Scotland: Vote No


So far I’ve ignored the back and forth on the Scottish referendum on secession from the United Kingdom, but this weekend I decided that it was past time for me to sort it out.  For those of you who don’t know me, I’ll mention that I lived for 3.5 years in Scotland quite some time ago, so I am not completely ignorant of the cultural and political issues that underly the debate.  As a rule my political views are very much in line with those of the average Scot, solidly Labour Party back in the day when people like Derek Hatton and Ken Livingston and Roy Hattersley and Tony Benn defined what that meant.  Despite Tony Blair’s slimy “third way” nonsense, and his toadying up to Dick “Dick” Cheney’s sock puppet to help lie us into the Iraq war, Scotland in national politics remains solidly Labour; practically every Scottish seat is a Labour seat.

Although I used to be a so up on British politics that I could read and enjoy Private Eye, it’s been a long while since I’ve paid more than scant attention to what’s been going on there, apart from noting that The Scotsman was one of the few sources of truth about the Iraq War back when it really mattered.  The Scots have spines.

I’m no historian, but I do have basic understanding of Scottish history, particularly as regards the English, and am very familiar with the Scottish concept of valor in glorious defeat.  I understand full well that practically every Scotsman harbors some resentment towards the English for centuries of injustices, including the highland clearances, and, more recently, the appropriation of the oil in Scottish territory for the scant benefit of the Scots themselves.  And I am well aware of the bravery and sacrifice that so many Scots made fighting against the Axis during World War II.

My home institution, Carnegie Mellon University, was founded by a Scotsman from Kirkaldy, just across the spectacular Forth Bridge from Edinburgh.  Carnegie was born into penury and died as the wealthiest man on earth, far wealthier relative to GDP than Gates by a wide margin.  Carnegie was extraordinary, but the Scots in general punch far above their weight class in all things, especially industrious self-reliance.

In short, I love Scotland, and consider it to be a second home.  (OK, the weather is appalling, but we’ll set that aside for the time being.)

Emotionally, I am deeply sympathetic to the Scottish independence movement.  I know full well how poorly the U.K. treats Scotland and its interests.  Politics in the UK revolves around the “home counties” in the south of England; the terminology tells you all you need to know.  One time while watching the weather report on the BBC, the national broadcasting network, the announcer said that there was some horrendous weather coming our way, but that “it’ll mostly be up in Scotland, though”.  Though.  Though.

But I urge all my Scottish friends to vote NO on the independence proposal.  It makes no sense whatsoever in its present form, and represents to me a huge scam being perpetrated by the SNP to seize power and impose policies that nearly every Scot, judging from their voting record over decades and decades, would oppose.  The whole movement seems driven by the powerful urge to finally stick it to the English and get their country back, and Salmond is exploiting that to the hilt.  Back when I lived in Scotland I looked into the SNP, because even then I had separatist sympathies, but when I did, it was obvious why they had so few backers.  They’re just Tories without the class structure, more akin to our Tea Party lunatics than to the British Conservatives, and steadfastly opposed to policies, such as well-funded public education, that nearly all Scots support, and determined to follow the post-cold war Slovakian model of slashing taxes on the wealthy in the hope of attracting business to the country.  Having not followed Scottish politics for so long, it is astonishing to me that the SNP has managed to gain a majority in the Scottish Parliament, while the voting pattern at the national level has not changed at all.  How did this happen?  From my position of ignorance of the last decade or so of politics in Scotland, it looks as though Salmond is a slick operator who has pulled off a colossal con by exploiting the nationalist tendencies that lie within every Scot.

