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Scot Free?
The Upside of a “Yes” Vote

Scotland’s pro-independence side may not succeed on Thursday, but it might not be such a bad thing for small government and balanced budgets if it did.

Published on: September 16, 2014
Crawford Gribben is a professor of history at Queen’s University Belfast.
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  • PKCasimir

    From a purely American strategic viewpoint, an independent Scotland would be a total disaster. The UK would have lost its nuclear bases and would be pre-occupied with what would be a very bloody fight over the distribution of assets and assumption of debt. The UK will then find itself confronting independence movements in Wales and Northern Ireland. While this has no direct bearing on the US, it would distract the US’s one solid ally for several years and would ensure that the UK does not contribute to the global fights that, unfortunately, the US will have to wage for the next decade. A United Kingdom without Scotland is a diminished world power with a significantly diminished presence, if only psychologically, on the world stage.

  • rheddles

    From a purely American strategic viewpoint an independent Scotland would be wonderful. England would be a smaller, but more integral country more inclined to see the establishment of an Anglosphere and the end to Nato. The Gaelic countries would have a decision to make; voluntarily be part of the Anglosphere or try to be part of Scandanavia. Either would work for the US. And the US should loosen immigration rules so that disaffected Scots, Welsh, and Irish could more easily emigrate to the US.

    The US one solid ally is Australia, the only country to fight with us in every war of the 20th century.

    The loss of nuclear bases would be a purely economic problem. If the English are really subsidizing Scotland, they should be able to pay for new bases from savings.

    I have to be very sceptical of any analysis of rUK politics that doesn’t mention UKIP. I suspect the switch of Douglas Carswell to UKIP has much to do with how hawkish Cameron has been sounding about ISIS. UKIP will be the real winner in a rUK and fianlly offer English voters an English government. Perhaps the liberal media/academic/political clerisy could be overthrown. Fewer Rotherhams in five years, for sure.

    Also, how will Scotland, and perhaps others leaving affect the referendum Cameron has promised on EU membership? Lots of moving parts here, but I’m not sure the US won’t come out ahead with an unconstrained English ally.

    • PKCasimir

      And just why would an England that wishes to see an end to NATO be good for the United States? NATO is still the cornerstone of American foreign policy and having your main ally want to see an end is a rather bizarre view of what is in America’s strategic interest.
      Australia is hardly our one solid ally. It’s contribution to the various Iraq wars as well as its contributions in Afghanistan were minimal. Compare that to the tens of thousands of troops and aircraft the British supplied in Iraq and Afghanistan and you get a picture of a nation (Australia) that is willing to stand by us but only if doesn’t really tax them., in fact, Australia got away with lip service and more credit than its contribution was worth.
      The loss of nuclear bases is hardly “an economic problem” and if you don’t know why it isn’t then you have no concept of global strategy.
      And just why the US should welcome an England dominated by UKIP and Nigel Farage whose latest idiocy was to state that the West should stop poking Putin with a stick over Ukraine and enlist him in the war on terror. No Thanks!

  • robertmeerdahl

    one result of the “yes” side winning in Scotland would be to reignite separatism in quebec, and in other parts of the world

  • Matt_Thullen

    I’m beginning to think that Scottish independence may be the catalyst to bring Western democracies out of the malaise and loss of confidence they’re currently experiencing. Article after article have been written (many on The American Interest) that point out that there is an ongoing loss of legitimacy in the governing bodies of Europe and, to a lesser degree, the U.S. My two cents is that a large part of that loss of legitimacy/crisis of confidence is due in part to the belief by many people that democratic institutions are no longer responsive to the electorate, and that the mass of centralized bureaucracies running the show in many places is impervious to electoral sentiment. See for example the reaction of the European Parliament and Brussels in response to the the wave of nationalist and anti-EU MEPs entering. This reaction consisted mainly of trying to shut out the interlopers, rather than thinking about reforms that would make anti-EU parties less attractive.

    Part of the problem is that legislative bodies that make the decisions that affect most people have become very, very distant from the voters. In a highly federal system, important decisions are made by legislative bodies closer to the voters. However, as power in the U.S. and the EU becomes more centralized, decisions are made by legislators who will never know more than a tiny fraction of the voters who elect them (and vice versa–many voters will never have spoken to or personally met their congressman or senator). Worse yet, it seems like even more decisions are made by unaccountable bureaucrats in far-off places, who are unconcerned about the interests of a local population.

