HE doesn’t live here and doesn’t have a vote but Barak Obama’s decision to
throw his weight against the break up of Britain is undoubtedly one of the
best bits of news that the opponents of separation could have wished for.
There probably won’t be a rash of Better Together stickers in the windows of
the White House or in the presidential limousines but his words in Brussels
are tremendously cheering, and very probably game-changing, nevertheless.
His endorsement of the campaign to stop short-sighted nationalism triumphing
over the United Kingdom’s importance to world affairs also puts the whole
issue into some kind of proper perspective. And a secondary wonder of the
whole affair is that no matter how the nationalists attempt to play down
this dramatic and unprecedented intervention, there is no way those
well-practised intimidators in the SNP camp could possibly hope to change
the mind of the leader of the free world.
However, even if Alex Salmond accepted publicly that Mr Obama was against him,
the internet headbangers who back the Nats had a field day, pouring tons of
hate-filled vitriol over the president. And given their pathetic attempts to
boycott those, like supermarket chains, do-it-yourself emporiums and travel
agencies, whose bosses have dared to speak out against the folly of
independence, who knows what those nutty cybernats will try now. Ban SNP
members from eating Big Macs, perhaps, or watching The Sopranos, maybe, and
definitely no more Miami holidays?
The truth is that, behind the huge welcome that Unionists will give to the
president’s words, lies the worldwide realisation that, in spite of its
perhaps lesser clout nowadays, the United Kingdom as presently constituted
still counts for something in international affairs.
We are this week celebrating how those two countries, together with their
allies from the Commonwealth, led the invasion of Hitler’s western front in
Europe and played a significant part in defeating one of the world’s
In modern times the UK stood shoulder to shoulder with America, sometimes
alone, during the Cold War in confronting the very real Soviet menace. It
did so armed with a formidable array of nuclear weapons, an independent
deterrent that was and still is based in Scotland – an armoury that helped
to face down the USSR. There is, of course, a large element of special
pleading in the president’s opposition to separation; the UK is America’s
first, and most reliable, ally. The “special relationship” does exist; that
has been proved conclusively by Mr Obama’s words in Brussels. With an
independent Scotland threatening to expel the British deterrent and, also in
all likelihood, banning US nuclear weapons from its soil and territorial
waters Nato membership for an independent Scotland would be all but
The SNP’s laughable defence policy, with nothing like enough air and sea
defences, has also been microscopically examined by US experts. They have
come swiftly to the conclusion that in strategic terms, and taking
everything together, breaking up Britain would make the Alliance’s northern
flank especially vulnerable — something that no American government could
On the diplomatic front, too, the UK still plays an important role in American
eyes. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Britain
and America generally stand shoulder to shoulder on most issues where
democracy and human rights are at stake.
However, the UK’s special place at the UN, which dates from the end of the
Second World War, is continually under threat from other now-powerful
nations. Why should the likes of Germany and Japan, they ask themselves,
play second fiddle to a less wealthy UK?
The worry is that if the present United Kingdom was to be broken up, it could
lose its seat as a permanent member of the Security Council. The upshot
could be that America would lose a very important and consistent
As the president’s words emerged yesterday, what was deeply embarrassing was
the reaction of BBC Scotland. Having bent over backwards for months in its
attempt to steer some kind of middle road on the independence debate, it
plumbed astonishing new depths yesterday.
“President Obama has made some comments on Scottish independence,” said the
newsreader on its 4pm radio bulletin. Really? Or how about this, 30 minutes
later: “ The president has been making remarks about independence.” They
were getting really brave by the 5pm bulletins: “The president has been
asked about Scottish independence,” was their headline.
We can’t really blame those who read out this sort of guff; somebody probably
wrote it for them. But this is a humiliating way for a supposed national
broadcaster to handle a huge breaking story.
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