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Beyond the point of repair

The second guest blogger on Arc of Prosperity is Phyllis Buchanan.

Phyl is a mum of 5, busy running her language company, taking photos and trying to keep up with the pace of life. She blogs at Phyl’s Blog.

An earlier version of this post has been published on her blog before.

Divorce Cakes a_006
Divorce Cakes a_006, a photo by DrJohnBullas on Flickr.
I’ve been wondering why the Scottish independence referendum has been annoying me increasingly over the last few months to the point that when I hear it mentioned on the news or similar, I turn off.

It isn’t the I am not interested. I am passionately interested. It is plain to see that England, first under Labour and now under the ConDems, has no idea whatsoever what to do to start moving in the right direction. Their education system has been priced out of realistic people’s grasp, and not in line with the rest of the European continent that it is part of. Their health service is failing miserably. The infrastructure is collapsing around them, they have youth unemployment but are trying to force pensioners into working till way beyond the age when people (in my family at least) tend to die. They are hysterical about immigration, even when fears are not realized.

Childcare is so beyond people’s reach that many women (even with degree-level education and beyond) are no longer able to go out to work — salaries just don’t meet the costs. Some stay home and decimate their careers, others choose to have no children, many rely on aging parents who suddenly find themselves incapacitated and then they’re faced with losing their home because their mortgage was based on granny childminding. Many, like me, try to work half-time (plus a little) from home, staying up till the wee small hours to make ends meet, working all weekends and holidays but that isn’t the way forward in the 21st century.

Sure enough London seems to be working reasonably well, a little part of the South East too but Birmingham up is quite frankly in a state! I want my kids to live in a fairer, more progressive country so it is incomprehensible to me after reading the figures (as quoted in the FT and even occasionally the Economist), reading independent GDP projections and reports on other small countries that are working much better, reading the White Paper and its far-reaching ideas that anyone would vote to sink with the ship that is floundering on the Somerset plains.

Now this is nothing anti-English — many of my English friends who live here are also Yes supporters, quite frankly I think Northern England needs it as much as we do, they simply aren’t being given the option and I am not willing to join them in a suicide pact when I can start to build a future they can hopefully draw example from.

Anyway, back to why the Indy Ref is annoying me. It suddenly hit me, while listening to Osborne’s speech in Edinburgh ten days ago… It is because of my divorce. I didn’t just go through a divorce eight years ago, I went through the most acrimonious divorce that any one I know has gone through. That is not what I intended but it is what transpired. I don’t usually blog about my real, innermost private life but let’s discard that rule just for once and let me take you through my divorce blow by blow. There is enough distance between me and it now for this to be possible without it being overly upsetting…

So let’s go back to five or six years before I left my first husband. We had grown apart. We were coexisting but didn’t have much in common. I saw my future differently from where he saw it but I wasn’t the divorcing type so I sat him down and told him we had to start having more time for each other, sharing parenting more and moving in the same direction. I said I wanted a little more respect and a bit more affection. He barked at me that by living in my “shitty country” he was showing me enough affection so I’d to leave him in peace and not nag him again.

After that spectacular fail at repairing our relationship things carried on as before with me working full time, parenting full time and doing everything in the house while he worked long hours and de-stressed by treating himself to cafĂ© trips, cinema trips and piles of rental videos of his choice. When I had finally had enough, I told him I wanted to leave and he came out with a phrase I will take with me to my grave: “I didn’t need to make an effort because you were never going to leave.” Of all the lessons from my divorce that one line has possibly shaped the way I have lived my life afterwards most. So does that attitude ring any distant bells? Anyway, for my marriage it was too late. I didn’t love him any more.

His first reaction after I announced I was leaving was to declare his undying love for me and try to show me the affection I had craved for the previous decade. I was appalled and repulsed. I didn’t want him to go anywhere near me, let alone hold my hand.

