I'm now going to make a prediction about the near future.
First, let me tell you how I got there.
I was watching the Parliament Channel recently whilst ironing or having my dinner or whatever. It was "Scottish First Minister's Question Time". (No, my ironing wasn't "Scottish First Minister's"... I mean... never mind.)
For those of you who don't live in Scotland and who have better things to do with your time than sit around watching the Parliament Channel, let me explain how Scotland works. Scotland is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as is Cornwall, Wales, England and six of Ireland's 32 counties. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or United Kingdom for short (or UK for very short) has her own flag (commonly called the Union Jack but, other than when flown from the jack mast of a ship, correctly called the Union Flag). She has a Prime Minister, currently Gordon Brown (Labour Party) and a Queen with no power (Queen Elizabeth II). This queen costs each tax-payer 6ip per year (that's a little over a dollar). There is a parliament based at Westminster in London. However Scotland also has her own Parliament, based in Edinburgh, which is subordinate to the Westminster one. She has her own elections according to her own rules and at her own times. She has her own flag, the Cross of St. Andrew, her own education system, her own legal system and makes her own laws in that Edinburgh Parliament. She also has her own First Minister, currently Alex Salmond (Scottish National Party or SNP). So she's a country within a country.
On this particular episode of "Question Time" a member of the opposition (that's any party which isn't the SNP,because they're the rulers) asked the First Minister when he was planning on holding a referendum to see if the Scots would like to leave the UK and become a totally separate country, rather than continuing to be sort of her own country and sort of part of the UK, which is the half-and-half position she's in at the moment.
He answered 2010.
Why that particular year?Why not 2009? Why not 2011? Had he picked it out of a hat?
At that moment our future became clear to me. Of course he's a very clever man, Mr. Salmond is. He'll have worked out that five years after the last general election in the UK will be 2010. The current Prime Minister has to hold an election within a maximum of five years after the last one was held. Gordon Brown's doing so badly that everyone, including Mr. Salmond, expects him to lose that election whenever it's held. Therefore Mr. Brown might as well cling onto power as long as he legally can: no point in calling for an election tomorrow and getting kicked out if you can carry on in your dream job for another two years and then hold an election and THEN be kicked out. We all expect that; Mr. Salmond expects that.
When that election returns the Conservative Party to power with a thumping great majority, the Scots will find themselves part of a Conservative United Kingdom... yet North of the border there'll still be hardly any Tories: they'll have a Tory government forced on them by the English, basically. At that time Scotland's First Minister will ask the Scots the question: would you like to stay in the United Kingdom with this rabble or shall we sod off? The Scots will vote to abandon the UK. That's why Alex Salmond, who's very left-wing, is looking forward to the Tory Party, who are very right-wing, returning to power and expects it to happen in 2010, which is why he'll ask the Scots the question that year: he'll get the anwer he wants then. The Scots may not vote to leave the UK while we've still got Labour in charge.
Nobody in England watches Scottish affairs on TV like that and, come to that, neither do most Scots. I never saw this episode commented on anywhere.
However the other day there was a bi-election in Glasgow East. It had been the third safest Labour seat in Scotland... and it went to the SNP. Some glimmer of what I had been saying started to be hinted at by people. It also confirmed the thought I'd had that the SNP would take a lot of seats off the Labour Party north of the border in 2010. This surprised even me, though: it looks like the SNP will do very, very well in the Westminster election of 2010. Their stealing of Labour seats will work well with the Tories' stealing of Labour seats to shrink the Labour Party in the UK Parliament to a very poor second - or maybe even third - parliamentary party. That huge increase in SNP seats will give the First Minister the mandate he needs to ask his people The Question.
So the UK will hold as long as the current Labour government holds, which is about two years.
This raises a few questions which nobody seems to've thought about.
What will the nation I live in be called? It'll include Cornwall, Wales, England... and miles away six Irish counties. A strange nation. I've thought of CWENI - Cornwall, Wales, England, Northern Ireland.
