Is the United Kingdom at the brink of collapse, just a month prior to the festivities of the monarch’s Platinum Jubilee? 

If you look at the headlines following last week’s local elections (which included the Stormont Assembly in Northern Ireland), the answer to this question would be “Yes.”

Sinn Fein was the winner of the province’s largest popular vote. This means that the First Minister of Stormont will be the leader of the ineradicably connected party to violent nationalist struggle for unification with the Republic of Ireland.

The SNP won their 11th consecutive overall win in the Scottish Council elections.

It is not surprising that leaders of these two secessionist parties linked their results with referendums on independence.

Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Fein, the president, stated that an Irish referendum for reunification would be possible within five years.

Nicola Sturgeon (leader of the SNP) congratulated Sinn Fein for a truly historic’ result and said: ‘We are going to witness some fundamental changes within the UK governance. I’m sure one of those major changes will be Scottish independence.

She added that ‘work is under way’ for so-called IndyRef 2 ‘in 2023’ — though the decision to hold one is not hers.

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald (left) arrived with Vice-President Michelle O'Neill (right) at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast as counting took place for the Northern Ireland Assembly on Friday

Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Fein (left) and Michelle O’Neill (right), were both present at Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast to count the Northern Ireland Assembly votes on Friday.

Ms McDonald (pictured) has said a referendum to reunify Ireland would be possible ‘within a five-year timeframe’

Ms. McDonald (pictured) said that it would be possible to hold a referendum in order to unify Ireland ‘within five year’

Do not be afraid

Unsurprisingly, prominent Union defenders have expressed concern about the future. 

In yesterday’s Mail on Sunday, the former Conservative Northern Ireland Secretary, Julian Smith, wrote: ‘We now have two parts of the UK where political parties avowedly dedicated to its break-up hold the whip hand … Our cherished Union has never been under greater threat.’

Well, possibly — although the time Northern Ireland was most likely to be ‘lost’ was July 1940, when Winston Churchill offered the province to the Irish president Eamon de Valera if only Dublin agreed to drop its stance of neutrality in World War II.

The current situation is however different. It’s not the prime ministers of political parties that hold the whip hand, but the whole population.

It is a benefit to make the process open for referendums. It isn’t clear that enough Scots and Northern Irish want such a referendum.

Survation conducted an opinion poll a week earlier and found that only 29 percent of adults in Scots want another referendum “in the near future”.

You can draw this deduction from last week’s complete results. In Scotland, while the SNP were indeed the victors, when you tot up the votes won by parties dedicated to the preservation of the Union — notably the Conservatives and Labour — you find they won 55 per cent of the total.

An identical calculation could be done based on Northern Ireland’s outcome.

A solid majority voted against any border poll. When you add up the votes from the two South-related parties (Sinn Fein & the SDLP), you will see that 39% of votes were cast for them.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon with the SNP's new councillors outside the V&A Dundee on Saturday following the local government elections

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon with the SNP’s new councillors outside the V&A Dundee on Saturday following the local government elections

Counting during the second day of the Northern Ireland Assembly elections at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast on Saturday

Counting during the second day of the Northern Ireland Assembly elections at the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast on Saturday

This is almost exactly the same as their total in 2017 (40 per cent), or indeed in 1998 (39 per cent) — the year of the Good Friday Agreement. So no real movement.

According to that agreement, the British Government agreed to host a referendum to unify Northern Ireland ‘if it seems likely that a majority vote would express the wish that Northern Ireland should be removed from the United Kingdom.

The Tory Party chairman, Oliver Dowden, at the weekend reiterated this point: ‘If there is a sustained majority opinion in favour of a United Ireland, that would have to be put forward in a referendum … but I don’t think we are at that stage yet.’

Yes. It is not.

Don’t leave

So, there was a significant number of undecideds. However, if the vote did go through it was a large number of undecideds. The National Health Service is the one thing that would push them against the United Kingdom.

Contrary to the UK, the Republic doesn’t offer free access for GPs. 

And the difficulty of convincing a sufficient number of Northern Irish voters to abandon this central pillar of the British welfare state — even among those attracted in principle to a United Ireland — came out strongly at a meeting organised a few months ago by a group called Ireland’s Future.

Colum Eastwood (leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, SDLP) told the meeting that although he believes that the UK is ending, he would not be in control of the referendum campaign. Instead, he said that if he was, he’d simply run ads about the cost of going to the doctor.

In the Republic you have to pay 60 euros (£51) for a visit to your local doctor, and even if you are just going back to get a repeat prescription, you are charged another 60 euros.

Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party Colum Eastwood (pictured) said he believed that ‘the UK is coming to an end’

Colum Eastwood, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (pictured), said that he believes the UK’s end is near.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald pictured delivering a speech at its party conference in October last year

Mary Lou McDonald, Sinn Fein’s leader is pictured giving a speech to its party conference last October.

Leader of the SDLP admitted that his mother would be having difficult discussions about this. 

The campaign would have the slogan, “You’re going be required to pay 60 Euros to see a physician.” That’s just ordinary nationalists. Unionists are not included.

Declan Kearney (Sinn Fein chairman national) agreed to the statement that “health is pivotal”. 

In Northern Ireland, this argument is likely to be more significant than in England. This could be because the people of the province are more dependent on welfare states.

Similar arguments, based on financial reasons, also make it difficult for the Scottish nationalists to win any referendum regarding the UK’s future exit.

It’s not so much that the Scots currently receive a net transfer of about £12 billion a year from the Exchequer, but the fact that the SNP has still not come up with any coherent argument for its policy of leaving the pound and taking up the euro, following — or so they propose — a short period with a Scottish currency, possibly to be called the Groat.


In 2014, the currency issue was at the heart of its campaign. It hasn’t gone away.

These Islands, a pro-Union thinktank based in Scotland, conducted a survey last month and found that 73% of Scots were not sure what the SNP’s actual currency policy was. Also, 77% were unclear who would pay the state pension once they are independent (which the SNP leadership had attempted to lie about by claiming would continue to be paid for by English and Welsh taxpayers for many decades).

This poll showed interesting results about future referendum wording. 

In April they asked Scots if Scotland should be an independent country.They got a 47% yes vote and a 53% no vote.

When the question came down to “Should Scotland stay inside the United Kingdom or leave it?”The result was 59% in favor of staying, and 41% for going.

It is up to the Westminster parliament whether to grant Scotland a second independence referendum — and I imagine it would, if it came to that, want the question to be framed in terms of ‘leave or remain’: just as it was in the UK as a whole in the 2016 referendum on EU membership.

It is certain that the British Government will continue to do all it can to encourage the Scots into the Union. 

Despite what they may say, the Conservatives have not made any such promise in relation to the Northern Irish. People in the province are well aware of this.

Even so, it is unlikely that there will be a referendum to reunify Ireland this side the next general election.

Mark Twain’s words were adapted to reflect the fact that reports about the impending death of the Union are exaggerated.