It is generally assumed that if Scotland votes YES to become an independent country. It will inherit membership of both NATO and the EU, and will join the United Nations and Commonwealth. While the latter intention has attracted little adverse comment, the assumption about the EU and NATO is contested by London and in much of the think-tank and academic commentary. In its recent white paper on independence the Scottish government states that its foreign, security and defence policies will be rooted in a clear framework which focuses on ‘participation in rules-based international co-operation to secure shared interests …
The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) has stated that it would expect the nuclear bases to be closed in as short a time frame as possible, and certainly by the time of the Scottish elections scheduled for 2021. The SNP has argued that its non-nuclear stance is compatible with NATO membership, pointing out that the majority of NATO members have no nuclear weapons on their territory.
The arguments of recent months about currency union and the British nuclear deterrent, fashioned in the nuclear age, are now over. By a margin of 55% to 45%, people living in Scotland have decided to remain in the United Kingdom. It delivered a convincing result of unquestionable legitimacy, with an astonishing 84.6% of the eligible electorate voting. It did not result in the breakup of the country.
The campaign to devolve power to Scotland has deep roots in the Struggle for “Home Rule for all” in which autonomy for Ireland would be followed by a similar arrangement north of Carlisle. The term ”Home Rule”, first used in the 1860s, meant an Irish legislature with responsibility for domestic affairs. It was variously interpreted, from the 1870s seen to be part of a federal system for the United Kingdom: a domestic Parliament for Ireland while the Imperial Parliament at Westminster would continue to have responsibility for Imperial affairs.
In the 1870s a former Conservative barrister Isaac Butt who was instrumental in fostering links between Constitutional and Revolutionary nationalism through his representation of members of the Fenians Society in court, established a new moderate nationalist movement, the Irish Home Government Association. Under the later chairmanship of William Shaw, it reconstituted itself to become the Home Rule League in November 1873. Under it, Ireland would still remain part of the United Kingdom but would have limited self-government. Yet, the notion of Scottish independence would then have seemed absurd.
Scots were champion empire-builders able to operate at all levels of government in Britain and in the West Indies, a fact that was a function of their ever-increasing number in the house of Commons. Between 1761 and 1767 twenty eight MPs from the forty-five Scottish constituencies held state offices. More generally, the increase in the number of Scots MPs allowed Scottish networks greater access to Parliament and to political patronage. After 1800 the economy took off, and industrialized rapidly, with textile, coal, iron, railroads, and most famously shipbuilding and banking. Glasgow was the centre of the Scottish economy.
In several European countries mid-nineteenth-century nationalism spawned an historiographical revolution. But, this was not the case in Scotland. There were som sensitivities aroused, however, especially when the notion of Scotland as a full and equal partner in union seemed threatened as with the foundation of the National Association for the Vindication of Scottish Rights of 1833 or the Irish were thought to be obtaining unfair advantages at Scottish expense. For the most part, however, a nationalist challenge to the status quo failed to develop because there was no intrinsic political or economic rational for it to emerge in Scotland.
After 1832 most former Pittites described themselves as ‘Tories’, or more frequently, ‘Conservatives’, but loyalty to the memory of Pitt remained an important source of unity for Conservatives until the party split in 1846 over the repeal of the Corn Laws. And when the Tories split over Corn Law repeal in 1846, a new Liberal Party based on free trade and Nonconformity remained predominant until the 1880s. But when the Liberals broke up over Irish Home Rule in 1886, the Conservatives became potentially the major force in politics. The Liberals’ slow decline was suddenly accelerated after a split during the First World War led first to a coalition with the Tories and, when that broke up, to their replacement as the main anti-Tory party by Labour in the early 1920s. Labour’s rise was then crippled when it too split over supporting a coalition government in 1931. All this led to a long Conservative ascendency from Baldwin to Cameron – some 61 years in office compared to Labour’s 38 – an ascendency perhaps now petering out.
