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    Who Lost Scotland?

    Today Scotland votes on independence: a fifty-fifty referendum on leaving the United Kingdom. It's gone from a long shot to a statistical dead heat, and nobody can say for sure how the vote will go. But what's certain is that Scotland's old relationship with the rest of Britain is finished. The Scottish independence movement will not just go away if they come up a couple percent short; they're never going to give up now that they've gotten this close. And if a united United Kingdom squeaks by, Scotland will expect to be given much more autonomy than it's had so far. In fact, this week the leaders of all three major parties have had to promise them that autonomy. So no matter how the vote goes, it's fair to say that David Cameron and his Conservative Party have managed to lose Scotland. They should pay a price for that.

    The format of the vote is Cameron's fault. Cameron insisted that the most popular middle-ground option, so-called "max devo" or maximum devolution, which would have kept Scotland inside the United Kingdom but given it more power over its own affairs, be kept OFF the ballot. He made sure that it was an all-or-nothing vote: accept the status quo or leave the nation entirely.

    I'm sure Cameron viewed this as masterful strategy: getting what he wanted by allowing no other workable option. You can choose between having it David Cameron's way and having this delicious shit sandwich. But it's backfired. Given a choice between a radical break and Cameron's status quo, many Scots would clearly prefer a radical break. Some of the most persuasive arguments I've heard  for a "Yes" vote on independence have been from people who said that what they really wanted was max devo, and that they were given no choice.

    Pro tip to David Cameron: when people would rather eat a shit sandwich than spend time in your company, you're in no position to play the tough guy.

    Now, of course, the danger of secession is so high that Cameron has had to troop up to Scotland with the Labour and Liberal party leaders and promise something close to max devo anyway. But many Yes voters hear that as an empty promise. For good reason, too: there are no specifics about what these "new powers for Scotland" would mean, and it's a promise to do something the voters want if the voters agree to give up all their leverage first. A promise like that isn't worth the paper it's not written on.

    On the other hand, if No squeaks by, Cameron is in the position of having more or less promised to give Scotland the thing that he didn't want to give them and that he made sure was not on the ballot. So instead of exactly what he wants or an unpalatable alternative, he now faces a choice between exactly what he doesn't want and an unpalatable alternative. It's a kind of strategic masterpiece, carefully orchestrating his own defeat. It's a shit sandwich David Cameron prepared for himself, with his own two hands.

    Now, most of the Scottish voters are far to Cameron's left, and he may think his Conservatives will gain politically if a whole region of Labour voters leave the country. But that's almost the definition of short-sightedness, and Conservatives who collude, even indirectly, in the breakup of the United Kingdom have failed at everything their party stands for. No one will admire a Conservative Party that allowed the dissolution of Great Britain. How could they? Churchill famously said that he hadn't become Prime Minister to preside over the dissolution of the British Empire. David Cameron now risks being the Tory MP who presided over the dissolution of Britain itself.

    I'll admit that in my heart I'm hoping for a No, and a continued Great Britain. That's not because I'm a great Anglophile. (I'm from Boston, after all, where declaring independence from Britain is considered a heroic tradition.) But history, as I best understand it, suggests that Scotland will be dominated by its larger, wealthier southern neighbor no matter what, simply because that neighbor is larger and wealthier. Union, on balance, probably allows Scotland better terms in that relationship.

    Remember how England took over Scotland: the King of Scotland inherited the English throne. After many decades of anxiety that the King of England would somehow get the Scottish throne and take over the country, the reverse happened. The King of Scotland took over England, and that ultimately put Scotland under England's power. For the last four hundred and eleven years, captive England has led conquering Scotland in chains, because the fundamental power difference is about things that no treaty can change. It's political gravity: the smaller country falls into the larger one's orbit. That underlying fact won't change with today's vote. But the strength of England's hold on Scotland will, win or lose.



    I have been reading comments from Scotts on science blogs I hang out in, and you are right,  They are tired of the conservative wealthy and all the austerity.  One of the comments I read said that no one is going to know who the elected leader of Scotland is just like no one knows who the governor of Alabama is in the world. But being unknown is better then being the red headed step child.  

    How'a cana ye talk of Scutlaan wit nary a word on Robert the Bruce and Scottisch pride of the Battle of Bannockburn? In what part of London is Boston found laddie?

    Or is the Onion solution for the Middle East Everyone In Middle East Given Own Country In 317,000,000-State Solution the way to meet the pressing challenges of the 21st century, none of which recognize the lines on our maps?

    I'm hoping for a yes, though mostly because I think it's good for the elites to have to face the break up of some of the institutions they take for granted every now and then.  For Scotland;s sake, though, I hope that they do not make the mistake of striking out on their own politically while adopting England's currency and, by extension, the monetary policy of the BOE.  That way lies the path of Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

    Well, I expect if Yes wins that Cameron (or his successor) will carry through with the threat of denying Scotland the British pound, which could be a good turn in disguise. It would save the Scots from making that mistake.

    On the other hand, they'd be in real danger accepting the euro, too. They also have to hope that the EU blackballs them (which is a real possibility, because Spain, etc., don't want to see their own culturally-distinct regions breaking away).

    Ironic, since Spain would have been better able to deal with its recession if it had not ceded its monetary authority to the EU.

    Agreed. But an independent Catalonia would have an even more intense version of the same problem if allowed into the EU.

    The theory that breaking nations or territories up into smaller and smaller democratic jurisdictions and assuming that doing so will engender the election of smarter, more far sighted, or more responsible political leadership is a fantasy.

    It just increases the number of politicians, agencies and size of government, and lowers the price to buy off politicians. Having national currencies however, can be a benefit.

    Lack of a voting population that is widely knowledgeable and informed on the issues and candidates, and which demands accountability has no geographic remedy.

    I hope if the result is 'no' on Scotland's independence, violence can be avoided, they say pubs will be open all night.

    I don't think we need to worry about violence. It'll be dawn in Scotland before this is done and I don't expect any mayhem.

    Becoming a smaller nation is not a great idea, and Alex Salmond, the leader of the SNP is really not ready for prime time. When I hear him speak, all I can hear is his disconnection from reality. He talks about how the UK would share various things ( the pound; the BBC; the National Health Service; the Bank of England) with an independent Scotland, and that it can all be negotiated after the vote, as if the UK would have any reason to grant concessions once there was no hope of keeping Scotland in the fold.

    Like my old Scottish girlfriend used to say with that Scottish trill on the first sound of the words 'right' and 'wrong, "Aye Jamie, your right, your right, and your never wrong".  Actually, she was young at the time. When we met I made the stupid mistake of saying I liked her English accent. Bad start I found out instantly, but things got better after a while and that's always nice whatever the situation.

     I have no clue what would be best but I never had an English girlfriend. Go Scotland.  

    Putin's Russia says the Scotland vote was rigged, 'like elections in North Korea'. Lulu, Beetlejuice, talking truth as with his 'Ukraine must have done the Malaysian air shootdown'?

    Scottish independence movement will not just go away if they come up a couple percent short; they're never going to give up now that they've gotten this close.

    I'm not sure that history bears this out. The Quebecois came much closer to declaring independence in 1995, 50.58% to 49.42%, but the movement still fizzled. People get tired of re-hashing the same decision over and over.

    Let's hope you're right. My own biases tend to favor fewer large countries instead of more small countries, with a United Federation of Planets being the logical extension.

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