Eine Bundesrepublik Britannien?

by Chris Bertram on September 17, 2014

There’s a day to go before the Scottish independence vote. The opinion polls are fairly even; the bookies are backing “no”. But it could go either way. I’ve swung both ways on the issue, but I’m now firmly hoping that “no” will win, though I think that the campaign has demonstrated that the United Kingdom is broken, and needs a comprehensive constitutional fix, which may be hard to achieve.

My reasons for favouring “yes”, initially, were sort-of quasi-Rousseauvian. Democracy thrives better in small states where government is closer to the people; large anonymous states, whatever their political form, have distant governments often captured by special interests. That’s a general inclination, to which I would add a sympathy for Scots who are sick of being ruled by Tories they didn’t vote for and who hope for a more inclusive and socially just society. I doubt their hopes will be realized in an independent Scotland though.

For me, though, the balance of reasons decisively favours “no”, for three reasons: abhorrence of nationalism, a dislike of the idea that smaller entities claiming full state sovereignty should proliferate, and disbelief at the economics of separation, which will not turn Glasgow into Stockholm.

First, though the nationalists have kept the Braveheart references fairly muted during the campaign, there’s a strong sense that some of the emotional impetus behind the campaign draws on nationalist myth and nativist sentiment, coupled with resentment at the English. This sense has been bolstered by the way some of the “yes” campaigners have treated their opponents, as “traitors” and “quislings”. The image, tacitly encouraged by nationalists, of Scots as the victims of English colonial oppression, on a moral par with such victims elsewhere (Kenya, India etc) is hogwash. The Act of Union was the result of Scotland’s own colonial failures but launched a partnership in imperialism in which Scots played a leading role. No clean hands there. There’s some ground for Scottish resentment at their experience under Thatcher (poll tax, deindustrialization) but these are, generally speaking, experiences that they share with their northern English counterparts. This resentment grounds the myth that Scots are naturally or essentially more leftie and social democratic than people elsewhere on the island. But go back a few decades and the Tories were the majority party in Scotland. The dynamic there is the same as in places like Liverpool, where people like to think of recent political sentiment as an expression of a deeply rooted local culture, even though it pretty obviously exists as a recent reaction to relative decline. Resentment at getting Tory governments they didn’t vote for also seems misplaced: there was a Scottish Labour Prime Minister as recently as 2010, and many in the south of England didn’t vote for him (that’s just the way things work out in a democracy). Far from being disadvantaged, Scotland enjoys higher per capita public spending than England (and lots more that many places in northern England do). Finally, though Scottish nationalism builds on myths of English oppression and indifference, its modern source is the discovery of North Sea oil in the 1970s and a desire to assert national rights over natural resources: i.e. local greed. The general principle isn’t a good one.

Second, though I have a prejudice in favour of small countries, I don’t necessarily favour a proliferation of small fully-sovereign states. Given global problems, both economic and environmental, small independent sovereign states can get in the way of the kind of cooperation necessary. What we need is less-than-sovereign entities embedded in larger structures … like the UK or the EU. Devo-max (more devolved powers to a Scotland within the UK), the probable outcome of a “no” vote gets us closer to that outcome; “yes” takes it further away. Scotland won’t necessarily find a place in the EU easily (given what other states such as Spain want) and it makes EU exit for the rUK and the rise of a nasty English nationalism more likely. Additional sovereign states also mean additional hard borders. I agree that it looks unlikely that free movement within the island of Great Britain would be restricted, but there’s a complex and unpredicable interplay with other issues (the EU treaties, Schengen, the rise in English nativism). International human rights law only recognizes a right to free movement within the boundaries of states, and states have (unfortunately) full rights to regulate cross-border movement. That puts the freedom of Scots to seek work in England (and the English to seek work in Scotland) in the hands of venal and opportunistic politicians, and there are no guarantees of how that would work out.

Third, the “yes” campaign hasn’t been able to come up with any convincing arguments on the currency question. In any post independence negotiations, rUK will play hardball, bolstered by a rise in anti-Scottish sentiment. If rUK is unwilling to form a currency union, Salmond has the options of simply using sterling unilaterally, of launching a Scottish currency or joining the Euro. None of these options looks great, all of them look likely to be accompanied by the kind of austerity that would make dreams of Scandinavia-on-the-Clyde look even more ridiculous than they already are. (If there’s a yes, I predict a spate of books in about ten years by embittered Scottish lefties complaining about their “betrayal”.)

So I hope there’s a “no”; “yes” could turn things very nasty, both in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. But DevoMax brings its own problems. If Scotland gets so much devolved power, then why should similar local control not be vested in other parts of the UK? In short, what we need is a federal structure with Scotland, Wales and a selection of English regions being the constituent Länder. Eine Bundesrepublik Britannien, in fact. If Ed Miliband and Labour are smart, then they will make the call for a UK-wide constitutional convention part of their campaign for 2015. If not, then the question of Scottish independence will keep on coming back until “yes” wins.

{ 222 comments }

1

Phil 09.17.14 at 8:45 am

Fascinating post, most of which I agree with.

You don’t linger over the idea of devolution to England – rightly so, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. But devolution to the English regions is a tough call – nobody really seems to want it, as much as we may resent being ruled by unaccountable southerners. Perhaps the key would be to devolve power to the units people do already believe in – cities, mainly – and let a new tier of government emerge from that – the Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds Confederacy, aka the Northwest Region…

2

Richard J 09.17.14 at 9:03 am

But you don’t want to run the risk of stirring up ancient tribal hatreds between either side of the Penines, surely?

[Irony rating: high.]

But, yes, I’d agree with most of the above. My limited dealings with German federalism in practice suggest a pretty well-functioning federal system (albeit one that is ironically in an upwards race about tax rates.)

3

Haftime 09.17.14 at 9:11 am

I don’t understand why fracturing England would naturally lead to more successful mass politics. If anything, my understanding of the American system (I can’t speak for Germany) is that transformative political movements have found the federal system a barrier (both locally and on the national stage, through the Senate).

In short – if Scotland gets so much devolved power, then why _should_ similar local control be vested in other parts of the UK?

4

Pete 09.17.14 at 9:21 am

Bundesrepublik Britannien is not on the cards, and people voted against the regional assemblies when they were offered. Sure, it might well be better, but it’s very definitely not on offer. Nor is non-FPTP voting. “Devo max” was explicitly removed from the ballot paper by the UK government because it looked like it might win. Now that it’s being offered in desperation at the last minute, it’s proving very unpopular in England. A vote for No is a vote for administrative reprisals; it now becomes a priority for the UK government to sandbag Holyrood as much as possible and blame it on the SNP. Nothing new will be offered until it is demanded again in 20 years time. Punitive measures are popular: http://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/wgc/2014/08/20/the-english-favour-a-hard-line-with-scotland-whatever-the-result-of-the-independence-referendum/

We’re back to Exit, Voice and Loyalty. Voice is now not functioning properly. Westminster is dedicated to a narrow neoliberal consensus and squashing all political expression that goes outside that. Loyalty has been eroded by the privatisation of the state. Immense tribal loyalty to the NHS is still there, but who could be loyal to Serco healthcare?

Scotland being allowed out of the EU seems unlikely given previous EU track record of fudging issues in emergencies. It flies in the face of “ever closer union”.

5

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 9:34 am

Well Chris, this is the best article I’ve read on this issue. Better than Tom Clark of Another Angry Voice with whom I agree on many things, but not this.

I share the dislike of romantic nationalism: it’s nearly always based on distortions of history and downright untruths. A very significant minority of the UK are of mixed British origins and don’t want to have to choose loyalties; the reality is that they will be under pressure to do so.

There are some on the left who see a YES vote as a foot in the door to smash the Westminster system, weaken NATO, smash or weaken the power of the City and banks, and create a Scots republic, perhaps as part of a confederation of British republics. Alas, that isn’t really on offer or likely and if the small ‘c’ conservatives who form the majority of the SNP /YES support thought it was, they’d be voting NO.

And despite what Salmond and others are saying, there would be a price to pay, and it could be high. If say, I were a public service pensioner in Scotland, I wouldn’t want to risk it. Salmond may be an economist by training, but he has been wrong on all the major economic issues of the last few years. His infamous “Arc Of Prosperity” speech in 2008 essentially showed that, if it wasn’t just fanciful propaganda, his economic views were the same a George Osborne’s; as both praised the Irish example, and Salmond praised Iceland too. In common with Ireland and Iceland, Salmond wanted to use the (nominally) Scottish banks as a vehicle to extract rent from the world economy, as the City of London does. Apart from the fact that it’s immoral, the price of this rent extraction is to depress industry and commerce outside the financial centres, ad the North Of England and Wales in particular know only too well. Also, as Iceland and Ireland showed, the strategy is very risky if the finance sector is too big compared with the rest of the economy: particularly if, as in the example of Ireland, a country doesn’t have it’s own currency.

Indeed, the lack of preparation for a separate currency is Salmond’s greatest failure of his own side. By 2010, the flaws of the Euro were painfully obvious, and the proper lesson of that was surely that an unequal currency union with a much larger, and possibly resentful, neighbour, would be even worse than the Euro. But Salmond and the SNP stuck their heads in the sand over this one: in their position I would have created or at least planned for, a shadow Scots pound years ago. Not to do so was either incompetence or deliberate deception: in either case it’s unforgivable.

The question is not what one would like to be on offer, it’s what is on offer: and that’s a not very nicely packaged pig in a poke. I blame Thatcherism more than the SNP, but whatever the results of tomorrow’s referendum, deep wounds have been opened in Scots society, and to a lesser extent elsewhere. They will not be healed in a hurry.

6

Pete 09.17.14 at 9:40 am

Consider the various attempts at constitutional change which got shot down during the coalition government: change of voting system, reallocation of MPs, Lords reform. There’s no appetite for this stuff in English marginal seats and therefore it’s not going to happen. People have come to Yes because it’s the only visible avenue for change.

7

Brett Bellmore 09.17.14 at 9:49 am

“and disbelief at the economics of separation, which will not turn Glasgow into Stockholm.” “None of these options looks great, all of them look likely to be accompanied by the kind of austerity that would make dreams of Scandinavia-on-the-Clyde look even more ridiculous than they already are.”

IOW, you’re concerned that Scotland, cut loose from England, will “run out of other people’s money” faster? A likely outcome, I admit, but one with much to recommend it.

“What we need is less-than-sovereign entities embedded in larger structures … like the UK or the EU. “

The vision of a federalist system which magically makes all the decisions the locals would get ‘right’, local, and all the decisions they’d get ‘wrong’, federal. Without explaining why the opposite state of affairs wouldn’t prevail.

The essential problem with a federalist system, as we’ve learned, is that the top level of government really doesn’t like to admit that there are topics outside its jurisdiction. And since decisions about that jurisdiction are, naturally, adjudicated at the top level, its preference tends to prevail over time. If there’s a trick to making federalist systems remain federalist in nature, we certainly haven’t found it yet.

8

djr 09.17.14 at 9:54 am

Pete: In the last 20 years we’ve had significant devolution to Scotland, Wales, NI and London, another major step in the century-long process of House of Lords reform with getting rid of most of the hereditary peers, removal of the over-allocation of MPs to Scotland, and the creation of a supreme court. There is no significant push to reverse any of this, coming from English marginal seats or elsewhere. “Not all proposed constitutional changes have happened” is not the same as “there is no possibility of constitutional change”.

Within the present parliament, the two parts of the coalition have wanted to achieve different constitutional changes, resulting in neither happening, but in terms of a 300 year old union that’s a very short window to look at.

9

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 10:01 am

“The essential problem with a federalist system, as we’ve learned, is that the top level of government really doesn’t like to admit that there are topics outside its jurisdiction.”

Sorry Brett: that’s nonsense. It DOES work in Germany: there are clear lines of demarcation, though not all states are equal: Saxony and Bavaria have the status of being a “Freistaat”, which, amongst other things, gives them the right to secede. For decades, Bavaria even had its own border police, the Bayerische Grenzpolizei. Bavaria chose to merge this force into the state police after the fall of communism.

10

Walt 09.17.14 at 10:05 am

I think if Scottish independence loses, that’s it — it will be allowed to come up for a vote for a long, long time. The mostly likely outcome is probably the worst for Scotland. If it loses narrowly, then the Tories will be able to ride an improving economy and a “Fuck Scotland” agenda to victory in 2015.

11

Walt 09.17.14 at 10:07 am

Oh look, Brett’s trolling. It’s just like the old days.

12

William Burns 09.17.14 at 10:10 am

Pete,

A vote for “yes” is also a vote for administrative reprisals; the English will be even more resentful of the Scots after a yes vote and can hardball everything in the negotiations leading to independence and even afterwards.

13

Philip Ebert 09.17.14 at 10:14 am

Thanks for you very much for your post.

Just a quick note on the idea of a Bundesrepublik. I love the idea of a a Bundesrepublik of Britain (full disclosure: I was raised in Germany) and I hear numerous people offering this “vision” of the UK in case of a “no” vote, partly to give “yes” voters an alternative “vision”. No doubt such changes would be extremely substantial but, given the current setup of the UK, I’m actually not sure it would work.

What makes the German system work is that there are two “chambers”. The second chamber “Bundesrat” contains representative of the individual states who represent the interests of that states. Any major new law has to go through both chambers, thereby securing that the interests of the individual states are respected. This is a setup that is, unfortunately, not on the cards with devomax. I think, however, this setup is absolutely crucial to have a devolved federation of states–there has to be a representation of the states qua states.

One solution would be to have the UK’s House of Lords to turn into a House of States. (Or you introduce a third house in addition to the House of Lords, if you really want to hang on to the latter). An introduction of such a chamber is a substantial change and, I think, hard to push through given the current political landscape, yet fundamental to the idea of a Bundesrepublik.

However, would such a chamber actually work in the current UK landscape? What makes the German system work decently well is that there are 16 states, and the population is fairly well distributed over these states. The Bundesrat voting system reflects this and the number of votes a state has is partly dependent on its population.

A German-like system would have the UK split into four federal states, with 84% of the population residing in England. So, it is hard to see how such a system would make sure to respect the interests of smaller states like Scotland. As a result, I have serious doubts this vision works.

Now, of course, this concern could be met if England were to split up further into smaller states such as Yorkshire, Cornwall, etc., then you might have a Bundesrepublik of the UK that could work–at least it would mirror a German system sufficiently well to think that it could–but a separation of England into further smaller states is really not something we can expect to happen any time soon.

So, a Bundesrepublik of Britain is a vision that needs substantial changes to be considered a Bundesrepublik proper, and to work well it would need even more radical changes that are very unlikely to happen anytime soon.

14

Chris Bertram 09.17.14 at 10:21 am

I think it is a bit early to say what there is and isn’t a call for in the UK in terms of constitutional change. The OP outlines what I think would be good (and necessary) but of course there are formidable problems of transition and feasibility, and maybe we won’t be able to surmount them. I think there’s some reason to think that this experience will deliver enough of a shock to set people thinking and that the prospect of DevoMax will revive the West Lothian question. In that context, it seems quite possible that the (often Labour voting) English regions and cities would press for more devolved power to avoid having English legislation passed by a permanently Tory-dominated chamber.