    Having large aspects of one’s life controlled by far off bureaucrats and politicians is a recipe for a loss in faith in democratic institutions. While it would be much more preferable for nations to become more federal as a means to put decision-making closer to the people, I’m afraid that the people currently in charge will never voluntarily give up power.

    Thus, it may be that nationalist movements may be the answer. If Scotland can make it on its own, then maybe (hopefully) it could start a wave of power devolution. With modern communication networks, widespread data sharing and crowd-funding and sourcing becoming more prevalent, I would think that small states could do just as good of a job of governing themselves as enormous ones. Of course, the trick is to figure out collective self-defense…..

    • PKCasimir

      The UK has already devoluted an enormous amount of power to Scotland. It has its own Parliament, own taxing authority, and controls local councils. The question is whether Scotland can survive and prosper economically as an independent nation. Any serious analysis of that question indicates that it can’t. Upon independence, banks will move to London, and the remaining industries like whiskey and woolens are insufficient to generate enough income to finance the new nation’s budget. The SNP is betting on revenues from the North Sea oil fields, which are rapidly declining and which will soon be played out. If Scotland elects to have its own currency, it will be worthless. If it chooses to use the pound, it ill have no control over its own currency. It will lose the protection of the EU and will have to negotiate trade agreements from a position of weakness, with not much to offer.
      Scots may feel better about themselves if they vote for independence but there is no question that they will be much, much worse off economically. A “Braveheart” doesn’t need food, but an empty stomach does.

      • Andrew Allison

        I think that Mr. Thullen’s point was the ” ongoing loss of legitimacy in the governing bodies of Europe and, to a lesser degree, the U.S. ” I agree with him that this is a source of much political unrest in Europe. Whether the legitimacy of a government which grossly misled the voters to obtain power would be any greater than that of the current one is, at best, questionable. I agree with you an independent Scotland cannot survive and prosper economically as an independent nation.

      • Matt_Thullen

        That all may very well be true, and I believe that it is more likely than not to be true. Either way, the Scots would be responsible for that decision, and the resulting consequences, and it will be hard for the Scots to blame their hardships on anyone other than themselves (of course politicians being politicians, their leaders will try to do so just the same).

        When votes count for real, and real consequences flow from those votes, you will get better voters and a more honest government. What I didn’t include in my original post was that I believe that one reason why non-federalist government is losing legitimacy stems from diffused accountability. Far too many people–voters and elected officials alike–can easily point to decisions made by distant people and organizations as reasons for their current woes. This makes reform very difficult, as it is always “those guys over there” who are identified as the source of the problem. Sometimes that is true, sometimes not, but it makes it very easy to avoid making difficult decisions.

        Right now the Scots can (and likely do) blame London for all their ills. Once the cords are cut, that’s going to be much more difficult for them to do. Either they will collectively decide to take the tough steps to make it on their own, which would be good for all parties concerned, or they will refuse to take those steps, and suffer accordingly.

        But at least they will decide their fate, and live with the consequences. I think we need more of that in democracies in general.

  • Andrew Allison

    I stopped reading at “For a generation, Scotland has routinely returned dozens of Labour MPs, whose presence in the House of Commons has recently been vital to the preservation of Parliament from the English electorate’s swing to the right.” For Prof. Gribben’s information, preserving Parliament from the views of the electorate is not democratic. As to the nonsensical proposition that “from the perspective of those who favor small government and balanced budgets, it might not be a bad thing if it did.”, Prof. Gribben is apparently unaware that Scotland is the recipient of a net of$3,500 per head per year from the rest of the U.K. and borrowing 13.8% of it’s public expenditures.

  • Brett Champion

    I actually see Scottish independence as being a danger to the Conservatives. If the Conservatives were facing a reduced Labour Party in England and Wales, the issue of Europe could completely split the party for good. The Conservative trickle to the UK Independence Party could turn into a torrent if the Conservatives hold a commanding advantage over Labour and the Lib Dems.

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