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The End of the United Kingdom?

This article appeared in  Christian Today  – I was asked to offer a Christian perspective on IndyRef2. 
Apparently the grand old duchess of Scotland has decided not to march her troops back down the hill. Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, having threatened to call a second Scottish Independence Referendum unless the UK government remained within the EU Single Market, or made special provisions for Scotland to do so, has now called for such a referendum. Many commentators up here in Scotland did not expect this to happen so soon and there is even speculation that Sturgeon did not want to call a referendum but was pushed into it by the raised expectations of her supporters and her predecessor Alex Salmond.

What was perceived as a bargaining chip in an attempt to get a better deal for Scotland on Brexit, now looks as though it may become reality. Although it should be noted that the Scottish Parliament cannot hold an independence referendum without the permission of Westminster and it is by no means guaranteed that Prime Minister May would grant that permission. It would be a gamble for the Prime Minister not to do so, in that it may fuel a stronger demand for separation, but there are many people in Scotland who do not want another referendum (49 per cent to 39 per cent according to the latest polls) and who would be thankful if we did not have to go through it just now. The smart money is on the Prime Minister refusing to grant such a poll until after Brexit is completed on the not unreasonable grounds that there is enough political uncertainty at the moment. It may even be that this is what the First Minister is hoping for. She would not have to fight a referendum that at the moment she looks likely to lose, and she could blame Westminster for not having the referendum.

 So what is the Christian position on all this? Christians will disagree on this, as they will disagree on other political subjects. But does that mean we have nothing to say, except to reflect the views and disagreements of the wider society? I don’t think so. Neither does the Church of Scotland, who declared that the bible is neutral on the question of Scottish Independence, although it is for EU membership and against Prime Minister May withholding permission for a second Scottish referendum. My perspective is a wee bit different. I don’t think there is a Christian position. The Bible doesn’t actually say anything about Scottish independence, referendums or the EU. Christians will disagree on this, as they will disagree on other political subjects.

Of course we all approach this with different biases. So cards on the table. I am a long time supporter of Scottish Independence and I voted Yes in the 2014 referendum. I have many friends within the SNP who are Christians and I know a number of Christian MPs and MSPs. But despite that I will personally not support another referendum for both political and what I would regard as Christian reasons. (I have even petitioned the Scottish Parliament asking them not to go ahead.)

The political is that it does not make sense to me to leave one democratic union of countries for another larger and less democratic. But it is the moral and social reasons that concern me more. Allow me to explain.

The Scottish People took part in a long and valuable, passionate and at times divisive referendum in 2014 in order to determine whether Scotland should become independent of the United Kingdom. My side lost. By a clear majority we voted to remain – 2,001,926 (55.3 per cent) to 1,617,989 (44.7 per cent) on a turnout of 85 per cent. Since then we have had another referendum on whether the UK should remain within the EU and which the UK electorate (including Scotland) voted to leave. This referendum was also divisive within Scotland, with 1,661,191 of the electorate in Scotland (62 per cent) voting for the UK to remain and 1,018,332 (38 per cent) voting to leave on a turnout of 67.2 per cent. Incidentally from this it should be clear that when the SNP say they are speaking on behalf of all the people of Scotland who clearly voted for Scotland to remain in the EU, which is demonstrably false. Only 1.6 million out of an electorate of 4 million voted for the UK to remain in the EU (we didn’t actually have a vote about Scotland and the EU).

We were promised at the time of the first Independence referendum that this would be a ‘once in a generation/lifetime’ referendum and yet we are now faced with the real prospect of a repeat within four years. Whatever our views on Scottish Independence I believe that a referendum within the next four years would be harmful to the people of Scotland and indeed the whole United Kingdom for the following reasons:

  1. We live in a time of great political and economic upheaval and flux. Another referendum will only add to that. Whatever the result.

  2. There are significant problems within Scotland (education, the NHS, the economy) that need the full attention of the Scottish parliament. We cannot afford to be distracted by another lengthy, divisive and bitter campaign. Neither can the UK government afford to be distracted by an internal referendum whilst trying to work out the complex details of Brexit.