15

Brett Bellmore 09.17.14 at 10:27 am

“Sorry Brett: that’s nonsense. It DOES work in Germany:”

It works right now in Germany, but for how long? I’m saying that federalism isn’t stable, not that it’s impossible to do on a temporary basis. And in joining the EU, Scotland wouldn’t be joining a relatively stable federation; They’d be joining a federation that’s rushing to the end-state of nationhood as fast as it’s bureaucrats can pull it off. Their independence would be fleeting indeed.

Walt, “trolling” DNE “expressing viewpoints contrary to the prevailing ideology at a site”. Something more like, “insincerely expressing viewpoints contrary to the ideology at a site, just to annoy people”. I might annoy you, but I do so sincerely. Ergo, I am not a “troll”.

I think this site can use some annoyance. It’s people like me that keep your epistemic closure from snapping shut completely. I mean, folks, the echo chamber in here is otherwise so complete that all sorts of absurdities pass unchallenged.

My God, you even think the NRA is astroturf. Talk about disconnected from reality.

16

Walt 09.17.14 at 10:31 am

Saying

IOW, you’re concerned that Scotland, cut loose from England, will “run out of other people’s money” faster? A likely outcome, I admit, but one with much to recommend it.

is textbook trolling, and it’s disingenuous to pretend otherwise. It’s one thing to argue, and it’s another thing to say dickish things in order to get attention. Accusing everyone else of “epistemic closure” is dance step 2 in the endless waltz that is trolling.

17

Brett Bellmore 09.17.14 at 10:33 am

“This is a setup that is, unfortunately, not on the cards with devomax. I think, however, this setup is absolutely crucial to have a devolved federation of states–there has to be a representation of the states qua states.”

Indeed, Philip, this is a common opinion on the right, that US federalism broke down when the 17th amendment changed the Senate from a body that represented “states qua states”, to just another House with larger districts. I think there’s a lot to it. I think another reason the German federation functions is the manner in which the federal judiciary is selected, and the representation of “states qua states” plays a large role in this.

18

Brett Bellmore 09.17.14 at 10:35 am

Accusing people who regularly reject information because of where it comes from, of “epistemic closure” is only natural, Walt. I regularly peruse sites far from my ideological home, can you say the same?

19

Harald K 09.17.14 at 10:44 am

“I think that the campaign has demonstrated that the United Kingdom is broken, and needs a comprehensive constitutional fix,”

Then why don’t you hope for yes? A no is going to be seen as a mandate to not change anything.

As I see it from the outside, UK is questionably democratic. It has big issues with surveillance and manipulation of the public, it has a poor electoral system, it has a poor press. It is also nuclear power, one of the countries de-facto ruling the world with naked power through the security council.

Ideally, I’d like the UK to not be all that. Failing that, I’d like UK to be smaller. A smaller country has a better shot at getting to be more democratic. I certainly have a lot of sympathy with people who don’t want to be part of it.

20

Walt 09.17.14 at 10:46 am

I do, Brett. And do you know what I don’t do on those sites? Comment on how disconnected from reality everybody on the site is.

21

Pete 09.17.14 at 10:47 am

The best example of stable federalism is probably Switzerland.

Some other points which are worth the rest of the world taking note of: a leftish coalition which hasn’t immediately descended into infighting. Mobilization of the “politically uninterested”: 97% of eligable voters are registered, turnout predictions over 80% (compared to the 65% turnout in the last GE). Extremely civil campaign compared to many independence movements, despite the media casting around for incidents to blow out of proportion. The Catalans are certainly watching.

Social media and the internet has been such an important part of this that it has its own term of abuse: “cybernat”. But there’s also been a huge grassroots ground operation. There are Yes signs everywhere.

22

J Thomas 09.17.14 at 10:49 am

#15 BB

My God, you even think the NRA is astroturf. Talk about disconnected from reality.

Typically IME people who own guns and are not NRA members say things like “Well, I don’t that much agree with them but we’ve got to have somebody like that out there.”

And IME NRA members say things like “Well, I don’t that much agree with them on particular issues but we have to have them.” There are about 5 million NRA members, when 30% of households have guns.

In my personal experience, gun owners tend to think of the NRA kind of like vegetarians think of PETA. (But less so, not as extreme.)

Sorry to get off-topic.

23

Stephenson quoter-kun 09.17.14 at 10:56 am

Pete @6

Consider the various attempts at constitutional change which got shot down during the coalition government: change of voting system, reallocation of MPs, Lords reform. There’s no appetite for this stuff in English marginal seats and therefore it’s not going to happen.

According to MySociety, an 80%-elected Lords was blocked in 2003 by Scottish MPs at Westminster – without them, the vote would have passed. Obviously this would have been merely a single step towards constitutional reform, and there would have been other votes and other opportunities for change to be blocked or watered down, but it is a data point that stands in opposition to the notion that the MPs of the English marginals are the only source of small-c conservatism in British politics (and just see some of the other things on that list!).

24

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 11:05 am

Harald: there is is a hell of a lot wrong with the UK, and I really do have sympathy with those who don’t want to be ruled by London and the financial/military elite. But I don’t want people all over Britain to start seeing their neighbours as foreigners.

Brett: ah yes, the EU: I’m afraid that really is the sick elephant in the room. It worked very well until the fall of communism: what followed was enlargement and the rise of the Euro. I’m of the opinion that my parents’ generation didn’t realise how lucky they were to have the Iron Curtain to protect them!

25

dsquared 09.17.14 at 11:09 am

Salmond wanted to use the (nominally) Scottish banks as a vehicle to extract rent from the world economy, as the City of London does

Exports of services are not the same thing as rents.

26

Pete 09.17.14 at 11:11 am

Interesting. I was going to drill down to the question of “whose fault was that then”, but I can’t work it out from http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/division.php?date=2003-02-04&number=78&sort=vote . It appears to have been a free vote as both CON and LAB split almost exactly 50/50?

27

Zamfir 09.17.14 at 11:14 am

As a difference between the UK and Germany: London is really, really big and important. You’ll either have to split London and its surroundings over several Lander, or you end with a dominant boss-Land and the rest split up.

28

J Thomas 09.17.14 at 11:29 am

#13 Philip Ebert

A German-like system would have the UK split into four federal states, with 84% of the population residing in England. So, it is hard to see how such a system would make sure to respect the interests of smaller states like Scotland. As a result, I have serious doubts this vision works.

I think you’ve put your finger on the central problem.

Scotland cannot avoid being next door to England. Kind of like Mexico’s problems with the USA. No matter what they do they will still have that to contend with.

Now, of course, this concern could be met if England were to split up further into smaller states such as Yorkshire, Cornwall, etc., then you might have a Bundesrepublik of the UK that could work–at least it would mirror a German system sufficiently well to think that it could–but a separation of England into further smaller states is really not something we can expect to happen any time soon.

I can imagine that as good thing. If Devon and Cumbria had a voice in a house in Parliament maybe they could get some economic development or something.

Of course it’s unlikely in the short run. I think I’d prefer to work toward other long-run changes more. Like, if you had IRV or acceptance voting, maybe more political parties would be viable, and the big ones wouldn’t be quite as important. I imagine that could have a good result. But if this other thing looks like it will get results quicker, when I see it catching on I’ll support it as best I can.

29

Tom Slee 09.17.14 at 11:29 am

I don’t know much about Germany, but in the matter of devolving powers to regions living in Canada has turned me — to my surprise — into a reluctant centralist. We could really do with a coherent national policy on health and education but they are provincial matters, so we don’t get one. There are trade barriers among provinces, and qualifying as a nurse in one province doesn’t necessarily get you the right to practice in another. All that oil is owned by Alberta, not Canada, so there are no mechanisms for evening out the effects of currency policy across regions. And while, with the current government, it might be a good thing that there are strong limits on their powers, it is surely a mistake to change structural features of government to deal with the flaws of individual and time-limited administrations.

30

Ze Kraggash 09.17.14 at 11:35 am

I agree with Brett about the fallacy of “vision of a federalist system which magically makes all the decisions the locals would get ‘right’, local, and all the decisions they’d get ‘wrong’, federal.” Even in Switzerland: what’s the deal with a majority of the cantons prohibiting the rest from building minarets, for example? If you want to have a federation, I think it would make sense to negotiate the rules, and do it from the starting position of full sovereignty.

31

Chris Bertram 09.17.14 at 11:40 am

A starting point:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regions_of_England

I’d merge Cumbria into the NE Region…. and this won’t please the Cornish.

32

Andrew Brown 09.17.14 at 11:45 am

Deeply off topic, but has anyone else here tried accessing CT through a Belkin router with the firewall turned on? Won’t do it. The site is consistently blocked for me as soon as I turn on the router firewall and accessible again once that’s turned off. This is, admittedly, something I bought from ebay. But it doesn’t happen with any other site, which is the really spooky thing.

33

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 11:50 am

Chris @31 This makes sense: having been brought up in Middlesbrough, we always felt at least as close to Cumbria as we did to Leeds.

Incidentally, Prior to Edward I. the biggest local landowner was the Bruce family, who were Lords of “Cleveland and Annandale”, the Cleveland being our part of North Yorkshire. A bit to the west was Barnard Castle, family seat of the Balliols. To us, Scots history was local history too, to an extent.

34

guthrie 09.17.14 at 11:54 am

Throwing in a thought from leftfield, why all the stuff about localisation and devolution in England, when I thought we used to have a somewhat workable system. Called councils. They were nice and local and did lots of local things, but the centralisation of power over the last half century has decreased their usefulness, and the final blow is surely the way that councillors are happy to sell off public services because that means any problems are someone elses problem not their own. Basically abdicating responsibility.

The currency issue is a major problem for the yes, either monetary policy is set by the unaccountable City of London, or by people in Brussels, who might as well be on the moon for all that their policy will be of use to Scotland. So there are no good options.

35

J Thomas 09.17.14 at 12:00 pm

#31 Chris Bertram

I’d merge Cumbria into the NE Region…. and this won’t please the Cornish.

That makes sense to me. Then if the NE region secedes they will take the Scottish border with them, and that’s one less headache.

36

guthrie 09.17.14 at 12:03 pm

I’ve been suggesting a “North Britain” for a year or two now. Scotland, Cumbria, Northumberland; the question is merely how far south to set the border. York definitely belongs, but Leeds is less sure, and it could go as far asouth as Sheffield, but then what about Manchester?

37

Maria 09.17.14 at 12:28 pm

But ‘Cumbria’ is a totally made-up thing from the 70s, to save local authority costs by cutting their number, no? I was up in Lancashire a couple of weeks ago and I heard that a couple of times from different people. No idea of context, though.

Then again, go back far enough and it’s all made up, per Chris’s point about nationalism as any kind of sensible organising principle.

38

Phil 09.17.14 at 12:29 pm

Can I just say, I love this thread.

39

Andrew Brown 09.17.14 at 12:30 pm

“Cumbria” as an administrative entity is made up; but Westmoreland and Cumberland (and a bit of Lancashire) do make a coherent geographical region.

40

rea 09.17.14 at 12:30 pm

Democracy thrives better in small states where government is closer to the people; large anonymous states, whatever their political form, have distant governments often captured by special interests.

Bellmore will tell you different, but the US experience has been that state governments are more corrupt and more likely to be captured by special interests than the feds.

41

Richard J 09.17.14 at 12:31 pm

But ‘Cumbria’ is a totally made-up thing from the 70s, to save local authority costs by cutting their number, no?

Oh yes, that said, all my relatives from what was Cumberland happily call themselves Cumbrian.

42

Ronan(rf) 09.17.14 at 12:32 pm

To play devils advocate, kind of, on a few of the points.
The nationalism, flag waving and anti Englishness might be an ugly part of the politics behind this (and certainly involves a rewriting of history) but this doesnt really speak to the question at hand, whether an independent Scotland would be more responsive/have greater legitimacy in running Scotish affairs. (Part of which will have to involve some local control on North sea oil resources, I wouldnt see that as greed so much as welcome pragmatism.)
The small ‘less-than-sovereign entities embedded in larger structures ‘ is (afaict) what the SNP supports as well (just in the EU rather than UK) Should the question here then be, which large structures are best able to resolve the global problems that face us? (not a rhetorical question) Scottish nationalists seem to bet on the EU (I’d tend to agree) and with a shift in England (??) away from the EU perhaps this move does have some logic for the long term behind it.
On the currency issue; I’m deeply ignorant of monetary issues, but I wonder how the politics of this can ever be resolved at the start. The EU and Westminster don’t want to make any gaurantees to the Scot nationalists (or even acknowledge the issue) for fear it will stenghten their poisition, so what are the Scots to do ? The issue will only ever be resolved with negotiations after the fact, as the political will isn’t there prior to the vote.

One more Q. Even with a No vote are we looking at the inevitability of Scottish independence. Afaict most polls show Scottish majorities in favour of greater devolution of power, so would it be likely that the more powers that are devolved to Scotland (1) the more local elites will demand more (2) the more local politics will develop (3) the more the population will become accustomed to Scottish self rule (4) until eventually independence just develops. So are the sorts of powers a Scottish Parliaments needs to be a meaningful institution also a potential factor driving Scottish independence in the long run, and so not politically realistic to be ceded by Westminster ?
Personally I’m in favour of nationlist politics if it means developing local institutions, taking the blame for domestic failures, developing responsive national elites etc, and in my own preference as long as it’s embedded in larger international organisations and isn’t introverted and parochial. This seems to be the Scottish nationalists position as well (afaict).

43

Alex 09.17.14 at 12:37 pm

In that context, it seems quite possible that the (often Labour voting) English regions and cities would press for more devolved power to avoid having English legislation passed by a permanently Tory-dominated chamber.

They already are doing; look what the combined authority chairmen for Manchester and West Yorkshire (both Labour controlled) are up to!

44

Toblerone 09.17.14 at 12:41 pm

#32 to Andrew Brown – I have the exact same problem and it has been the case for many months.

45

Bruce Baugh 09.17.14 at 12:44 pm

“If Ed Miliband and Labour are smart,” – this is pretty close to the heart of why I look favorably on the independence effort. I think a generation or two of demonstrating that Labour can either be moral or smart but not both and frequently neither is enough, and I don’t see any real prospect of changing that for the next generation or so.

46

Barry 09.17.14 at 12:46 pm

Chris Bertram: “Democracy thrives better in small states where government is closer to the people; large anonymous states, whatever their political form, have distant governments often captured by special interests. “

A counter-example, Captain – on Earth, there was what you humans call a ‘country’, named ‘The United States of America’. Before that country was destroyed in the Eugenics Wars of the 1990’s, and WWIII in the (old Earth calendar) ’21st century’, what you humans call ‘human rights’ were far more violated by the ‘state’ governmental units than by the overall ‘national’ governmental unit.

47

Barry 09.17.14 at 12:50 pm

Chris: “What we need is less-than-sovereign entities embedded in larger structures … like the UK or the EU. Devo-max (more devolved powers to a Scotland within the UK), the probable outcome of a “no” vote gets us closer to that outcome; “

This I disagree with, also – there’s no reason why a ‘no’ victory should lead to London devolving any powers, since the ‘yes’ people failed, after a tremendous effort in a time favoring a ‘yes’.

