John Harris

Journalist & Author

The Covid-19 crisis is accelerating the breakup of the UK | John Harris

Brexit and the pandemic have fuelled fresh calls for Scottish independence. For Westminster, the battle may already be lost

Covid-19 is a great accelerator. In most of the countries it has struck, whatever inequalities, divisions and tensions were festering before its arrival have now sped into the political foreground. And so it has proved here. Race, class, gender, poverty, wealth, the north-south divide – even though it often feels it as if time has stood still, all of these things are now vividly in front of us, demanding attention. And one key issue has come roaring back: the fate of the United Kingdom itself. Brexit and the pandemic are pushing its countries and regions in strikingly different directions.

Clearly, nothing highlights our increasingly unsettled, estranged national condition better than the politics of Scotland. One should always hesitate before claiming that mere polls represent historic shifts, but in the last few months, a number of surveys have found support for Scottish independence running at more than 50%. Leaving aside undecideds, a Panelbase poll last week put the for-and-against numbers at 55 and 45 respectively: an elegant inversion of the 2014 referendum result, and another excuse for stories about political shockwaves supposedly now spreading from Edinburgh to London.

It is remarkable that the possible end of the union has yet to enter England’s political conversation, on left or right.

Related: MPs ‘advising’ big business undermines democracy. Second jobs should be banned | Zarah Sultana

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