As 2020 draws to a close, we predict that the question of Britain’s immediate relationship with Europe will start to drop down the agenda; by January there will be a deal or no deal, and we shall cope one way or another. No, we think the Big Existential Question for next year will be Scottish Independence. And. although we won’t take sides now, or ever, we think it’s worth considering at the historical aspect, which so far has been overlooked in more immediate questions of sovereignty and power.
From William I until Robert Walpole, every ruler of England faced a strategic dilemma. There was always a a neighbour, potentially hostile, with a land border in the north. Thus if England committed itself too heavily in a European war, its continental adversaries could drum up a land invasion to divide English forces, blunting their effect on both fronts. It could be parried, but at enormous cost. The danger was acute for monarchs as far apart in time as Stephen, Edward III and Henry VIII.
The Act of Union of 1707 closed this danger down. It meant that one centre of strategic power now controlled the whole landmass from Torquay to Thurso. As the Royal Navy could now sail unimpeded from Scottish as well as English ports, it meant the island was effectively immune from invasion-a strategic card of immense power in the hand of any statesman. As any soldier knows it is very difficult to invade a country when you have to land on a hostile shore where the enemy controls all the roads, strongpoints and obedience of the population. Much easier when your forces have the support of an adjoining nation, where you can build up in peace until the time comes to launch.
And so we predict that intelligent members of Britain’s High command will even now be whispering in Boris Johnson‘s ear, urging him of the strategic dangers of “losing” Scotland. Not to Britain, but to England. We flatter ourselves that you read it here first.
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