Britain Europe Politics Scotland

Is Britain Breaking Up?

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(Photo: A Perry)

Is Britain about to break up? The argument is being made more frequently by the commentariat in London and Manchester – especially those who are opposed to Brexit. ‘Look’ they say, “Brexit will mean the break up of Britain” and this, along with the other apocalyptic predictions ‘planes will stop flying, the NHS will collapse, the end of civilization as we know it’, is being used as a weapon to prevent Brexit.

But how true is this meme? And does it matter from a Christian perspective?

Camerons Errors

I live in Scotland. I am a Scot. And I have been involved in the Scottish political scene since 1979. In 2014 the independence movement came very close to achieving its aim. David Cameron had granted a referendum on Scottish independence confident that he would easily win it and kill off Scottish nationalism for good (does that sound familiar?).

He was so confident, (polls were showing 70% for the Union) that he even allowed the leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, to draft the question; “Should Scotland be an independent country?” It became a close run thing with all the stops being pulled out, everything from Project Fear to Gordon Brown. The union survived 55%-45%, but the SNP thrived. Its membership quadrupled and in 2015 they won an astonishing 56 out of 59 Scottish seats in the Westminster election.

Has Brexit Killed Scottish Independence?

In the 2016 EU referendum 1.6 million Scots (63%) voted Remain, 1 million (37%) voted Leave. The narrative since then has been that Scotland wants to remain and so will leave the UK in order to join the EU. This narrative is superficial and simplistic. It won’t happen. In fact the opposite has occurred – instead of strengthening the chances of Scottish independence, Brexit has killed the possibility off for decades.

Why?

One third of SNP voters voted for Brexit and they cannot understand why the SNP would want Scotland to become independent of one union, only to join a larger one, where we would have less say. ‘Independence in the EU’ is to them an oxymoron.

Whatever the pros and cons of the EU, when your economies, laws and courts are largely controlled by an outside body, that is not what most would call independence. The obsession with Brexit seems to have turned the SNP into the EUNP. Ironically they now use the same Project Fear arguments against leaving the EU, as were used against leaving the UK. In the 2017 General election the SNP lost 21 seats and the Tories gained 12 – largely because of the Brexit issue.

Secondly, as the UK has found with leaving the EU, breaking up is hard to do. If leaving a 50 year old union is hard, how much more complex will leaving a 400 year old one be?! That is why, despite the chaos in Westminster, polling figures show that support for independence has not risen, and may even have shrunk. In order to call a secnd independence referendum Nicola Sturgeon wants the polls to be at about 60% Yes. They are generally 15-20% short of that.

Another Indy Referendum?

But didn’t the First Minister talk recently about putting legislation for another Independence referendum before the Scottish Parliament? Was she bluffing? To put it bluntly, yes. She was speaking to a conference of SNP activists hungry for news and hope. She offered them the carrot of another referendum knowing that it is not going to happen.Because another referendum cannot happen without the Westminster government giving what is called a Section 30 order. Both the Tories and Labour have said they will not do this.

When the UK parliament refuses, this is a win/win for Sturgeon and the SNP. They don’t have to fight a referendum they would almost certainly lose and they get to blame the bad politicians in Westminster yet again.

So if you are concerned about the breakup of the UK, relax. Scotland won’t be leaving soon (although Northern Ireland is a different and even more complex story).

If the Foundations be destroyed….

But should we care? And is there a particular Christian perspective on this? I think so.

There are Christians who want Scotland to be an independent country (I am one of them) and others who want us to remain within the UK. I hope that none of us will claim particular biblical sanction for our positions. Amazingly, the Bible says nothing about Scottish independence! But we should be concerned about the state of Christianity in our countries.

The 17th century was also a time of great turbulence in the British Isles – with a civil war in England being extended to Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Amidst all the turmoil, including a king losing his head; parliament requested a large group of ‘divines’ (clergymen) to meet in Westminster to formulate a plan for uniting the churches, and thus the kingdoms, in Britain.

Although that didn’t exactly pan out, it did result in the Westminster Confession of Faith (the basis of most Presbyterian churches). Ultimately by the end of the century we had a stronger parliamentary democracy and the union of Scotland and England.

Who knows but the current chaos in the land may yet lead to something better! We can only pray!

The United Kingdom was formed for economic, military and social reasons. But what is often forgotten is the fourth element – the United Kingdom was founded on the basis of Christianity.

Whether that was a good or bad thing – I tend to plumb on balance for the former – is not the question. The real question is now that we are removing Christianity can a United Kingdom that was founded upon it, remain? And do we want it to? Perhaps there is more that hangs on that question than we realise.

