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Scottish Independence Vote: Pride Goeth Before a Fall?

There are plenty of warning signs for Scots to heed in the upcoming referendum.

Credit: EQRoy - Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • The ripple effects of Scottish secession from the UK would reach far beyond the British Isles.
  • A nation in the 21st century competing as a petro state is just bad economics.
  • The risks of financial miscalculation are much greater when it comes to the matter of Scottish independence.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Building a new edifice to house the Scottish Parliament was seen as a fitting move, given the devolution of many legislative powers from London to Edinburgh and the understandable civic pride which it instilled.

Yet, as is often the case, things did not go according to the optimistic assurances of the advocates. In the end, the projected costs rose from £10-40 million to an estimated £195 million, then a supposedly “final” number of £414 million. The latest reported figure of £430 million.

Independence will be much costlier

There is an important message in this one symbolic construction project gone awry. It goes without saying that the risks of financial miscalculation are much greater when it comes to the matter of Scottish independence.

Consider the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) assurances that North Sea oil provides a solid financial underpinning to the newly independent nation. This assumption is not only shortsighted – as it overstates those finite reserves – but also ill-advised.

For any nation in the 21st century to compete as a petro-state is bad economics, whether the country in question is Russia or a possibly independent Scotland.

Such an economic strategy is certainly not befitting of the country that “invented” the modern global economic system. In the end, as Paul Krugman has written, Scotland may become a “Spain without the sunshine.”

A nightmare for the European Union?

The ripple effects of Scottish secession from the UK would reach far beyond the British Isles. It is particularly damaging at a time when the very idea of liberal democracy – much of it the product of the Scottish Enlightenment – and European unity is under direct challenge.

As Istvan Hegedus, the head of the Hungarian Europe Society has written from Eastern Europe where that challenge is felt most acutely, “This is a nightmare scenario for the supporters of a united Europe. The spillover effect of secession might be devastating for the continental part of the EU.”

Although the SNP leaders profess support for the idea of Europe, their example would unalterably weaken the EU through fueling the fires of further secessions and the likely exit of Britain from the EU.

That instability will be felt not only on the continent but will also reverberate in Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland itself.

In conclusion, independence makes a great sound bite and creates all sorts of excitement. But the reality of it all – as with the Parliament building – may turn out to be very different.

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About David W. Wise

David W. Wise is a former business executive with over thirty years of experience. He recently retired to work on a book on diplomatic history.

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