Once there were Nine Nations which together occupied two islands close to a much larger landmass. The largest island was divided into eight nations, some with long histories of separation and conquest. All of the nations had also experienced invasion from overseas and ceaseless immigration, because these islands were fairly warm, often rain and wind swept but basically beautiful and also fertile, with only a sufficiency of mountain and unproductive moorland. And there were sheep and pigs and cows and cats and dogs and even a few horses, as well as an amazing variety of wildlife for those who had the time to notice. But mostly there were people, living in communities of various sizes throughout the islands and it was this which had brought about some major boundary changes in the two islands and how the nations were administered within an overall kingdom.
Of course there had been various older historic boundaries within the islands, but few of them had been making much sense in serving the needs of the population, resolving their problems and allowing for their differences – and there were many differences. There were very longstanding differences of identity dividing northerners from southerners, newcomers from older inhabitants, young from old. To add to the difficulties, these were times of rapid change, obscene contrast between rich and poor, considerable corruption and a big increase in major problems like organised crime, slavery and longevity, all putting a massive burden on administrators. The islands remained prosperous, but many of its peoples were badly disadvantaged, in spite of a centuries old democracy, well developed legal system and a well meaning monarchy.
Having once accepted that some rethinking was required, activists began to lobby for a more logical division of the islands and also for major changes in the powers and importance of the existing capital cities and centres of government. But which criteria to use and how did they arrive at the concept of the nine nations? Naturally this all became the subject of a Great Debate.
This was only made possible because the islands had recently retired, somewhat defeated, from a close Alliance with the neighbouring landmass. In spite of constant promises, it had become clear to most regions of the two islands that their future, as an unimportant part of a much larger, undemocratic Bureaucracy, was not working to their personal advantage. It had resulted only in a big increase in the gap between rich and poor, the proliferation of subsidies and regulations, loss of whole industries, and the retention of others only until workers in other parts of the expanding Bureaucratic Union became skilled enough to take them over. (The islands were never fully integrated into the Bureaucracy, where they had little control, but had nevertheless they had paid a high exit price, as the regular budget contribution from the prosperous islands would be sorely missed.)
Adding to the difficulties, a major world recession was still in process. Few commentators or politicians admitted to this recession and generally it was only the poor, the young, the aged and the working population who bore the brunt of falling standards of living ie. most of the population. But worms had turned and (in the islands, as well as in other major world democracies), something better was demanded. The islands were not in any position to give much help to the rest of the world, to affect the world down turn in economic activity orto make more than a token gesture to massive problems like global warming. But the islands COULD make changes to benefit their own people and their own prosperity. This was the task in hand as boundaries, duties and responsibilities were debated.
There were a great many criteria to be researched and applied, and major implications for the political constitution, (still unwritten except in blocks of stone and mounds of aggregate, and correspondingly hard to shift). But gradually opinion moved from the existing Four Nation to a more logical Nine Nation structure, closer to and more able to reflect the lives and aspirations of each National Region.
Major criteria already existed, for it was impossible to deny the importance of location, geography, or the necessity for potential National Capitals, Airports, Road and Rail networks and Conurbations within each designated National region. Around such vital infrastructure other criteria included;-
- Population – demography, occupation, travel to work areas, population density, trends since 2000.
- Services – health, social care, policing, education
- Housing and the ratio of built to greenfield land
- Environmental and natural diversity aims
- natural resources
- Tourism/Finance/Industry and Commerce
- Political allegiances
- Identity and attitudes to change
Always in mind were previous experiments in local democracy, when particular cities under single party control/mayors had helped their regions to make negative progress. Nevertheless many towns and cities had blossomed under the paternalism of local entrepreneurs, inventors, and donors. The acceptance of change was especially problematical in some regions and mixed racial populations adder more dangers.
For this was essentially an exercise in devolution, in agreement with 21st century trends world wide towards less centralised government, fragmentation of nations, empires and continents, populism and the rise of extremism. So many people seemed at this time to be disillusioned with the status quo, determined to create new political systems, to spread new doctrines and to use any possible means to force their views on others. The late 20th century collapse of the might power block of the Soviet Union was replicated elsewhere; populist forces claimed independence in Spain, Hongkong and Taiwan maintained their freedom from China, African countries manipulated by overseas interests lurched from war to famine, Myanmar waged genocide on its minority Muslim population, the USA tore itself apart as a new regime of government by Social Media attempted to replace the settled constitutional order of the Founding Fathers, and the newly federated Bureaucracy in Europe was breaking up even as it came into existence.
In the two islands the forces for change had been growing too, in particular strong tribal movements towards independence from an over-centralised system which seemed always to favour one location and one already prosperous class of high earning plutograts from many countries. There were strong prospects of a left wing take-over, supported by resurrected trade unions and an unexpected increase in youth political activism.