After a few weeks of “I love you”, he moved on to undermining me. I was never going to survive on my own, I was too dependent, I was too used to his salary, I was pathetic. Too wee, too poor? Any bells?

Next I was told he’d go to court and have my children taken off me because I was a hopeless parent and he was a victim of my mid-life crisis so he would obviously be favoured by a judge. The thought of him trying to take my kids terrified me. That kept me voting “No” to leaving for a another few weeks. Slowly, I started to realize that I was the only constant in their lives so it was another lie — a bluff.

Then he tried bribery. He’d never bought me any jewellery and had always spent most of his money on things for himself so he told me that if I promised to stay I could have a diamond ring and a brand new seven-seater car. I guess this was his version of further devolved powers. Firstly, I wasn’t as shallow as that, but moreover, I was slowly beginning to realize that I’d rather have neither than stay with him.

When that blackmail tactic didn’t work he tried threatening to leave his job, so I would get no maintenance, this was followed by threats that I would have destroyed his career by leaving and he’d be destitute and it’d all be my doing. Of course later this all culminated in threats of self harm. I worried for another few weeks until again it started to dawn … all bluster and bullying. Yes, they worked for a little while but eventually I realized they were all time-buying bluffs.

He became quite verbally abusive for some time after that but that didn’t wear me down, it strengthened my resolve greatly. Finally I got the threat that he would not give up the house. He wouldn’t sell me his half so I’d lose my home. I guess this is the parallel of the current currency issue.

But the problem was that by that point starting again from scratch with less money, somewhere else, was still preferable to giving in to his bully tactics because we had gone way beyond the point of repair and more importantly I had started to believe in myself and see my route out. I’d seen what my future could hold and contemplated that other world.

Of course, he promised me the earth if I stayed but I knew realistically that once I opted to stay he wouldn’t change, he’d be no more loving or supportive than before and worse still he’d spend the rest of my life casting the almost-divorce up to me, taking more and more to compensate himself for the hurt he perceived. Life after a No vote to divorce would have been an utter nightmare.

So on balance, I think the reason I’m turning off to the Indy Ref is because it is way too close to the bone. The parallels are so strong, I am finding them upsetting. I’ve been through lies and bullying once and that is enough for one life time. Watching interview after interview on the BBC where Westminster politicians are allowed to lie or embellish the truth without being picked up by the interviewer just gets me down. I have read enough foreign and independent sources to notice the bullying lies and half truths. The fact that someone less well informed will be sitting there falling for their sound bites frustrates and scares me immeasurably.

I am starting to suspect that this divorce is becoming more acrimonious by the day and even if we do return a No, I sense we will have gone beyond the point of repair.

Scandinavia isn’t perfect

DSCN6161, a photo by Hunter-Desportes on Flickr.
In the past couple of days, Denmark seems to have got (in-)famous for slaughtering a giraffe in public and feeding it to the lions, but until recently, many people seemed to think that Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries were some sort of paradise on Earth, which is probably why the criticism of Scandinavia published in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago attracted so much attention.

As a Danish emigrant, I’ve never thought of it as perfect, and I do agree with many of the points raised in the article. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn many useful lessons — we just need to be selective about what to copy and remember that sometimes we should be teaching them instead.

Anyway, I thought it’d be useful to address some of the points raised in more detail, so here goes:

Why do the Danes score so highly on international happiness surveys? Well, they do have high levels of trust and social cohesion, and do very nicely from industrial pork products, but according to the OECD they also work fewer hours per year than most of the rest of the world. As a result, productivity is worryingly sluggish. How can they afford all those expensively foraged meals and hand-knitted woollens? Simple, the Danes also have the highest level of private debt in the world (four times as much as the Italians, to put it into context; enough to warrant a warning from the IMF), while more than half of them admit to using the black market to obtain goods and services.

This is rather misleading. Yes, Danes have a lot of debt, but they have lots of assets, too, so if you look a net debt I don’t believe Denmark is worse than many other places. And of course moonlighting exists, but I don’t think it’s particularly widespread there. I’m also curious why using the black market would make you unhappy (unless you get caught, of course).