Since the Second World War, the economy has been fully integrated into the overall British economy, with the most distinctive feature being the discovery of oil offshore in the North Sea. The oil brought new wealth and new people to the most isolated areas. In fact, from 1672 Petty’s “political medicine” would embrace not only Ireland but England and the Atlantic colonies as well. In key respects, political arithmetic reformulated Petty’s Hartlibian aspirations as a project for an “improv’d Empire”. The most striking instance of this was Petty’s proposal “To transmute the Irish into English”, the transformation of Ireland’s idle, poor and fractious Catholic population into 800,000 loyal and industrious subjects, and of Ireland itself from a failed kingdom into a successful colony.
Petty targeted the households that instilled these characteristics. Designed like Petty’s other proposals to replace unnatural existing policies, the transmutation of the Irish into English relied in part on the same sort of material improvements Petty recommended for England. But at the center of it all was a crucial piece of demographic engineering. Framing policy thus required a thorough knowledge of the constraints situation imposed: a political anatomy. The Political Anatomy of Ireland tackled this for one island, and Petty proposed that the same be done for the other of all three kingdoms.
Political arithmetic gradually became less a specific project than a general ‘art of government’ by social engineering, suited to a multiple monarchy and a colonial empire. But the point is that the structure of politics and political parties often takes decades, as their leaders attempt to build coalitions of voters across, groups, classes, and regions to secure their election. Just as Scotland enjoyed the fruits of empire it also suffered the misery of deindustrialisation. Between 1979 and 1981 Scotland lost a fifth of its workforce. This police took hold in Scottish minds. The nationalism that marks politics in Scotland more generally in this vote has played a key role in Scottish minds of English.
Again, the old industrial cities of north and central England suffered similarly. The poll tax was introduces in Scotland first. This because Scotland was otherwise due an alternative tax rise, which the Tories wanted to forestall. Yet there was Margaret Thatcher´s most unpopular policy, the poll tax, in some context, changed Scotland in ways she never imagined. It combined with the rise in Scottish identity to form a new nationalist story.
Moreover, Scotland is different from England because it is more left wing. Alex Salmond’s, leader of the Scottish, impassioned plea to launch a new nation a cause he championed for some two decades fell short, with Scots choosing instead the security of remaining in union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The referendum’s result prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to Britain’s economic and political establishment.
As well as being old Scotland, rich and nationalist, it is Scotland with terrible prospects. The Economist provocatively displayed on its front cover a picture of Scotland suggesting that a vote for independence would be tantamount to economic suicide. More recently, 2014 study by the ONS examined life expectancy across 404 local authority areas in Britain, Scotland where on the bottom. In the recent OECD study, Scotland in a club of rich countries, put in the bottom third, based on health outcomes. The people of eastern Slovenia are healthier.
As the population of Scotland gets older and sicker the cost of pensions and generous health-care provision will increase. The trends those study observed suggest that, over the next 50 years, the Scottish workforce will actually shrink and the number of pensioners will rise. The biggest problem would be demography and nationalist party intent on overspending, and Scotland´s economic prospects would be bleak.
This would add pressure to an already profligate public sector. Even if prices rally of oil and production improves, Scottish industry´s best days are behind it. Independent fiscal Office for Budget Responsibility reckons that revenues form oil taxes will dwindle by 2017-18. Allthis means warm glow of independent Scotland with the end of oil in sight. More over Scotland will face huge clean-up costs after the oil has gone.
Salmond had argued that Scots could go it alone because of its extensive oil reserves and high levels of ingenuity and education. A vision of its economic future in which oil solves most ills, and innovative policy spurs rapid growth. Oil and gas accounted for €14 billion out of €40 billion in Scottish exports in 2012, according to data compiled by the Scottish government. The projection, however, rests on rosy forecasts of both oil prices and quantity firms will be able to extract.
Second, the future Scottish government will have little capacity in the commitment to the protection of its citizens overseas. Scotland, like the rest of the United Kingdom, has a significant number of citizens working overseas, many of them connected to the oil and gas industry or the Scottish churches.
Excluding oil, Scotland ran a public sector deficit of €14 billion in 2012-2013. At 11% of GDP that is a bigger gap than crisis stricken Greece and Ireland. In truth, with its twin budget and current-account deficits, the new nation would have face much the same challenges as Britain, only more acutely. Similarly, UK is likely to inherit its most favoured defence trading status with the United States, but this will not apply to Scotland, at least initially, and if congressional approval is obtained. This will probably result in a number of defence firms moving their businesses from Scotland simply to retain access to the US market, where they contribute to various programmes. The same effect is also likely to occur in areas such as warship building, where the majority of business would be for UK and the United Kingdom has traditionally insisted on retaining the ability to manufacture at home.