It would be like threatening to leave a relationship, loading your stuff into a truck, and being persuaded to not leave at the very last minute. Your partner is very unlikely to change, since you’ve demonstrated (to them) that your threat was only a threat.

48

Scott P. 09.17.14 at 12:54 pm

William Seward pointed out in 1861 that once you establish the principle of secession, it has no logical stopping point. If Scotland can be independent, then the next step is independence for the Shetlands. From a glance at a map it looks like they would gain about 1/3 of the North Sea oilfields. That’s a lot of quid to divide among 22,000 people.

49

harry b 09.17.14 at 12:55 pm

I’m glad to see we agree about this Chris. I’ve been thinking about posting, but feeling inhibited by the fact that I am seeing it all at a distance. You’re right about the Scots not historically being a left-leaning nation within the UK (Clydeside, sure). Though you might add to the Scot Prime Minister in 2010, a Chancellor of the Exchequer, Defence Secretary…. As long as they continue to vote Labour more than the English there will be disproportionate numbers of Scots in Labour governments.

What I don’t understand is why the Yes campaign thinks that national sovereignty would constitute more independence than they currently have. If they are part of the sterling-zone, at least, they will be highly dependent on the remaining UK, but will have lost the influence they currently have (which is disproportional to their numbers). The right/center-right would be permanently in government in the remaining UK, and would make all the important decisions.

Given Scotland’s size, allowing them to remain in the sterling zone strikes me as unappealing for a responsible English government — but would like to know what Daniel thinks.

Finally, if Cameron is right that any yes-voter is animated by the desire to punch the effing Tories in the nose — teh only way to punch them in the nose is by voting no, thus depriving them of the semi-permanent place in government they would enjoy in the remaining UK.

50

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 1:00 pm

Cumbria isn’t just a made up thing: it used to be Welsh (Brythonic) speaking, hence the similarity to Cymru. (The “u” being pronounced as “ee”). Many Pennine features still have Welsh names, eg Blencathra and Pen-y-ghent.

As part of the kingdom of Strathclyde, Cumbria was a debatable land between England and Scotland until the early middle ages; the Vikings had had a huge influence too, (cf Eric Bloodaxe). David I, King of Scotland, was “Prince of the Cumbrians” until 1124, although the exact territory he controlled is uncertain.

51

The Dark God of Time AKA DA 09.17.14 at 1:07 pm

If anything, my understanding of the American system (I can’t speak for Germany) is that transformative political movements have found the federal system a barrier (both locally and on the national stage, through the Senate).

Here in California, we just passed a paid medical leave act for all employers, it goes into effect next year. Jerry Brown looks like he’ll coast to victory over a lunatic Republican/Libertarian who spent a day “homeless” in Fresno, and came out of the experience saying that what the homeless need most of all is a job. No kidding, Einstein.

The states are suppose to be laboratories of Democracy, the Founders didn’t see that in the case of some states, the laboratory was Dr. Frankensteins…………

52

novakant 09.17.14 at 1:10 pm

53

MPAVictoria 09.17.14 at 1:11 pm

Great thread. A couple comments:

1. Speaking as another Canadian I agree with Tom Slee that federalism can have its downside. There are some real problems created in public administration by the division of powers between the provinces and the federal government in Canada. That is how we ended up with 13 different healthcare systems as opposed to one.

2. For those worries about Scotland being punished for seeking independence it may comfort you to know that the opposite happened to Quebec after their 1995 referendum on independence.

3. Smaller governments are easier to corrupt not harder and I am not sure that they reflect the will of their constituents any better. Think Jim Crow in the American south.

54

Zamfir 09.17.14 at 1:11 pm

@Barry, if it’s almost yes on full independence, then everyone will know that a devolution referendum would have been a clear yes.

From that point on, the SNP can say that the only barrier against devolution is Westminster. And people will believe them. Whild the opponents to devolution have to pretend that they were open even to full independence, given enough Scottish support.

It will be very hard in that situation to deny further steps to devolution. Especially for a labour government.

55

novakant 09.17.14 at 1:14 pm

I don’t think “local greed” quite captures the core issue: Westminster blew it.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/13/north-sea-oil-money-uk-norwegians-fund

56

Phil 09.17.14 at 1:17 pm

All three UK parties have promised greater devolution. If one reneges the logical move for the others wd be to capitalise on this – “those bastids! You can trust *us*!” If two renege they’re both dead in Scotland and the SNP is *much* stronger, and we’re heading for Referendum II.

57

Christopher 09.17.14 at 1:27 pm

The result of a NO vote tomorrow (and I think that’s the most probable outcome tomorrow) is, at the very least, no change. Why should they change? The sole purpose of devolution was to stop (Scottish) separatism. With that possibility gone (I doubt Westminster would ever agree to another referendum again, and the SNP will probably have a very difficult time getting a majority or even a minority again), why should Westminster give up any more power to the regions?

Tom Slee 29@ “We could really do with a coherent national policy on health and education but they are provincial matters, so we don’t get one. There are trade barriers among provinces, and qualifying as a nurse in one province doesn’t necessarily get you the right to practice in another.”

The only way those will ever happen is if Quebec leaves Confederation/is kicked out (or is anglicized). A high degree of provincial autonomy (particularly in cultural matters like education) is a prerequisite of Quebec being a part of Canada. And having a large and formalized degree of asymmetric federalism (there is some in Canada, like Quebec having its own blood transfusion service and its control over immigration) has been shown to be political impossible since Meech Lake and Charlottetown. So it’s café para todos, as the Spanish would say.

Indeed, by the same kind of logic, Jacques Parizeau (the only PQ leader who really thought seriously about separation) became a sovereignist. On a train trip to Banff, he reasoned that constant fighting between Ottawa and Quebec City made governing Canada and Quebec difficult and problematic, so it was best if the two parted ways completely. It’s not hard to see same reasoning applied to the UK and Scotland, Spain and Catalonia/Basque Country or even the EU and UK.

58

Chris Bertram 09.17.14 at 1:29 pm

I think MPAV, that the trouble with Jim Crow was partly that those states did reflect the views of a majority of their constituents. Democracy and justice are not always congruent and that’s partly why I think it important that the small responsive structures are parts of larger ones where it is a condition of membership that human rights are respected, etc.

59

novakant 09.17.14 at 1:32 pm

More data about North Sea oil, how it’s corporate charity and what you could do with it:

http://platformlondon.org/scotland/

(last post on this)

60

MPAVictoria 09.17.14 at 1:37 pm

“I think MPAV, that the trouble with Jim Crow was partly that those states did reflect the views of a majority of their constituents. Democracy and justice are not always congruent and that’s partly why I think it important that the small responsive structures are parts of larger ones where it is a condition of membership that human rights are respected, etc.”

But Chris, some of the areas where blacks were being oppressed were majority African-American.

61

Chris Bertram 09.17.14 at 1:44 pm

Indeed, MPAV, but they were kept out of the electorate. I take your point though, and size isn’t everything.

62

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 1:48 pm

Westminster, specifically the Tories, certainly did “blow” the North Sea Oil issue. Tony Benn, as secretary of state for energy in the Callaghan government, set up the British National Oil Corporation to have strategic control of the oil and use its revenue the public benefit, but the Thatcher victory of 1979 put an end to all that.

63

Iain Coleman 09.17.14 at 1:50 pm

Bruce @ 45

The problem there is that the Scottish Labour Party is seldom moral, and never smart.

64

Barry 09.17.14 at 2:03 pm

Chris, in addition to racial matters, you might want to check out Charles Pierce’s politics blog on Eqauire. He follows state government issues, and the Kochs & Co. clearly can buy state governments quite easily.

65

Barry 09.17.14 at 2:04 pm

Christopher 09.17.14 at 1:27 pm
“The result of a NO vote tomorrow (and I think that’s the most probable outcome tomorrow) is, at the very least, no change. Why should they change? The sole purpose of devolution was to stop (Scottish) separatism. With that possibility gone (I doubt Westminster would ever agree to another referendum again, and the SNP will probably have a very difficult time getting a majority or even a minority again), why should Westminster give up any more power to the regions?”

This is my position – from my understanding, this was a surge campaign, and if it falls short, London politicians will breathe more easily. And (guessing) if it fails in Scotland, then a second attempt will be like the sequel of a flop movie.

66

Barry 09.17.14 at 2:05 pm

Charles Pierce’s politics blog on Esquire.

67

MPAVictoria 09.17.14 at 2:09 pm

“Charles Pierce’s politics blog on Esquire.”

Seconded. Love that man.

68

Peter K. 09.17.14 at 2:11 pm

My initial reactions to the news that Scotland might vote for independence were along the lines of this blog post.

Plus Krugam, Wren-Lewis and others saying the economics could be bad, like Euro-bad. And they don’t like Cameron.

On the other side, it’s a way to stick it to Cameron and the Conservatives and from an anti-war, anti-imperialist perspective it would take the UK down a notch. They want to get rid of their nukes as well.

And possibly it’s payback for poor treatment by the English. People mention Braveheart and Rob Roy as popular touchstones but for me as an American it was Trainspotting where Ewan McGregor and company reflect on how it sucks to be ruled by wankers in London. (All of the Scottish actors in that movie went on to have decent acting careers. ) The movie was a part of the mid-late 1990s Cool Britannia, anti-Thatcher Britain wave, at least from my vulgar American perspective.

But I don’t really buy into the notion that localism works better than Federalism or “small is beautiful.” Civil rights and integration in the U.S. weighs against that with Eisenhower integrating the schools with the U.S. Army and Kennedy sending the Justice Department to the South.

I agree with Barry @ 45. The goal should be one world government and then we can achieve communism, eliminate money and poverty and set about exploring the galaxy.

69

mud man 09.17.14 at 2:11 pm

Brett #7: It’s just a mistake to ever put two points in one comment.

What we need is less-than-sovereign entities embedded in larger structures … like the UK or the EU

The Federal Government of the United States is the shining example of how the central cooperative council can eat all the neighborhoods. It protects from some injustices while promoting others, and it is far to big and powerful to be “governed”. I think it would be swell to unbundle state-level societies and be more selective about what “larger structures” we-humans-collectively tolerate.

Is Scottish independence a step in that direction? Can’t see it; seems like just creating another hard border. They don’t think to bring back the clans, do they?

70

Zamfir 09.17.14 at 2:15 pm

<iThe result of a NO vote tomorrow (and I think that’s the most probable outcome tomorrow) is, at the very least, no change. Why should they change? The sole purpose of devolution was to stop (Scottish) separatism.
Which ‘they’? At some point, Labour will be in power. And the scots will ask, what about devolution. How could labour possibly block devolution in good faith after a close vote for independence?

And if Labour is willing to act in bad faith that openly, what happens next in Scottish-English relations?

71

Ronan(rf) 09.17.14 at 2:17 pm

How much can the experience of the US be generalised though ? Especially when you consider the specifics (slavery being replaced by Jim Crow) it’s particulars might be quite unique.
Having said that (and to get parochial), in the case of Ireland and the EU I think it has clearly been very good for Ireland on a whole number of social (and economic) issues. (which also doesnt contradict the OP point about small countries needing to be embedded in larger structures (and neither does the position of the US South afaict)

72

Dan Kervick 09.17.14 at 2:28 pm

Why “abhor” nationalism? I see nothing wrong in principle with people experiencing and acting on special forms of solidarity and bonds of affection based on shared heritage and common attachment to a region and its history.

The ideological repudiation of nationalism in favor of some sort of murky cosmopolitanism, given the fact that there are very few really effective institutions of global governance, and virtually no popular and democratic ones, seems to be one of the forces pushing in the direction of the unraveling of national states, the decline of committed and effective political community and the de facto rule of the world by rootless, free-flowing capital .

We might imagine that political community can be sustained purely on the basis of the ideal of voluntary association, without any grounding in relationships based on sentimental solidarity, vividly felt shared history or even “sacred honor.” But I don’t think there is much warrant in human history for such a hope.

Also, note that nations won’t go away just because philosophers and thinkers of various kinds might wish they would. If progressive forces disparage and repudiate their fidelity to their nations, that will leave those nations in the hands of reactionary forces. The nations will still be powerful, but uglier.

I have no opinion on the Scottish vote by the way. That’s a matter for the Scots to decide.

73

novakant 09.17.14 at 2:45 pm

#72

The nation state is a comparatively recent phenomenon and the national “identity” holding it together is very often an artificial, rhetorical construct with little basis in actual fact or feelings. It is also based more often than not on the othering of minorities who are asked to “adapt” and neighbours who are regarded with suspicion – that’s were things can turn ugly.

So for all I care, the nation state should go the way of the dodo. Instead a mix between regions, with which people actually identify because they live and work there, and a overarching superstructure such as the EU (not the UK as it is itself nationalistic) designed to ensure a just legal and economical framework, seems to be the way forward for me.

74

john b 09.17.14 at 2:51 pm

Surprising levels of ignorance from normally sane people in the comments here (it’s like reading an Economist article on a topic you know a fair bit about). Chris’s article seems bang on.

The three main UK parties have pledged to offer greater devolved powers to Scotland in the event of a No vote. They command, between them, more than three quarters of the seats in parliament, so if they say it, it will happen.

Two of the three main UK parties – including Labour, which is overwhelmingly likely to lead the next government from May 2015 onwards – rely on Scotland for a sizeable proportion of their support. Labour has pledged to offer greater devolution both to Scotland and to the English regions.

Saying you can’t imagine a thing doesn’t make it true. The referendum vote has already created *massive* change in the rest of the UK. A “No” will crystalise that into something positive for the whole state; a “Yes” might do that, or might bring into power the worst scumbags, arseholes and chancers imaginable (basically, the Tories without Cameron’s centrist restraining influence, and the people in UKIP who left the Tories when Cameron made them pretend not to be racist).

75

Ed 09.17.14 at 2:57 pm

The federalism ideal fails because of English nationalism. For some reason, having a strong, centralized state seems important for English identity. Though the Kingdom of England includes Wales which obviously should get lots of autonomy.

A better model is the Austro-Hungarian model. The actual Austro-Hungarian model ran into problems because the Kingdom of Hungary was kept at its maximum possible extent, with half the population being non-Magyars (as opposed to the postwar solution of a small Hungary containing only Magyars, with a significant proportion of Magyars living in neighboring countries). But the British could avoid this.

The idea is to have separate government for each kingdom, but a few common ministries to handle things like foreign policy and defense, with legislation in that area handled by meetings of delegations from the three parliaments.

76

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 3:02 pm

If the nation state goes the way of the dodo, what I fear most is the further rise in power of multinational corporations which can enforce their own world order as in, say, the Shadowrun universe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadowrun

77

hix 09.17.14 at 3:11 pm

The German system had its up and downs. Some changes have been implemented in recent years, which seem to have worked so far to avoid a veto lock down as has often happend in the past. The länder now have more clearly defined rights in the policy areas- 2 different vetos with different strenght in some policy areas and unilateral decission power in other. Im rather underwhelmed by the US system, albeit it is not obvious a more German one would work there due to the larger population and geographic sice.

78

Jesús Couto Fandiño 09.17.14 at 3:12 pm

#74 Not being British, I dont know if politicians over there are more trustworthy or whatever, but

“The three main UK parties have pledged to offer greater devolved powers to Scotland in the event of a No vote. They command, between them, more than three quarters of the seats in parliament, so if they say it, it will happen.”

