A referendum on Scottish independence that was once expected to collapse in resounding defeat was instead going down to the wire on Wednesday, with each side scouring lush Highland ridges, Gothic back alleys and rocky coasts seeking any advantage on the eve of a vote that could divide this island after three centuries of union.
The referendum has transfixed Scotland’s 5.3 million people, and analysts predict an extraordinary 90 percent of eligible voters on Thursday to answer a simple but sweeping question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
The anger has many roots: a seemingly unending stream of foreign wars, a financial crisis that accelerated an already widening gap between rich and poor and an insular and privileged British political class that seems to only look after its own.
“Ten years ago, I couldn’t have imagined Scottish independence. But you have this extremely complacent leadership just taking people for granted across the country,” said Jamie Drever, 37, who has never been involved in a campaign before but was out knocking on doors to spread the gospel of independence in Glasgow this week.
With Scottish voters heading to the polls on Thursday to decide whether or not to split from the United Kingdom, the White House is making it (sort of) clear that it prefers togetherness.
Asked at the daily press briefing about whether the administration is worried about the potential break up of one of its closest allies, Press Secretary Josh Earnest reiterated President Barack Obama’s remarks in June that the U.S. has a deep interest “in ensuring that one of the closest allies that we’ll ever have remains strong, robust, united and an effective partner with the United States.”…
Queen Elizabeth II weighed in for the first time after a church service Sunday in Scotland, urging Scots to “think very carefully about the future.”
The former US president Bill Clinton has said Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom in order to send a “powerful message” of unity to the rest of the world…
“1. The proposal to keep the pound as its currency without the support that UK membership provides carries substantial risks, as we saw in the EU after the financial crisis…
“3. The increased autonomy promised Scotland by the UK provides most of the benefits of independence and avoids the downside risks.
“4. Unity with maximum self-determination sends a powerful message to a world torn by identity conflicts that it is possible to respect our differences while living and working together. This is the great challenge of our time. The Scots can show us how to meet it.”
US markets will take a hit
If Scotland votes for independence, expect significant turmoil not just in the City, but on Wall Street as well. 2014 has been a year of significant volatility in American stock markets, driven in part by events in Europe. Fears over the economic fallout from Scotland breaking off from the UK, will spook US markets, frighten investors, and add to an air of uncertainty exacerbated in recent months by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Add to this the prospect of a Scottish economy set adrift from the pound, with potentially huge costs incurred in transitioning to an independent financial system, and you have every reason to fear more market turbulence.
An independent Scotland will be an insignificant ally to the U.S.
As part of the United Kingdom, Scotland is a valuable ally to the United States, home to Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent and submarine bases, as well as several British military regiments. It is also home to important NATO early warning air defences, increasingly important in the face of Russian aggression. As an independent entity, with a meagre projected defence budget of just $2.5 billion, significantly less than the $4.1 billion budget of London’s Metropolitan Police (hat tip: Luke Coffey), and just 15,000 members of the Armed Forces, Scotland’s role as a US partner would be practically non-existent. Edinburgh would struggle to gain entry to Nato, with countries such as Spain and Italy likely to veto Scottish membership for fear of encouraging nationalist movements within their own borders.
From Catalonia to Kurdistan to Quebec, nationalist and separatist movements in Europe and beyond are watching the Scottish independence referendum closely — sometimes more so than Britons themselves, who seem to have only just woken up to the possibility that Scotland might vote next Thursday to bring to an end a 307-year union. A curious collection of left and right, rich and poor, marginal and mainstream, these movements are united in the hope that their shared ambition for more self-determination will get a lift from an independent Scotland…
Busloads of Catalans, South Tiroleans, Corsicans, Bretons, Frisians and “Finland-Swedes” are headed for Scotland to witness the vote. Even Bavaria (which calls itself “Europe’s seventh-largest economy”) is sending a delegation…
It would be the first time that a member of the European Union faces secession by a region eager to become a member in its own right. If Scotland succeeds in negotiating its own membership in the bloc, it would suddenly make the prospect of independence seem safer and more attractive elsewhere in Europe, said George Robertson, a former secretary general of NATO.
“There is a serious risk of a domino effect,” said Mr. Robertson, himself a Scot and an opponent of independence. A “yes” vote, he warned, could trigger “the Balkanization of Europe.”