  3. We were promised that this would be a once in a generation referendum. That promise should be kept. Or are we going to spend the rest of our lives on a Neverendum?

  4. Until the Brexit negotiations are complete there will be both uncertainty about what we might be leaving, and even more uncertainty about where we might be going. It is not wise to seek split apart the United Kingdom at the same time as the United Kingdom, including Scotland, is leaving the EU.

  5. And finally I have to admit I was wrong. During and after the 2014 Referendum I was too dismissive of those who claimed they were victims of anti-English racism. Whilst I still maintain such incidents are a small minority, they are far more common than I recognised and I am fearful that such are the passions ignited by this debate that whatever happens it will cause bitterness and division.

From a personal political point of view I think this is a fundamental mistake for the Scottish National Party. One third of SNP voters voted for Brexit and many of us are unlikely to vote for an Independence which we regard as worse than belonging to the UK. In addition to this it is highly unlikely that the SNP can win this referendum – whilst the latest opinion polls have the Yes vote on 48 per cent and the No vote on 52 per cent, surely we have learned by now to be cautious with opinion polls. These figures do not include the ‘don’t knows’ many of whom are likely to stay with the status quo. Furthermore whilst the SNP can parade a few celebrities who say they have changed their mind from No to Yes, my observation of Facebook and social media is that there are many more ordinary Yes voters who are going the other way.

A Prophecy?

I’m not a prophet (so please don’t stone me) but let me begin and end my short career as a political pundit with these predictions. If Prime Minister May grants another referendum, it will not be until after the UK leaves the EU. And if that referendum is held, then excepting a total economic collapse, the SNP will lose that referendum by a considerable margin and the opportunity/threat for Scottish Independence will have gone for decades. You heard it here first!

There are of course Christians who will disagree with this analysis. There are those who think that the UK is finished anyway and that the EU will be our saviour (at least in a political sense). I don’t agree. But one thing surely we can agree on? That we pray for the peace and prosperity of not only Scotland, but also the other kingdoms of this United Kingdom, and the nations of the EU and indeed the nations of this world. As Christians we know they are all temporary and that we do not serve them. We serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and as such we are prevented from having an all-consuming nationalism (whether of the Scottish, UK or European variety). Even in politics we are just ‘travelling through’. Yes we should be involved in this debate, but only as those who know that ‘here we have no continuing city’.

David Robertson is Associate Director of Solas CPC in Dundee. Follow him on Twitter @TheWeeFlea

Petition to the Scottish Parliament re a Second Independence Referendum



  1. Interesting post. The Scottish Parl with 63/129 seats SNP is almost bound to call the referendum is it not? Corbyn has said he will not support the call in Scotland but will not block it in Westminster. I don’t think May will block it either because she thinks she can win this one. Scotland’s prob is that Art 50 is going to be triggered any day and Scotland will de facto be leaving whether you consider that to be now or 2 years down the line. So you are effectively going to be treated as a new applicant by the EU – that’s not a strong hand. And I think Scottish voters may see that. So let’s say there is another referendum, Sturgeon loses it – what then?

    1. Scotland is going to leave this one sided union:no matter what, it is complete crap,as far as we are concerned.It has taken Scotland into illegal wars and given our resources away to Tory private companies.most likely their schoolboy chums from Eton[ the charitable private school] who own these companies.

  2. Can’t really fault any of that.
    Despite being a no I actually wish for a prosperous, fair, equal Scotland whose people are happy, no hospital queues, no beggars or homeless on the streets, no foodbanks required.
    I have watched with horror as the cult of nationalism has wished for the death of the elderly, the English, anyone in fact who does not subscribe to the cult.
    But I don’t blame those individuals they have been spoon fed and conditioned by propaganda both in the media and even in certain cases, in the schools.
    Look at the cabal at Westminster how on earth they claim to operate in Scottish interests is farcical now look at exactly what is ongoing in Scotland the cuts over and above that made by Westminster 5% Vs 11% the failings in local care, bus services, mental health care and of course the elderly who are now being targeted by cultists as easy targets.
    No I blame the leadership of the SNP for their failure to effectively manage and the country for a decade turning at the very least a blind eye if not deliberately following a course that will lead to polarisation, civil unrest and violence along with economic collapse.