The real reason Danes top happiness surveys might have more to do with how to express the word “happy” in Danish (link in Danish), and the fact that Danes don’t like to admit they’re unhappy.

Perhaps the Danes’ dirtiest secret is that, according to a 2012 report from the Worldwide Fund for Nature, they have the fourth largest per capita ecological footprint in the world. Even ahead of the US. Those offshore windmills may look impressive as you land at Kastrup, but Denmark is the EU’s largest exporter of oil, and it still burns an awful lot of coal. Worth bearing that in mind the next time a Dane wags her finger at your patio heater.

This is not even mentioning the widespread use of wood-burning stoves in Denmark. 🙂

It’s certainly true that Denmark and the other Scandinavian countries are no saints when it comes to energy, but it’s a very mixed picture.

Denmark for instance taxes cars to a ludicrous degree (close to 200% on top of the cost of the car), which on the one hand means a lot of people use bikes or public transport instead of cars, but on the other hand it means a large number of the Danish cars are extremely old and would have been scrapped years ago in other countries. My dear wife once remarked about Copenhagen that although there was almost no traffic compared to a similar-sized city such as Glasgow, the air actually smelled worse.

A more positive example is the way Denmark uses the heat generated from crematoriums and from incinerating rubbish to heat houses.

I think energy and pollution is one of those areas where we can learn many lessons from the Scandinavian countries, but they can possibly learn more from us!

I’m afraid I have to set you straight on Danish television too. Their big new drama series, Arvingerne (The Legacy, when it comes to BBC4 later this year) is stunning, but the reality of prime-time Danish TV is day-to-day, wall-to-wall reruns of 15-year-old episodes of Midsomer Murders and documentaries on pig welfare.

I agree, Danish TV is generally dreadful. It’s Danish film-making that is wonderful. I guess it’s not a bad idea to invest what money you have in producing a few world-class films and TV series, rather than spreading the money out evenly.

The Danes of course also have highest taxes in the world (though only the sixth-highest wages – hence the debt, I guess). As a spokesperson I interviewed at the Danish centre-right thinktank Cepos put it, they effectively work until Thursday lunchtime for the state’s coffers, and the other day and half for themselves.

Although Danes on paper have very high taxes, I believe this is just a ploy to scare away potential immigrants. The official tax rates published include council taxes, national insurance and church levies, and most Danes have sizeable deductions that reduce their taxable income dramatically (for instance you get tax relief for mortgage payments and for commuting to work).

Once you taken all of the above into account, my guess is the typical Dane pays a wee bit more in tax that the typical Scot, but if you deduct the the high welfare payments (subsidised nurseries, generous unemployment benefit and all that) and you also remember that ordinary Danes typically have much higher incomes than their Scottish peers, I reckon most Danes are much better off.

As an example of the higher salaries in Denmark, apparently a check-out operator in the UK makes ÂŁ9,262 a year but according to Ekstra Bladet, the average salary for this job in Denmark is ÂŁ25,813 a year. Danish taxes would have to be insanely high to remove all of that difference!

The Cepos people he has been talking to are part of the right-wing think-tanks that are hell-bent on dismantling the Danish welfare state and turning it into a country Thatcher would have been proud of. It’s very sad that many Danes today don’t appreciate the wonderful system they’ve built up. I hope that seeing an independent Scotland building exactly this kind of welfare state might make them realise how unique the system is before it gets lost.

According to the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment rankings (Pisa), Denmark’s schools lag behind even the UK’s.

It’s Finland’s schools that have been highly praised for years, not Denmark’s. In my experience, Danish primary schools aren’t great — I was bored out of my skull for most of the nine years. They aren’t bad when it comes to teaching modern languages, though, and that’s not included in the headline Pisa measurements.

