Ross Douthat reflects on the likelihood of the dissolution of the U.K.:

I don’t know if these points taken together make disunion more likely than not; perhaps they still leave the odds somewhat in favor of the union jack. But they at least make the case that the U.K. will remain deeply vulnerable to a break-up, especially in whatever unforeseen crises may eventually arise, until it finds a leader or a party capable of making a stronger case for union than the one being offered at the moment [bold mine-DL].

It’s possible that the union will “hang on” for a while yet, but I’m not sure that there is a “stronger case” for it that would prevent its dissolution indefinitely. There isn’t going to be a leader or party to make that case because the “stronger case” doesn’t exist. Unionists were forced to make their case for keeping the union intact last year, and the best they could come up with was a mish-mash of uninspired utilitarian arguments and generic appeals to great moments in British history. The ‘No’ campaign prevailed last year, but it did so because of the disproportionate support of older voters for whom the latter still held real meaning. But many younger voters don’t recognize the union to which their elders remain attached, and most of them don’t seem to have the same affection for it.

One problem for many committed unionists is that what they think makes the union so valuable has little or no meaning to the people that are willing to let it end. While some unionists may see “the United Kingdom’s world-bestriding past” (to use Douthat’s phrase) as something to celebrate, this is irrelevant or off-putting to the people that need to be persuaded the most. More to the point, there are very few enthusiastic unionists in the first place, and almost all of the energy and mobilization in the months since the last referendum has been to the benefit of separatists. If the union doesn’t “hang on,” it will be because so few people nominally supportive of it were interested in working to preserve it.

Advertisement