What'll CWENI's flag be like? The Union Flag became slightly irrelevant in the 1920s when 26 of the 32 Irish counties waved "goodbye" to the rest of us but yet we kept the red diagonal cross representing all Ireland. This time a whole country will have gone. What need will there be of the blue of the Union Flag? This is only there to represent St. Andrew's Cross, which will no longer be part of CWENI's heritage.
I fully expect Scotland to follow in the footsteps of the Republic of Ireland (the 26-county Irish state) and remove herself from NATO and all wars, have her own army for defence purposes only and declare herself free of any weapons of mass destruction.
That's all well and good but I'm confident CWENI will wish to retain all those militaristic elements of her heritage.
A lot of military nuclear material belonging to the UK is up in Scotland at the moment. Why shouldn't it be? It's part ofthe UK.
But in the future to whom will nuclear material in Scotland belong: CWENI (in which case we'll have it back, please) or Scotland? If it's decided it's their own property, of course, being non-nuclear they'll simply decomisson it.
What changes will you see as you cross the border?
OUr official language will be English; they'll probably have everything witten trilingually in English, Scots and Scottish Gaelic. Under the Tories we'll be even worse Europeans than we are now under Labour so we'll carry on using the pound and the mile.The Scots, like the Irish Republic, will be as keen on the European Union as they're unkeen on NATO - they'll be all euros and kilometres up there. Alex Salmond is a Royalist... but I'm not sure he can take his own party, let alone hos own country, with him on that one - they'll be a republic within a year of independence. The Windsors, descended as they are from more of the Scottish Stuart Dynasty than they are of the Anglo-Welsh Tudors, have a lot of property in Scotland. Some arrangement will need to be made. I suppose they'll just be rich foreigners who own property (and pay the high Scottish taxes which will inevitably ensue after independence).
At first there'll be no border patrol - Mr. Salmond has said he doesn't want them. It may not be up to him, though. I predict his nation will be a lot more welcoming to immigrants from around the world than CWENI will be. People who actually want to live in England will therefore apply to live in Scotland and, having got there, will walk across the CWENI / Scottish international border. Therefore it's David Cameron's Tory government in CWENI, not Alex Salmond's SNP government in Scotland, who will implement a patrol up there.
However, other things will be the same, won't they? I mean they'll both be in the same time zone, won't they?
Nope. David Cameron has already said a Tory government will bring whatever nation he thinks he's going to be running in line with the French time zone. The Channel Island governments have already said they'll do the same. This means everything south of the border will be in the Central European Zone. Cross that border and you'll be in good old-fashioned Greenwich Meantime - they've tried CET before up there and it doesn't work for them: it makes it too dark in the mornings for children to be crossing the roads on their way to school. Ironically, then, it's Mr. Cameron who'll seem the good European on this one issue and Mr. Salmond the bad one.
Now then what effect wil all this have on what's left of CWENI?
If you're Northern Irish, I can't believe you'll want to go onto Mr. Cameron's new time zone. They're already using kilometres more than the English do as a direct result of their proximity to the Irish republic. They're also more inclined to accept euros than we are for the same reason. They'll be surrounded by two independent euro-using, kilometre-using, GMT-using nations (Scotland an the Rep. of Ireland) in the near future. Visits, holidaying and trade will very much be with these two far larger neighbours more than with the English.
Where does that leave them? Might the Protestants evetually think the unthinkable and agree with the Catholics in saying it's time to leave CWENI and join the Republic of Irelnd?
And how about the Welsh, who'll be the last bastion of Labour support after the next election? Or the Liberal Democrat Cornish? How long before they, too, tire of being pushed around by Tory England and desire to jump ship?
It's a funny thing, you know, but the election of the only party to stand in Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, England AND Northern Ireland (the Tory a.k.a. Conservative and Unionist Party) might well be the beginning of the process of unstitching that union in which the Tories so heartily believe.