    You do have to wonder just how isolating the hollyrood bubble really is.

  3. The post from A Brown shows exactly why independence is a necessity. The total disregard of facts in pursuit of an expression of a blind hatred of a legitimate aspiration of national self determination can in my opinion only emerge in the dependency culture that the UK fosters. I am not blind, the SNP are not perfect and independence if achieved is not a panacea for the ills of Scottish society, indeed I cannot believe that any Christian would think that any political party of any persuasion could be that panacea. However I still believe that Scotland can be a prosperous country with a better set of values than it has at present if we are independent. I respect the position of others and I won’t be making up facts to support my position. The UK has on balance been a positive force in world history and culture but it’s time has passed. I hope and pray that Scotland’s time has still to come

    1. And that comment would be great and make sense if what was being proposed was an independent Scotland. But that is not the proposal. The only reason for having IndyRef2 is so that we can be dependent on the EU. Its worse than the UK…much. No thanks…

      1. I agree with theweeflea comment above. Timing for IndyRef2 is not good. However, I do not trust Mrs. May to do her best for Scotland. She does not have much of a vote above the border. Remember, too, the ‘promises’ made days prior to the Scottish Referendum; by and large, they came to nought. My concern is for the hungry and the homeless, for the old and those in need of mental health care, and for the education of the children and young folks who live in our wonderful country. Oh, and I am not part of any cult. Barbara Scott.

      2. What is proposed is a independent Scotland,we will be taken out of Europe by the English vote,a referendum would have to be taken after that to see if the Scottish people want to go back in.

  4. I take it you have changed your mind from the position expressed in your article on telling Christians to keep out of politics then?

  5. “I have watched with horror as the cult of nationalism has wished for the death of the elderly, the English, anyone in fact who does not subscribe to the cult.
    But I don’t blame those individuals they have been spoon fed and conditioned by propaganda both in the media and even in certain cases, in the schools.” Where to start with this? I am a supporter of the restoration of Scotland’s independence, so you may call me a Nationalist. I recognise the occasional Yesser has unpleasant or unChristian motives – but it is rare. More common to be vilified by supporters of the Union telling me I’m a Nazi, which I find hurtful, and to read it here doubly so. I understand, David, that you are not agreeing with this nasty sentiment.
    Schools: oh my goodness how careful we have been (I’m a teacher) to be absolutely fair and unbiased.
    Media: a free Press should express opinion freely. Almost all of the papers, radio and TV is either neutral or very anti-independence. I don’t think you have worries there.
    UK as the “more democratic” institution. There is some merit in discussing that thoughtfully, but the fact that the UK can decide to leave the EU while Scotland has to ask permission even to think about her future – and not at all clear that we shall be allowed to. As a Christian I don’t look for democracy as God’s pattern – but I certainly don’t think a government elected by 24% of the voters is acceptable on a human level.
    I agree with most of what you say, but all of us must be careful to recognise the alternative truths being propagated.

  6. I started reading with a little trepidation when you said you were asked to give a Christian perspective on it. So relieved to read you don’t think there is one!

  7. Given the judgement by the EU yesterday that religious items and forms of expression can be banned from the workplace, I can’t get out of the EU fast enough.

  8. OK, I shall start with cards on the table, in the last two referenda I voted No in 2014 and LEAVE in 2016.

    Why No? When I considered the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”, my honest thoughts on the matter were – at some time in the future, it should. However, although the SNP see themselves as a left wing liberally minded with a dash of social consciousness thrown in – that is not how they appear to me. I merely see authoritarian, centralizing, big-brother government, which to my mind is more right wing than they care to concede. Thus, although at some point in the future I might well seek to see an independent Scotland grow and flourish, this is not the way I should like to see it emerge.

