Break up of United Kingdom a real possibility


Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell who has said the break-up the United Kingdom is a possibility


WPA Pool

In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Sir Gus O'Donnell, the departing cabinet secretary, Britain's top civil servant, said "Over the next few years, there will be enormous challenges, such as whether to keep our kingdom united."

Implicit in that statement is whether the drive for Scottish independence will bear fruit when a referendum on independence is held in Scotland, probably in 2014.

Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond of the Scottish National Party praised O'Donnell, "Sir Gus is right to recognize the importance of the constitutional issue, and the SNP Government are up for the challenge."

The odds of Scotland breaking away from the UK are very strong at the moment. On a reporting trip there three months ago I was struck by how many former Conservative and Labour voters now supported the SNP which has pledged to hold a referendum on independence.

As the UK has become increasingly London-centric, resentment of England - and the three hundred year old union between the two countries - has become a prominent feature of Scottish life. The national cultures have become increasingly divergent since Scotland was given its own parliament early in Tony Blair's term of office. The SNP has effectively eliminated the Conservative Party as a political force and driven Labour soundly into second place.

The mood in London these days is one of resignation that Scottish independence will probably happen, hence O'Donnell's comments.