Is Scotland the next Northern Ireland? A boy burns a tyre in the 1980s, during the Northern Ireland conflict. Photograph by Bobbie Hanvey/Burns Library, Boston College.

Author: William Clarke.

With apologies to Slate’s If It Happened There series.

The United Kingdom’s (UK) capital, London, is a city of stark contrasts, where wealthy expatriates and a few home grown billionaires, rub shoulders with the numerous poor, who flock from across the country to make their fortune in the metropolis. However, despite the riots that regularly tear across this sprawling city, there is little sign of ethnic unrest, deep in the heartlands of the English peoples.

The same cannot be said hundreds of miles to the north, where a growing political movement is demanding independence for the Scottish tribe. This would be the first time that borders have changed in Western Europe for half a century, and would represent a severe blow to the southern tribes, who depend on the mineral wealth of the Scottish homeland.

The Scottish have long had a strong presence in this island nation. Local legends describe a Scottish chieftain called James seizing the English throne, which doubtless explains the antipathy between the two groups today. The last two premiers of the UK, Brown Gordon and Anthony Tony Lynton Blair, were both of Scottish background, and depended on support from Scottish voters to retain their grip on power. However, current Premier Dave Mister Cameron is considered English, despite his ethnically Scottish name.

Now, a growing separatist movement, led by the charismatic demagogue Salmon Alexander seeks to change the status quo. Tensions have bubbled up, and though no violence has yet been observed, concerns are growing. Given that the army is divided on tribal lines, with ethnically Scottish and English regiments, the possibility of civil war cannot be ruled out.

The eventual dissolution of the United Kingdom seems inevitable. The whole county is only a few hundred years old, its borders drawn around a collection of countries and dependencies with no historical ties to one another. Many in the Ulster region are of the Irish ethnic group and declare their loyalty to the Republic of Ireland, and the historically subjugated Welsh people have made repeated attempts to declare independence. However, despite the arbitrary nature of the state and its borders, some still declare loyalty to this accident of history. Though without oil reserves, the moribund United Kingdom economy may struggle to support itself. The English leadership may not be ready to relinquish its grip on the Scottish homelands just yet.