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.