The transition period to independence will, above all, be one for clear thinking and hard bargaining. A strong dose of English nationalism could avoid the sort of compromises over rights of citizenship, access to social security, and possession of military hardware that would lead to endless wrangling in the future between two neighbors with a mutual need to cooperate.
In the longer term, there are other potential gains for England's own governance from Scottish separation. The present Scottish left-wing socialist base of the Labour Party would at a stroke be excised from the new body politic. That would be highly beneficial for England. Mr. Blair would have to press ahead faster with his program of making New Labour free-market friendly so as to continue to attract the support of middle-class England, if he was to remain in government. But if he failed in that task, the disappearance of viscerally anti-Tory Scotland from the British political equation would allow the return of a Conservative administration. Either option would open the way for the radical action that all parties accept is needed, but none dares currently carry out: to curb welfare spending and the dependency culture.
Still unanswered questions about the country's international orientation and role could also at last be openly addressed. A fundamental re-assessment of English Britain's relationship with Europe, and even integration within an Atlantic Free Trade Area, would become possibilities, once the mirage of Scottish "Independence in Europe" had disappeared from the horizon. All of which suggests that with sickly states as with stricken individuals, victims both of prolonged misdiagnosis and maltreatment, amputation, though painful and inherently undesirable, may ultimately be part of the remedy - as long as the patient is strong in heart and mind and retains the will to live.
Robin Harris was director of the Conservative Research Department and a member of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Downing Street Policy Unit. He is now a freelance writer.Essay Types: Essay