I know, I know, this weekly feature is meant to concern itself with underserved stories. But there really is no getting away from the Scottish Referendum this week. Even the Australian press – whose writers and readers are some of the most solipsistic around (unless, of course, there’s a scandal afoot) – have jumped on the band wagon. So, I might as well join them.
First off; how did we get this far? Felix Salmon, one of my favourite financial journalists of recent times, has a brilliant run down. He gives five broad reasons; the European Union, Thatcher and Thatcherites, the GFC, and the perceived elitism/incompetence of Westminster. Despite there being only one poll giving an edge to a Yes victory (although admittedly, the trend is in their favour), Salmon thinks there is enough to get them over the line. He threw the towel in a couple of days ago. Now, to explain it all to those Americans:
“…the Yes campaign is going to win, just because, given the choice, nations tend to want independence. Especially when they’re voting for a peaceful divorce from a country (more realistically, a city) which doesn’t care about them and doesn’t share their values. Would Scotland be worse off as an independent country? Yes. Is that sufficient reason to vote no? No.”
But if the Yes campaign do take the day, what then? The Economist’s Explainer blog has come through for us again with a brilliant article titled “How to create a country”, handily covering everything from currencies to heads of state:
“Nationalism, it seems, is an easier political sell than the minutiae of public utilities. But the importance of such seemingly small things could be felt for many years after the rousing independence speeches have finished.”
A lot has been made of the No campaign’s rather technocratic and heartless efforts to encourage the Scots to stay. And it has all culminated in a rather bizarre goal line push – large financial institutions paintings pictures of armageddon. Rachel Holmes, a Lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University, has other ideas, pointing out several flaws in the hype:
“There’s a lot of noise surrounding this highly political issue. A look beyond superficial reporting on the idea of banks leaving Scotland shows a different view – not least from what the banks say themselves, but also from what other small countries manage to achieve in terms of their financial services.”
Moving beyond analysis and into argument, a recent editorial in the Financial Times caught my eye. Instead of resorting to pictures of armageddon, the FT has made the case that the Better Together campaign should have been making all along:
“Great Britain stands for an expansive and inclusive view of the world. The union is something precious, not a bauble to be cast aside. In a week’s time, the Scots can vote with a sense of ambition to build on those successes. Rather than retreat into tribalism, they can continue to be part of a nation rooted not just in history and culture but a common destiny which over three centuries has served all so well.”
But the editorial in today’s Observer paints a different picture. According to the Observer, regardless of which way the vote actually goes, the union will never be the same again. The fact that a referendum is being held, not to mention the machinations of the past two weeks, is going to change everything:
“When Gordon Brown – backed by the three Westminster party leaders – last week promised Scotland “nothing less than a modern form of home rule” if the vote is no, it signalled that the constitutional make-up of these islands is about to change irrevocably.
Ed Miliband goes further: writing for this paper today, he suggests that were he to become prime minister the union would undergo fundamental change. “Scotland’s example will lead the way in changing the way we are governed in England too, with the devolution we need to local government from Cornwall to Cumbria.” Few, if any, people were talking about devolved powers to Cumbria or Cornwall two weeks ago. It is a sign that, regardless of the outcome on Thursday, the first minister, Alex Salmond, has already won a significant victory.”
One of the most infuriating things that has come out of this whole ordeal are the people refusing to take a stand. “It’s for the Scots to decide” they say. Admittedly, the ball is in their court, but this is a vote that will have a profound impact on the entire world. A Yes win will spark more minorities to demand autonomy and secession. One of the largest financial centres will be rocked, as will the global supply of oil. The political makeup of Westminster will be forever altered, as will the memberships of the United Nations, the European Union and NATO (to mention but a few). Every nation whose flag bears the Union Jack will be hoisting a lie. The power may be in the hands of a few million Scots, but this decision will have profound impacts on us all. Not only do we all deserve an opinion, it’s bordering on obscene not to have one.
Having said that, I should probably share my own opinion. Well, as an Australian citizen I completely understand the desire not only for political autonomy, but symbolic autonomy. But as a British Citizen, let alone a citizen of this beautiful world, I am against Scottish Independence. This is a Union that has lasted for centuries, and Westminster has already promised a confounding array of sweeteners. And there are just too many unknowns. How long can Scotland last as a Petro-state (prices fluctuate and projections aren’t bankable)? How can they hope to operate with a co-opted currency and zero control over Monetary policy? How much of the UK’s debt will be taken on? How will the control of the North Sea oil be divvied up (and what precedents will it set for other countries)? And on and on. While the No campaign has focused on technicalities and and forgot the heart, the Yes campaign has focused on the heart and forgot the technicalities. Add the bitter resentment that will force the UK to fight hard on all these negotiations, and we don’t have a pretty picture.
That’s all for this week. Catch you again next week. Same bat channel.