The strange death of Labour in Scotland is the principal reason why the country this weekend is looking down the barrel of a prolonged and anguished death. The polls still show a lead for the No camp but uncomfortably close. It’s not just the punter who wagered £800,000 on the preservation of the Union entering squeaky bum time.
David Cameron may lose his premiership over this and Ed Miliband, even if elected, could have office torn from him within 12 months. Nick Clegg never seemed more irrelevant. But the 300-year-old Britain will be the biggest loser of all.
These are three centuries in which, for good and ill, this small island punched way beyond its weight, shaping much of the modern world, through a booming slave trade – the biggest empire the world has ever seen – the Satanic mills of the Industrial Revolution, the birth of socialism, trade unionism, the co-operative movement and the international supremacy of the language.
Scotland never was a colony, but a colonial partner in crime. Indeed, before Britain existed as a state, the Scots parliament, as was, proclaimed two colonies, Nova Scotia and Ulster. The financial catastrophe of the attempt to colonise Panama in the Darien Expedition beggared Scotland’s economy, marking the end of solely Scottish imperial ambitions and ultimately to the 1707 Union itself. Thereafter, the skirl of the pipes and the twirl of kilted soldiers helped terrorise the world into submission.
I’ve been touring Scottish town halls for almost a year and the referendum campaign was already in full swing. But only in the last few days, it seems, have the British political class and the mainstream media woken up to the fact that Britain could be about to change, utterly. Though it won’t be a beauty, terrible or otherwise, that will be born if it does.
The next 18 months will be a nightmare of grudge and division as the divorcing couple squabble over the national CDs, DVDS, house, dog and car. Almost a million Scots living in England will be marooned in a foreign country, a physical border will become an inevitability given the Scottish government’s intention of attracting a million new immigrants, while the British government is seeking to cap immigration. And a flight of capital, first one way then another, as Alex Salmond implements his intention to spark a Dutch auction over Corporation Tax and regulation, a race to the bottom, at least for working people, will ensue.
Shorn of Scotland’s soon-to-be 50 MPs, the Tories will have a head start in all subsequent elections but will have lost half the country. If Ed Miliband emerges as leader of the biggest party in May that could only be for the shortest premiership in modern history, with Scotland departing in the following spring. This could even cause the postponement of the general election.
If No triumphs it will be despite the mainstream parties rather than because of them. All are held in derision, even contempt.
Scotland's bragging rights
Scotland's bragging rights
1/19 Baby scans
Ian Donald, a Scottish physician, invented ultrasound while at the University of Glasgow in the 1950s which, of course, is of the utmost importance for baby scans
2/19 iPhone 6
Alexander Graham Bell was educated in Edinburgh, but left Scotland when he was 15. He made his way to Boston - via London and Canada - and in 1876 invented the telephone at the age of just 29. No Bell, no iPhone 6.
3/19 Dolly the sheep
The first animal was cloned at the Roslin Institute in Scotland. Dolly the Sheep lived there from her birth in 1996 to her death in 2003. Her stuffed remains are housed at Edinburgh's Royal Museum
4/19 The bicycle
The first pedal cycle was the work of a blacksmith's son from Dumfriesshire. Kirkpatrick Macmillan was quite unconcerned by the fuss his invention created - and didn't even bother to try and patent it
Sir Alexander Fleming was born in Lochfield in Ayrshire in 1881. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest ever Scots after his interest in natural bacterial action and viruses led to the discovery of penicillin
6/19 The BBC
Though few would say they see the BBC as a Scottish institution, its founder John Reith actually came from Glasgow. He was its first general manager when it was set up as a private company in 1922, and later its first director general when it was made public in 1927
7/19 The wheel
Yes, Scotland invented the wheel. Well, not quite the wheel - the pneumatic tyre. John Boyd Dunlop made the first practical tyre containing air in 1887
8/19 The US Navy (and the SAS)
The US Navy was created largely by John Paul Jones, who was born in Kirkcudbrightshire, while Sir David Stirling founded the SAS
Sir Robert Watson-Watt was born in Brechin and educated in Dundee. He worked for the Air Ministry on 'The Detection of Aircraft by Radio Methods', and by the outbreak of WWII had established radar stations along the east and southern coasts of England
10/19 The adhesive postage stamp
James Chalmers invented the adhesive postage stamp in 1838. He was from Arbroath
11/19 Peter Pan
Peter Pan first appeared as a character in The Little White Bird, a 1902 novel by J M Barrie. Barrie was born in Kirriemuir, Angus
12/19 Aussie Rules football
The first game of Aussie Rules was played in 1858, when it was set up to bridge the gap between different forms of the game played in England and Scotland
13/19 Golf (of course)
Golf was first recorded in Scotland in the 15th century, and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is the world governing body. Scotland is widely promoted as 'The Home of Golf'
14/19 Pie charts (and line charts and bar charts)
The Scottish engineer William Playfair was the founder of the first statistical graphics between 1786 and 1801, in what has become known as a 'milestone' in data visualisation
15/19 The dugout
The dugout was invented by Aberdeen FC coach Donald Colmanin in the 1920s (presumably because he was bored of being rained on)
James Braid, a surgeon and amateur scientist born in 1795 in Kinross-shire, is regarded as the Father of Hypnotism
17/19 Lime cordial
Lauchlan Rose patented the method used to preserve lime cordial without alcohol in 1867, and the first factory producing Rose's was set up in Leith in 1868
18/19 The Bank of England
Despite the name, the Bank of England was actually devised by a Scot. Born in Dumfries and Galloway in 1658, Sir William Paterson tried unsuccessfully to found a separate Scottish Empire but spent his last years in Westminster. He died an advocate of Union
19/19 The toaster
Alan MacMasters was a Scottish scientist, born in Edinburgh, who is credited with creating the first electric bread toaster
Labour voters switching to Yes have risen from 13 per cent to 35 in a few months. The Blair era of privatisation and war may have fatally undermined them. Scotland has decisively fallen out of love with New Labour. Lord Snooty, aka David Cameron, could be the Prime Minister who presides over the death of Great Britain. All of the opinion polls, even before the two-year campaign, showed an overwhelming majority for greater devolution, the so-called Devo-Max option, but Cameron ruled out a second question about it on the ballot paper.
It didn’t have to come to this; none of the angst and turmoil, the divisions, even among families. Britain’s political class may have achieved what Hitler failed to do. Destroyed Britain. As the late Scottish comedian Duncan Macrae put it. “They didnae ken. They ken noo!”
George Galloway, MP for Bradford West, was born and raised in Scotland