What if the Scots vote Yes for Independence?
At a stroke the United Kingdom, created in 1707 when the Kingdoms of England and Scotland combined, would be no more. But far from being the end of the matter, it would only be the beginning.
The international effects would be immediate. Sterling would undoubtedly fall on World Markets because the markets do not like uncertainty. Treaties and other long-standing relationships would be thrown into doubt. What would happen to the United Kingdom’s NATO commitments when almost a third of its territory had just voted for separation, neutrality and a commitment to become nuclear-free? What would be the opportunistic response of Argentina with respect to the Falkland Islands? Or Spain with respect to Gibraltar?
How would responsibility and ownership of UK assets be determined?
Given the potential for turmoil, contingency plans would have to be in place.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would all have governments elected to represent and look after the interests of their respective populations. But what of England? England, as yet, has no Parliament of its own. Instead we are governed by a British Parliament that represents the whole of the United Kingdom and is elected by the whole of the United Kingdom. This British Parliament acts in what it thinks is best for this whole, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – not what is best for England. In effect, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have two Parliaments looking after their interests, whilst England has none. In the British Cabinet (the Executive decision-making body) there are Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure their interests are protected and enhanced. England has nothing. The United Kingdom governs England like a colony.
But the United Kingdom will no longer exist.
Clearly, there would be no time to lose, and equally clearly there would be no time to run a General Election Campaign to elect a new English Government.
Cameron has already stated that he has no desire to be Prime Minister of England. In any event having presided over the breakup of the United Kingdom, his premiership would lack any credibility it may have remaining. His job would have to default to a senior English member of the Cabinet, e.g. the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Note that it would obviously be unacceptable for non-English MPs to be representing England in negotiations with their fellow Scots, Welsh or Northern Irish.
Therefore the moment that a result to split was announced it would be necessary to strip membership of the House of Commons from all Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs both by constituency and by presumed national allegiance. A proper contingency plan should require that these lists have been drawn up beforehand.
An English Parliament restored to England.
Given the potential for disruption these are serious matters deserving serious consideration. It pays to be prepared.