Sounds to me like flawed reasoning the moment you imply politicians feel any need to do what they said they would do.

But of course, I’m a Spaniard, so my standard is to expect exactly the opposite, that they will do exactly what they said they would NOT do, and never do what they promised

79

Katherine 09.17.14 at 3:18 pm

In the event of a No vote, there is absolutely zero chance of Westminster devolving powers to the regions of England. London, and Westminster, is a a little wibbly-wobbly world of its own and to move English power out in any meaningful way would be unthinkable.

If I were a Scottish voter, I’d be waiting right til the last minute – if it looked like Yes might win, I’d vote No, if it looked like No might win, I’d vote Yes; my hope for the result would be No, but with enough people voting Yes to make Devo-Max the outcome.

Really, the arrogance and stupidity of Cameron keeping Devo-Max off the ballot is coming home to roost now. If he hadn’t been so certain that the answer on full Independence would be No, we could have had several months of decent discussion about what Devo-Max would/should look like, for Scotland and for rUK, instead of this unseemly, panicked rush at the last minute.

80

Dan Kervick 09.17.14 at 3:39 pm

#73

If national identity had little basis in actual fact or feelings, I doubt it could have become the emotional driver of as many powerful movements and political achievements as it has, both positive and negative.

Large, politically consolidated territorial nation-states might be a recent phenomenon. But they are just the latest historical form of similar principles of human organization around membership in a tribe, clan or people. Even non-national religious or lingusitic solidarity, if it persists long enough, will ultimately acquire the characteristics of national identity, since the former ties will give rise over time to shared history, memories and heritage.

81

American 09.17.14 at 3:46 pm

Dumb question – why are the borders of Scotland where they are? As I have seen the regional voting distribution, the yes vote grows strongly more positive the further from the English border. Such that if the Scottish border were 50 miles further north, the election wouldn’t be close.

Reminds me of the Ukraine and Baltics – what rights are owed to people who suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of a border? Perhaps the Peoples Republic of Edinburgh, recognized by England and Northern Ireland, supported by Volunteers?

82

Liz McIntosh 09.17.14 at 3:53 pm

I am not sure why Scottish nationalism is seen as regressive but supporting NO and British nationalism is seen as good. I would think the latter has done a little bit more harm in the world than the former – and given the urge it is showing to bomb Iraq and Syria it seems to continue to behave badly. I am not aware that modern Scottish nationalism has bombed anyone – though a raw egg was thrown at the delightful Mr Murphy.
It seems too, from what is being said above, that the British Nationalists are going to be sore losers – you can’t use the Bank of England’s notes, we will not let you into the EU. It seems the threats to their province will continue into the distant future. By the way, even though it is called the BofE, isn’t actually the Bank of Britain? I am not sure how it is constituted or funded but doesn’t it cover all of the UK and isn’t the name just a historical hangover? So why should it only act to help the City of London.
As for the EU, it would be strange that a body that has just given associate status to the Ukraine would deny it to Scotland. Maybe the Scots need to declare war on Russia! Or given the attitude people expect England to show to an independent Scotland the Scots may need to ask the EU and the US to protect them from our aggressive, bullying neighbour.
As for future Referendums, the trigger may be the SNP winning the majority of Scotland’s Westminster seats. So 40+ SNP MPs are elected at a couple of elections and show a settled will. They then request that the imperial parliament allow a Referendum – or declare UDI!

83

Philip 09.17.14 at 4:01 pm

If there is going to be a devolution of English regions they’ll need to learn something from the 2004 vote on a Northeast Assembly. That was strongly voted against because it was seen as an extra level of bureaucracy that would have little power, the idea was that it would gain more powers in the future but people were sceptical. There was also scepticism that political capital would centre in Newcastle and other parts of the region would not benefit. I agree with the points in the OP but wouldn’t want devolution just for its own sake, it would be very important how it was done.

84

Nick 09.17.14 at 4:03 pm

I’m curious why romantic nationalism is considered de facto bad? To me it seems like any other sort of romantic identification based on something larger than the self — it can be good or it can be bad, depending on what qualities are emphasized, and it serves to keep smaller units distinct. If the Scots had no sense of romantic nationalism, there wouldn’t be a Scotland in any but an administrative sense — and so the smaller unit that you prefer wouldn’t exist.

It doesn’t seem that different from my vaguely Mennonite ancestry. I’m not a believing Mennonite, but I am proud of their history of pacifism and simple living. Some people find those qualities admirable, other people find the pacifism mealy-mouthed and unpatriotic. I don’t think that someone who advocates pacifism and simple living should be treated differently if those views come from an ancestral perspective rather than a philosophical or idiosyncratic perspective — but if you want to have units of people (pacifists, Mennonites, Britishers, Scots), you’re going to have to have some version of this, and it is usually going to be somewhat romantic.

Doesn’t the No vote on Thursday depend on a bit of romantic nationalism around ‘Britain’?

85

Pete 09.17.14 at 4:05 pm

I’m with Jesús: we don’t trust the people making the pledges. Nick Clegg is the man who pledged to abolish tuition fees and then raised them. Cameron has already been told he will face a party revolt rather than delivery of devomax. Miliband is an unknown quantity, so we might get something from him if *his* English MPs allow; but it would be very clear to both sides that this was only under the threat of leaving, rather than a principled decision to devolve more power. Besides, the Labour proposals are a trap: devolve more responsibility for spending but only a subset of the tax powers and certainly none of the oil revenue.

Local government suffers from an exaggerated version of the same problem. National governments keep fiddling with their very limited revenues, block grants, and statutory responsibilities. The phrase “postcode lottery” is used to criticise any significant variation in policy at local level.

86

Pete 09.17.14 at 4:10 pm

Nick: quite a lot of romantic British nationalism has been deployed, among the threats and fear-mongering. The position taken by some press commentators that Scottish nationalism is bad and British nationalism just fine is ludicrous.

It’s worth looking back at the nominally democracy-increasing reforms people were offered but clearly didn’t want (failed Northern assembly, police and crime commisioners with their 10% voter turnouts) versus what people are actually saying they want (usually “more choice” or “people who represent my views” at Westminster). That would be improved by non-FPTP voting, which is definitely not on the cards. Again, Labour could make it happen at any time, but rely on FPTP to herd reluctant supporters to them in large areas of the North and Midlands.

87

eddie 09.17.14 at 4:21 pm

88

eddie 09.17.14 at 4:24 pm

Your disbelief of the economics notwithstanding, here is some very relevant information:

http://www.wealthynation.org/scottish-independence-uk-dependency/

That’s a very good site all round.

89

eddie 09.17.14 at 4:25 pm

Colonial oppression has always been bad. Now it’s running at about £50 billion per year.

90

Nick 09.17.14 at 4:30 pm

Also, and this is not really relevant to the OP, but isn’t the constant yammering about North Sea Oil completely missing the point? Plenty of highly successful countries have little in the way of resources (Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark), and plenty of loathsome dumps overflow with bounty (Canada). The success of an independent Scotland has nothing to do with how much oil there is, and everything to do with the strength of its institutions (universities, civil society), its excellent ports, its ability to develop partnerships and sell services. Personally, given its past and its current state, I would be optimistic.

As a Canadian, I think that the reason everyone is talking about North Sea Oil, is the Secessionist’s Imperative — No Short Term Pain. Secession has to be painless tomorrow, not a project that we will embark upon together. Milking the oil cow is the only way that the Yes side can promise this — but I doubt that they believe it. This Imperative also informs the debate around currency issues, I very strongly suspect that secessionists believe that in the long run, a Scottish currency is preferable (look at Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland), but that creating one would cause Short Term Pain.

91

eddie 09.17.14 at 4:40 pm

It’s kinda quaint having so many new people joining the discussion at such a late stage, but depressing that they seemed to have missed the last four decades of prior art that would make their questioning seem that bit less ignorant.

I could post a lot more but don’t want to spoil the thread for everyone. So i’ll just leave you with some pointers as to where the discussion has got to in your absence:
First, the economic argument: my previous comment has a link for you to get up to speed on the relative strengths of the scottish and UK economies.

The currency question is settled because, westminster’s racist bluster aside, whatever currency we choose to use will be strong due to being backed by a skilled population and a wide array of natural resouyurces (even excluding oil). We have offered magnanimously to share our currency (we scots paid more than our share for the BoE) as it would help trade, but if not the rUK’s economy has much reduced capacity for servicing it’s massive debt.

Lastly, your parroting the no campaign’s nonsense about Alex Salmond realy has no credibility. Thye YES! campaign is overwhelmingly made up not of scots nationalists, but of ex labour supporters who are sick of the new labout red tory agenda. The decisions we make in an independent scotland will be made by this majority so claiming salmod this or SNP that is profoundly missing the point.

92

Nick 09.17.14 at 4:49 pm

Sorry, but two statements there just don’t make sense.

1) You seem to think that people voting for Scottish independence are not Scottish nationalists — that’s absurd. Do you think that Yes voters are people who support a Scottish union with England but are voting Yes because of all the other issues involved?

2) “The currency question is settled because, westminster’s racist bluster aside, whatever currency we choose to use will be strong due to being backed by a skilled population and a wide array of natural resouyurces (even excluding oil).”

So you believe that if Scotland adopts the Euro, the Euro will be strong because of fading North Sea oil fields, regardless of what happens in Germany’s manufacturing sector, Spanish unemployment, French deficits? All these become irrelevant to the strength of the Euro, now that Scotland is here?

And if Scotland chooses to use the British pound, the pound will be strong regardless of the health of Britain’s financial sector, the possible choice of the Central Bank to weaken it, the control of Britain over inflation? All these dwindle into insignificance beside the economic might of Scotland using its neighbour’s currency?

93

Phil 09.17.14 at 4:58 pm

I repeat, it’s entirely possible for Cameron (or his successor) to renege on the promise of devo max. However, if he does, the other parties – and I include the Lib Dems – could immediately capitalise on that by offering themselves, however hypocritically, as true friends of the Scots & keepers of their promises.

It’s possible, but less likely, that both Cameron and Clegg will renege. I can’t see any benefit for Clegg in doing so, and I think he’s far more likely – being an unprincipled opportunist – to take the route that’s both more popular and more distinct from the Tories, but it’s possible that he would stand by his boss. If he did, though, you’d just have Labour doing the more-trustworthy-than-thou act – and, in due course, delivering on their promises.

It’s just about possible that Labour would also renege. If they did, they’d be setting themselves up for a wipeout in Scotland – if not an outright split – and strengthening the SNP immeasurably, setting the stage for a re-run of the referendum. They’d be crazy to do it, in other words.

Devo max isn’t pie in the sky; it’s a practical, cynically self-interested response to the size of the Yes vote.

94

Hix 09.17.14 at 4:59 pm

Denmark does have quite a bit of oil and gas actually. Denmark minus resource windfalls does not look so great compared to west Germany. Switzerland minus tax evasion also looks pretty much like the neighbour regions in Italy or Germany.

95

eddie 09.17.14 at 5:09 pm

Well it’s the reality that former labour voters have changed to put the SNP into a majority in holyrood. They do this because they are rejecting the neo-conservatism od the labour party. They are socialists first. As was said above, independence is seen as the only means to affect change in the face of westminster’s neocon consensus.

On the euro, this for me is almost as problematic as sharing the pound. Apart from the fact that we would have to start the process of joining the euro after independence was achieved and this would take at least two years. My own preference would be a scots pound, possibly pegged to norwegian krone initially. I’d rather join nordic union than EU, but it’s been well explained by those who’ve been paying attention, scotland would be most attractive to the EU as it has a massive share of europe’s fishing waters, on top of large proportion of renewable energy potential. Oil is a bonus.

“And if Scotland chooses to use the British pound, the pound will be strong…” is very true. If we choose, as I prefer, sopmething else, the rUK will not be in much of a position to impose ‘administrative penalties’.

96

eddie 09.17.14 at 5:12 pm

Just a reminder, for those still playing catch-up: ‘promise’ of devo max have alredy been broken. Back in ’79 they were made and broken. Now we’re told it simply will not happen:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/hague-giving-scotland-more-powers-if-it-votes-no-is-not-government-policy.1410350878

97

eddie 09.17.14 at 5:13 pm

And, of course, Clegg is famous for keeping his promises.

98

MPAVictoria 09.17.14 at 5:14 pm

“plenty of loathsome dumps overflow with bounty (Canada)”

A little harsh perhaps?

/Speaking as a fellow Canadian who quite likes their country thank you very much.

99

eddie 09.17.14 at 5:20 pm

I’ll not say a bad word about Canada. A lot of my relatives ended up there after the brits ethnically cleansed them from the highlands.

I would like to ask one thing of the canadians, tho: Leaving aside the issue of quebec, is there anything that could persuade you to return to london rule? Would you then be better together?

100

Joe 09.17.14 at 5:23 pm

From the press I read it seems most English do not want Scotland to go. Is this correct? Are there a significant number of English that would like Scotland to go or who don’t care one way or the other?

I ask as a Canadian – and our press gives the impression of Anglophones wanting Quebec in Canada you can find a sizable number of Anglophones saying good riddance.

MPAVictoria having 13 health systems is also a feature. One smaller Province tries something and it can act as a test. Maybe some entities are too big to govern? The problem with Canadian Federalism is too often there is a lack of accountability built into the system, with no clear relationship between funding and responsibility.

101

The Temporary Name 09.17.14 at 5:24 pm

Speaking as another Canadian I agree with Tom Slee that federalism can have its downside. There are some real problems created in public administration by the division of powers between the provinces and the federal government in Canada. That is how we ended up with 13 different healthcare systems as opposed to one.

On matters of health care, differences are an injustice. Other duplication you can think of as a jobs plan, and as CB says that duplication can be more responsive to local needs.

Weak tea education cooperation: http://cmec.ca/8/Programs-and-Initiatives/index.html

102

MPAVictoria 09.17.14 at 5:28 pm

” Leaving aside the issue of quebec, is there anything that could persuade you to return to london rule? Would you then be better together?”

Probably not.

103

novakant 09.17.14 at 5:28 pm

If the nation state goes the way of the dodo, what I fear most is the further rise in power of multinational corporations which can enforce their own world order

Fair point, but are nation states necessarily better at curbing corporate power grabs than supranational entities? E.g. the EU has much more pulling power than any single member state.

As regards nationalism: of course most of us identify with one or more groups to a greater or lesser extent (though I personally am on the rootless cosmopolitan end of the spectrum) and there is nothing wrong with that per se.

But I contend that genuine identification is only possible with people we can actually relate to on some meaningful level and that this is rarely the case on the national level simply because we don’t really have all that much in common.

That’s why a national group identity beloved by politicians is for the most part manufactured propaganda that has to be constantly reiterated on all levels of society, case in point: “patriotism” in the US.

104

Barry 09.17.14 at 5:35 pm

Phil 09.17.14 at 4:58 pm
“I repeat, it’s entirely possible for Cameron (or his successor) to renege on the promise of devo max. However, if he does, the other parties – and I include the Lib Dems – could immediately capitalise on that by offering themselves, however hypocritically, as true friends of the Scots & keepers of their promises.”

