A result that resolves little

The Scottish referendum was supposed to settle the UK’s constitutional uncertainties, but the result has raised more questions than it answers. How Britain addresses the devolution issue and the question mark over its commitment to Europe will shape perceptions of its ability to wield influence and hard power abroad for years to come.

The World Today Published 1 October 2014 Updated 22 February 2021 6 minute READ

Professor Malcolm Chalmers

Deputy Director, RUSI

Britain’s 2010 National Security Strategy, published shortly after the coalition government took office, was entitled ‘A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty’. It made no mention of the two existential challenges – the possible secession of Scotland from the United Kingdom, and the risk of a British withdrawal from the European Union. Yet either event would be a fundamental transformation in the very nature of the British state, with profound impact on its foreign and security policy.

The first of these challenges was addressed on September 18, when the Scottish people voted to reject calls for the establishment of a separate state of their own. Their decision has been a source of relief among Britain’s allies and friends. With western states facing many complex security challenges, at least they are not also having to manage the economic and security fallout from a disintegrating United Kingdom.

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