It is generally assumed that UK would inherit all the United Kingdom’s current treaty commitments and obligations. By contrast, an independent Scotland is not viewed as inheriting these commitments, and would have to negotiate any agreements afresh. This will have a number of consequences. For example, membership of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence community (UK, US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) is unlikely to be offered, at least initially, to Scotland, and whether it is granted at all will be entirely dependent on the acquiescence of the existing members.
The issue of Scottish independence has been settled for the foreseeable future. Big promises of more devolved powers were made to Scotland to keep it in the union.
But it is not only in Scotland that the campaign stirred passions. The outcome is that Scotland will have more control of its own affairs and greater tax-raising powers, but less influence over England. Prime Minister David Cameron, under pressure from within the Conservative Party, has announced that a new ‘balanced settlement’ is to be worked out.
Britain had agreed to grant the Scots considerable new powers to run their own affairs. Prime Minister David Cameron— a great opportunity — to change the way the British people are governed,” he said, “and change it for the better.”
He gave no specifics, but said: “Just as Scotland will vote separately in the Scottish Parliament on their issues of tax, spending and welfare, so too England, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland, should be able to vote on these issues. This will mean more power for the English over English affairs, and similarly in Wales and Northern Ireland. The challenge, now that Scots have voted for the union, will be to create a structure that retains a real union both in fact and in spirit.
Positions on the shape of the new settlement will need to be established within each major party. The discussion will be complex. It could also entrench more rightist government in England, since most Scottish MPs (41 of 59, out of a total of 650 Westminster seats) represent Labour.
What lies ahead is a federal Britain. A related argument is that federalism makes it harder to pass new legislation because it has to be ratified in two legislative assemblies. The implication is a status quo bias. But while federalism does appear to have associated with smaller governments, there is in fact a striking amount of variance across federalist states. Swiss and US federalism seems to be linked to low spending, but this is not true of German or Austrian federalism. To the variety of regionalisms that exist correspond different modes of regional government and governance. To account for this variation, Rodden (2003, 2005) has proposed to distinguish between federalist systems with different fiscal institutions.
Federalizing, or federal can be seen as a complex interplay of centrifugal and centripetal pressures. But it would be an oddly unbalanced federalism, given that England represents 85 percent of the population, as the consulting firm Oxford Analytica pointed out. This kind of democracy would be fairer than the existing arrangements, but it may also have consequences beyond the United Kingdom, as noted by Egmont Institute “Cameron’s logic calls for eurozone democracy”. The promises of decentralization “made by London to Scotland will also lead to claims for similar powers from Wales and Northern Ireland. Rules make sense.
A more democratic and bolder alternative (see here) would be to set up a separate English parliament. It would handle domestic policy, leaving foreign affairs and economic co-ordination to a federal parliament. This is a logical solution: everyone, including the English, would then have an assembly. English MPs would be accountable for English policies, British MPs for British ones, and voters would know whom to blame for what.
Prime Minister David Cameron now faces a broader debate over the centralization of power in London, intense budget pressures, and fissures within his own Conservative Party as he heads toward a general election campaign in the spring.
The vote riveted the world. In Washington, President Barack Obama welcomed Scotland’s choice, and congratulated Scots for their “full and energetic exercise of democracy.”
The vote against independence keeps the United Kingdom from losing a substantial part of its territory and oil reserves and prevents it from having to find a new base for its nuclear arsenal, now housed in Scotland. It had also faced a possible loss of influence within international institutions including the 28-nation European Union, NATO and the United Nations. It would have reduced UK’s representation in the European Parliament and other institutions. The Scottish referendum result is a poke in the eye for those around the world who mocked London’s weakness in agreeing to allow it.
The vote in Scotland, however, has great implications for Britain’s membership in the European Union. Scotland is adamantly pro-European, and should Mr. Cameron remain prime minister after the May elections, he would have a better chance of winning a 2017 referendum he promised on British membership in the European Union with old Scotland voting on it.