My ancestors came over from the land of skeptics and gadflies some years before the union with England was signed on July 22, 1706, and I may go back there if it votes to reverse the agreement on September 18, 2014. So I am naturally interested in the 670-page “White Paper” on the question that was released Tuesday by the Scottish National Party, the governing party in the current “devolved” Scottish Parliament (text: internet version with links to individual parts; pdf).
Of course, there are two questions here: will it happen?, and should it happen? Taking the second question first, I am surprised at the narrow focus on the part of the critics of the proposal. After the release of the White Paper the negative response was swift, for example by a panel of experts assembled by (FDL’s favorite newspaper) the Guardian. They complain that the document does not explain concretely and convincingly how independence would benefit the Scottish people. “On currency, welfare, pensions, EU membership and much more the white paper is more fiction than fact,” offers one pundit.
To me the most weighty argument against independence is that the trend of history right now is toward amalgamation, not separation. One of the great tragedies of the late 20th century was the breakup of Yugoslavia (think the intractable problem of Kosovo), and one of its successes, at least for a time, was the European Union. We are currently watching the formation of an alliance of the BRICS countries, which may act to counter US world hegemony. Why weaken the influence of the UK/Great Britain in international affairs?
The short answer is that in practice the UK is run by London, and Edinburgh understandably doesn’t like it. But the point that particularly progressives should notice is that the Anglo-American empire is reactionary, while an independent Scotland has some chance of not being as much so. (The Scots do not like nukes, for example, and one of the points of the White Paper is that “following a vote for independence, we would make early agreement on the speediest safe removal of nuclear weapons a priority”; see the summary under the heading “Defence.”)
Apart from that, the White Paper offers all sorts of documented (386 footnotes!) promises for a better life for the Scottish people in the areas of taxation, social welfare, education, and more.
Are the promises inflated? Probably, at least in some cases. In Chapter 6 on international relations the document speaks of becoming an independent country within the European Union via a natural process, proceeding from the fact that it is already a part of a member. But Spain’s Prime Minister Rajoy (with an eye to the Catalan separatists in his own country) has already thrown cold water on that proposal, saying that he will only agree to Scotland applying to join the EU from outside it like any other country.
But those of us sympathetic to the Scottish people should consider that even if only half of the White Paper’s vision bore fruit it would be a considerable benefit to them.
Will it happen? The campaign against it on the part of the UK-wide political parties has been relentless, with the result that the most recent poll of Scots shows 38% in favor of independence and 47% against it (thus presumably 15% divided between undecided and various “other” categories), with less than 10 months to go before the vote. So it will be an uphill climb, and the forces against independence are sure to escalate their attack. (Did I mention that the UK gets a lot of its oil from fields off the shore of Scotland?)
But I hope the SNP overcomes the opposition and wins. There I leave it.
November 29, 8:30 PM Eastern BREAKING: RT is reporting that a police helicopter has crashed into the roof of a pub in Glasgow; there are fatalities.