Danish high schools are good (or at least they were in my day), but they are essentially grammar schools, so it’s hard to compare them to schools here. One interesting feature is that you can select to deselect maths and science to a very large degree, which will probably harm Denmark’s average scores for these subjects.

Its health service is buckling too. (The other day, I turned up at my local A&E to be told that I had to make an appointment, which I can’t help feeling rather misunderstands the nature of the service.) According to the World Cancer Research Fund, the Danes have the highest cancer rates on the planet.

The Danish health service has many problems. It’s organised and funded very much like the Scottish NHS (or perhaps more like the English NHS these days, given that privatised services are becoming an integrated part of it), except that dentistry isn’t included. I don’t think Scotland can learn much from Denmark in this regard.

“But at least the trains run on time!” I hear you say. No, that was Italy under Mussolini. The Danish national rail company has skirted bankruptcy in recent years, and the trains most assuredly do not run on time.

In my experience, Danish public transport is more punctual that what you find in the UK, but just like here, partial privatisation experiments have caused lots of problems.

Most seriously of all, economic equality – which many believe is the foundation of societal success – is decreasing. According to a report in Politiken this month, the proportion of people below the poverty line has doubled over the last decade.

Indeed. Denmark is most decidedly heading in the wrong direction. I would suggest that most of the lessons that Scotland can learn from Scandinavia with regard to building an world-class welfare state aren’t based on current developments. It’s the development and extension of the welfare state in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that we can learn a lot from, and sometimes from the later consolidation, but in most regards Denmark has ever since been pruning and scaling back welfare provisions — not so much because they had become unaffordable, but more because people have actually forgotten what poverty means, and if you don’t remember what the welfare state is protecting you from, it gets easy to think it’d be nice to pay fewer taxes.

Denmark’s provinces have become a social dumping ground for non-western immigrants, the elderly, the unemployed and the unemployable who live alongside Denmark’s 22m intensively farmed pigs, raised 10 to a pen and pumped full of antibiotics (the pigs, that is).

Yes, Denmark is a very centralised country, and pig farming is big business. The recent giraffe debacle has demonstrated the rather utilitarian attitude most Danes have to animals.

I’m not sure it’s true that the provinces have become a dumping ground. What seems to be happening is that anybody with a university degree or any ambitions gravitates towards Copenhagen or one of the other cities, but that’s something we’re seeing in many countries at the moment.

There remains a disturbing Islamophobic sub-subculture in Norway. Ask the Danes, and they will tell you that the Norwegians are the most insular and xenophobic of all the Scandinavians

Xenophobia is a problem in many Scandinavian countries. The cause is probably that the societies have been culturally uniform until recently, which makes it hard to accept that other people might want to do things differently.

The Danes have been described as a tribe, and it is indeed very difficult to get accepted while being different in any way. Danes have even started talking about requiring immigrants to assimilate rather than just integrate.

Danes also have a real problem with understanding why anybody would emigrate, unless it’s to get filthily rich.

It’s an area where I must say I prefer Scotland to Denmark. I love the fact that Scotland has been a multilingual country for at least two millennia, and indeed differences and conflicts are an integral part of Scottish culture, whether talking about languages, religions, clans or football.

Scotland is also very much a country of immigrants and emigrants, a country where almost every family has a grandparent born outwith Scotland, or a cousin who moved abroad.

Of course you can meet xenophobia in Scotland, too — it would be strange if it didn’t exist at all — but it’s much less insular and xenophobic than any of the Scandinavian countries.

The Finns are epic Friday-night bingers and alcohol is now the leading cause of death for Finnish men.

Binge-drinking is a problem in most countries where the winters are too dark for comfort. If anybody was under the impression that alcohol wasn’t a problem in Scandinavia, they’re sadly mistaken.

Most of the Nordic countries have opted for a highly controlled system (similar to what they have in Canada, I believe), where alcohol can only be purchased in state-owned shops that look more like pharmacies than supermarkets. Denmark, on the other hand, is extremely liberal. There is a cultural norm that says that you start drinking at your confirmation (age 13 or 14), and Danish high schools routinely serve beer at parties (age 15 and up).

