Will Scotland Go Independent?


Jonathan Freedland on Scotland's future, in the NYRB:

[I]t is, paradoxically, Scotland that has been clinging to an idea of Britain, one that has been abandoned by the rest of the UK—at least if that idea is defined in part as the collectivist spirit of 1945. As Macwhirter writes, “Scots have arguably been more committed to the idea of Britain than the English over the last 200 years. What Scotland didn’t buy into was the abandonment of what used to be called the post-war consensus: universalism and the welfare state.”

Which is why the Yes campaign’s offer, set out in Scotland’s Future, consists as much of social policy as constitutional change. The document contains few abstractions about democracy, but promises instead “a transformational change in childcare,” the scrapping of London-imposed changes to welfare benefits, and, in the move most likely to attract international attention, the removal of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapon system from Scotland. “We’re half an hour away from the biggest collection of weapons of mass destruction in western Europe,” Jenkins told me. “There’s no version of devolution that allows us to get rid of that.” In other words, only independence allows Scotland to fully realize the distinct political culture that has arisen there.

Some on the left of the No campaign warn that it will be a cruel irony if, by breaking away, Scotland ensures the isolation of its more social democratic ethos. For once Scotland no longer sends fifty-nine MPs to Westminster, many of whom represent safe Labour seats, then Labour’s chances of forming a UK government diminish sharply. If independence happens in 2016, then an England-dominated UK could be the land that is forever Tory. Some electoral analysts dispute that arithmetic; nevertheless it will be this country to which an independent, left-leaning Scotland might be bound in monetary, fiscal, and political union, with the UK Treasury and Bank of England together making major decisions affecting Scotland’s economy. Scottish social democracy could discover it was able to flourish more easily inside Britain than out.

It will be a greater irony still if the ultimate consequence of the program pursued by the great patriot and would-be latter-day Britannia, Margaret Thatcher, was to be the unraveling of the United Kingdom.

More here.