Scottish Independence

It’s naturally a huge deal in the currently United Kingdom, but even among the U.S. chattering classes, the possibility of a “yes” victory in Scotland’s September 18 referendum on independence is getting unusual attention. As you can read from this thread of articles at The Guardian, there’s been a steady rise in “yes” votes in recent polling, along with hopes and fears that marginal voters will turn out strongly for independence.

All the major British parties strongly oppose Scottish independence, and aside from cooperating in a “Better Together” campaign for a “no” vote, there’s talk now of major last-minute concessions of “devolutionary” powers to head off independence. (Indeed, veterans of Quebec secession scares in Canada suggest some supposed independence supports are actually seeking just that.) David Cameron’s Conservatives might actually benefit long-term from a polity without all those anti-Tory Scottish voters, but there’s some sentiment he might be forced into resigning as the prime minister who “lost Great Britain.”

It’s difficult to discuss Scotland’s fate without considering the fragile condition of the UK’s own status in Europe heading towards a British general election next year that could be followed, if David Cameron stays in power, with a referendum on a possible EU exit. So a lot of the Scottish referendum debate has been about an independent Scotland’s relationship with both England and with Europe. As a sop to fears about financial instability, supporters of independence have been quick to pledge Scotland will maintain the pound as the basis of its currency. But as Paul Krugman points out today, an “independent” Scotland without its own currency could quickly follow the trajectory of Spain.

I’m sure many readers know more about this subject than I do, and others may have strong feelings one way or the other about the stormy but integral relationship of England and Scotland taking its most significant turn since the Tudor-Stewart era.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.