This article first appeared on Christian Today 

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8 comments

  1. The Tower of Babel always comes to mind in discussions about Scottish or Welsh independence. Why would a nation joined to another nation by land and language want to separate metaphorically from it to join a non-nation from which it is physically separated by both land and language? It never did, doesn’t now, and never could make sense.

  2. Thanks as always David. The Christian perspective in all this is rarely considered any more – God’s kingdom will come whatever happens with our politicians!

    A couple of things that I feel I ought to challenge you on. I doubt I’ll change your mind on Europe, it has it’s flaws (almost voted leave myself but I suspected that my vote would be lumped with a hard right anti immigration push that does seem to have happened) but the eu is a fundamentally different beast to the UK.

    I think independence is more likely than you suggest- polls are on average a little higher than 45 yes -49 just a couple of weeks ago- and I have heard many voices giving it serious consideration that were definite noes last time. The key is whether we get a vote and there I agree the noises from the first minister aren’t good. As for a section 30 order being needed- legal opinion is split on that and it really needs tested in the courts. Disappointing that the snp haven’t been pursuing that since 2017 and possibly the clearest sign that they are lukewarm in another referendum.

    As for brexit it being an exemplar of breaking up being hard to do – I think it’s more an exemplar of how bad at negotiating Westminster is! Given that such a large part of our legal and state institutions are already completely separate it will be hard but not impossible. Ireland did it after all.

    I’ve never known such a turbulent time in politics, prayer for our leaders is so much needed just now. Thanks again for keeping things in perspective.

    1. Thanks Sandy – and I have heard many voices that were definite yes who would not vote it this time. The polls are around 40% and if you include don’t knows it drops a lot lower. The SNP don’t want another referendum just now – and they won’t get it!

  3. I agree with almost everything in this article. There are, however, three statements which I would question. Firstly there is the statement that in the 2017 General Election the Scottish Tories gained seats largely because of the Brexit issue. My understanding of the Tory success in 2017 is that they played the ‘danger’ of a second referendum on Scottish independence for all it was worth. Nothing to do with Brexit. That understanding is based on two things. Firstly, Tory literature talked overwhelmingly about stopping a second referendum, on independence. Secondly, I don’t think that their literature mentioned Brexit. Not in my constituency, at least. But maybe they mentioned it elsewhere. On the other hand the Tories are largely incapable of producing local literature. They seem to depend almost entirely on whatever is produced centrally. Incidentally, the Tories used the same trick in the local elections the previous month and that was very successful, too. That’s probably why they used it in the General Election.
    The second issue is more complex. It concerns the claim that the United Kingdom was founded on the basis of Christianity. Maybe that can be argued but if it is argued at all then it can only be argued on the basis that the UK was founded on a particular form of Christianity rather than Christianity per se.
    The third statement is that by the end of the seventeenth century we had a stronger parliamentary democracy. The reason I question that statement is that while there were elections at that time the vast majority of people were excluded from taking part. In addition, although not numerous in Great Britain at the end of the seventeenth century, Catholics continued to be excluded from the House of Commons until the passing of the Roman Catholic Relief Act in 1829.

    1. Thanks Mike – just a couple of points. 1) The Tory ‘success’ was largely due to Brexit in the fishing constituences and elsewhere. There were a million Scottish Brexit voters – who could we vote for? I even for the first time voted Tory because of that! And yes we did have a stronger democracy at the end of the 17th Century (though still a long way short – but it was stronger than before!)…

  4. There is a biblical premise that teaches that a country divided against itself cannot stand. The Christian gospel teaches that there is one God, in the persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit….. one death on the cross for the sins of humanity, one resurrection, one way of forgiveness through repentance, one heavenly family to be freely adopted into, on hope. We can have and even celebrate in denominations our differences of expression in liturgy and music but at the end of the day there is only one Church of God. As Christians we are called to love one another and see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ – despite the names on our churches. Such unity is the most beautiful thing to see and experience on a world wide scale, and I have seen it in finding fellowship in many countries. Our countries can learn a lesson here.

  5. A while ago I was doing some reading on the throne of Great Britain…I came across many interesting stories about it…The most interesting was that it is the Throne of David (the stone under the throne)…There were also many stories nay saying this…

    So…I asked the I AM if it was so…His response wasn’t slow:

    “Truth & Faith” , “God Bless the Queen”, “Do not deviate from that truth”, “United Kingdom”

    All of the above quotes were seen by me on the back of jackets whilst on my way to work shortly after asking…

    *Under the “Truth and Faith” was a Fleur De Lis, the “United Kingdom” was in royal Blue.

    God Bless!

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