But never mind Salmond, the main reason that Scots must vote NO on the referendum is that it proposes to keep the English pound as Scotland’s national currency!  This is such a preposterous idea that I can only suspect dishonesty and deceit, because no sane political leader of honest intent could ever voluntarily place his or her country’s economic future in the hands of another.  The Bank of England will, particularly after separation, have no interest whatsoever in the economic conditions in Scotland when determining its policies on the pound.  And the Bank of Scotland will have no ability to control its own currency, the prime means of maintaining economic balance between labor and capital.  The Scots will, in effect, be putting themselves on a gold standard, the stupidest possible monetary system, so that, in a crisis, they will have to buy or borrow pounds, at interest, in emergency conditions, to deal with, say, the failure of the Royal Bank of Scotland (but don’t worry, that sort of thing can never happen again).  And the Bank of Scotland will have no means of stimulating the economy in a demand slump other than borrowing pounds from somewhere outside the country, rendering themselves in debt beyond their means.  And this will become an excuse for dismantling the social system that has been so important to elevating the Scots from poverty to a decent standard of living within one or two generations.  Just look at the poor PIGS in the Euro-zone being pushed around by Germany, especially, to satisfy the conveniences of the German bankers, and to hell with the living, breathing souls in Greece or Spain or Ireland or Portugal, to name the canonical victims.

A country that does not control its own currency is not independent and cannot be independent.  It’s an illusion.  Just what are Salmond’s true intentions are not entirely clear to me, but on the basis of his monetary policies alone, I implore my Scottish friends to suppress the natural wish to make a statement of pride, and instead do the sensible thing.  The proposal to be voted on this week is not a spittle on the  Heart of Midlothian, it is an irrevocable decision to place Scotland in an even worse position with respect to England than it already is in.

Listen to reason.  Vote NO on independence.

4 Responses to Scotland: Vote No

  1. I think the Scots should take rare opportunity to free themselves from Westminster rule. One thing that this referendum has made clear is how biased English institutions are against the Scottish. The BBC have gone as low as editing interview footage to falsely represent what happened, and have overwhelmingly broadcast the opinions of English figures rather than Scottish in their news broadcast. It’s hard to imagine that Scotland is really better off like this. I say this as an English person. As other commenters have said, the referendum question is not “Should Alex Salmond be president of Scotland for life?”

  2. Robert Smart says:

    Reads like a good argument for adding Scotland to the community of nations. Which it already sort-of is. It is hard for an American to understand, but the English are no more interested in being British than the Scots. There is no British Cricket team or Football (soccer) team. The natural party of government after independence will be Labour, and the opposition will need to move to the left and the SNP will have no residual reason to exist. The tricky bit about abandoning the pound will be avoiding the euro.
    [I’m just an Australian. Really enjoying your HoTT lecture series.]

  3. maryqos says:

    A yes vote is not a blank check to the SNP: there will still be General Elections and the people of Scotland will now be able to get who they want in power rather than who it is tactical to vote for given the FPTP system in the UK.

    A clean cut from Westminster will also give the opportunity for the Scottish Labour to reinvent itself rather than just follow blindly the increasingly right wing / anti-immigrant policies it is being fed from down south by leaders who are so afraid of the rise of UKIP that they run after them. The SNP getting so strong and the (partial) death of Labour can be explained by them being completely out of phase with respect to the expectations up here.

  4. NIck Barnes says:

    The referendum does not propose anything to do with the currency, and everyone should ignore the sturm’n’drang about that. The referendum asks a single simple question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” In my opinion, the answer to this question, from the point of view of almost all Scots, is a plain Yes. Anyone voting on the basis of any other matter is making a colossal mistake, along the lines of those across the UK who voted No on our PR referendum a couple of years ago because they didn’t much care for that nasty man Nick Clegg.

    It is true that the SNP might, in the event of a Yes vote, lead an independent Scotland into an economic disaster. But that’s not the question on the ballot, and furthermore I’d be very surprised if the Scots allow it to happen. If, and only if, the Scots vote Yes then the SNP will very rapidly become an irrelevance: they will drift into history, quite possibly before the resulting independence actually comes about. The Scots are quite smart about economics, having invented it, and (as you say) having both spines and brains. They would much rather be Canada than Spain (there is no prospect of them becoming Greece). And in any case *that is up to them*. If they choose a government which leads them into an economic meltdown, then so be it. The whole UK chose this Cameron/Clegg government, and I would rather suffer the ensuing and continuing austeriarch catastrophe than have an ideal government imposed by (say) the French.

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