I WONDER how many “Brits” have fully ingested the after-effects of last week’s local elections, and those nationally in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Not as many as political leaders in this parish would have hoped, as a significant number of my fellow Boltonians couldn’t be bothered to get off their backsides and vote. I find that extremely irritating as it is daft to deliberately avoid voting, and therefore having a say in one’s own destiny, when so many people are dying on the streets of countries in the Middle East as they protest against being denied the right to vote.

Apart from the savage beating suffered by the Liberal Democrats, a direct result of their supporters being disillusioned by its subordinate role in the Tory-led Coalition, and accusations of “broken promises”, particularly over tuition fees, the most striking result was that involving the Scottish Nationalist Party.

Led by the charismatic Alex Salmond, the SNP recorded the best result in its history, sweeping back to power with 69 of the Scottish Parliament’s 129 seats and gaining the first majority for any party since devolution 12 years ago.

Like it or lump it, and David Cameron is firmly in the latter camp, this opens the door for the break-up of Britain. Mr Salmond, as transparently nationalistic as any human could be, is determined to give fellow Scots the opportunity to secede from the United Kingdom by holding a referendum during his five-year term in power.

We all have views on how that vote will go, well those of us still capable of positive thought. Using my Scottish friends and former work colleagues as a barometer, I would unquestionably come down on the side of secession. Most Scots, with whom I have shared air space during 60 years as a journalist, have been blinkered to the point of lunacy, openly supporting teams in any sport where England was the opposition, proudly announcing they had crossed the border solely to nick our top jobs and best-looking women, and claiming, with justification it has to be conceded, that were Sir Alex Ferguson manager of the England football team, its players would be capable of dominating something other than tabloid pages.

It is only when I suggest they might seriously consider a move back “hame” once independence is declared that a cloud of doubt descends. Mr Salmond’s intention to implement minimum pricing for alcohol, and I think he means upwards rather than down, to combat his country’s drink-related health problems, could diminish enthusiasm for a return. Customs officers at border crossings would look unkindly on attempts to smuggle cheap grog from England into “Free Scotland”.

But then independence will come at a price.