IIRC, it was pointed out above that both Cameron and Clegg have a recent history of breaking their word. And from what I understand, Clegg did this despite likely condemning the LD’s to the trashcan in the next election.

105

TM 09.17.14 at 5:38 pm

Sasha 9: “Saxony and Bavaria have the status of being a “Freistaat”, which, amongst other things, gives them the right to secede.”

Nonsense. Their is no constitutional difference in status between the states, the designation “Freistaat” is a historic accident, and there is no right to secede. I do agree with your other statement: German federalism works, in part because the lines of demarcation in the constitution are crystal clear and well balanced.

106

Barry 09.17.14 at 5:40 pm

“That’s why a national group identity beloved by politicians is for the most part manufactured propaganda that has to be constantly reiterated on all levels of society, case in point: “patriotism” in the US.”

For those who are not in the USA, it’s amazing just how quickly the establishment press drummed up the new War on the Global Menace Al Qaida Iraq Iran Syria ISIS. The same ‘experts’ who warmongered for each and every one of those wars (and others), and who told us that we’d be home by Christmas are still there. The actual experts who said otherwise are far thinner in front of the camera.

It’s made me realize that Noam Chomsky might have been understating things.

107

guthrie 09.17.14 at 5:48 pm

Re. promises about devo max – I’ve seen someone suggest that after a no vote, Scotland would be ignored and badly treated by the London based politicians. The problem with that idea and the reneging on devo max thing is that compared to the 1980’s, we now have a parliament and within it, a party which can arrange referendums on splitting the union.

Therefore if we got a repeat of the poll tax insanity and nobody delivered on devo max, and the SNP vote increased, that would be carte blanche to re-run the referendum in 10 years time or whatever. There was no way out in the 1980’s, but there is now.

With the usual caveats that I am not a lawyer etc.

108

Andrew Brown 09.17.14 at 5:48 pm

Toblerone in #44 — I have just spent an entire hour on the phone to Belkin support in the Phillipines. They are completely mystified. It is clearly a problem with the firewall, affecting this one site and no others; doesn’t happen when the firewall is turned off. They claimed never to have heard of anyone else with the same difficulty, and offered to replace the router if it is still in warranty. I don’t see how that could fix what’s obviously a problem in the router software.
Is CT accessible inside the great firewall of china?
The only thing I can think of is that there’s a list of banned sites inside the firmware for some markets, that CT is on the list and someone left it on when translating for the UK market. That sounds paranoid, but what else could explain it?

109

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 5:49 pm

TM @ 102

Sorry if I’m misinformed about the status of a “Freistaat”: I was told this by German relatives – but that doesn’t mean they were right! ( I can find no supporting evidence :) )

110

A H 09.17.14 at 5:50 pm

I question the assumption that German federalism is something people should want to emulate. Federalism implies more veto points, and that favors conservatives because they represent the status quo.

I think it is fair to ask if the utter failure of German leadership over the euro crisis would have happened if they had a more responsive political system.

111

TM 09.17.14 at 6:02 pm

46, 53, 58: In the US it is definitely true that local and state governments are both more corrupt and more oppressive than the federal government, at least in the everyday experience of the people. NSA surveillance and immigration control are invisible to most Americans but they do all the time interact with local police (see Ferguson, MO), local courts (see Ferguson, MO), local regulation (e.g. zoning) and many Americans do have negative experiences to report, although they are more likely to me minority or poor. It is another absurdity of American politics that the federal government always gets the bogeyman role when rightwingers lambast “intrusive government”. “States rights” advocates who claim that states are closer and more accountable to the people often want to use those states rights to take rights away from individuals (e. g. abortion, civil rights), rights that the federal government actually defends. Go figure.

Btw one should really avoid lumping together federal systems. US, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and so on are each quite different. Germany’s federalism is less splintered than the others. The difference may be that the constitution not just draws lines between federal and state powers but also assigns some powers jointly to federal and state levels, forcing them to work together and agree on something rather than just each doing their own. This cooperation is institutionalized in the Bundesrat, which is not comparable to the US Senate or the Swiss Staenderat – it is not elected but appointed by the state governments, and it is roughly representative.

112

eddie 09.17.14 at 6:02 pm

Re guthrie @104:

Cameron himself was most insistent that devo max would not be on the ballot, as has already been pointed out. So a no vote is not a vote for devo max. What has not heen kwde clear yet (well, it is fpear tobthose who’re up to speed, but not discussed on here as yet) is that a no vote is not a vote for no change or any status quo.

A no vote is a continuation of decline. Not just the decline of empire long past due, but the decline of our democracy with the NHS forcibly privatised under TTIP, even under scots devolution. Only a YES! can stop this.

113

TM 09.17.14 at 6:03 pm

[106: They might have been pulling your leg.]

114

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 6:03 pm

Eddie @ 97 “the brits ethnically cleansed them from the highlands”

The Brits? They were ethnically cleansed by their clan-leader landlords: nominally their relatives. A classic case is the Macdonalds of Sleat – I became interested in them after a holiday in Skye.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clan_Macdonald_of_Sleat

115

Ze Kraggash 09.17.14 at 6:15 pm

@108 ““States rights” advocates who claim that states are closer and more accountable to the people often want to use those states rights to take rights away from individuals (e. g. abortion, civil rights), rights that the federal government actually defends. Go figure.”

Where’s the contradiction? Is it so hard to believe that the people might want to take rights away from individuals?

116

Phil 09.17.14 at 6:16 pm

IIRC, it was pointed out above that both Cameron and Clegg have a recent history of breaking their word. And from what I understand, Clegg did this despite likely condemning the LD’s to the trashcan in the next election.

Yes, because it got him into power for five years and created the precedent of long-term coalition government. The prize for trampling on his promises in 2010 was very high indeed. What would he or the LDs actually gain by selling Scotland out?

The trouble with these “can’t-trust-them-they’re-all-the-same” comments isn’t that they’re cynical, it’s that they’re not cynical enough. Some commenters seem to think that our leading politicians are negative idealists, staunchly committed to the principle of betraying their voters no matter what. Actually there are good, cynical, self-interested reasons for the main parties to back devo max – very strong reasons in the case of Labour and fairly strong for the Lib Dems.

eddie – thanks for reminding us how the traitorous English have broken all their promises about devolving power. That would be why Holyrood was never built, the Scottish Parliament never (re-)convened and an SNP administration capable of calling a referendum on independence was never possible.

117

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 6:16 pm

My county Durham ancestors worked in pits owned by the Queen Mother’s family, the Bowes-Lyons. The pits had quaint names like Kibblesworth-Glamis. One of the most “successful” aspects of the Union was the fusion of the ruling classes. This is why I think it would be a pity if the peoples fell out

118

guthrie 09.17.14 at 6:17 pm

Eddie #97 – what Sasha said in #111.

119

eddie 09.17.14 at 6:31 pm

Re clarkson amd guthrie, I don’t see your problem. It’s clear that privilege and class has always betrayed family. That’s still true today as you can see from the sorts who today support the no vote. It’s profoundly anti democratic to point to the fact that scots ‘nobles’ were involved in the clearances, and indeed in selling us out in 1707 in the face of overwhelming popular opposition, as if that somehow makes such crimes excusable.

120

TM 09.17.14 at 6:33 pm

112: The contradiction is that these same people (some of whom self-identify as libertarians) pretend to fight against (federal) government “intrusiveness”.

121

Bruce Wilder 09.17.14 at 6:37 pm

Nation-states are not much use without the nation, and nation is pretty meaningless without the nationalism.

If the dynamic of right-left politics is driven by top-bottom conflicts, it’s hard to see how the bottom, and its right or left representatives, has any hope, without some kind of mass-membership politics, resting on some sense of political solidarity. Mere geography does not seem like enough to generate political solidarity, nor does it solve the problem of binding at least some portion of the elite to serve the whole. Religion can be complement or alternative, I suppose.

Technocracy — the idea that elites can be bound to beneficent responsibility by professional and scientific norms and the like — has been remarkably successful, but the ascendance of neoliberalism — the self-justifying ideology of a corrupt elite engaged in an orgy of greed — can hardly be ignored as it consumes the US, the EU and the world.

It may be telling that the independence of Scotland appears likely to founder on issues like currency policy, where neoliberalism is militant and triumphant.

The federalism of the Bundesrepublik was the design of political scientists, who gathered in Ann Arbor to identify ways to overcome the manifest defects of German constitutional arrangements under the Empire and Weimar, but were also aware of the constitutional shortcomings of the American federalism. It tried to take advantage of residual regionalisms, but it is doubtful that there were any outside of Bavaria. It was very much a technocratic solution, imposed by a conqueror, after nationalism’s organic evolution had gone aground rather spectacularly in the struggle to overthrow rule by an hereditary aristocracy.

Neoliberalism seems to me to be akin to some contagious disease of senescence infecting the multi-national and international systems, converting technocracy from a source of solutions and an impulse to do better, to conform more to nominally accepted idealized norms, which improved the nation-state’s performance in the post-WWII world, into a half-blind, half-mad stumbling behemoth.

So, while on the one hand, I can see the argument that the EU, by minimizing the threat of war in western Europe has made the world safe enough for a devolution of popular government into smaller and more organic units. Yeah Slovenia! Yeah Catalonia! Yeah Scotland! Yeah Flanders! Yeah Wallonia! Brits out of Ireland, I say! (oops!) I like a world, where people are not deathly afraid of someone speaking Welsh. Or, Basque. Also, though, I prefer a world where no one gets so passionate that they think a program of assassination or bombings is called for to vindicate, say, the differences between Croatian and Serbian.

But, it is hard to see how supra-national institutions are going to survive this deadly disease of neoliberalism, to provide the carrying structure, necessary to make an “independent” Scotland a positive development. If the Euro — not to mention Ukraine’s civil war — are typical of the neoliberal direction the European project is taking, then the European project is a poison. If Scotland is seeking its independence to escape the poison of the failing European project, not to take advantage of the success of the European project in taking away the rationale for an imperial Britain, it is difficult to see a path that does not run into a ditch or over a cliff.

122

Hix 09.17.14 at 6:50 pm

Way wrong about residual regionalism. German identities always had a strong regional element everywere. Nothing residual or Bavaria specific there. Bavaria isnt even very homogenous inside. Thats also a reason why Germans are not very conflicted about the eu its just a natural.extension to the previous mixed identity.

123

Stephen 09.17.14 at 6:54 pm

eddie@116: what you wrote earlier was “I’ll not say a bad word about Canada. A lot of my relatives ended up there after the brits ethnically cleansed them from the highlands”.

People have tried to point out to you that no, “the brits” did not drive them from the Highlands: other Scots did.

You have two choices. Either withdraw your first statement:or explain that “the brits” includes other Scots of whom you disapprove/

Over to you.

124

Phil 09.17.14 at 7:00 pm

A couple of questions and links, reposted from, er, another thread.

Polling. Three separate opinion polls give a 48/52 Yes/No split, suggesting a relatively comfortable win for No. Statistically, how likely is it that the’re all wrong in the same way? Psephologically, how likely is it that people are lying to them/not replying to them in the same ways? Politically, how likely is it that the publication of those results will affect the vote itself – and in what way?

The Yes campaign has a nasty side; see also tweets like these two. What’s the atmosphere going to be like if No wins?

The armed forces say No (predictably, perhaps, but the arguments are interesting)

A blogger says No, and why not.

And this from the Scottish Daily Mail (sorry!) is interesting, particularly on the “aftermath” question I raised above.

Remember that old SNP narrative of a pluralist, open, tolerant Scotland that would be a comfortable home for all its citizens, regardless of their preferences? Ask the average No voter – excluded by Mr Salmond from ‘Team Scotland’ in his disgusting rhetoric last week – how they see that working out.

125

Barry 09.17.14 at 7:01 pm

Guthrie: “Therefore if we got a repeat of the poll tax insanity and nobody delivered on devo max, and the SNP vote increased, that would be carte blanche to re-run the referendum in 10 years time or whatever. There was no way out in the 1980’s, but there is now.”

I don’t know how the horizon looks in the UK, but in the USA that’s a long way off. In the UK, wouldn’t that mean something like two Parliaments later?

126

Russell Arben Fox 09.17.14 at 7:07 pm

Nation-states are not much use without the nation, and nation is pretty meaningless without the nationalism.

On that point: http://inmedias.blogspot.com/2014/09/what-would-father-of-nationalism-say.html

127

guthrie 09.17.14 at 7:29 pm

Barry – I was making more of a guesstimate. It would likely take a few years for anti-scotland policies to be enacted and bear fruit, and the SNP would want to pick a good moment. So I expect it would be over 1 electoral cycle before anything happened. I’m kind of hypothesising here, but it is surely relevant to the post-referendum political landscape.

128

eddie 09.17.14 at 7:37 pm

Stephen @123: It’s very simple. Those responsible for the clearances were part of the london rule privileged elite. That is, they were ‘the brits’. Just as scots on the no side today are the brits. It’s not difficult unless you are so fixated on race/ethnicity to the exclusion of fairly obvious and well defined political groupings.

129

Limericky Dicky 09.17.14 at 7:40 pm

Cameron himself may prefer a ‘No’ vote
But few in his party are in the same boat.
Many would quite like a Balkanised North
And foul Curse of Sterling brought down on the Forth.

Eliminate every Scottish MP
And One Nation Labour will die on the tree.
With Johnson ascendent (that prince among wankers)
Remaining-UK would be stripped bare by bankers.

And that is the reason we’ve seen sabotage
of ‘Better Together’ by Tories at large.
Hague’s free to do it – he won’t stand again
(just why, for the nonce, there’s no need to explain).

The crazy thing is that the Pied-Piper Salmond,
If the vote’s ‘Yes’, will be outflanked and cannoned.
As Whitehall, then foreign, gets down to brass tacks
It’ll seem clear and safe to have risked devo-max.

130

MPAVictoria 09.17.14 at 7:41 pm

“Stephen @123: It’s very simple. Those responsible for the clearances were part of the london rule privileged elite. That is, they were ‘the brits’. Just as scots on the no side today are the brits. It’s not difficult unless you are so fixated on race/ethnicity to the exclusion of fairly obvious and well defined political groupings.”

Indeed. They are obviously No True Scotsmen.

/Giggle.

131

Igor Belanov 09.17.14 at 7:41 pm

The UK has been a multi-national state for hundreds of years, and has been some ‘use’, at least from the point of view of stability. Even the old multi-national states managed some longevity. Imperial Austria was almost a laughing stock by the late 19th Century, yet had kept re-inventing itself for centuries, and may have continued to do so for a while had it not foolishly rushed into World War One.

132

guthrie 09.17.14 at 7:43 pm

MPAVictoria – exactly! Scotsmen aren’t Britons, and Clan chiefs in London or Edinburgh weren’t Scottish either, not even if they lived in Scotland!

133

eddie 09.17.14 at 7:47 pm

I also giigled, MPAVictoria, but it’s a serious point. In this debate, only the no campaigners have paraded their ‘scottishness’ and pariotism. The YES! side are a coalition of old labour, radical socialists, greens and some actual nationalists who’ve long supported SNP whether in power or not. I recall my first post was pointing out that petty nationalism was more of an english thing :-P

134

eddie 09.17.14 at 7:48 pm

guthrie said the opposite of what I said. They were indeed ethnically scots, but politically british.

