Friday, July 25, 2008

A double scotch for the prime minister?

I have written recently about the dynamics of by-elections to fill vacancies in the British House of Commons. Yesterday, there was another one, with a result similar to other recent by-elections: bad news for the governing Labor Party.

In Scotland, in the constituency of Glasgow East, the Scottish National Party (SNP) won a seat that had historically been considered safe for Labor.

There are separate parties in the constituent countries of the United Kingdom other than England, being Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Those parties have varying attitudes about being part of the U.K.

According to the SNP's website, "the primary aim of the SNP is to take Scotland forward to independence."

The U.K. created a separate Scottish Parliament in 1999. Scotland is still largely governed from London, but its own Parliament has limited powers within Scotland. The SNP is currently the largest party in the Scottish Parliament, but lacks an overall majority.

There is a trend in Europe toward the breakup of states that include multiple nationalities. Among the formerly Marxist-Leninist countries of central and eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia have split into separate national units.

So far, this has not happened in western Europe, but there is pressure to split Belgium into separate states of Flanders and Wallonia. And the nationalist parties in the U.K. have similar aspirations.

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