Ed West Ed West

Britain is doomed – even if Salmond loses September’s independence referendum

Last Thursday’s cover story makes alarming reading, Alex Massie arguing that Alex Salmond may come close to achieving victory in September’s vote.

Alex wrote: ‘It is beginning to be appreciated, even in London, that Alex Salmond might just win his independence referendum in September. The break-up of Britain will have begun, David Cameron will have to contemplate being Prime Minister of a rump country — and HMS Britannia will be sunk, not with a bang but a whimper. It will be due as much to English indifference as Scottish agitation.’

I would still put my pound sterling on a No vote, and current odds for independence are around 7/2; but I suspect that ultimate victory will probably go to the SNP. There a number of reasons why the union is doomed.

Firstly, as Alex Massie has said before, even if Salmond wins 40 per cent of the vote, that is a moral victory and will lead to demands for a new referendum at some point soon. Two-thirds is usually the minimum requirement for constitutional changes in countries with written constitutions, because it suggests a consensus; any society in which more than a third of the population supports a change in the status quo is a divided one.

People generally don’t like living in divided societies, which is why they will tend to move towards one mainstream view; what normally happens is that once a rising idea has reached a tipping point it then becomes accepted as orthodoxy. Although some ideas do grow and then recede, Scottish independence, which has risen from a single-figures idea to one closing in on half the population, may well reach that tipping point.

It will also benefit by cascades; people think that it will eventually happen, so they get behind it in expectation.

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