135

guthrie 09.17.14 at 7:50 pm

So you’re saying the poor highlanders were what, exactly?

Note, eddie, that we aren’t getting at you for commenting that petty nationalism was a more english thing, but for making a blatantly false comment, to wit:
“A lot of my relatives ended up there after the brits ethnically cleansed them from the highlands.”

136

Limericky Dicky 09.17.14 at 7:52 pm

The Yes campaign has a nasty side

-And those who say they can’t decide
Will not, I suspect, disclose
The fact that they are really ‘No’s.

137

MPAVictoria 09.17.14 at 7:52 pm

Eddie, I do want to make clear that I think this issue is entirely the business of the citizens of the UK and I wish you all the very best regardless of the outcome. That said, if I was living in Scotland right now I would be voting no and hoping for some sort of devolution of powers to lead to a more long term solution.

138

Abbe Faria 09.17.14 at 7:54 pm

“Smaller governments are easier to corrupt not harder and I am not sure that they reflect the will of their constituents any better.”

I think this is right. The most appropriate examples are Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Iceland, I think Northern Ireland is probably worth throwing in given its local politics. There’s basically a pick and mix of incompetence, corruption, sectarianism, and weakness to steam rollering by large institutions. Westminster imposed Austerity is bad, but if Salmond had won this referendum a decade ago the country would be trashed.

139

Ronan(rf) 09.17.14 at 8:00 pm

@138 – there’s a good bit of selection bias with your examples though (which are all young countries, some arguably without fully formed democratic institutions) What about Holland, belgium, the Scandanavian countries .. compared to, Nigeria, India, US !

140

Ronan(rf) 09.17.14 at 8:03 pm

Corruption is a difficult thing to measure aswell, though Ireland scores well(fwiw)

http://www.transparency.org/country#IRL

141

guthrie 09.17.14 at 8:03 pm

And the SNP did have a time of being more anti-english than is sensible. On the other hand, they’ve also kicked out groups who were too extreme for them. Have a look for Siol nan Gael, for instance, which means seed of the gael, and pretty much believe in Scotland for Gaels, and are actually anti-english.

But nowadays, certainly all the SNP/ Yes voters I’ve spoken to don’t make any comment about hating the english, and not because they are controlled by Salmonds thought police, but because the SNP and supporters have changed to being more positive and forwards looking than their opponents.

142

Brett Bellmore 09.17.14 at 8:07 pm

“The contradiction is that these same people (some of whom self-identify as libertarians) pretend to fight against (federal) government “intrusiveness”.”

Considering that the NSA is probably recording this thread, I’m unclear how that intrusiveness deserves sneer quotes.

143

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 8:12 pm

Limericky Dicky @ 136

Spot on I suspect, but we’ll find out soon enough. Whatever the result, healing will be needed, but also, whatever the result, this question needed to be asked, and the result should be respected. Those, on both sides, who believe in common humanity should try and make good come out of it.

144

Rich Puchalsky 09.17.14 at 8:13 pm

Bruce Wilder: “If the dynamic of right-left politics is driven by top-bottom conflicts, it’s hard to see how the bottom, and its right or left representatives, has any hope, without some kind of mass-membership politics, resting on some sense of political solidarity. “

A lot of the distaste for Scottish nationalism in the contemporary left seems to me to rest on sour grapes. Marxist theories of worker solidarity have completely failed. Race / gender / orientation solidarity have been subsumed into left-liberalism, which modifies neoliberalism but can’t overcome it in the policy areas that neoliberalism cares about.

Imagine a group of people in the UK, as many people as there are in the “Yes” campaign, demanding to secede from Britain due to the evident lock-in of its neoliberal policies. Why would that never happen? Because the left can’t supply a vision, even a fake one as we all agree that Scottish nationalism is on some level fake, that people can pretend to believe in.

Until the left can do that, perhaps individuals who self-identify as being on the left should reconsider an instinctive rejection of any form of solidarity (except those immediately opposed to the left) that can.

145

Ronan(rf) 09.17.14 at 8:20 pm

..although, to my 139 the US actually scores pretty well(I was just trying to throw in a developed country) but instead Spain is a good example (large, relatively new democracy, not great on corruption)

146

Limericky Dicky 09.17.14 at 8:23 pm

Sasha @143

I overstate – they’re not all cowed
But they may feel less than proud,
With the young ‘Yes’ lot so hearty,
That they plan to spoil their party.

147

John Quiggin 09.17.14 at 8:35 pm

“The currency question is settled because, westminster’s racist bluster aside, whatever currency we choose to use will be strong due to being backed by a skilled population and a wide array of natural resouyurces (even excluding oil).”

If I had a vote, this would be enough to convince me to vote No.

148

eddie 09.17.14 at 8:38 pm

guthrie:

“So you’re saying the poor highlanders were what, exactly? “

I’m saying that this obsession with race is frankly disgusting and missing the point of the whole subject.

149

eddie 09.17.14 at 8:42 pm

guthrie @141 Yes. That. With the slight modification that most people supporting SNP are, as I pointed out before, ex labour supporting radicals who have come to the realisation that independence is the only way they can get rid of the london neo-con consensus. Can anyone explain to me how this is a race thing?

150

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 8:53 pm

I don’t know what the overwhelming majority of Scots thought in 1707 or whenever. There is no real way of knowing now. But, sorry to repeat myself, I do know that in 1955, the year of my birth, the Tories were the absolute majority party in Scotland, which was more Tory than the rest of the UK, despite their built in advantage in Ulster.

The Tories came nowhere in Scotland in 2010, and only managed 36% in the UK as a whole. The narrow, greedy selfish post Thatcher party has ceased in British terms to be a truly national party; in the process they might also have destroyed the siblinghood of the ordinary people of Britain, and wrecked the rich shared culture.

BASTARDS! I will never forgive them – as Iain Paisley might have said, NEVER NEVER NEVER!!!!

PS Limericky Dicky @ 129 – you are BRILLIANT! :)

151

eddie 09.17.14 at 8:56 pm

Read a book, sasha.

152

eddie 09.17.14 at 9:04 pm

I almost missed it but:

” …but for making a blatantly false comment…”

If it’s interpreted in a frame of ethnicity it’s obviously wrong, but I reject such framing and the wrong interpretations. I do apologise for using the term ‘ethnic cleansing’ which might have led to the confusion. I’d only say that it’s a well known term from way back; nobody’s claiming the srebrenica massacre wasn’t a crime because some of the victims weren’t actually bosnians. Nitpick away if you want, tho.

153

eddie 09.17.14 at 9:15 pm

This is what’s really puzzling me:

MPAVictoria @102;

” ” Leaving aside the issue of quebec, is there anything that could persuade you to return to london rule? Would you then be better together?
Probably not.”,

then MPAVictoria @137:

“That said, if I was living in Scotland right now I would be voting no “

Is this hypocrisy, cognitive dissonance?

154

guthrie 09.17.14 at 9:17 pm

Eddie #148 – but you were the one who went off on a tangent and used the word ethnicity. This English language thing, how does it work?
Ah, I see – Eddie 152 – yes, it’s the use of the heavily emotionally laden term “ethnic cleansing” that did the damage. You see, using it to describe the Highland clearances is wrong, simple as that.

155

MPAVictoria 09.17.14 at 9:26 pm

“This is what’s really puzzling me:

MPAVictoria @102;

” ” Leaving aside the issue of quebec, is there anything that could persuade you to return to london rule? Would you then be better together?
Probably not.”,

then MPAVictoria @137:

“That said, if I was living in Scotland right now I would be voting no “

Is this hypocrisy, cognitive dissonance?”

I don’t see what is so puzzling about it. One is merging two existing countries, the other is breaking apart an already existing country.

156

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 9:31 pm

Eddie @ 153: it’s really too bad that you insinuate that anyone with a different view to yours is either a knave or a dupe. The geographical differences between Canada and Britain might be responsible for a nuanced difference in judgement? ;)

157

TM 09.17.14 at 9:51 pm

BB 142: Only you could pretend to misunderstand my “sneer quotes”. I’ll say it once more: What deserves sneer is the hypocrisy of complaining about federal government intrusion while trying to use state power to take civil rights away from minorities, or to impose one’s religious views on others who don’t share them.

158

TM 09.17.14 at 9:55 pm

And also, any self-proclaimed libertarian who rails against government intrusiveness only when it involves the federal government while being silent on state and local government intrusion into people’s private lives is hopelessly inconsistent, and for me has zero credibility.

159

Haftime 09.17.14 at 10:02 pm

Do we have here (in eddie’s characterisation of the Scots responsible for clearances) a rare example of a literal ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy?

160

MPAVictoria 09.17.14 at 10:04 pm

@159

Hey now don’t steal my joke!

;)

161

Brett Bellmore 09.17.14 at 10:10 pm

Last case I heard of somebody using state power to take civil rights away from minorities, it was gun control, and ‘liberals’ were all for it. Bit of a trick here, I think: Liberals maintain their self image as good on civil liberties by the simple expedient of declaring anything they favor a civil liberty, even if it’s not found in the Bill of Rights, and anything they oppose to not be a civil liberty, even if it is found therein.

162

Ronan(rf) 09.17.14 at 10:13 pm

‘Liberals’ acknowledge there are no easy answers, and a simple state/market dichotomy is ridic.

163

TM 09.17.14 at 10:25 pm

BB, if gun control is the one civil rights issue you have been hearing about lately, you must be living in a parallel universe. But I guess we knew that already and I will now strictly refrain from encouraging your grotesque troll routine.

164

Barry 09.17.14 at 10:42 pm

Brett: “Last case I heard of somebody using state power to take civil rights away from minorities, it was gun control, and ‘liberals’ were all for it.”

Your hearing is like that. Let me guess – was this the Long Long Ago, and you knew they were liberals because they were Democrats?

165

Ze Kraggash 09.17.14 at 10:47 pm

@157 “…the hypocrisy of complaining about federal government intrusion while trying to use state power to take civil rights away from minorities, or to impose one’s religious views on others who don’t share them”

Before you (and others) complained that local governments are corrupt and don’t represent the people. So, now it’s the opposite: they represent the people too well, at the expense of minorities? Make up your mind.

166

TM 09.17.14 at 11:44 pm

Ze, can you point me to where I supposedly contradicted myself?

You are missing the point anyway. Local governments, just as national and federal governments, represent some of the people, maybe (but certainly not always) the majority. But that doesn’t prevent them from interfering with (some) people’s private lives. Local governments can be quite intrusive, and their intrusiveness may (may!) have more direct impact on people’s lives than, say NSA surveillance (which I am obviously strongly opposed to). I just don’t think there is any basis for assuming that local governments are more citizen-friendly in general.

167

ZM 09.18.14 at 1:49 am

Before making my own comment – I will helpfully recap for everyone in one place the sorry and unedifying spectacle of Crooked Timber commenters once again eliding (in the sense ‘annul’ – origin – 16th C chiefly as a Scots legal term) the role of England in the destruction of Highland society – and – once again – instead of using sources that demonstrate no role was played by the England – simply insulting anyone from the Scots diaspora who does not live now in the UK (likely due to their ancestors being removed from the land and stricken into poverty) – as if history books have not yet been invented.

This recalls to mind those other justifications of English imperialism (I notice none of the colonies have Welsh as their national language) by pointing to the role of local elites in colonial administrations – as if the turning of local elites and (as part of the destruction of traditional social relations) was not the very model of colonialism strategically implemented around the globe by Westminster and British commerce – centred in the City of London.

eddie 09.17.14 at 5:20 pm
I’ll not say a bad word about Canada. A lot of my relatives ended up there after the brits ethnically cleansed them from the highlands.

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 6:03 pm
…The Brits? They were ethnically cleansed by their clan-leader landlords: nominally their relatives. …

guthrie 09.17.14 at 6:17 pm
…what Sasha said in #111.

eddie 09.17.14 at 6:31 pm
… It’s clear that privilege and class has always betrayed family. … It’s profoundly anti democratic to point to the fact that scots ‘nobles’ were involved in the clearances, and indeed in selling us out in 1707 in the face of overwhelming popular opposition, as if that somehow makes such crimes excusable.

Stephen 09.17.14 at 6:54 pm
People have tried to point out to you [eddie] that no, “the brits” did not drive them from the Highlands: other Scots did.
You have two choices. Either withdraw your first statement:or explain that “the brits” includes other Scots of whom you disapprove/

eddie 09.17.14 at 7:37 pm
It’s very simple [Stephen]. Those responsible for the clearances were part of the london rule privileged elite. That is, they were ‘the brits’.

guthrie 09.17.14 at 7:43 pm
… Scotsmen aren’t Britons, and Clan chiefs in London or Edinburgh weren’t Scottish either, not even if they lived in Scotland!

eddie 09.17.14 at 7:48 pm
guthrie said the opposite of what I said. They were indeed ethnically scots, but politically british.

guthrie 09.17.14 at 7:50 pm
So you’re saying the poor highlanders were what, exactly?
Note, eddie, that [we are “getting at you”] for making a blatantly false comment, to wit:
“A lot of my relatives ended up there after the brits ethnically cleansed them from the highlands.”

eddie 09.17.14 at 8:38 pm
…I’m saying that this obsession with race is frankly disgusting and missing the point of the whole subject.

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 8:53 pm
I don’t know what the overwhelming majority of Scots thought in 1707 or whenever. There is no real way of knowing now. But, sorry to repeat myself, I do know that in 1955, the year of my birth, the Tories were the absolute majority party in Scotland, which was more Tory than the rest of the UK

eddie 09.17.14 at 8:56 pm
Read a book, sasha.

eddie 09.17.14 at 9:04 pm
I almost missed it but: ” …but for making a blatantly false comment…”
If it’s interpreted in a frame of ethnicity it’s obviously wrong, but I reject such framing and the wrong interpretations. …

guthrie 09.17.14 at 9:17 pm
but you [eddie] were the one who went off on a tangent and used the word ethnicity. This English language thing, how does it work?
… – yes, it’s the use of the heavily emotionally laden term “ethnic cleansing” that did the damage. You see, using it to describe the Highland clearances is wrong, simple as that.

Sasha Clarkson 09.17.14 at 9:31 pm
it’s really too bad that you [eddie] insinuate that anyone with a different view to yours is either a knave or a dupe. The geographical differences between Canada and Britain might be responsible for a nuanced difference in judgement? ;)

168

ZM 09.18.14 at 2:58 am

On the English, the Highlanders, and the Empire
(quoting and summarising the events written about in Caledonia Australis by Don Watson – who was the author of Prime Minister Keating’s famous Redfern speech about the wrongs done to the Indigenous people in Australia)

Samuel Johnson noted the change to Highland society during his visit in 1773 “There was, perhaps, never any change of national manners so quick, so great, and so general, as that which operated in the Highlands by the last conquest, and the subsequent laws…. The clans retain little now of their original character: their ferocity of temper is softened, their military ardour is extinguished, their dignity of independence is depressed, their contempt of government is subdued, and their reverence for their chiefs abated. Of what they had before the late conquest of their country, their remain only their language and their poverty”

The conquest was the defeat of the supporters of the King (who the English parliament with the conniving of the intriguer John Locke falsely claimed to have abdicated the throne) in Culloden in 1745. ‘The British campaign had been inspired by strategic considerations’ relating to France and the King. The battle was only a prelude to the legislation that would soon pass in Westminster – in England – to destroy Highland society.

