To be, or not to be…
I know a fair number of people overseas (as well as expats living here in the States) who identify as Scottish or English. For most Americans, this Scottish Independence story is a relatively new one, but that doesn’t stop a surprising majority of us from espousing uninformed opinions about this topic, as if we were experts on the business of secessions. In a lot of ways, it’s like watching armchair experts pontificate about how we’d “fix” the Israel and Palestine conflict with sweeping generalizations and ignorance.
For my friends who are curious, I offer a summary of what I’ve learned about this topic. I have an opinion, but I can see both sides to this argument as having very valid points. I’ll try my best to be concise, but the reason you’re likely ignorant about much of this, is because it’s not a very simple issue to sum up with a single paragraph. Hell, I think that because both sides have such valid points, it’s understandable why polls are split down the middle overseas.
Obviously, this vote is the culmination of a long national discussion in the UK. I’m of the opinion that Scotland can pull off a secession with no long-lasting negative impacts on its citizens. I think the referendum is sorely lacking in accountability for the mechanisms of maintaining social programs and financial security, but that seems to be a symptom of the divisiveness of the issue overall. It could be argued that the reason this is a simple up or down vote on independence, is because the process of unraveling themselves from the union is a nuanced and tricky business.
Demographic breakdowns of polls about the independence vote sway wildly when discussions of how it’s accomplished are introduced. Some say it clouds the waters, when polls have shown a virtual 50/50 split in opinions about independence overall. In other words, the question of whether or not a majority of Scots want independence is kind of a toss up. When you begin discussing the details about how the people of Scotland would move forward with their daily lives after independence, the support for the referendum plummets. When you begin polling Brits, the numbers plummet even more.
There’s a pretty fair number of people who think that the UK has made some glaring mistakes in the last few years with regards to economic policy, and social programs. The welfare reform act of 2012 is a bone of contention for liberals and conservatives. Liberals feel that the caps on benefits and the “bedroom tax” are horrible ideas, and conservatives argue that it’s a necessary way to cut social spending. The trend in austerity throughout Europe has highlighted some sharp divides between people who think that EU states have thrived under socialist policies, and those who think otherwise. It’s difficult for us Yanks to get a feel for the politics of which side is behind “Yes” and which side is behind “No” because the political lines aren’t as clear cut in the UK as they are here in America. The conservatives of the UK are liberals compared to our American neo-conservative, tea party-esque types. The liberals overseas make our granola and wheatgrass eating hippies, look like fascists.
From this side of the Atlantic, it seems imprudent to have a vote that leaves an 18 month window to just “create” the infrastructure of Scotland. Having said that, swift deadlines have led to some rather impressive exercises in liberty before. We enjoy one ourselves. I’m a Keynesian-leaning economist, who thinks that Scotland could pull this off. I think they have some rather valid reasons for wanting to, but I also see how the lack of preparation and infrastructural development leaves the vote looking like a bad idea for so many people.
If it doesn’t pass, I could see the referendum vote coming down the pipeline in a few years with a more cohesive and outlined civic plan. Ultimately, Scotland would become a country like Canada, which is independent but still recognizes the monarchy. It could be pulled off quite easily, but I can understand why so many people are leery of this vote. If it’s easy to outline a more comprehensive plan, why not put a vote up that does that? The “yes” campaign, feels that it mucks up the question of Scottish independence overall, and while some of them seem like outspoken nationalists and patriots, a good number of them are just people who think Scotland could do a better job at managing their own future. The “no” side, doesn’t seem like a bunch of culture-annexing, English imperialists, and their arguments about prudence come hand-in-hand with agreements on the validity of an independent Scotland.
I’m tossing it up to a “if it happens, I hope they pull it off” sentiment, and if it doesn’t pass, I hope they come back with a better drafted plan soon. I guess we’ll find out the 18th.
UPDATE: To answer the question that always seems to come up in threads about this topic, no I wouldn’t support any state in America if it chose to secede. Why? Because I sincerely do not see how any single state in our union could manage an infrastructure that could come close to what we already enjoy as part of the United Sates. That’s a Texan saying that, too. I think those “Nation of Texas” guys are deluded fools. The principal difference between Scotland and an American state is that the UK is geographically much smaller and naturally has a much more localized resource management infrastructure. It could be argued that states like California or Texas were capable of independence, because they have enough natural resources, land, and population to sustain themselves. The transition would be phenomenally more difficult for an American state than Scotland, however.