Even Britain is threatened with division
There is no conspiracy against the British monarchy, but rather social, demographic, economic and cultural changes
Until yesterday morning, the world was waiting for Scotland to decide whether it would become independent or remain part of Britain. Many decision-making circles were satisfied when the majority rejected the idea of Scotland’s independence, favoring being within the framework of a united constitutional monarchy, dating back to more than three hundred years. In the European Union, there are regions seeking independence, such as the Spanish Catalonia. We can also find the same tendency in North America where Canada’s Quebec is still eagerly seeking independence, and so on.
Arabs, those who believe in conspiracy theories, have to comprehend new world realities. Britain, which has repeatedly been accused of conspiring to divide the Arab world, was itself exposed to the risk of being divided, if it wasn’t for a small Scottish majority (55%) that rejected independence. There is no conspiracy against the British monarchy, but rather social, demographic, economic and cultural changes, blowing the strongest of regimes into the winds of change to test whether issues are addressed with new ways to respond to local changes.
The size of Great Britain is equivalent to about one-eighth of Saudi Arabia, and is a quarter of Egypt's size. Scotland is one-third of the size of Britain with only 5 million inhabitants out of a total of 66 million British inhabitants. However, this small region had a great historical role, making it one of the greatest empires that ruled the world from China to the United States. Its people are known to be tough mariners and intellectuals whose culture is still prevailing around the globe today. The world as we see it today has absorbed their laws, politics, their way of war, literature and art.
Yet in 1999, British Prime Minister Tony Blair adopted a local parliamentary regime for Scotland, with wider domestic powers, mindful that the world was changing after the fall of the Soviet Union, the increasing openness of the world and Britain joining the European Union.
The idea of separation and the domestic urges to become independent are not odd, not even in great nation states such as Britain and CanadaAbdulrahman al-Rashed
The bitter side to division
Although the urge to be independent from England can be found in all “regions” in the United Kingdom - Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales - the majority still know that the British throne remains a positive force. Britain is the sixth-largest economic power in the world. Independence from the United Kingdom represents, for some, a historical longing or a solution to temporary economic problems that may be unreal. Nevertheless, Scotland does not have what it takes to be resistant to the dominance of the largest member states in the European Union.
The moral of all the above is that the idea of separation and the domestic urges to become independent are not odd, not even in great nation states such as Britain and Canada. It is better to contain and address the issue in order to find solutions that would enhance common interests, and deepen the sense of nationalism rather than deny or fight the idea.
Sudan represents a bad example. The formerly largest Arab and African country could have stayed united if the regime in Khartoum did not choose the path of war and hostility. The war continued until unity became more expensive than division. This is how the whole world, and not only the Sudanese people, lost a great country. The wrangling parties later discovered that division is a bitter solution, which neither brought stability to Khartoum, nor prosperity and development to Juba.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Sept. 20, 2014.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.