Effectively a one-party state – albeit supported by a couple of shadowy industrialist families – for much of the 20th century, “neutral” Sweden (one of the world largest arms exporters) continues to thrive economically thanks to its distinctive brand of totalitarian modernism, which curbs freedoms, suppresses dissent in the name of consensus, and seems hell-bent on severing the bonds between wife and husband, children and parents, and elderly on their children. Think of it as the China of the north.

I believe this is a consequence of the tribe mentality I mentioned above. Because everybody is similar and conflicts are frowned upon, it gets easy to go to far. Because nurseries are plentiful and cheap, it becomes the norm to send your children there all day every day, and once the norm has become established, it gets difficult to go against it.

The myriad successes of the Nordic countries are no miracle, they were born of a combination of Lutheran modesty, peasant parsimony, geographical determinism and ruthless pragmatism (“The Russians are attacking? Join the Nazis! The Nazis are losing? Join the Allies!”). These societies function well for those who conform to the collective median, but they aren’t much fun for tall poppies. Schools rein in higher achievers for the sake of the less gifted; “elite” is a dirty word; displays of success, ambition or wealth are frowned upon.

In my experience, it’s mainly Londoners (even if they were born in Scotland) who find that Scandinavians frown upon displays of success and wealth; it’s not really that different from Scotland. The Lutheran mindset wasn’t really that different from the Presbyterian one, I believe, so again the difference is more marked when you come from England (and especially London) than when you’re from Scotland.

I think the points raised here have shown that Scotland can learn a lot from Scandinavia, but there are equally many points where Scandinavia should look at Scotland. That’s how it should be, and it’s best neither to idolise nor demonise any foreign country.

Many of the Danish/Scandinavian problems are due to excessive homogeneity, a lack of both immigration and emigration for many years, and the insular outlook you easily get from speaking a language that isn’t shared by other countries.

Scotland has never been a homogenous country, it’s always been a country of immigrants and emigrants, and the native use of English is a good bulwark against parochialism. I therefore think it’s likely that Scotland can successfully import many of the successful elements from Scandinavia without succumbing to the Scandinavian malaise.

Granting Scottish citizenship to new Scots

Dual citizenship in the EU.
Dual citizenship in the EU.
Most of the discussions about access to Scottish citizenship after independence have been about expat Scots and their descendants (as well as the related discussion about rUK citizenship for Scots).

However, I believe there is a bigger problem closer to home, concerning those who can take part in Scottish Parliament elections (and because of that also in the independence referendum), but who will lose that vote after a Yes victory, namely EU (and possibly Commonwealth) citizens resident in Scotland.

The SNP’s 2002 proposal for a Scottish constitution (PDF) suggested granting Scottish citizenship to everybody living in Scotland on independence day (“Every person whose principal place of residence is in Scotland at the date at which this Constitution comes into force shall be a citizen of Scotland”), but the white paper states that only UK citizens will be Scottish citizens from day one, and that migrants are restricted to applying for naturalisation after independence, and only if they’ve lived here for at least ten years and are of good character (see the table at the end of this chapter).

This means that there’ll be a significant group of independence referendum voters who will effectively disenfranchise themselves by voting Yes in September. Some of them will just apply for Scottish citizenship afterwards, but a large group won’t qualify or will have their own reasons not to do so.

For instance, Denmark and several other EU countries don’t allow dual citizenship to be acquired. It’s allowed if you’re born with two nationalities, or if you can get another one without applying for it (this typically happened in the past in some countries where wives automatically got their husband’s nationality on marriage), but if you apply to become a citizen of another country, you lose your Danish citizenship. In other words, it wouldn’t cause any problems if Scotland granted Scottish citizenship to all Danish citizens living in Scotland on 24 March 2016, but if they have to apply for naturalisation, they will lose their Danish nationality in the process.

