Whitehall backs the break-up of Britain?
Britain is an obsolete concept for numerous diplomats who have risen high primarily by advocating a utopian pan-European order
News has emerged of a high-level discussion on Scottish independence which took place earlier in the summer at the Oxfordshire country house owned by the Ditchley Foundation.
It was essentially organized by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and involved 40 people, both 'pro' and 'anti' Scotland’s departure from the rest of the United Kingdom.
It was chaired by Sir John Holmes who has had an unstoppable rise with placings in Washington, Moscow, and Paris where he was ambassador after 2001.
It might have been assumed that, in summarizing the outcome of the Ditchley event, Sir John might underscore some of the impracticalities of the Scottish National Party’s dreams of freedom. He had after all been Private Secretary to John Major in 1997 when he campaigned in the general election against Scottish devolution.
Far from it. As reported in Saturday's Herald, the seasoned mandarin wrote: ‘Overall no show-stoppers for Scottish independence emerged from our discussions,’.
The prevailing view was that an independent Scotland would have to apply for membership of the EU but "the result should not be in doubt’. Opting out of the euro and the Schengen-free travel zone (which would probably be required to avoid border posts at Gretna) could be ‘finesse’"
A UK diplomatic heavyweight offering reassurance that everything will be more or less all right on the night if the Scots make a dash for the British exit is sure to be manna from heaven for Alex Salmond and the SNP.
But why should anyone be surprised at a UK mandarin minimizing the problems arising from the balkanization of Britain? Britain is an obsolete concept for numerous diplomats who have risen high primarily by advocating a utopian pan-European order.
The arrival of a naively Europhile Scotland on the Brussels scene just increases the likelihood that a new elitist and corporatist Europe where civil servants will be the top dogs, becomes reality. A glance at the SNP’s domestic policies, where an army of civil-servants already micro-manage society, may even convince the Euro-Patriots of Whitehall that ‘independence’ cannot come soon enough.
A post-British Scotland will not be a new sturdy and self-reliant Australia or Canada but a tired, introspective and managed country that has taken a walk on the wild side after downing one too many.
For the likes of Sir John Holmes being posted to Australia or Canada would have been the equivalent of Windhoek or Ulan Bator. Under the influence of the Foreign Office, no British Foreign Secretary in the years of New Labour rule, paid a single visit to Australia.
But you can imagine the Sir Johns of the future being eager to be sent to a separate Scotland to learn the very latest tricks about how to induce their plebs in England to accept being citizens of Euroland.
Tom Gallagher’s book, Divided Scotland: Ethnic Friction and Christian Crisis is published next week
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