The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has never seemed so rickety. The combined effects of Brexit, to which 62 per cent of Scottish voters were opposed in the referendum of 2016, and the domination of Scottish politics by the Scottish National Party (SNP) are often pointed to as signals of its likely demise. In this lively book, the distinguished Scottish journalist John Lloyd argues that this would be an unnecessary mistake with tragic consequences for the United Kingdom. Lloyd is opposed to calls for independence and puzzled by their continued articulation: ‘Scotland, in the twenty-first century, is both as free and secure a nation as the world of the early twenty-first century allows. It would be worse than a mistake, a crime, to hazard that for an independence which can bring nothing better.’
The book is composed of the standard arguments against Scottish independence: that it would be economically risky; that the Scots have a good financial deal in the United Kingdom; that the underpinnings of Scottish nationalism, if not the SNP itself, are strongly anti-English; that a growing sense of Englishness, as a reaction to devolution, is much misunderstood. Lloyd was one of two hundred public figures to sign a letter to The Guardian in August 2014 arguing against Scottish independence. He draws great comfort from the fact that in the referendum on Scottish independence that took place the following month the proposition was defeated by 55 per cent to 45 per cent. Despite this, he is still worried.
The 2014 referendum was a strange affair. The Labour Party entered a tryst with the other unionist parties and continues to suffer the consequences. The SNP put forward an exceedingly weak case for independence and lost the campaign, but has profited in subsequent contests. The economic case for independence made