The Scottish nationalists seek to end the United Kingdom after 300 years of a successful union. Their drive for an independent Scotland is now nearer to success than it has ever been.
Success would mean a diminished Britain and a perilously insecure Scotland. The nationalists have represented the three centuries of union with England as a malign and damaging association for Scotland. The European Union is held out as an alternative and a safeguard for Scotland's future. But the siren call of secession would lure Scotland into a state of radical instability, disrupting ties of work, commerce and kinship and impoverishing the economy. All this with no guarantee of growth in an EU now struggling with a downturn in most of its states and the increasing disaffection of many of its members.
In this incisive and controversial book, journalist John Lloyd cuts through the rhetoric to show that the economic plans of the Scottish National Party are deeply unrealistic; the loss of a subsidy of as much as £10 billion a year from the Treasury would mean large-scale cuts, much deeper than those effected by Westminster; the broadly equal provision of health, social services, education and pensions across the UK would cease, leaving Scotland with the need to recreate many of these systems on its own; and the claim that Scotland would join the most successful of the world's small states - as Denmark, New Zealand and Norway - is no more than an aspiration with little prospect of success.
The alternative to independence is clear: a strong devolution settlement and a joint reform of the British union to modernise the UK's age-old structures, reduce the centralisation of power and boost the ability of all Britain's nations and regions to support and unleash their creative and productive potential. Scotland has remained a nation in union with three other nations - England, Northern Ireland and Wales. It will continue as one, more securely in a familiar companionship.