How important is the Union? Politically, 18 years of Conservative majorities in England and Labour majorities in Scotland indicate that so long as New Labour keep Middle England sweet, Scotland is irrelevant. Economically, Scotland's mix of export-dependant manufacturing and agricultural industries means a strong pound is hitting harder. An independent economic policy based on stronger European links therefore becomes more attractive to business.
Culturally, the devolution gamble is that a Scottish Parliament will not lead to a greater sense of shared identity amongst "people who live in Scotland" (as Alex Salmond very carefully put it recently), but will allow a greater participation by Scotland in British government.
Frankly, I doubt if devolution will work. The impulse towards Scottish independence is not based on ethnic nationalism, but on the awareness that the United Kingdom does not meet the standards required of a modern democracy. A federal UK might, but such a possibility is not being offered.
Sixty-two per cent of people living in Scotland now believe that Scotland will become independent within the next 15 years. Rather than fight to hold on to the status quo, would it not be more sensible for people living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to treat Scottish independence as an opportunity to extend their own democratic freedoms through some form of federal government?
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