My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here it is.
The Republic of Scotland?
Scots to decide whether to cut ties with UK
In the wee hours of March 24, 1603, the last, and perhaps greatest, of the Tudor monarchs closed her eyes for the last time. Elizabeth I never married and left no heir to the throne. With her passing, so too passed the Tudor dynasty. Her passing also marked the birth of Great Britain when later that day King James VI of Scotland ascended to the throne of England as James I, thus uniting the crowns of both countries. A century later in 1707 the two nations were fully merged in the Treaty of Union. By the end of this month, that union could be smashed.
On Sept. 18, people all over Scotland will go to the polls to answer a simple question. “Should Scotland be an independent country?” The recent polls show the people to be evenly split and turnout is expected to be extraordinarily high. If the ‘yes’ vote wins, the people of Scotland will begin a process to secede from the United Kingdom and establish themselves as an independent nation for the first time in more than four centuries.
As one would expect with something this complex, there are many reasons why many Scots want to break from the United Kingdom. Some of the reasons are quite tangible. Scotland has long been the home of the U.K.’s nuclear submarines. The British government insists that there is no other viable location for them, so the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament backs independence in order to disarm.
Other groups want Scotland to have full control of the U.K.’s oil and gas reserves. These natural resources mostly lie under the North Sea in what would be Scottish territorial waters and constitute almost twothirds of the entire European Union’s oil reserves. An independent Scotland would reap the full benefit of being a major energy producer for Europe.
Perhaps the more driving reasons for Scottish independence are less palpable but no less real. Scottish culture is distinct from English or Welsh culture and many Scots want a nation of their own to express it. Many Scots are also wanting something with which American are innately familiar; the right to self-determination. Scots want the right to elect their own leaders and have a full and equal voice in international organizations like the United Nations and European Union. It is a desire that people in many places and many times have shared.
A separation is not without great hazard to both Scotland and the rest of the citizens of the United Kingdom. The affairs of Scotland have been intertwined with those of England, Wales and Northern Ireland for centuries. They will be far more difficult to sort out than those of a couple divorcing after 50 years of marriage — and at least as emotional.
Should Scotland become independent, they will have to figure out what to do about a currency, national defense, courts, foreign relations, regulatory system, immigration system and all of the other things that an independent nation must have. It would not be an easy task, but it is something that has been done countless times before. The Scottish people are perfectly capable of sorting it out.
Meanwhile, those who remain in the United Kingdom will have their own issues to face. They will have to figure out how to organize without the tax revenue and resources of Scotland and learn how to structure a new relationship with a foreign nation on the same island.
However the vote ends up next week it will be a fascinating experiment in democratic self-determination. It is not something that we have witnessed in the Englishspeaking world in some time. What a testament it is to Western culture and political tradition that such a decision will be made without bloodshed.
(Owen Robinson’s column runs Tuesdays in the Daily News.)