The country of Scotland’s referendum to (once again) be independent of the United Kingdom (UK) is only days away. This is a look at the political landscape leading up to the historic vote on Thursday, Sept. 18.
A separation from England and the larger UK would not be incidental. Despite opposition amongst ordinary Scots and riots against the union throughout the country, Scotland nevertheless united with England in 1707, thus creating the Kingdom of Great Britain. If successful, Thursday’s vote will undo this 300-year marriage.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who is against the secession of Scotland, will present his final argument today in Aberdeen. The warnings he will issue will be obvious: Scotland and UK will be permanently separated. He will likely say that an emotional vote as a protest will nevertheless be irreparable and no going back will be possible.
Perhaps most troubling is that Scotland would likely no longer be part of the British pound, one of the world’s strongest and most stable currencies. Questions about who will be responsible for the national debt and the disposition of nuclear submarines would remain unresolved. But, as orderly as the authorities will try to make it, secession would be more than a separation, it would be an authentic divorce and possibly just as traumatic. Cameron’s warnings are correct: if Scots vote to jump ship, it will be right over the side and into a dark abyss of an unknown size. When that bottom would be struck is anyone’s guess.
Fresh polling data is inconclusive. The Survation polling company puts the “leave it as is” camp eight full points ahead while, confusingly, an ICM poll puts the cause of independence ahead by a similar margin. Such numbers could go either way in the next several days.
Although all appears cool on the surface, the policy wonks and political operatives of Scotland surely must be scrambling, trying to figure out how in the world – if indeed a “yes” vote wins – they will negotiate the possibly horrific transition. An unnamed source quoted in The Telegraph said that he or she had “never seen so many strategy papers in my life.”
Many of the “No” advocates cite fearful scenarios as reasons not to split Scotland away from the UK. David Folkerts-Landau, Chief Economist with Deutsche Bank, asserts that a “Yes” vote would trigger a sequence of policy changes that would go down in history as deeply and tragically as when the United States’ Federal Reserve did not pump enough currency into that country’s economy in the 1930s, thus fueling the Great Depression.
Others, like former Deutsche Bank officer Ian Blackford and Edward McDowell, a banker with 40 years experience, characterized such claims as “disingenuous.” Blackford pointed out that Deutsche Bank failed to predict the global recession that began in 2008 so “what they are saying now is preposterous.”
Similarly, the National Union of Students (NUS), which is in favor of independence, labeled such warnings as coming from untrustworthy figures. The president of the group, Gordon Maloney, said his mind was made up when he took saw that it was big bankers and oil executives who were saying that Scots were “too stupid and uppity to manage it.” Such “pathetic threats” informed him which side he was on.
The “Yes” campaign makes some compelling promises: respect for immigrants, funded and accessible childcare, free and guaranteed higher education, removal of Trident nuclear submarines and renewable energy investment. However, ultimately, emotions may be the biggest driver of how Scots vote.
Opinion by Gregory Baskin