British Prime Minister David Cameron has granted his Scottish counterpart Alex Salmond the right to hold a referendum on independence, reports the BBC. If successful, the referendum would represent one step toward the disintegration of the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
But Cameron is confident the Scots will choose to remain within the Union, though he may have to win over Scottish voters by granting them more privileges. The Scots have consistently told pollsters they favor remaining in the Union, with only one-third favoring independence. Meanwhile, some polls in euroskeptical, Tory-dominated England show that many voters there would rather the socialist, pro-European Scots just leave already. If the Scots come to believe that staying in will spite the Sassenachs more than secession, look for the pro-independence vote to drop even more.
Salmond will need to do some hard selling in the two years to convince fellow Scots that independence would bring material advantages, which is currently their main concern. And if Scotland hopes to join its friends in the EU, it ought to think again—many EU member states are fighting independence movements of their own, and few have much sympathy for secessionists anywhere. Countries like Spain will veto a Euro-entry of an independent Scotland, just as they have done to Kosovo, fearful as they are of their own Catalonians and Basques. And joining the EU would mean joining the troubled Eurozone as well—the UK, Denmark (and, through a loophole, Sweden) are the only EU members allowed to keep their own currencies, and there is little doubt that this “privilege” would not be extended to Scotland.
If the euro crisis is still unsolved in 2014, as appears likely, union with England and its more stable pound sterling will be the most attractive option to pragmatic Scots sizing up an unwelcoming and troubled EU. But we shouldn’t dismiss out of hand the desire for independence among a people who wrote in the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 that “as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any condition be brought under english rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighing, but for freedom.”
There are still some Scots who feel that way — but there may not be enough.