The dream of Scottish independence is beginning to fade away; that at least is what the latest poll shows. 57 percent of Scots say they will vote against independence. Analysts think the doubts about the Scottish National Party’s plans to stick with the British pound are driving voters away from the independence camp. The SNP says an independent Scotland can keep using the pound with or without London’s approval, but over time the skeptics seem to be winning the debate.And speaking of debates, the latest poll shows that a solid majority of viewers thought that anti-independence spokesman Alistair Darling crushed Alex Salmond, the SNP’s chief and Scotland’s current premier. Darling hammered Salmon over the currency question, and viewers seemed to find Salmond’s answers unconvincing. Issues of currency union and bank regulation are particularly salient in Europe these days, given the horrendous consequences of bank crises in countries like Ireland and Greece where national authorities didn’t control their currencies. It’s difficult to see how Scotland’s large financial service industry could prosper without strong backing from the UK Treasury — backing that would likely not be available if Scotland were using the British pound without London’s support. Taxpayers in the rest of the UK would not be willing to bail out Scottish banks if the Scots leave the Union, and without that implicit support it is hard to see how Scotland’s financial sector could prosper.Meanwhile, low information voters who don’t follow the intricacies of currency debates may be impressed by the growing celebrity movement for union. When JK Rowling and the Pope have come down against independence, 200 celebrities join in, it begins to look like a trend. The FT reports that a group of “rock stars, actors, comedians, academics and scientists”, British and Scottish alike, have signed an open letter speaking out against independence. The letter went live today on a pro-union site, and featured names both popular and refined, including “Sir Mick Jagger, Stephen Hawking, Dame Judy Dench and Simon Cowell.” Here’s some of the text:
“The decision on whether to leave our shared country is, of course, absolutely yours alone. Nevertheless, that decision will have a huge effect on all of us in the rest of the United Kingdom,” said the letter, which was worded by TV historian Dan Snow.“We want to let you know how very much we value our bonds of citizenship with you, and to express our hope that you will vote to renew them. What unites us is much greater than what divides us. Let’s stay together.”
When Sir Mick and His Holiness gang up, and the financial wizards say your money won’t be safe, it’s not a surprise that the swing votes begin to swing against the SNP.
In some ways, the situation is beginning to look like the politics around the decision to create the United Kingdom back in 1706-07. The failure of the Darien Scheme, an ambitious plan to turn Scotland into a global economic power that led to a massive financial crisis in Scotland when the plan went awry, convinced many Scots at the time that Scotland would have better opportunities in a full union with England than it would on its own. More than 300 years later, a majority of Scots seem to be coming around to the view that the original decision was sound. Sentiment aside, the realities of world finance and power make union Scotland’s best choice.