I have a message for the Scots: Be afraid, be very afraid. The risks of going it alone are huge. You may think that Scotland can become another Canada, but it’s all too likely that it would end up becoming Spain without the sunshine…
In short, everything that has happened in Europe since 2009 or so has demonstrated that sharing a currency without sharing a government is very dangerous. In economics jargon, fiscal and banking integration are essential elements of an optimum currency area. And an independent Scotland using Britain’s pound would be in even worse shape than euro countries, which at least have some say in how the European Central Bank is run.
I find it mind-boggling that Scotland would consider going down this path after all that has happened in the last few years. If Scottish voters really believe that it’s safe to become a country without a currency, they have been badly misled.
[D]elve deeper, and the United Kingdom does indeed have a basis for partnership in the values that underpin our unique National Health Service and welfare state. It is the idea that by pooling and sharing resources across four nations we guarantee Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Irish rights to health care, education, welfare and minimum standards in the workplace, irrespective of their nationality.
Americans may share equal civil and political rights, and the European Union may share a common market, but Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have gone much further by sharing the same social and economic rights.
The impact of the United Kingdom’s achievement is striking. The median income of a family in Mississippi is around 60 percent that of a family in New Hampshire. The average income in Bulgaria, the poorest member of the European Union, is about 9 percent of that of Luxembourg, the richest. Yet the income of a typical Scot is now on a par with that of his English neighbor.
So the United Kingdom rose to the 20th-century challenge of spreading the benefits of cooperation across a multinational state while upholding the cultural traditions of each of its nations.
Scots feel they’ve been patronized and disrespected for far too long, not just by the monarchy, but by other institutions like the BBC and the Westminster government.
This is not about hating the English. It is about democracy and self-determination. Scotland is weary of being ruled by governments it did not vote for. The Conservative Party has virtually no democratic mandate in Scotland, yet too often, Scotland has been ruled by a draconian Tory government from London…
The most striking achievement of devolution has been the change in people’s confidence and spirit I’ve seen on visits home. We no longer feel at the mercy of a privileged elite hundreds of miles away. Now, we want to complete that process and take full charge of our nation’s destiny…
Distilled, the essence of the choice is this: The Yes campaign is about hope for a fairer, more caring and prosperous society; the No campaign says only: better the devil you know. I am an optimist.
However, many of these arguments pale into insignificance when compared to the power of their pro-independence ‘Yes’ camp’s argument that Scotland has not voted for a Conservative government since 1935 and yet has spent more than half of the last century being governed by Conservatives (at the last election, David Cameron’s Conservative Party won only one out of 59 seats in Scotland). As Owen Jones argued in the Guardian, “to most Scots, living under a Tory-led government seems absurd, like being forced to live under a hostile foreign occupying force.
These sentiments are increasingly felt across the world. Despite casting ballots, people still feel unrepresented. In the European elections, populist parties from the Front National in France to Syriza in Greece argued that though people could change the government, they can not change the policies that shape their larger world. It is a feeling applies to all countries that feel battered by uncontrollable global forces, however valid elections may be in their own backyards…
In many ways, the cultural and intellectual secession of Scotland from the UK has been going on for a number of years. And it echoes The Big Sort that has seen people in many established democracies clustering into like-minded groupings that live and work and pray together while consuming media that reinforce their bias and preferences…
Whatever the result of this week’s vote, I fear we will find that across the world, where people once celebrated their ties to one another, they will increasingly dream of independence.
‘Let us tell the undecided, the waverers, those not sure how to vote, let us tell them what we have achieved together. We fought two world wars together – and there is not a cemetery in Europe that does not have Scots, English, Welsh and Irish lying side-by-side. And when young men were injured in these wars, they didn’t look to each other and ask whether you were Scots or English, they came to each other’s aid because we were part of a common cause. And we not only won these wars together, we built the peace together, we built the health service together, we built the welfare state together, we will build the future together. And what we have built together by sacrificing and sharing, let no narrow nationalism split asunder ever.’…
‘If you’re like me and a million more people who are convinced that the case for cooperation is greater than any case put for separation then I say to you: hold your heads high. Show dignity and pride. Be confident. Let us have confidence that our values are indeed the values of the majority of the people of Scotland – that our principles of sharing and cooperation are far better and mean more to them than separation and splitting apart. Have confidence that people know that our Scottish Parliament and its new powers give people the powers they need and meet the aspirations of the Scottish people. Have confidence, stand up and be counted tomorrow. Have confidence tomorrow and have confidence enough to say with all our friends: we’ve had no answers. They do not know what they are doing, they are leading us into a trap. Have confidence and say to our friends: for reason of solidarity, sharing, justice, pride in Scotland, the only answer for Scotland’s sake and for Scotland’s future is vote No.’