    10 years ago I was quite excited when the SNP first led Holyrood – and thought that the eyes of Wales and The Six Counties of Northern Ireland would be on HR to see how it could be done. I did not envisage the death/failure of Health, Education, Policing (in fact anything to which the suffix Scotland could be added). Added to that the Common Agricultural Policy Payment to farmers fiasco; and you might begin to understand how I was beginning to doubt the abilities of the sNP to form the liberal Utopia that could and should have been possible.

    My journey with the EU has taken place over a longer period, In 1987 i was living in South Wales at the height of Conservative cuts to employment, coal mines were closed, and so were steel-works (just to be on the safe side), there was massive male unemployment. There were some special road projects etc., which all heavily advertised “This Project has been funded by The European Community”. and John Redwood was Secretary of State for Wales, as Wales had not returned a single Conservative MP – that fact that they selected Redwood from Wokingham District (one of the richest parts of England, probably did not help).

    I was pro EU, and pro Euro in those days, it was not until relatively recently when The EU moved from being trade focused to being a Political Union that I began to question how much of a wise choice remaining within it was – added to that, the manner in which they have crucified Greece over the last 5 years led me to believe that they were less benevolent than I had first believed. The more I read and the more things developed, the less I believed that the EU was a good idea.


    Anyway, enough background. After the previous #IndyRef The SNP had to face another HR election and were returned as the largest party (but not with a majority). In the election material we were clearly told that a vote for the SNP was not a vote for another referendum, seems they lied. We were also told that another referendum woud not take place till after the polls indicated a substantial desire from the electorate 60% for six weeks – or something like that.

    If the SNP were to wait, and work together with the rest of the UK to try to make the greatest success of the Article 50 negotiations – this could indeed be to the mutual benefit of the UK and to Scotland, But NO! The SNP do not see it that way – every day, in every way they want to work against the UK. In the 1970s they did not wish to be dragged INTO the EEC against their will, now they don’t wish to be taken out against their will, the paradox is there, that any part of a member state of the EU that leaves the member state also leaves the EU by default; no Article 50 negotiations, nope – just everything ceases to apply.

    Regardless of where people sit on the Scotland/UK spectrum, surely it is better to do the negotiated EU exit first, so that we can secure worldwide trade – THEN consider the question of Scotland and the UK. To do this the other way would end in disaster IMHO.

    1. I can agree with many of your sentiments however…
      Scottish Health and Education could be a lot better – but England’s example is hardly one to follow. A policy of deliberate underfunding to enable privatisation does not seem wise, fair, democratic or Christian. I look forward to the hard work under an independent Scottish government striving to improve these core parts of our society.
      The SNP manifesto explicitly gave the Scotland Remain/rUK Leave result as a trigger for an independence referendum. Strange that you conclude “seems they lied”. But facts are chiels that winna ding – you can’t misrepresent a clear statement on the internet, intentionally or otherwise. Your readers can easily verify the facts.
      I would agree that the movement from trading block to political union in the EU is undesirable and unwelcome. I would rather we took a step back from that – preferably jointly with our European partners but if necessary by ourselves. But that is a decision that Scotland should be allowed to take herself. The remarks on Greece are apt, if somewhat extreme in language.
      I hope that Christians can take a lead in setting the tone for debate over Scotland’s rights – or otherwise – to govern herself. I expect an independent Scotland within the decade if not sooner. There is much to discuss and hammer out. Let us do it in a manner that builds, not destroys. I hope we do, but doubtless I am as guilty as others who follow Christ in using ungracious language.

      1. The SNP Manifesto which everyone quotes but no-one seems to have read did NOT promise IndyRef2. They stated that the UK leaving the EU could lead to the Scottish Parliament having the right to call IndyRef2. But that was nonsense. Firstly the right to call a referendum is a reserved matter and secondly saying something ‘could’ be the case is not the same as promising to do it. As you say facts are chiels that winna ding…

      2. Thank you for you comments John and it seem that there is much, upon which, we are in agreement. Whilst I didn’t mention England in my thoughts I agree that England’s NHS could indeed be better than it is.. Although, given that I reside in Kincardineshire, it is hardly any of my concern.

