Scotland's First Minister, and leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond
Scotland's First Minister, and leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond

Scottish independence has come to the forefront of politics thanks to the election of a majority Scottish National Party government to the Scottish Parliament last Thursday.

Sadly many commentators chose to focus on the massacre of Lib Dem councillors and the abject failure of the "Yes to AV" campaign, rather than the more important events unfolding in Scotland.

At any other time the (deserved) destruction of Lib Demmery would rightly have been the main story of the day as it could have a strong impact on the workings of the coalition government, with some even saying (perhaps hoping is a more accurate description) that it could lead to the breakup of the coalition.

The breakup of the coalition and the general election that would follow it, while important, pales into insignificance when compared with the possibility of the breakup of the United Kingdom, which is now a real possibility. New governments can be elected easily enough, broken realms are not so easy to reunite.

Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP and First Minister of Scotland, has indicated that a referendum on Scottish independence will be held towards the latter part of the new Scottish Parliament's term, meaning that this decade could see the secession of Scotland from the Union.

What, however, would an independent Scotland mean for the rest of the United Kingdom?

Well first of all we could no longer call it the United Kingdom, or at least not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to give our state its full title.

Scotland is of course included with England and Wales under the geographical term "Great Britain". In a sense a vote for Scottish independence would lead to the creation of not one new country, but two.

Despite this, the constitutional issues would be much messier for an independent Scotland than for the remnants of the United Kingdom.

Would independence mean a reversion to the Kingdom of Scotland, which would see Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II become Elizabeth I of Scotland, or world Scotland become a republic headed by President Salmond?

Would Scotland also keep the pound or would it join the euro (assuming the single currency is still around in five years time)?, and if it did would the rest of the United Kingdom be liable to bail it out should the need arise? (We already know the answer to that).

Who would defend Mr Salmond's new nation? Would Britain's armed forces be partitioned along with the nation itself and who would get HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales?, the famed unfinished aircraft carriers that are currently being built in locations ranging from Porstmouth to the Firth of Forth and will not enter service for nearly a decade.

Then there are all the other government offices, like the call centres of Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, which are located in Scotland, but serve the whole United Kingdom. What would happen to these?

Politically an independent Scotland would probably be much as it is now: a two party system dominated by the SNP and by the Scottish Labour Party.

However a Scotland-free United Kingdom would be rather different. Paradoxically the Conservative Party, which always trumpets its commitment to the Union loudest, actually stands with the most gain if Scotland ever left that Union.

An independent Scotland would mean (under current arrangements) 59 less seats in the House of Commons. At the 2010 election 41 of these seats went to Labour and only one to the Tories, while 11 returned Lib Dems. The majority needed to form a one-party government would also be reduced to 301.

Had Scotland been independent at the time of last year's election, there would be no coalition in Westminster but a Tory majority government, a prospect which no doubt matters a great deal to many people one way or the other.

Having said that, Scottish independence would have made no difference to the election results in 2005, 2001 and 1997, although it might have kept high profile Scottish Labour ministers (like Mr G. Brown and Mr A. Darling) out of the House of Commons.

Scottish independence would have one political benefit at least, in that it would finally solve the "West Lothian Question". Since devolution became a reality in 1999 it has been pointed out that Scottish MPs in Westminster are able to vote on issues have no impact on their Scottish constituents but have considerable impact on English constituents.

While for long this remained a theoretical injustice, it became a real one in 2004 when the government of Anthony Blair introduced university top up fees, getting it through the Commons with a majority of just five. Scottish MP's were seen to have helped to massively increase the cost of a university education for English students, while Scottish students continued to get free degrees.

There is no doubt that an independent Scotland would solve few problems and create many new ones. However it cannot be denied that many people in Scotland and England actively desire the separation, the latter mainly because of some of the injustices posed by the West Lothian Question.

The Scots meanwhile appear to want to break up a successful centuries old union because they increasingly feel that politicians in Westminster do not take into account their needs or run the country as they wish it to be run.

Well one cannot argue with that but the same could also be said by constituents in London, Manchester, Newcastle, Cardiff, Belfast or any other part of the country. Sadly for the people of those cities they cannot use the excuse of being a nation as a way of freeing themselves from a political class which seems to excel in breaking promises and ignoring the wishes of the electorate.

In this sense the rise of the SNP is not only a testimony to the success and skills of Mr Salmond, it is also a testimony to the failure of politicians to represent and serve the people who elect them.