Brett Bellmore – you will be proven right in this instance – for the Parliament in England disarmed the Highlanders – so as to wield Parliament’s great authority as it proceeded to legislate to transform the Highland people’s lives and dress and work and traditional land ownership etc . The despicableness of the Parliament knows no end however – for it disarmed them only to rearm them again in 1782 when highlanders were sent to fight for England on the Continent.

In the early 18th C the Highland chiefs had begun (I am not sure how and the reasons why – someone with knowledge could comment) to be involved in British and European commerce, trading highland cattle, and investing it in imperial pursuits – and began to speak English and French “‘the consequence’ one acerbic commentator wrote, ‘of a tinsel refinement which, finding its claim to gentility doubtful, thinks it establishes it by repudiating the language of the humbler class'”

The similarity of the effects of English territorial expansiveness and commerce were noted even then to be similar in kind in Scotland as in the colonised Americas – Robert Somers writing that the effect on the lairds was ‘the same as when a hawker of the backwoods spreads out his toys, and trinkets, and firewater before a tribe of Indians’

The chiefs found they could not generate an income sufficient to the greed they had developed through relations with London – and to be part of the gilded world of London they would betray their own people.

‘Put simply, the incorporation of the Highlands and Islands into British capitalism demanded the destruction of Highland society, and in doing so it demanded an act of treachery by the lairds against their people. So long as they remained patriarchs whose political and military power rested on the support of the clan, the lairds, for the most part, held. When those powers were abolished [by legislation of the Parliament in England] they gave way. After Culloden the Highlands were colonised economically, southern landlordism replaced the clan system. The people were cleared from their ancestral estates…’ why? because the interior would be more profitable should it be used for the grazing of sheep – and the people would be removed to the coast, but kept in sufficient poverty or, as it was said ‘pinched enough to cause them to turn their attention to fishing…. it surely was a most benevolent action, to put these barbarous hordes into a position where they could better associate together, apply to industry, educate their children, and advance in civilisation’ (Patrick Sellar to Lord and Lady Stafford 1815)

Karl Marx wrote of the plight of Highlanders become crofters and kelp gatherers ‘The aborigines [of the Highlands] had been thrown upon the seashore, and attempted to live by fishing. They became amphibious and … lived half on land and half on water , and far all did not half live upon both’

So – what would the important people of England make of all this. Let us go to The Natural History Society – for, like colonised peoples elsewhere – the Highlanders were considered by the English as uncivilised and unhistorical – more nature than rational man. W Cooke Taylor pronounced “We have seen that no savage nation ever emerged from barbarism by its own unaided exertions..the natural tendency of tribes in such a condition is to grow worse instead of better”

And , so , with the Parliament in England having conquested at Culloden and enacted legislation transforming landownership, dress etc; with the bringing of Highland elites into the elite social worlds of London; and with great fervour for benevolent reforming (by taking people from their traditional lands and grazing sheep there instead) and modernising improving – the Highlanders must have been blessed indeed. But, alas no, poverty and famines were common, and the lairds ended up needing to import meal to keep people alive.

“MacLeod was told to plant an English village on his estate and set the people to work productively. Plant villages, plant maize, plant willows, plant flax, plant Englishmen….
English practices, ‘tending so much to public good and private interest’, would cure Gaelic sloth.”

“For the educated and the Anglophile there appeared in the north-west Highlands and Islands in the first years of the nineteenth century, the Inverness Courier. Inverness was the centre of the new gentility in the Highlands… [and expressed] [T]he moral orthodoxy of the age… in praise for the gentlemen of the district… and in warnings of the punishments, such as transportation to Botany Bay [in Australia], which awaited those who transgressed the code.”

The Inverness Courier reflected the commerce of Empire entering the Highlands – advertising lotions and soaps etc. The literate read about the world of Empire in the Courier, and in 1810 the poor and illiterate could for sixpence attend Bagshaw’s Grand Collection of fantastic animals with the Hunting Tiger, Orangutang or Wild Man, and Wonderful Kangaroo.

I will keep continuing with the history after a break.

169

J Thomas 09.18.14 at 3:03 am

#165 Ze Kraggash

Before you (and others) complained that local governments are corrupt and don’t represent the people. So, now it’s the opposite: they represent the people too well, at the expense of minorities? Make up your mind.

They can’t do both? They can’t do both at once?

They can be corrupt and also mean to minorities, can’t they?

170

engels 09.18.14 at 3:54 am

171

rwschnetler 09.18.14 at 5:56 am

@168:

I will keep continuing with the history after a break.

I, for one, cannot wait. Always wanted to learn Scottish history by an Australian using wikipedia and an Australian speech writer as sources.

Must say, between you and Steven Johnson (USSR history) I am learning a lot.

172

ZM 09.18.14 at 6:02 am

Patronization – the apologist for Empire’s best substitute for historical facts since 1500

173

ZM 09.18.14 at 6:05 am

Sorry, that should be late 1500s – I’m sure a knowledgable English person can give the exact date

174

rwschnetler 09.18.14 at 6:11 am

ZM – I think the word you are looking for is sarcasm.

175

ZM 09.18.14 at 6:16 am

Also a tool of the English in empire – have you ever looked at say the English 19th c newspapers and their sarcasm towards the colonised and dispossessed?

Maybe we could make a list. You don’t seem to have anything else to contribute.

176

rwschnetler 09.18.14 at 6:20 am

You don’t seem to have anything else to contribute.

True, I don’t have a copy of a speechwriter thoughts on British history close buy. So I will leave that to you.

177

ZM 09.18.14 at 6:31 am

And your superior qualifications as an apologist for Empire are what? Just still profiting from it and not wanting to do any introspection?

Don Watson was an academic historian for 10 years. Yourself?

178

Chris Bertram 09.18.14 at 6:35 am

ZM: happy for you to continue here, but noting that we’ve had issues with the volume and length of your comments in the past. You could make the points you wish to more briefly.

179

ZM 09.18.14 at 6:37 am

No worries, Chris Bertram. My temper has got the best of me bit.

180

Ze Kraggash 09.18.14 at 6:54 am

“They can be corrupt and also mean to minorities, can’t they?”

All power is corrupt. But if you want to analyze typical characteristics of the local vs. central government, I don’t think local=bad/central=good works. It seems fairly obvious that (all other things equal) local governments are more representative, sensitive to the local conditions and sentiments. Which also means that they are more parochial – the other side of the same coin. More importantly though: the local one is less powerful. The potential damage is limited. Same idea as that of gun control for individuals.

181

Ged Parker 09.18.14 at 7:09 am

Chris- this mirrors the journey I have taken; from an almost knee-jerk yes supporter to a more thoughtful no supporter. One reason to advocate a united Ireland is….because it’s an island. So how could I agree to the break up of this island to generate a little scotland and a little england. But I would like to see very radical devolution; we have the technology to enable very small units to manage appropriate public assets, just like many multi-site private companies do, with larger tasks carried out by a mosaic of layers right up to regional government. However this wonderful technology is delivering world-wide products, services and culture way beyond the control of nation states. Only the US Department of Justice, the EU Commission and, more recently, the Chinese Government can influence multinational. So I agree with what you say about embedding in larger units.
Wittering on about historic injustices or even short term economic prospects cannot be the basis of the decision of my fellow British residents (Don’t get me started on the injustice of MY union being broken up without my vote!).

182

Bill 09.18.14 at 9:16 am

N Ireland, SW England and London all get more per capita cash than Scotland.

183

Bill 09.18.14 at 9:22 am

You speak of Scotland’s colonial failures. Westminster played leading role in that e.g banned English colonies in the area from trading with the Scots.
And then of course there was the Aliens Act (1704) which barred Scottish traders from English ports etc etc.

184

guthrie 09.18.14 at 9:26 am

For a more up to date picture I suggest, ZM, that you read the New History of SCotland Series.
It’s a bit short mind you, but the volume “Integration and enlightenment- Scotland 1746-1832” will give a better flavour of what was going on, rather than the rhetoric of out of date politicians.
Pages 119-124 of the paperback edition give the overview that is so desperately required.

185

guthrie 09.18.14 at 9:32 am

I note Don Watson wrote three books on Australian history when an academic historian. That isn’t a bad thing, but I’ve found several occurences of real academic historians failing badly when they venture outside their area of expertise, which in this case would be Watson looking at Scottish history instead of Australian history.

You are however on better ground looking at what happened to the Highlands as a form of imperialism. It isn’t the same form as happened in say Australia or Africa, but there are some similarities and it can provide a useful insight or two. However it is definitely not the whole story.

186

guthrie 09.18.14 at 9:44 am

187

lurker 09.18.14 at 10:28 am

‘is there anything that could persuade you [Canada] to return to london rule?’ (eddie at 99)
IIRC the Brits pushed their continental North American colonies form a confederacy called Canada in 1867 and in 1948 pressured Newfoundland (which had gone bankrupt and was under some kind of British direct rule as a result) to join Canada. Not much of an independence struggle needed, apparently.

188

James Wimberley 09.18.14 at 12:56 pm

The (imaginary) Shetland independence option would be vulnerable to paratroopers or adventurers from more or less anywhere. The offshore radios in the North Sea were silenced by force. See also the post-independence history of the Comores.

189

Michael Cain 09.18.14 at 1:16 pm

TM @ 157: One aspect of the problems in the US is that it’s not random states; there are pretty clearly defined regions. In at least one sense, the occupation of the South over civil rights issues has never ended. Not (currently) a physical occupation, but the constant stream of court cases. The current Supreme Court has made that occupation more difficult.

In a similar way the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, passed by Congress with zero aye votes from the states affected by it, announced that federal “occupation” of the western states was a permanent thing. Resentment of that occupation is stronger among the political class: I can guarantee that in every legislative session of every one of the 11 western states from the Rockies to the Pacific, some straightforward action is made enormously more complicated because the largest landowner in the state doesn’t have to pay attention.

I’m a pessimist about the long-term outcomes. I think the regions are prepared to out-stubborn the forces “occupying” them and will eventually be allowed to go their own way.

190

Stephen 09.18.14 at 2:12 pm

ZM: I will always cherish your statement “The conquest was the defeat of the supporters of the King (who the English parliament with the conniving of the intriguer John Locke falsely claimed to have abdicated the throne) in Culloden in 1745”. You mean, I suppose, the conquest of the Highlands.

John Locke died in 1704 and was therefore unable to influence events at or after Culloden, which was fought in 1746. He is generally thought of as an important writer on politics and philosophy: why you call him a conniving intriguer, I do not know.

The King in 1745/6 was George II, who was never thought to have abdicated. I think you are confusing him with James II, who in 1689 was indeed deemed by Parliament to have abdicated, having fled the country. Many historians would argue that this was a sensible, pragmatic decision, James having indeed fled. I do not think Parliament was much influenced by Locke.

I hope that straightens things out.

191

H.P. Loveshack 09.18.14 at 3:30 pm

Vive l’Écosse libre!

192

Rufus 09.18.14 at 6:44 pm

Absolute bog-standard government thinking in Mr. Bertram’s post, concisely summarized. Much obliged.

One tell is the insistence on nationalism, pejoratively applied, as a frame to the exclusion of the principle of self-determination of peoples, which is hard to argue against because it’s the law, like it or not.

Another tell is this: “a desire to assert national rights over natural resources: i.e. local greed. The general principle isn’t a good one.” Actually, that general principle is recognizable to most as ICESCR Articles 1.2 and 25, which the UK has accepted as binding law (though you’d never know it – and that’s why so many Scottish want to leave.)

The third government-issued argument is this insistence on hierarchy for the good of the world. Tellingly, the options on offer to statelets include the UK and EU but not the UN. In fact, small states are invaluable to international comity. Look at the contributions of the Small Five, or those of the overwhelmingly puny G-77, which has world-standard collaborative principles of South-South cooperation. If you really want to improve international cooperation, you’ll need to break up the obstructive P-5 nations, just as we’re contemplating today.

Then there’s currency, another government-issued worry. Monetary policy is not hard, if you don’t let the bankers run amok. That’s why it looks so hard to the British ruling class, their bankers run the place.

The final point is very perspicuous. Scottish independence is neither nationalism nor greed. It’s a response to the UK’s dereliction of its duties of peace and development as defined in the UN Charter, the International Bill of Human Rights, and the Rome Statute. If the UK cannot meet the minimal standards of the civilized world, it will ultimately lose its sovereignty and territorial integrity. What we see today is simply R2P in action.

193

TM 09.18.14 at 7:21 pm

Ze 180: “But if you want to analyze typical characteristics of the local vs. central government, I don’t think local=bad/central=good works.”

Of course not, because it’s an incredible straw-man totally unrelated to my actual argument.

“It seems fairly obvious that (all other things equal) local governments are more representative,”

No it’s not obvious at all. Just look at Ferguson MO – a totally unrepresentative local government. In any case what does representative mean? A town mayor elected by 51% of the vote is exactly as representative as a US president elected by 51% of the vote. In each case, there will be a large minority (sometimes a majority) of the people that don’t support the mayor/president. Is it possible that the mayor will try to be responsive to the concerns of all the citizens because of the likelihood that he/she will meet them in daily life, whereas the president rarely interacts with actual citizens, and those he interacts with are unrepresentative? Yes, it’s possible. But it’s not automatically so. The mayor might decide not to care about the concerns of this or that group of constituents because he doesn’t need their votes, or he might even strengthen his majority appeal by being nasty to some minority. There is no basis for assuming that just because a polity is small, it’s government is going to be representative and responsive to all its constituents. In the US context, the empirical evidence clearly contradicts that assumption.

194

TM 09.18.14 at 7:28 pm

P.S. I would concede that direct citizen participation in politics is more likely to happen and to be effective in a small polity, everything else being equal. See Murray Bookchin’s municipalism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_municipalism). But note that his ideal would be to replace representative government with citizen assemblies. There is obviously no guarantee that the citizens assemblies wouldn’t be used by the majority to suppress minorities.

195

TM 09.18.14 at 7:37 pm

ZM: I don’t wish to (and wouldn’t be qualified) to weigh in on the question of whether, and if yes how badly, the Scots have suffered under English or British imperialism. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that is the case. I don’t think however that this kind of historical reckoning (“my ancestors were harmed by your ancestors”), especially concerning events way in the past, should have much bearing on political questions of the present, concerning the future of a country. Indeed, the world would be a much better place if people could get over their centuries-old quarrels.

196

ZM 09.18.14 at 8:39 pm

TM,

“I don’t think however that this kind of historical reckoning (“my ancestors were harmed by your ancestors”), especially concerning events way in the past, should have much bearing on political questions of the present, concerning the future of a country. Indeed, the world would be a much better place if people could get over their centuries-old quarrels.”

Of course – if all the world were young, and truth on every shepherds tongue…

Has England and it’s people and companies that profited from empire made formal apologies and paid substantial reparations to injured groups? Or is England currently consuming more products from around the world than it produces through the city being a great financial hub , and making foreign interventions etc?

197

Ze Kraggash 09.18.14 at 8:45 pm

“A town mayor elected by 51% of the vote is exactly as representative as a US president elected by 51% of the vote.”

