Local and regional elections earlier this month reveal a growing state of political disunion across the United Kingdom. Devolution for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the late 1990s pulled Britain's peripheries away from its English core. But even in England politics is becoming more fractious, with campaigning for the June 23 referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union deepening schisms.
The left-right dichotomy that defined British politics in the 20th century does not fit the conditions of the current millennium. The very composition of the country is in contention. In this month's regional elections, political parties committed to leaving the U.K. but remaining within the EU won strong support in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Independence is becoming the key cleavage in Scottish politics. On May 5, the pro-independence Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) took 63 of the 129 seats in the Edinburgh Parliament. The Labour Party, once the dominant force in Scottish politics, came in third with a mere 24 seats, down 13 from the last election in 2011.