In part one of a two-part  series about the future of the Union, Tom Hewitt argues Scottish independence would have profound negative ramifications for England, which people need to pay much more attention to.

There are few more profound shocks a people can face than the end of the country itself. With polls in recent months now showing support for Scottish independence consistently above 50 per cent, you might therefore expect panic to be ensuing throughout the United Kingdom. Yet for all intents and purposes, particularly in England, at best there is a shrug of the shoulders – with the average person perceiving independence to be a matter only relevant to the Scots. There is little cognisance about the huge impact the break-up of Britain would have on what would be left of the UK culturally, politically or militarily. If this is to be averted, England needs to get real about what is at stake.

The first ramification would be cultural. One of the great products of the Union of England and Scotland was the emergence of a new national identity – Britishness. The development of this overarching national identity benefited both sides, with the role of Scots and English in one another's public life becoming largely unquestioned. Due to at heart being a multi-national rather than an ethnic identity, Britishness pioneered the creation of civic, state identities which ethnic minorities could buy into. It has been such a successful concept that the majority of ethnic minority citizens in England tend to identify primarily as British not English. It is hard to envisage multi-culturalism thriving to the same extent in an environment where Britishness is stripped away.

Some argue Britishness could still continue following the end of the UK, but this seems unlikely. It is shared experiences that have constantly rekindled the joint sense of nationhood, from standing together in conflicts throughout the 20th century, to the success of Team GB in 2012. The breaking of constitutional links would mean the end of these shared experiences. Combined with the hollowing out of common iconography such as the Union Jack, BBC and British passport, it seems doubtful Britishness as an identity would survive in the long-term.

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For those in England emotionally unmoved by the concept of a united Britain, the practical impact of Scottish independence would also be huge. A vote for Scottish independence would mark a repudiation of England and would be seen as such. With the loss of a third of the national territory, most of its energy resources, as well as 8 per cent of GDP and population, the remaining UK would be absolutely humiliated. Attempts to lead the way as 'Global Britain' would look ridiculous with Britain itself in the process of its own abolition.

In military terms, it would also be a disaster. The Armed Forces and its assets would have to be divided up. The loss of the Clyde would likely mean the end of the UK's position as a nuclear weapons state, with a lack of geographically suitable base locations outside of Scotland. This would then bring into question the right of the rest of the UK to retain its permanent position on the UN Security Council.

Additionally, there would be wider security implications. England would lose control over its northern defence, posing the risk of greater Russian military activity around the British Isles. With a more liberal Scottish border regime probable, it could prove harder to keep terrorists and violent offenders from entering the rest of the UK. The greatest danger would be China taking advantage of a vulnerable newly independent Scotland, perhaps with financial inducements, risking the safety of the whole archipelago.

Perhaps the most under explored ramification would be the economic. If an independent Scotland joined the EU, then a trade border would be formed for the first time in over 300 years. With £63 billion exported from the rest of the UK to Scotland each year, the break-up of these highly integrated markets would be enormously disruptive to business. Any savings from the ending of fiscal transfers to Scotland would be more than cancelled out. Most significantly, the ending of the pooling and sharing of resources the Union entails, would reduce the financial stability of both sides; with even England benefiting from financial transfers the other way at times, such as with North Sea oil revenues in the 1980s.

If these negative developments are to be avoided England needs to wake up, because on current trends, Britain – one of the most iconic and significant powers in world history – will likely be no more. The question of whether Scottish independence happens won't formally be decided in England, but without sufficient attention from people in England it will become more likely. With no change, Britain's best days won't just be over, but Britain itself. There isn't much time left.

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