The Crises - Part Three. The vexed question of Scottish independence wasn't decided by the referendum of 2014: Far from it. Despite the narrow vote in favour of remaining part of the United Kingdom there remained a large, disaffected minority who felt London and the unionists had skewed the debate by fearmongering; aided by the overbearing, partisan coverage from the BBC; as well as a duplicitous promise of greater automony as a reward for voting No, and this in addition to seeding the ground in advance of the vote with a proportionately larger share of public spending grants in an attempt to bolster pro-unionist opinion than would have otherwise been the case had there not been a separatist campaign.
After the 2015 general election resulted in another austerity government the nationalist campaign was reignited when the new Westminster administration renegued on the promised devolution, and as part of yet another round of cutbacks clawed back much of the 'over generous' financial settlement they had earlier awarded to Scotland. The Scottish people, realising they'd been duped, took out their dissatisfaction on both the unionist parties and the established independence movement, which had by then splintered into squabbling factionalism. The unionists both in Edinburgh and London watched with wry amusement but events soon wiped the smirks from their faces.
A renewed and far more militant secessionist movement arose from the ashes; it was determined to win at any cost. Adopting the strategy of the IRA - the gun and bomb in one hand, and the ballot box in the other - it embarked on a dual campaign of political agitation and low-level terrorism. They were careful enough not to get caught most of the time; and as the new wave of vindictive social policies bit ever more deeply, their political wing gained support.
Rather than plead for the Westminster government to hold another referendum - which they never would, having had one so recently and considering the matter to have been decided for good - the Pairtidh Nodha Alba organised a grassroots plebiscite of their own. The mainstream unionists and nationalists urged a boycott of the vote, but still a sizeable proportion of the electorate participated. Again the result was a almost evenly divided impasse.
The unionists claimed the referendum was irrelevant; its organisation flawed, and counting suspect. Even so it was verified by an independent supervisory body composed of international observers that 45% of the self-selected electorate had voted for independence; 48% against; with the remaining 7% spoiling their ballots in protest at the behest of some unionist organisations. Despite the result it appeared the secessionist movement had stalled; there seemed to be no way of making any further progress. Barring an unexpected development it seemed things would remain as they were for the foreseeable future.
As with much recent history the exact details of how it happened are either suppressed or will remain untold. What we do know is some of the more extreme elements of the new nationalist leadership were introduced to people who could 'arrange' for their ideal to be made a reality.
Whether the NuNats realised they were knowingly dealing with the representatives of an opportunistic alliance of organised international criminals, aided by the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea, or were naive dupes is open to question. But whatever their motives they were made - and accepted - an offer they couldn't refuse.
As a result of the agreement the unobtrusive preparations began. Not every container entering the UK could be checked and searched; and if drugs and people could be so easily trafficked, then so could the weaponry and personnel needed for a seizure of power. Even with the latest 'security' features embedded in passports there were many easy ways to get hold of valid travel documents; and with more ethnic Chinese people entering the UK to study, or on business, it was easy for the North Korean special forces and soldiers of fortune from around the world to infiltrate unnoticed.
With law and order unravelling in the UK just before the Secession there were plenty of 'security contractors' entering on short-term work visas, and as they were in such demand applications for such visas were fast-tracked with little scrutiny paid to them. Those people whose skills were deemed essential for the operation but considered too much of a risk to use conventional transport and means of entry to the UK were smuggled in by other means.
In any case the law enforcement and intelligence services had their hands full coping with our own little local difficulty. The long-postponed class war had finally erupted.
The latest in the seemingly never ending round of social security cuts had pushed some sections of the sullen underclass beyond their breaking point. Faced with a hopeless future with nothing but indefinite privation and mistreatment to look forward to, desperate people finding themselves under attack by their own government were driven to perform desperate acts in self-defence.
Their seething anger could no longer be contained and erupted on to the streets, but in addition to the usual rioting they realised they had to think beyond disorganised looting in their struggle to survive. There was no point in assembling in large groups and providing easy targets for kettling, mass arrests, tear gas, water cannon or baton rounds. Instead, dispersed but acting coherently, they would take active measures to combat those organisations which were making their lives hell.
The Job Centres were the first targets on their lists. For too long they had regarded unemployed people as state chattels, to be forced to run non-stop in hamster wheels of conditionality, and bullied under the threat of benefit sanctions into ever more onerous activities just to continue to receive what they were rightfully entitled to.
