An informative Project Syndicate article, here, delves into the reasons behind the current surge in interest in Scottish Independence, emphasising the independent institutions already in place. Its conclusion is surprising, but well thought-out: Scotland is in an unusual situation for a country seeking independence, with general approval of the status quo, despite the surge in voting for the Scottish National Party.
The article, for an American publication, does not look into the reasons behind this SNP surge: general dissatisfaction with the ruling Labour Party in Westminster, with the Conservative Party seen as English and foreign. After the elections earlier this year, the SNP is the largest party in the Scottish Parliament, and is set to lead a majority coalition, with negotiations in progress at time of writing. It is their stated aim, after this, to start negotiations to repeal the Acts of Union (1706-7) and hold a referendum on independence.
Following independence, what is the next step for Scotland? At the risk of stating the obvious, we can look forward to closer ties with Europe including adoption of the single currency, and an increase in trade with other European neighbours. Having seen the generally positive results of this in Ireland, I have no problem with any of that, though the article does pour cold water on any hopes for the level of Brussels largesse that Ireland has enjoyed.
Nevertheless, Scottish Independence is now firmly on the political agenda, and an exemplary continuation of the Scots realpolitik we read in the history books. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a Scotland that had made its peace with an imperial England was pioneering Enlightenment thinking and the Industrial Revolution. Instead of kicking England out of Scotland, they took Edinburgh to Westminster, to the extent that Scots have been in charge of the ruling Labour party for last 15 years. When John Smith died in 1994 he handed over the reins to Tony Blair (who was originally from Edinburgh); Blair became Prime Minister in 1997, and is soon to retire in favour of Gordon Brown (from Glasgow). Having a Caledonian in Number 10 will surely weigh heavily on the Scottish Independence process.
With the hard work done and less remaining to fight over, with an awareness of British Imperial history, and an emphasis on political structures and cultural identity, the kind of “struggle” that went on in Ireland looks like a collossal waste, counter-productive and unnecessary in the Scottish context. My nation of skinflints knows that there are cheaper ways of getting the job done!