At the moment, EU citizens living in Scotland can vote in all elections, apart from the Westminster ones. However, after independence Scottish Parliament elections will not be local elections any more, and EU citizens cannot vote in general elections in any other country, so I’d be surprised if Scotland was an exception. (The UK currently lets Irish and Commonwealth citizens take part in Westminster elections, but most other countries restrict voting in general elections to their own citizens.) If there are plans to let all EU citizens resident in Scotland vote in general elections after independence, please do let me know!

The result of this is that EU citizens living in Scotland are likely to lose their right to vote in Scottish Parliament elections when Scotland becomes independent. This is hardly a great incentive to vote Yes.

I strongly believe we can maximise the foreign-born Yes vote by granting Scottish citizenship to everybody who can take part in the independence referendum, not just to British citizens living in Scotland.

Not nationalists, separatists or secessionists, but sovereigntists

québec libre
québec libre, a photo by faustineclavert on Flickr.
Members of the SNP are routinely called nationalists, and the same word is often applied to everybody in the wider pro-independence movement, although Westminster Unionists also like to call us separatists, and international (mainly American) observers occasionally describe us as secessionists.

Of course we’re nationalists, but civic ones, which isn’t really the primary meaning of “nationalist” in most other countries. This sometimes confuses No campaigners, who at times say things like “I can’t vote Yes because I’m an internationalist”, although most Yes people have a very international outlook. (In fact I’m often surprised by the number of people in the SNP and in Yes Scotland who have either got family abroad or have lived outwith Scotland for a long time).

Of course we’re separatists, insomuch as we want to be ruled by a parliament that is separate from Westminster rather than subordinate to it, but we’re very happy to share a lot of laws and institutions with the rUK, with Europe and with the wider world.

Of course we’re secessionists to a certain extent, given that it’s to be expected the rUK will be more similar to the UK than Scotland will, simply because Scotland is so small in comparison, and because most of the shared institutions are located in London. However, we tend to think of Scottish independence as putting an end to the 1707 Act of Union, which was a treaty uniting two sovereign countries, so we believe we’re dissolving a union rather than seceding from it.

Sometimes I just wish people on both sides would agree to call the Yes side sovereigntists, which seems to be the preferred term in Quebec, because that’s exactly what we are. The Yes side is united by the belief that Scotland should be a sovereign nation again.

Addendum (11/04/14): Wee Ginger Dug wrote this today: “By the way, it’s far easier to express some political concepts in Spanish than in English. In Spanish you don’t constantly have to have annoying arguments about all independence supporters being nationalists and just the same as Hitler. Spanish has the useful word independentista – which means a person who supports the right to self determination, and nationalism doesn’t come into it. English just has the word “nationalist”. Unfortunately the English version, independentist, makes you sound like a tooth puller for independence, or someone who does freelance fillings.”

The UK as a cartogram

A cartogram of the UK.
A cartogram of the UK. From Views of the World.
When you look at a standard map of the UK, Scotland takes up a lot of space. The BBC’s weather maps reduce Scotland and enlarge southern England, but Scotland still looks like a significant part of the UK.

I sometimes wonder whether the physical size of Scotland is making Scots blind to the fact that Scotland’s influence in the UK is based on population, not on landmass: Scotland has only 59 out of 650 seats in the House of Commons.

To avoid this pitfall I often find it instructive to look instead at a cartogram, such as the one on the right. The size of the blue squares depend on the population living there, so London is a huge circle full of big squares. Sparsely inhabited areas are so small that they look like white lines instead. For instance, the white border around London means very few people are living in this “border area”.

From a Scottish perspective, we can see that Scotland is separated from England by a lot of white lines. In other words the Borders are almost empty, and this creates a very real border between the two countries. (We see a similar situation in Wales, and to some extent in Cornwall.)

More importantly, Scotland is clearly much smaller than London on this cartogram. This explains why the UK is increasingly being run by and for London, while Scotland struggles to get its voice heard.

