Scotland's Dream of Separation

Article excerpt


DONALD TRUMP is a man of many parts. He is a real estate developer, business executive, casino operator, television personality, and author. Playing a role in politics, though, has not been high on his crowded agenda. At least not until he recently became embroiled in rough-and-tumble political infighting in Scotland.

Last year, the tireless Trump chose the land of the Scots as the site for a new billion-dollar project: He proposed building "the best golf course in the world" near Aberdeen, "The Silver City by the Golden Sands" on Scotland's east coast. It would include a luxurious hotel and hundreds of timeshare apartments.

The enterprise was expected to create badly needed new jobs in the region and pump much money into the economy. It was therefore assumed he would be warmly supported by the local authorities. But the proud Scots should never be taken for granted. The Aberdeenshire Council turned down Trump's proposal, citing environmental considerations.

The rejection outraged Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), especially after Trump threatened to shift his wealth-generating project to Northern Ireland. Thus, upon be- coming the first minister of Scotland a few months ago, he invoked rarely used powers of the office to overrule the Aberdeenshire Council. Trump's project, he indicated, would be approved because it "raises issues of importance that require consideration at a national level."

By "national level" Salmond was not referring to the United Kingdom, of which Scotland is part. He was talkin about the Scottish nation the SNP is determined to lead to indepen- dence from Britain. Indeed, he predicted it will be independent within 10 years. That would have grave consequences for the United Kingdom and be of significance elsewhere as well.

Scotland last enjoyed independence in 1707 when, after an often adversarial relationship, the English and Scottish kingdoms agreed to unite. By the Act of Union, they formed Great Brit- ain, with its Parliament in Lon- don and a single monarch. For the opportunity Salmond has now seized to mount a campaign to re-create a separate Scottish nation, he can thank former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

While in office, Blair - who is now the European Union's representative charged with seeking a solution to the Is- raeli-Palestinian stalemate - launched a democratic rev- olution in Britain. He promoted, and guid- ed through Parlia- ment, fundamental changes in how three of the four lands that constitute the United Kingdom are governed.

The people of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales were empowered to elect assemblies to rule on matters pertaining exclusively to their own territories, such as health care, education, and law and order. England, with a population roughly five times that of the other three combined, has no equivalent separate administrative body; it continues to be governed by the Parliament in London. On major national issues like defense, international relations, basic economic policy, and immigration control, so do the other three entities.

WHEN HE devolved a large measure of governmental authority to the Scots, Northern Irish and Welsh, Blair could not have imagined he might be paving the way for the breakup of once glorious Britannia. There was no apparent reason to have such concerns. Few of the people of Wales and Northern Ireland showed signs of wanting to go off on their own. Neither did the Scots, whose politics were then dominated by the unifying instrument of the long-entrenched British Labor Party.

But last year, for the first time, Scottish nationalists, previously dismissible as political fantasists, came out on top in local elections and won executive authority in the newly Blair-empowered Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Despite their repeatedly expressed determination to break free of rule from London, they did not suggest rebuilding Hadrian's Wall, put up almost 2,000 years ago to protect Roman occupied England from the fierce Pictish tribes of ancient Scotland. …