one senior officer remarked: “A British Army with around 70,000 would be laughable.”
Meanwhile Britain’s First Sea Lord, Adm. Sir George Zambellas, said, “I believe that independence would fundamentally change maritime security for all of us in the United Kingdom and damage the very heart of the capabilities that are made up of the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and the Fleet Air Arm.”
The result would be a gutted British military and a Scotland that’s virtually defenseless—the snp has said it’ll spend only a tiny amount on defense, so small that it may not even be eligible for nato membership.
It would be the end of Britain as a first rate military power. For good or for evil, the UK would no longer be able to intervene in world events in any meaningful way. At the same time it would destroy Britain’s soft power. As Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry pointed out on a recent Key of David program, England would be incapable of telling other country’s how to run their affairs when it couldn’t even keep its own country together.
It would also be profoundly dangerous. If Scotland votes “Yes,” in a few years Scotland could be part of the EU while England is not. An independent Scotland would soon find out that money does not grow on trees. A shortage of funds could easily push it closer to the EU as England edges out. A foreign power would once again have a foothold on the British Isles.
These are just changes that could take place over five to 10 years. No one is thinking about the longer-term dangers.
The Fruits of Divisive Rhetoric
Many of those responsible for the current mess live south of the border. As Chris Deerin, former head of comments for the Telegraph, wrote in the Scottish Daily Mail, Britain’s Labour Party has spent years demonizing the Conservative Party. Time after time, those in the left throughout Britain have painted anyone who believes you can’t keep borrowing money forever as some kind of poor-hating monster who eats babies for breakfast. “This England they all talked about: it made the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” Deerin writes. “A foreign land of sinister experiments on the poor, of cackling toffs stubbing out cigars on passing immigrants, of warmongers obsessed with Jesus, George W. and oil.”
The Scots listened to that rhetoric—and many were in the front ranks of those spreading it. Once the Conservative Party came to power and began merely trying to not borrow quite as much money each year—not even cutting the budget—the rhetoric only became stronger. In a way, it’s no wonder many in Scotland want out when they’ve been told, even by people in England, that the current government is basically full of Nazis.
That kind of hateful rhetoric causes division. The same type of language is prevalent in America. It may not cause a state to secede from the union, but it too will bring about a dangerous level of hatred.
A Kingdom Without Vision
Proverbs tells us that “where there is no vision, the people perish.” We see that in action today. Some vision—not perfect, but enough to provide the two nations with a sense of common purpose—existed in the past. The first stages of union with Scotland came at the time of “a rising consciousness among the English that they were a people somehow different to all others, called to a special destiny,” as historian Paul Johnson put it in his book The Offshore Islanders.
“The last factor was decisive—the keystone in the Reformation arch,” he wrote. “It takes enormous energy to change the entire course of world history, and such energy cannot be drawn exclusively from physical forces; something metaphysical is required too.”
Johnson calls that something extra “not just patriotism, or nationalism, but racism, the most powerful of all human impulses.” No doubt there was a strong sense of racial superiority, of vanity and arrogance, but it also could be called vision. Britain—England and Scotland united—believed that it could change the world, and make it a better place.
That vision is gone. The nation does not even try to give its young people a sense of worth or purpose, so they turn to drink and fun. Young Muslims see no useful purpose in their home country, so they turn to an extremist ideology that seeks to destroy it. The forces of division, which have always existed in British politics, are no longer restrained by a sense of common purpose. Any charlatan who can convince the Scots that they could get more free money by leaving the union gets a large chunk of the vote.
Britain no longer gives Scots a reason to remain British. Apart from a vague sense of Scottishness, the nationalists don’t have much of a vision either. So the whole thing becomes a row over benefits. That’s all that’s left to argue about.
Scotland may ultimately vote “No” on September 18, but that hate and division will remain—a sense of vision and purpose will not. With a “No” vote, Britain will narrowly avoid catastrophe, but these faults will remain.
It’s a sad picture for Britain. However, there is hope for these underlying problems to be fixed. That hope is the only real way to fix England and Scotland’s problems.
For more on this hope, read our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy.