Last week, David Cameron said that we have ‘seven months to save the most extraordinary country in history’. He meant the United Kingdom. It was a powerful speech, part of a welcome and overdue campaign to make us all think about what is at stake in the referendum on Scottish independence. It seems strange to argue that the loss of less than 10 per cent of the population would bring this country to an end, and yet I do really suspect it might be so. Mr Cameron did not touch on the question of what the nation, minus Scotland, might be called, perhaps because he does not know and is fearful of making plans for such an eventuality. But the difficulty of getting the right name is a fascinating emblem of the depth of the problem. It could not, obviously, be called the United Kingdom, since that name derives from the union of the two which would be dissevered by a Yes vote. Nor could it be Great Britain, since a physically large chunk would have left. It could not be ‘Little Britain’ — which is spoken for — or even ‘South Britain’. It cannot be called ‘England, Wales and Northern Ireland’, since that is too long, and misrepresents the component parts as being equivalent entities. Nor, however, could it be just ‘England’, because of the insult to Northern Ireland and Wales. There simply isn’t an answer. What sort of a country is nameless?
This is an extract from The Spectator magazine, dated 15 February 2014
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