Sick of being society's scapegoats to be objectified for continual official harassment; having their noses regularly rubbed in the dirt because it amused the multi-millionaire ruling class to see them abused, the jobless, being the most adversely affected, struck back with the greatest force against their tormenters. The administrative systems used by the DWP to bear down on their subjects came under concerted frazzling attacks, and the Job Centres were torched; as happened to the premises of any organisations who collaborated with the degrading 'work for your dole' forced labour schemes that the government were still intent on trying to impose on the long-term unemployed.
Soon to follow were the housing associations when they complied with court eviction orders which imposed homelessness as a collective punishment on the families of convicted rioters. The courts, local authorities, and anyone associated with them were fair game; but they remained for the most part secure behind sandbagged emplacements and constant patrols. Instead the insurgents targeted those they could more easily reach: The local authority enforcement officers, community police and wardens; bailiffs, social workers, employees of the private companies that made random alcohol and drug tests on benefit claimants, or monitored the electronic tags fitted to them so their movements could be checked: Anyone who represented Them and who needed to work in the field became an endangered species; only able to travel and work under guard, subject to the constant threat of attack, their school age children at risk of being bullied and beaten-up by their fellow pupils.
Then the mobs directed their anger against the medical examination companies involved in harassing disabled people off benefit by moving the goal posts as to how their disability was assessed. After their evaluation centres were ransacked and threats made against their staff, the leading company involved suspended its contract with the government until it was given assurances about its security: Assurances that the government and a stretched to breaking point police force had a difficult time guaranteeing.
No matter how well their buildings were guarded the people who worked in them couldn't be shadowed all of the time. Their protection was stretched even more thinly when they were away from work, and so they became the targets of intimidation and severe assaults. Despite the extra private security personnel deployed to protect them, the staff involved in the persecution of the poor lived with the ever-present fear of molotov cocktail attacks on their homes; drive-by shootings; even kidnapping, kneecapping or mutilation of themselves and family members. If you were on the wrong side of the class war, it could come right to your door and become unpleasantly personal. You too might find yourself experiencing the realities of living with a permanent, life-changing disability: Something a middle-market tabloid columnist discovered to her cost.
For many years Lois Merck's snide sniping had inflamed resentment against the disadvantaged sections of society. Her payback came late one night soon after the publication of one of her most outspoken columns yet; in which she accused disabled people of hamming it up at their medical assessments. She alleged they were making too much of an issue of their handicaps; and claimed with the right attitude anything could be overcome. She was soon to put her beliefs to a practical test.
After tracing her address a masked group burst into her home, shooting and seriously injuring her husband when he tried to resist them, then silencing her screaming with a jaw-breaking punch. She was thrown face down on her bed, her flailing limbs held fast by strong arms, before particular care was taken to pound a hatchet blade with a lump hammer deep into her lower back. Her legs stopped thrashing for good when her spinal cord was severed; permanently paralysing her lower body. The raiders disappeared back into the night as quickly as they had come taking nothing else except her ability. This was the first publicly acknowledged instance of a 'flidding'. Soon these attacks would become far more common.
It was an indication of how divided the nation had become that while many people were appalled by the attack, just as many thought the bitch had got what she deserved. The incident marked the end of her journalistic career; she was too traumatised to write another column.
Failed by a political establishment who regarded them as only a 'problem' that needed to be dealt with harshly and a drain on society; the poor sought their protection and alternative forms of social security from an unlikely coalition of street gangs, anarchist groups, and the criminal underworld. Together they set about 'liberating' first the ghetto estates, and then other areas of the inner cities from the heavy hand of the authorities. They dismantled state control by vandalising as many of the CCTV cameras that they were able to get at, and remotely frazzling the surveillance networks or drones that they couldn't physically reach; then they saw off any police patrols who dared to enter their domain. What had initially began as a slow-burning, sporadic insurgency spread and gathered momentum, claiming more areas as its own. People of all races and religions put aside their differences for the moment and united against a state which had declared war against them.
Though there was no organised revolutionary leadership the disparate groups were united by a common belief that the government had gone too far; and believing that none of the existing political parties offered any hope, they would have to stop waiting for a change for the better which would never come. Instead they would rip power from the state's grasp and make it their own. From now on any area they could control would become the peoples' space; subject to their law, their order, their form of social support. Their patience had snapped, the line had been crossed, and things would never be the same again because they'd had enough. Enough of ineffectual protests; enough of being ignored by the corrupt politicians who were supposed to represent them; enough of being demonised; enough of being treated like the scum of the earth: They were never going to endure it again. The government had done fuck-all for them apart from fucking them over so it could go and fuck itself.
The North Korean backers of the NuNat coup delighted in providing aid to the seditious groups; they would be a useful diversion, and preoccupy forces which London might otherwise deploy against them.
