In the darkest days of our nation’s history, when Britain confronted the Nazi menace alone and the United Kingdom was all that stood between the free world and fascism, a series of daily concerts were held at the mothballed National Gallery in London’s Trafalgar Square. These concerts, organised by the pianist Myra Hess, served to lift the spirits of war-weary Brits and demonstrate a positive public response in the face of the most trying circumstances.
Trafalgar Square has played host to many rallies, concerts and protests since those bleak days in the 1940s. But there have been none so important as the rally which is scheduled to take place later today, on Monday 15 September in support of the United Kingdom, and in opposition to a “Yes” vote in the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence.
The circumstances of the new existential threat we face may be quite different, but make no mistake: the survival of our country in its current form has not been at such great a risk since Hitler’s Luftwaffe threatened to clear the way for a German invasion.
A democratic, peacetime split may is clearly not the same as invasion by a foreign power, but it would be traumatic in its own way. No, there will not be an occupying army or columns of tanks on the street if the Scottish people decide to secede from the United Kingdom when they go to the polls on the 18th of September. As following a bereavement or divorce, life at its most banal will continue largely as usual. But something precious will have been lost, something irretrievable. The greatest, most successful country in modern history will have ceased to exist, fractured into a small, euro-centric social democracy to the north and a bewildered, diminished rump to the south.