by Frank Schnittger
Thu Sep 11th, 2014 at 04:18:10 AM EST
Luis de Sousa's excellent diary has provoked a long comment by me saying a lot of things I've been meaning to say for some time, but which are not all a direct response to his thoughts. So I think a separate diary is merited analyzing what has changed in the Scottish Independence debate.
What I think has shifted the debate in Scotland is the realization that institutions and assets which they had always been told were British, were in fact English.
Thus the Pound Sterling belongs to England (the central bank name: Bank of England should have been a giveaway). The military bases and manufacturing facilities in Scotland will be moved south - proving that the Army and associated industries belong to England not all of Britain. And the general sense that the Scots will have to develop all institutions and skills of Governance from scratch - as if Scots have had no hand act or part of the Departments of State in Whitehall.
In other words the implied blackmail of taking all these things away has only confirmed that Scotland was being ruled not just from, but by, England in the first place. Parties to a divorce normally split their joint assets and one party cannot claim virtually all the house and contents as their own: and yet this is partly what the No campaign have been claiming.
front-paged by afew
Suddenly, with the release of just two polls showing a "too close to call" result, an establishment panic has set in as this approach has been rumbled and has backfired. All the (archetypically English) party leaders are suddenly rushing up north with offers of enhanced devolution which Salmond had requested be on the ballot as a third option in the first place. They therefore lack all credibility: just as all the promises made before the 1979 devolution referendum were promptly shelved afterwards.
If the much maligned (particularly by the English) Gordon Brown were still the PM, none of this might have been such a big deal today. But the fact is the Scots now feel as if they have been taken for fools, and don't like the way the English have been putting them down - more or less implying they are incapable of running a government or a monetary system.
Contra Luis de Sousa, I don't see Scotland being allowed to remain within the EU as being much of an issue - as a successor state - just as East Germany joining the EU as part of Germany never became much of an issue. With England possibly leaving, the EU will be more than anxious to ensure Scotland stays - and thus make it much more difficult for England to leave as leaving would then have much greater effects on their very substantial cross-border trade with Scotland than Scottish independence ever did. The Scots would also be much less disruptive of EU business than the UK has been, and will, I think be welcomed with open arms - Spanish and Belgian qualms notwithstanding.
Of course publicly, at least, the EU has to be fully supportive of an intact UK as a member state right up to and including the referendum. But suddenly, if the referendum is passed, all that will change dramatically and previously mooted legal difficulties will become mere technicalities that can be resolved sooner rather than later, with the declaration that Scotland is a unique and once off situation, and not a precedent for any other situation... As the entry of Romania and Bulgaria showed, EU membership is ultimately a political and not a legal decision. The membership criteria applied depend on the exigencies of the day.
The price may be, at some point in the future, that Scotland has to join the Euro. The EU would certainly not be happy to see another new currency joining the Union. That would be very unpopular if mooted right now, but might become the next best option if England were tempted to play silly buggers in negotiations around the Pound, just as they have played silly buggers with the concept of "Britishness" and all the institutions of state that were supposed to belong to Scotland as well, but which have now been claimed by England.
As for N. Ireland, the Unionists are all in a dither with Orangemen marching against Independence in the streets of Scotland: just what the YES campaign needed to prove that "the Union" is a partisan and sectarian arrangement - Anglicanism being the State religion of England whereas the Church of Scotland is not established and mainly Presbyterian. Many N. Ireland Unionists would, ideally, like their own independent state, but know that just about no one else will agree to that. Geographically, emotionally and historically they are much closer to Scotland than to England, and yet following Scottish independence, it us to England that they will continue to be tied.
I think that the worry that England will have a permanent Conservative majority is overdone. Scotland, with less than 10% of the total population, was always little more than a makeweight in Westminster politics. Besides, the UKIP may well split the Conservative vote which is fatal in a primitive first-past-the-post system. The Conservatives, having "lost" Scotland, may well become unelectable for many years to come, especially as they are split on the perennial EU question.
UKIP is the classic Little-Englander, petit-bourgeois, Thatcherite English-nationalist party and could displace the Tories as the lead right-wing party as it has a clear (and relatively popular) position in opposition to the EU. Labour have a relatively clear pro-EU policy and could benefit from the split on the right, if they had the courage to actually offer a left alternative. My view is that Scottish independence could actually lead to a Labour-led Government (possibly in coalition with the Lib Dems) making it more likely, not less, that the rump-UK will remain in the EU. But then political prediction, either way, can be a mugs game. My point is though, that the typical left objection to Scottish independence may be wrong, and in any case, it is not Scotland's job to save the English from themselves.
So overall I don't see all the negatives establishment and other commentators have associated with Scottish Independence. It could be a long and difficult road. Establishing the traditions and institutions of full statehood is not a trivial exercise, even if it can be a liberating and enervating one. My sense, having travelled through Scotland quite a lot in recent years, was that it is a very staid and somewhat defeatist place, lacking the confidence to take its own place amongst the nations of this earth. My sense now is that that may be about to change.