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If Scotland leaves, what name should we give to the remaining nation?

13 February 2014

Last week, David Cameron said that we have ‘seven months to save the most extraordinary country in history’. He meant the United Kingdom. It was a powerful speech, part of a welcome and overdue campaign to make us all think about what is at stake in the referendum on Scottish independence. It seems strange to argue that the loss of less than 10 per cent of the population would bring this country to an end, and yet I do really suspect it might be so. Mr Cameron did not touch on the question of what the nation, minus Scotland, might be called, perhaps because he does not know and is fearful of making plans for such an eventuality. But the difficulty of getting the right name is a fascinating emblem of the depth of the problem. It could not, obviously, be called the United Kingdom, since that name derives from the union of the two which would be dissevered by a Yes vote. Nor could it be Great Britain, since a physically large chunk would have left. It could not be ‘Little Britain’ — which is spoken for — or even ‘South Britain’. It cannot be called ‘England, Wales and Northern Ireland’, since that is too long, and misrepresents the component parts as being equivalent entities. Nor, however, could it be just ‘England’, because of the insult to Northern Ireland and Wales. There simply isn’t an answer. What sort of a country is nameless?

This is an extract from The Spectator magazine, dated

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  • mike

    “It could not, obviously, be called the United Kingdom”

    I have seen this on a few websites arguing that it was Scotland and England that formed the union or that Wales and Northern Ireland are not kingdoms…

    Firstly, England and Scotland formed the union of Great Britain. It wasn’t until 93 years later that the term “United Kingdom” was used when Ireland was added.

    Secondly, Wales and Northern Ireland may not be kingdoms but then the UK is singular not plural. It is the United Kingdom of… not the United Kingdoms of…

    Therefore should Scotland leave then I suggest we become…

    The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • Mark

    Why does it matter that Wales and Northern Ireland are/were not “Kingdoms”??

    The name isn’t “The United Kingdoms” in the plural. It’s “the United Kingdom” because it is one kingdom. You don’t need two or more of the constituent countries to be Kingdoms to continue to call it “The United Kingdom (of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland)”

    If it was “The United Kingdoms of England and Scotland (plus Wales and Northern Ireland thrown in)” then what you say would make sense. But since it is the United Kingdom singular…all that matters it that it is a) united, or possibly the union of SOME constituent divisions of some sort, and b) a Kingdom (which it will remain).

    United Kingdom does-not-necessarily-imply united kingdoms. It could just mean a Kingdom which is a union of a kingdom, a principality, and six counties.

  • Nigel Scholey

    Geographically, Great Britain is the land mass that comprises England, Scotland and Wales. If Scotland becomes independent, England and Wales will represent the larger part of the land mass and should therefore be referred to as Greater Britain with Scotland becoming Lesser Britain. The remaining country, excluding Scotland, should then be referred to as The United Kingdom of Greater Britain and Northern Ireland

  • F C

    The United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland. (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)

    The ‘Great’ bit in Great Britain referred to Scotland so just remove it. Keep the United Kingdom – the associations (dare I say brand name?) are just too well established.

    Northern Ireland is a historical residue of the Kingdom of Ireland and if it is felt necessary to have another kingdom in the United Kingdom that will suffice.

    A good historical example might be the United Kingdom of the Netherlands (1815–1839) which was the unofficial name used to refer to the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the period before Belgium split off.

    This state, a large part of which still exists today as the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was made up of the former Dutch Republic, the former Austrian Netherlands to the south (now Belgium), and the former Prince-Bishopric of Liège.



  • Meredith Robertson

    The Divided Kingdom of Lesser Britain and Northern Ireland?

  • Joshua Holmes

    When the Republic of Ireland left, the UK of GB&I changed to the UK of GB&NI. If Scotland leaves, change it to the UK of EW&NI. Since there is only one kingdom now, including “Wales” shouldn’t imply that Wales is a kingdom; there is no King of Northern Ireland, after all. “United Kingdom of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland” is clunky but charming, perfectly suited for a Parliament spanning 2.5 nations and a hereditary head of state.

  • Tales

    United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or United Kingdom of South Britain and Northern Ireland

  • Sam

    Why not the United Kingdom of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland?

  • Ryan McShane

    the United Kingdom or just the UK is a country consisting of 4 nations at the moment
    England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland!! i personally think we should all stay together it would be better in so many different ways !! even the Irish Catholics in Northern Ireland are starting to accept the UK. everything is at piece now and shouldn’t be disrupted !! me as a Northern Ireland man can be very disappointed sometimes when a lot of people don’t consider NI to be any part of the UK well it is definitely. i live on the island of Ireland and i can see so many differences between the ROI and NI if you go to the two of them !! you will definitely know when you come to NI that your in the United Kingdom !! and when you go to the ROI you will sense the Irishness.. I love this union and this country of nations and i wish it to remain that way !!! i think if Scotland left the UK which is probably unlikely but if it did i would call this Country THE UNITED KINGDOM OF ENGLAND, WALES AND NORTHERN IRELAND !! it means that there isn’t a big confusion !! #team UK

  • Richard James

    Britannia Superior, as it was in the third century.

  • Seán Rickard

    British Republic. Oh if only.

  • Welsh not British

    So much ignorance, so little time. For the benefit of all the morons on here who incorrectly claim that Wales is a principality (despite the fact we do not even have a prince let alone are not ruled by one).

  • errea

    Former United Kingdom / Rump United Kingdom ?
    You can still use British in the same way Danes are Scandinavian…

  • James Folgate

    I think England should vote on declaring independence from the UK.

  • Jabez Foodbotham

    Great London?

  • Golben Amduke

    Fortunately Croft-Free United Kingdom

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