Should Scotland leave the UK?

I very much agree with the recent FT columns by Martin Wolf and Simon Schama.  The Union of 1707 was one of the great events of the eighteenth century for Britain, and it paved the way for the Industrial Revolution, Adam Smith, David Hume, John Stuart Mill, and much much more, including the later United States and many of the Founding Fathers.  And yes some of the excesses of imperialism, exploration too.  That union truly was a cornerstone of the modern world, of the sort they might put into a book subtitle in a corny way and yet it would be quite justified.

Maybe you think the partnership hasn’t been as fruitful in recent years.  Still, I view it this way.  For all its flaws, the UK remains one of the very best and most successful countries the world has seen, ever.  And there is no significant language issue across the regions, even though I cannot myself understand half of the people in Scotland.  Nor do the Scots have a coherent or defensible answer as to which currency they will be using, or how they would avoid domination by Brussels and Berlin.  If a significant segment of the British partnership wishes to leave, and for no really good practical reason, it is a sign that something is deeply wrong with contemporary politics and with our standards for loyalties.

I find this entire prospect depressing, and although it is starting to pick up more coverage in the United States and globally, still it is an under-covered story relative to its importance.

This is a referendum on the modern nation-state, an institution that has done very well since the late 1940s but which is indeed often ethnically heterogeneous at its core.  While I expect Scottish independence to be voted down, if it passes I will feel the world’s risk premium has gone up, even if the Scots manage to make independence work.

Addendum: Is this the sort of debate that the great British Parlamentarians of history would have approved of?:

Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister who is leading the campaign for independence, said on Wednesday that each household would receive an annual “independence bonus” of £2,000 – or each individual £1,000 – within the next 15 years if the country votes to leave the UK.

The UK government, in contrast, claimed that if Scots rejected independence each person would receive a “UK dividend of £1,400 . . . for the next 20 years”.

Was that the sort of discourse you wanted?  Was “being British” simply not good enough for you?


Comments for this post are closed