        I welcome the opportunity for Christians to “take a lead over Scotland’s rights” but in respect to self governance, please remember that Christ himself never spoke out against Roman “governance” of Israel/Judaea – and he told people to “render unto Caesar those things that are Caesar’s” I do not honestly believe that God is more on the side of Scotland or more on the side of England; to say nothing of Northern Ireland, Wales, Kernow, the Isle of Man or anybody else, for that matter.

        As far as I can see, the current UK’s future outside the EU has the democratic mandate; Had that been my overarching ideal, I would have voted YES in 2104 and would already have “ceased” to be within the EU. But that is not what I selected at the time (as already discussed)

        As far as I can reckon, the die is cast for Article 50, and the negotiations that will be a part of that process. It is in the interest of everyone on these islands to endeavour to get the best deal possible for all of us, then, should Scotland wish to pursue a different agenda, then it is in a reasonable place to begin such a journey. Scotland can, on the other hand, try to create as much disharmony as possible and attempt to derail the negotiations, but I fail to see how the UK or Scotland will be in a better position following such a negative course of action. As I said in my earlier missive, In my opinion is, the best couse of action for the moment is, sit tight, work together for the best future trade, access, travel arrangements. Then, when all that is settled, Scotland’s people may be in a good position to map out a future, a future that may have many posibilities.

      3. I decidedI needed to look this up. Copied and pasted “We believe that the Scottish
        Parliament should have the right to
        hold another referendum if there
        is clear and sustained evidence
        that independence has become the
        preferred option of a majority of
        the Scottish people – or if there is
        a significant and material change in
        the circumstances that prevailed in
        2014, such as Scotland being taken
        out of the EU against our will.”

      4. If you read the article you would see that this is already referenced. As I have pointed out many times already this is a meaningless statement at two levels. Firstly the Scottish parliament does not have the right to hold another referendum – any more than it has the right to declare war. It is a reserved matter. Secondly there is a fundamental difference between ‘should have the right to’ and ‘will’. The latter would be a firm commitment, the former is just a description of a wish.

      5. “Should have the right” in the context of a manifesto means what voters expected it meant. As in “I should think so! ” That is certainly what I understood when I voted SNP. I would be cross if the SNP didn’t now propose a second referendum.
        Context is key, and it would be wise to understand it as it was intended.

      6. Firstly you cannot possibly know what voters expected it to mean. I very much doubt if voters actually read it. Secondly ‘should have the right’ does not mean ‘will’. The SNP government should have the right to employ 4,000 extra teachers, does not mean that they will employ 4,000 extra teachers. Context is key. And its the context that lets us know what was meant. It was very carefully worded so that it did not promise a referendum and yet agitated for the right to call one (a right which under the current devolution settlement does not exist). The fact is that the SNP has no mandate for this, no legal possibility of implementing it and is instead relying on the UK government giving in to political pressure from Scotland. I very much doubt that is going to happen – given that most people in Scotland are opposed to another IndyRef just now.

      7. We have to agree to disagree. You reckon the SNP manifesto was a careful misrepresentation and you are confident that most Scots are content with the constitutional status quo. I bow to your wider knowledge on these matters.
        I’ve been called worse than “gullible”. It may be true and it should help me stay at least grounded and perhaps more gracious.

      8. John – we have to be very careful not to attribute to those we are arguing against, arguments they are not making. I never said, nor do I believe that most Scots are content with the constitutional status quo. Sorry about the gullible comment – it was uncalled for and I have removed it. I apologise…

  9. After voting for snp for 20 plus years changed to Tory . All I can see is NS is more like a dictator what she wants is the break up of the UK regardless of the outcome. If she wants independence why is she so set and staying in the EU and abide by there tyrannical rules .

    1. Theres a bloody lot of alex watts I suppose half the yes voters last time will vote tory , I am the same never voted tory before but this arrogant SNP has changed my mind

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