The town mayor elected by 51% of the vote is elected by 51% of the voters of that town. And the mayor is dealing (hopefully) with the issues important to the residents of the town.

Whereas to the US president, town’s specific issues, the concerns, annoyances, hopes, and dreams of its residents – they hardly mean anything at all. Only to the extent these dreams are shared by residents of thousands of other cities and towns, which, in a large and diverse country, is exceedingly unlikely. Isn’t this kind of obvious?

It’s possible, for example, that all 100% of the town residents want to ban abortions (or something), but because 60% of the country outside this town disagree, it’ll be allowed. That, from the point of view of this community, is tyranny. Nothing like that would’ve happened if the town had full sovereignty.

Sovereign towns may not be a practical solution (yet), but still there must be some limits to the combination of size, diversity, and centralization of a political unit.

As Bruce Wilder noted above, enlargement and centralization don’t seem to be necessary in Europe anymore (as the means to military defense and conquest), and so I’d expect more and more secessions/partitions in the future. And I think it’s fine.

198

Norwegian Guy 09.18.14 at 9:01 pm

It is up to the inhabitants of Scotland to decide if they want independence or not, I won’t argue for either “yes” or “no”. But living in a neighboring country that left a union to become independent in 1905, I want to weigh in on the issue,

The scare tactics used by the supporters of the union are reminiscent of those used by the proponents of EU membership in the Norwegian EU referendum in 1994, when there was no end to the economic hardship we would endure if we rejected the union. Of course, the propaganda of the business and political elites turned out to be wrong, and Scotland can too do just fine as an independent nation state.

There are many countries in Europe that have become independent during the last few decades, and they have been able to establish their own currencies. Scotland can do the same – they wouldn’t even be the first to leave the Sterling.

What I do find less than ideal in the Scottish case is the possibility that a small majority in favour of independence can lead to that outcome. Large constitutional changes usually requires supermajorities, and there are fairly good reasons for this. Usually, gaining independence is a long and difficult struggle that is impossible without widespread backing, and the issue isn’t seriously raised before this is certain to be achieved.

199

TM 09.18.14 at 9:09 pm

Ze, your reasoning is completely bollocks. Why does it matter if I disagree with the policy of my mayor, or with the policy of the US president? In either case I feel that the political process is unrepresentative of my preferences. In either case I could claim to be a victim of “tyranny”, since 100% of ME disagree with that policy.

Btw, If 100% of town residents are against abortion, nobody prevents them from exercising that choice, and not have an abortion.

Let’s forget about abortion and concentrate on the issue. What if 51% of a town favor policy X but 60% of the state oppose policy X? What would be more “representative”, allowing the 51% to override the 49% town minority or allowing the 60% to override the 40% state minority? The problem with your reasoning is that you presuppose that community homogeneity is greater at the local level than at the national level. That is sometimes so and sometimes it isn’t. If you have ever attended a town meeting, you will know that people at the local level can be just as fiercely divided as at the national level.

You are making some very naive assumptions that are simply baseless. And these assumptions are based on a rather patronizing small-town romanticism, totally ignoring the diversity of opinions and interests, and the intensity of conflict, that you find at every level of society.

200

TM 09.18.14 at 9:12 pm

“You are making some very naive assumptions that are simply baseless” – should have said “without basis in logic and fact” – they are after all based on something.

201

Ze Kraggash 09.18.14 at 9:30 pm

“In either case I could claim to be a victim of “tyranny”, since 100% of ME disagree with that policy.”

Correct. But rejection of pure individualism is hardly a license for an unitarian world government.

“The problem with your reasoning is that you presuppose that community homogeneity is greater at the local level than at the national level.”

How could it not be so? Also, on the national level – tens or hundreds millions of people – I don’t think it can be called ‘community’. To me, ‘community’ actually implies homogeneity, as opposed to ‘society’ on the national level.

202

ZM 09.18.14 at 9:37 pm

Stephen,

“The King in 1745/6 was George II, who was never thought to have abdicated. I think you are confusing him with James II, who in 1689 was indeed deemed by Parliament to have abdicated, having fled the country. Many historians would argue that this was a sensible, pragmatic decision, James having indeed fled. I do not think Parliament was much influenced by Locke.”

Thank you for correcting me on which battle it was. I don’t generally remember the order of battles very well and need to check them – but I was so cross by then I just wrote in haste.

In return I will explain the intriguing of John Locke. He is best seen as skilled at rhetoric and an anti-catholic bigot rather than a philosopher . One of his rhetoric/philosophy writings – his second treatise on civil government – was about Kings abdicating if they did not meet John Locke’s criteria. As you can tell , being that John Locke was not alive during all the periods having Kings in the world , whether or not they meet John Locke’s criteria is quite irrelevant. Except when the parliament wants to usurp the power of the king – and then uses John Locke’s rhetoric on Kings abdicating if they don’t meet his criteria to assert the king had abdicated. The king asserted he had not abdicated – but the armed forces supported parliament because of English anti-Stuart anti-Scots anti-Catholic etc prejudice.

But this was not the end (or the start) of John Locke’s political intriguing – earlier – for his political intriguing with his master Shaftesbury another intriguer and founder of the Whigs, he had had to leave England and take up residence in the Netherlands and lived there 5 years. His return to England – after the parliament put his rhetoric into use usurping the king – was on a boat with Mary, wife of William of Orange and unfilial daughter of the king. Mary and William would sit together on the throne , having two squeezed in together was most irregular – but not as irregular as pretending the king had abdicated for not meeting the man John Locke’s rhetorical criteria.

203

Phil 09.18.14 at 9:49 pm

Anyone voted today? Queues? What’s the mood like?

204

guthrie 09.18.14 at 9:58 pm

News reports were of queues when the polls opened at 7am, which is very unusual. Busy polling all day across the country, so high turnout expected.

205

TM 09.18.14 at 10:12 pm

Ze: “To me, ‘community’ actually implies homogeneity, as opposed to ‘society’ on the national level.

I wonder what community you live in, and whether you have any clue of what is actually going on in it. Does Ferguson, MO qualify as a “community” in your sense? If not, what does?

“But rejection of pure individualism is hardly a license for an unitarian world government.” I guess that qualifies for Non Sequitur and Strawman in one sentence. I see this exchange is pointless and will refrain from encouraging your trolling further.

206

rm 09.18.14 at 10:19 pm

Re 202, as you may be hearing on the bbc, big queues early on, very big turnout it seems, people being very nice to each other

Re 201, re locke, one lives and learns, i suppose, but i’m not sure what exactly i’m learning here about locke

what i’m a bit surprised by, however, is that in a thread of comments prompted by what’s going on in scotland, . . . well, let me quote from sally mapstone’s chapter, “Scotland’s Stories” in Jenny Wormald, ed., “Scotland: A History”:

“Like Knox, Buchanan also provided an eloquent, and highly prejudiced, reading of the reign of Mary, queen of Scots He stresses throughout this that Mary’s deposition was ‘rightful, in accordance with the laws and ancient practices of the people’. The appeal to the ‘ancient constitution’ here, invoking customs argued to go back to Fergus I, in the context of the actual removal of a contemporary Scots monarch, represents the furthest development of the statements on ruler and subject relations in the Declaration of Arbroath outlined early in this chapter. The emphasis in Mary’s case was less English leaning than personal morality, but the rejection of her is still couched in terms that appropriate defence of the national interest to the people rather than the monarch.”

I’d emphasise the very last bit of that. When the Scots rejected James VII and II, they didn’t need Locke’s instruction. They had a tradition in thought and perhaps even in practice of driving out kings and queens who were, in their judgement, unworthy.

207

ZM 09.18.14 at 10:25 pm

rm,

How did the Scots people drive out James VII &II ?

Everything I have read has it the parliament in England and the armed forces were the actors against the king – not the people of Scotland.

208

Ronan(rf) 09.18.14 at 10:35 pm

It looks like it’s all over, zm. The evil empire has win again. The scots relegated to another 1000 years of oppression.

209

Chris Bertram 09.18.14 at 10:37 pm

I must say, I’m enjoying the Locke scholarship on display here.

210

ZM 09.18.14 at 10:44 pm

rm,
Further, if Buchanan in your quote is George Buchanan as I suspect – passed down family history has it we are related, so I have read about him before – and he was also an intriguer.

He was first tutor to Mary Queen of Scots , but he favored Lord Darnley and wrote glowingly of him despite his wastrel ways, then when Darnley was murdered Buchanan wrote a damning document of lies about Mary – and thus was involved in the intrigue leading to her beheading by England.

So as you can see – his political philosophy is just rhetoric to further his intrigue.

Chris Bertram,

That was a very brief account of John Locke’s intriguing , appropriate to comment threads ;)

211

Duchy of Savile 09.18.14 at 11:37 pm

Just as I thought, standard UK INGSOC goes hand-in-hand with standard MINITRU censorship. Good luck stealing the election if the mind control doesn’t work.

212

Phil 09.18.14 at 11:49 pm

very big turnout it seems, people being very nice to each other

That’s good to hear. I hope the nastiness we’ve seen from the Yes camp – and, more importantly, the seeming certainty that No True Scotsman would vote No – will fade away if No does win this time.

213

jwl 09.19.14 at 1:05 am

A lot of nastiness against Andy Murray after his “Yes” tweet. BBC reporting it.

214

Igor Belanov 09.19.14 at 7:25 am

I don’t think the ‘nastiness’ has been limited to the Yes campaign. And most of the threats seemed to come from the Noes, albeit targetted towards the whole country and its economy.

I’ve always thought that No was the more sensible option given the lack of a nationalist plan on currency and such like, along with the potential daftness of setting up separate armed forces and border control. The No campaign, however, has been incredibly negative and shown up many of the worst facets of the current UK settlement.

215

Ze Kraggash 09.19.14 at 8:26 am

“Does Ferguson, MO qualify as a “community” in your sense?”

Sure it does. Nobody’s perfect and shit happens. Yeah, shit happens all the time, but on different scales of things: J Edgar Hoover wasn’t running his COINELPRO as Ferguson’s chief of police, and no Ferguson’s mayor ever invaded any south-asian or middle-eastern country causing millions of deaths.

216

Stephen 09.19.14 at 10:34 am

Chris Bertram @208: I wouldn’t claim to be a Locke scholar, but I am aware that his Treatises on Civil Government, which ZM claims as laying down the criteria by which James II was deemed by Parliament to have abdicated the throne of England, was not actually published until well after James had been replaced by William III. It doubtless existed in manuscript before the Revolution, but as far as I know current belief is that it had little if any influence on Parliament’s decision.

I perceive that when ZM denounces Locke as “an intriguer” she means that he held and advocated political views different from hers. I would add that when she writes that the Revolution was due to anti-Stuart prejudice, I think she means anti-Stuart experience.

217

Stephen 09.19.14 at 10:36 am

RM@205: note that the English also had a tradition of getting rid of kings they thought unworthy. Edward II, Richard II, Charles I, for instance.

218

Salem 09.19.14 at 10:51 am

It’s true that the Scottish people didn’t “drive out” James VII, but that’s because they couldn’t – he never set foot in Scotland as king. What they did, through their representatives in the Estates, was declare that he had forfeited the Scottish throne, and adopt the Article of Grievances and the Claim of Right.

The Glorious Revolution wasn’t particularly an anti-Stuart thing – it was replacing one Stuart with another (well, two others), and the Stuarts remained on the throne for the next 25 years. What it was far more about was changing the constitutional structure, to replace the sovereignty of the King himself with that of the Crown-in-Parliament – a change that was even more profound in Scotland due to the emasculated power of the Scottish Estates prior to 1689 (Lords of the Articles, etc).

219

Sasha Clarkson 09.19.14 at 11:00 am

“anti-Stuart experience”

It’s not for nothing that when James abandoned his troops and cause after the Battle of the Boyne, be became known as Seamus a’ chaca amongst the native population, variously translated as ‘James the beshitten’ or ‘James the Shithead’.

The Jacobite risings of the ’15 and the ’45 did not involve Ireland at all, for the future of Irish Nationalism was not Jacobitism, but republicanism. I would guess that the future of Scots Nationalism is republican too: yesterday’s referendum was the last hope for an independent Scots kingdom.

220

Sasha Clarkson 09.19.14 at 11:06 am

PS – and the Royal Family isn’t Stuart or Scots, it’s Indian – apart from Prince Charles ;)

221

ZM 09.19.14 at 11:52 am

Stephen,

John Locke is known quite well for political intrigue. If he kept to himself far off from political intrigue in scholarly libraries writing out his books peaceably that would be the proper thing. But he did not just quietly write his thoughts sincerely in books like a male Emily Dickinson – he engaged in political intrigue and trained and wrote in rhetoric.

Since I wrote about the battle wrongly perhaps you are inclined to think maybe I have forgotten the quiet life of John Locke and mixed him up with another intriguer. But if you just google John Locke political intrigue you get ever so many results – because his political intrigue is world renowned and legendary. Perhaps no other philosopher has been so greatly involved in political intrigue as the infamous John Locke.

I will start with the feminist take on his intrigue – which links it to him having to write position papers (they are a very bad influence ) “Shaftesbury involved Locke in writing position papers and advising him on matters of political intrigue”

I can hear you say – but perhaps before he was corrupted by forced writing of position papers he was a tender and sincere soul? But , hear ye, Oxford gossip has it he was a “corruptor of morals, a Hobbist [not a hobbit], and an “arrant atheist”. At Oxford then Locke did not appear a pedestrian endorser of parochial orthodoxies but a dangerous innovator in the mould of Hobbes and Spinoza. A second index to the man and his thought is his political activity…. During this time [ when the king was thinking of going back to being catholic ] Shaftesbury was deep in intrigue to thwart this popish [see – anti-catholic bigotry as I mentioned] intention, and Locke faithfully served his master throughout [NB Locke operated on Shaftesbury’s liver – this was how they came so bound up together]. … He probably helped Shaftesbury manufacture the popish plot [indeed?]. After the Rye House plot he burned his papers [ would a quiet respectable person do that?] and fled to Holland. … [there] he associated with Whig refugees and intriguers… [and] was again in a web of conspiracy”

One more for good measure if Chris Bertram will forgive the length so long as it improves the detail of the scholarship – John Locke as a part of aThink Tank [even worse than writer of position papers] and networker in English capitalism and colonialism and English harsh anti-Irish oppression [going with his anti-catholic bigotry] after the usurping of the King – he “was a member and a creator of the important Board of Trade in the late 1690s and was the creator of a network of members of parliament, who acted more or less as what we would call a think tank today. As an expert on colonial trade , Locke was directly involved in developing a plan to prevent ireland from producing woollens that would compete with English producers. For more than seventy five years after it’s creation in 1696 the board of trade was part of the apparatus that shaped and maintained the relationship between the colonies and the mother country”

That is just a small selection from the first page of results from searching for John Locke political intrigue. You can look at all the other results yourself.

222

djr 09.19.14 at 1:19 pm

I’d like to return to Zamfir’s point at #27: England or the London-lander would be much bigger than any of the other members of the federal system. England has been a centralised state for a millenium, unlike Germany / USA / Australia. Which countries have dealt successfully with this sort of imbalance?

Comments on this entry are closed.