Three hundred years ago, when the Union was formed, a cartogram would have shown a much more balanced map. Unfortunately, people (and money) have gradually gravitated towards the capital.

We need to rebalance the map, and the best way to achieve that is to vote for independence next year.

Scotland as a Nordic country

Scotland and the other Nordic countriesA year from now, the most important referendum in the history of Scotland will take place.

In foreign policy, England has always tended to ignore the Nordic countries and preferred to look south towards France, and the UK has of course always been dominated by England in this regard, but after independence Scotland can revert to being a Northern European country.

Obviously, Scotland isn’t part of Scandinavia like Denmark, Norway and Sweden. However, can an independent Scotland be regarded as a Nordic country? If so, joining the Nordic Council would be possible.

The usual definition of the Nordic countries includes only Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Greenland, the Faeroe Islands and the Ă…land Islands. However, a brief glance at a map shows that Scotland would be a natural addition to the list.

Scandinavia is largely defined by language — Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are mutually intelligible after a few weeks’ exposure. This isn’t true for the other languages of the Nordics, however. Also, people from all the Nordic countries are increasingly using English amongst themselves, so not knowing a Scandinavian language might not be a real problem.

In fact, I have a suspicion that the Finns and the Icelanders might be quite happy to get an excuse to use English — although Finnish-speaking Finns learn Swedish at school, almost none of them are able to understand spoken Danish.

Historically, the non-Scandinavian Nordic countries are, or have been, ruled by a Scandinavian one: the Faeroes and Greenland are still controlled by Denmark (although they have devolution), Iceland was Danish until 1944, and Finland and Ă…land were part of Sweden until 1809.

Orkney and Shetland were part of Denmark-Norway until 1468, when they were pawned to Scotland, and many Scottish islands were under Viking rule a few centuries before that, so there are definitely some historical connexions there that might be useful when submitting the membership application.

However, at the end of the day the Nordic Council is a club for small Northern European countries with a Social-Democratic mindset. If Scotland goes down the Common Weal path, I expect the Nordic Countries will be more than happy to let Scotland join.


Closed Sign in Yellowstone
Closed Sign in Yellowstone, a photo by bmills on Flickr.
On 19th September 2014, a very large group of Scots will have to come to terms with the fact that their side lost.

If it’s a Yes, I expect most people from the No campaign to start fighting Scotland’s corner relatively quickly. This is because I don’t know of many countries that after independence have had a large group of people trying to undo the divorce. As far as I know, nobody is campaigning for reunification with the UK in the Republic of Ireland, the Slovaks don’t pine for the good old Czechoslovakian days, the Norwegians like their independence and have no desire to reunify with either Sweden or Denmark, etc., etc. I think there might be some people in Belarus who want to reunify with Russia, but that’s the only exception I can think of, and I do think Scotland is more like Ireland, Slovakia and Norway than Belarus.

One of the results of a Yes will be a complete realignment of Scotland’s political system: The SNP will most likely break up (or at least lose many members to other parties), and the unionist parties will shed their links to the mother parties in London and reposition themselves to respond to the political views of the Scottish voters without any need to appeal to English swing voters. This realignment will mean that soon after independence, Scotland’s political parties will be as different from the rUK’s as Ireland’s currently are.

If the referendum ends in a No, I’m not so sure. Of course we’ll all accept the result and try to make the best of it at first, but having talked about how much Scotland will be able to achieve as an independent country, it will be very difficult to abandon the dream completely. The SNP might lose a few disillusioned voters, but on the whole I expect the party to survive and keep the flame alive. Also, given likely subsequent developments in the UK, such as leaving the EU and getting a Tory government supported by UKIP, I wouldn’t be surprised if large groups of Scots would soon bitterly regret their No vote in the referendum.

In other words, a Yes vote will bring closure to the independence questions and allow the nation to move forward together. I fear that a No vote will just lead to stagnation, confusion and regret.