Emboldened by their initial successes the insurgents sallied forth from their home areas and out onto the offensive. Special units raided the modern workhouses in which 'problem' families had been incarcerated; freeing the inmates, leaving the institutions burning and the guards grievously beaten. Prisons though proved harder to break into.
Then they spread terror through the wealthier suburbs, where those who planned, supported, and profited from the War Against The Poor were most likely to be found. Pursued with the same determination they applied in persecuting their quarry, the wealthy found themselves subject to revenge attacks of robbery and arson. Sometimes there was no motive; just flaunting your affluence in the face of mass poverty was reason enough.
In response the richer neighbourhoods organised themselves into defensive vigilante groups. They set up roadblocks, bought more physical security products and hired more guards. Though with security in such high demand the costs spiraled, and the quality of the personnel available began to fall. When push came to shove many of them just weren't up to the job.
The right-wing vigilante militias which sprang up in response to the revolution offered their services for hire and did well for a time. Then they became overconfident and decided to take the fight to their enemy. It was a mistake they only made twice; each time suffering heavy losses. Instead they reverted to snatching and 'disappearing' the occasional suspected rebel, and were repaid by the insurgents in the same coin. The police and army knew full well what was going on, but turned a blind eye.
The situation steadily deteriorated. Despite the locally declared States of Emergency and Martial Law; the preventive arrests and indefinite internment without charge; in spite of the limited Military Assistance to the Civil Power rendered by the army in the worst trouble spots the UK seemed set to follow the inexorable road to a balkanized civil war and indefinite misery which so many other nations had travelled before. While there were continuing calls for a declaration of a nationwide State of Emergency and an intensification of the repressive powers available, the government was reluctant to act; fearing it would be a public admission of their incompetence in preventing the social breakdown; and the final nudge down the irreversible slide into total anarchy.
As politicians claimed they were making steady progress in re-establishing the rule of law, flash mobs robbed and burned supermarkets, banks, building societies, bookmakers, and moneylenders. Then they retrieved their own or someone else's pledges from the predatory high street pawnbrokers, before vanishing as quickly as they arrived: They were long gone before the struggling police had any hope of responding.
In any case the police had enough on their plate defending their stations when they came under sustained attack: First with petrol bombs, then with guns and grenades, finally with car bombs and home-made mortars. They were forced to patrol in fours for their own safety, armed with 'less lethal' weapons; then fully armed in armoured vehicles.
When a low-flying police helicopter was shot down by sniper fire; killing all on board, it was reluctantly accepted that every military resource available had to be mobilised in an all-out effort to deal with the insurgency once and for all; the last available units of the overstretched army were withdrawn from their 'peacekeeping' mission to support the Pakistani government and returned home for 'public order' duties.
But the tactics which had stalemated them in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan followed them home. Every wannabe urban guerrilla knew how to successfully drain the resolve of an occupying force, bit by bit, until it was exhausted. The army could conduct joint patrols with the police, and for a while impose its control upon an area with lockdowns, checkpoints and raids. But the control came at a heavy human and material cost to all sides in the conflict. The military couldn't address or resolve the underlying reasons for the conflict; only impose a temporary brutal pause.
Even that couldn't last. The insurgents were smart and flexible, changing their targets and campaigns. They became fluid and savvy to the counter-insurgency methods used against them: They were difficult to catch; hardened, trained and experienced. They didn't fall into the trap of defending limited areas which could be blockaded into submission by cutting off food, water and power supplies: Instead their invisible control ebbed and flowed with the ever-changing situation on the streets. A martial lid may have been clamped on to the ongoing civil war but despite the harsh emergency measures the insurgency still simmered and constantly threatened to blow out of control.
With their hands full just coping with the English insurgency it was understandable how the intelligence services missed the preparations for the Scottish secession, especially as it was organised so professionally. If anyone thought about Scotland it was with relief that the class war hadn't taken hold there to the same extent it had in the rest of England and Wales. Things had calmed there for the moment; perhaps the NuNats had realised they could never hope to win and given up on or at least suspended their campaign for the time being.
We'll probably never know if anyone wondered if it was too damn quiet, or for how long the relative calm could continue. If only the spooks hadn't wasted their time and resources in the past regarding innocent people and peaceful protesters as potential threats to national security; if only they hadn't been so overwhelmed just coping with the English insurgency, someone could have conducted a more thorough investigation into the ways the English rebels were being supplied with their materiel.
They might have considered more carefully who it was arming the insurgents, and what they stood to gain by doing so, rather than getting sidetracked into reactive fire fighting. They might even have struck lucky and by chance discovered the arms pipeline from Scotland, and followed that thread back to its source. But they didn't. They missed the greatest ever threat to national security and even if they had understood what was about to happen it may have been too late to stop the inevitable.