Scotland is in no position to seek independence
The Scottish and English haven’t taken up arms, as forces loyal to both nations did here last in 1746, but political voices are waging a fierce war of rhetoric leading up to Thursday’s historic referendum to determine whether Scotland secedes from the United Kingdom.
Despite the referendum being a Scottish-only ballot question, its consequences go much further than creating a state for a nation in political and economic union with England for the last three centuries. If “yes” prevails, the U.K. will be thrown into immediate turmoil and deep uncertainly, to say nothing of the international order.
Bank deposits will be withdrawn, markets will drop and businesses and jobs will leave in droves as the country that not long ago had an empire spanning much of the world dissolves.
Moreover, America will find her most trusted ally to be an ineffectual fraction of its once glorious past.
Until quite recently, all this seemed very unlikely. Prime Minister David Cameron, an Englishman of Scottish extraction, and most of the British political establishment in London never saw any of this happening.
That all changed earlier this month, when reputable public polls reported “yes” ahead when it mattered. An all-out effort to save the United Kingdom was quickly launched.
Queen Elizabeth II surprised the country, when she told Scottish voters to “think very carefully about the future.” Then there are the frantic, last-minute interventions from a literal who’s who of Britons, including the pop culture likes of Bob Geldof, David Beckham and Sir Richard Branson.
All of this has been a bit weird to observe, although secession is something many hard-right voices talk about back home. The similarities between secessionists on both side of the Atlantic are more than ironic when one gets past the once-unthinkable prospect of a Britain without Scotland.
Take, for example, Rick Perry, the populist Texas governor and all but certain candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. He has publicly toyed with seceding from the very Union that the GOP of Abraham Lincoln preserved.
Perry’s rationale has mostly involved political arguments attacking a U.S. federal government that he views as too big and too intrusive for Texans.
Much the same argument is made by Alex Salmond, the first minister (essentially prime minister) of Scotland and leader of the populist, left-wing Scottish National Party. He stymied Britain’s traditional political parties — Labour on the left, the Liberal Democrats more to the center and the Conservatives on the right — in the last election for Scotland’s parliament by staking his campaign on holding the referendum.
Salmond is a shrewd politician who adheres to the same anti-establishment creed as Perry and other true believers in the tea party. Yet for Salmond, this is about growing the size and scope of government, not downsizing it.
Salmond is unabashed in his socialist views and openly embraces a big government, Nordic-style welfare state that is beyond unaffordable when Scotland is already too dependent on government largesse.
While states like Texas, or even California, can make a very powerful economic argument for secession — each would have gross domestic products larger many countries — the same cannot be said for Scotland, with its GDP between Oregon and Alabama.
Scotland doesn’t have anywhere near the economic might to be its own state.
While secession is impractical and unrealistic in America, Scotland’s “yes” side might just get the victory Bonnie Prince Charlie failed to achieve in Culloden, the last time the Scottish tried to end English hegemony.
Dennis Lennox is a columnist for the Morning Sun of Mt. Pleasant. Follow @dennislennox on Twitter.