Across the pond, an election with surprising results has stirred the winds of change blowing through Europe.
Held last week, Britain’s federal elections were forecast to be a tight race between the incumbent Conservative Party and the Labour Party, with the Scottish National Party a distant third.
The reasons for this were manifold and largely rested on an apparent dissatisfaction with the direction the United Kingdom was headed under Tory leadership.
Concerns over spying, international relations and economic issues seemed to cast the success of the Conservative Party into doubt.
However, the results that emerged late Thursday in exit polls and in official announcements challenged previous expectations.
The Conservative Party, headed by incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron (pictured right) trounced the Labour Party, earning 331 out of the 650 seats in Parliament.
In comparison the Labour Party, which came in second, garnered only 232 and the Scottish National Party a mere 56.
An immediate result of this thrashing was the resignation of three opposition party leaders, including the leader of the Labour Party.
This election cycle is a particularly important one, and its importance has only been exaggerated by the Conservative Party’s victory.
David Cameron now has two major issues to contend with as he retains the position of Prime Minister: Britain’s relationship with the EU and Scotland’s relationship with Britain.
These questions are highly interrelated, and the answer to one will very likely decide the answer to the other.
Britain’s relationship, or lack thereof, with the EU will probably be the first to surface during Cameron’s leadership.
The issue stems from increasing skepticism from British nationals regard Britain’s involvement in the EU. They see the EU as dragging Britain down.
These so-called Euroskeptics argue that leaving the EU will allow Britain much more leeway in reformatting its economy.
The Euroskeptics blame membership in the EU in part for the past five or so years of recession, citing easy immigration, combined healthcare and weaker economic power.
They hope that by disengaging from the Eurozone, Britain will be able to make stronger economic deals and reduce spending on benefits and healthcare.
The majority of Euroskeptics are hard-line Conservatives, and this puts Cameron in a delicate position.
In his campaign for the Conservative Party, Cameron promised to hold a referendum on the topic of whether Britain should remain in the EU by 2017, and his hard-line backers will hold him to it.
This means that Cameron has, at most, two years to determine Britain’s place in the EU. If he hopes to find a balance, he’ll have to find a way to get concessions from the EU while still appeasing Euroskeptics at home.
Meanwhile the EU is just short of desperate to keep Britain as a member.
In particular, economically similar Germany has relied on Britain as an ally in pushing fiscally conservative measures through the EU and preventing more liberally spending countries from increasing budgets.
Without Britain, Germany will be fighting a losing fight to keep the Eurozone fiscally conservative.
France, though it opposes Britain’s economic stance, also desires to keep Britain in the EU and will try to work with Germany to decide what accommodations the EU is willing to make to retain Britain’s membership.
Cameron also has to contend with increasing Scottish dissatisfaction and the possibility of another Scottish referendum on leaving the UK.
Whether a referendum will be held depends largely on the results of the upcoming debate over whether Britain remains in the EU.
The vast majority of Scottish voters are in favor of maintaining, or even strengthening, ties with the EU.
If the EU referendum passes, or if Britain cuts too many ties with the EU, it’s likely that Scotland will call a referendum.
If it does, no one could predict how it will go. Depending on the situation at the time, there could easily be enough Scottish discontent to push pro-separation voters into the majority, up only six percent from the referendum last year.
In addition to EU troubles, Scottish voters are increasingly dissatisfied with their lack of political clout in Parliament.
Despite the vast majority of Scottish voting for the pro-independence Scottish National Party, the party only won 56 seats.
Compounding the issue is increasing English nationalism, and a growing sentiment that England should be more free to govern itself, without the influence of Scottish pressure.
Many of those who follow this view are also Conservatives, and depending on how relations with the EU develop and the direction the economy goes, may pressure Cameron to let Scotland go.
Britain’s future is at a particularly volatile place, and the next five years are crucial.
In an ideal world, Cameron would be able to come to some accord with the EU powers, keeping the UK in the Eurozone while simultaneously appeasing his Conservative hecklers.
This would, in turn, pacify the Scottish, thus avoiding a separation referendum.
Whether this is even possible is up for question, and is looking increasingly unlikely as German and France begin drawing a red line for EU negotiations and Conservatives increase their anti-EU demands.