We’re living through an interesting and potentially groundbreaking peroid of history at the moment with “The Arab Spring”, the very first African-American President of the United States taking and retaining office, the economic balance of power shifting eastwards, and seeing the biggest challenge to Capitalism since the Bolshevik Revolution and “The Great Depression” of the 1930’s.
However, if you live in the United Kingdom there is another potentially historic development arriving in 2014: Scottish Independence. If you’ve not been following the news or do not live in the UK I’ll give a rundown of what I’m about to address. All of the nations which currently make up “The United Kingdom” were not always part of it; Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland to be exact. Scotland has been part of the UK for just over three centuries, since the 1st of May 1707 to be precise when the Acts of Union merged the Scottish Parliament with the Westminster British Parliament. With it’s foundations secured Britain went forth and forged the greatest empire known to man, an empire which stretched the width of the globe and brought many nations under it’s influence… “The sun never sets on the British Empire” was a term which was not too far from reality when it was coined.
Despite being immensely prosperous for the British Empire the imperial model was an unsustainable system, financially and socially, and sure enough nation after nation began either demanding autonomy or outright independence from the British Crown. Although the American War of Independence (1775 – 1783) had shaken the foundations of the British Empire the real killer blows came with the Boer Wars (1880 – 1881 & 1899 – 1902), World War One (1914 – 1918), and World War Two (1939 – 1945). In addition to almost bankrupting Britain these wars had also proven that Britain could no longer guarantee the safety of it’s colonies, the Japanese bombing of Darwin being a good example, and in the aftermath of World War Two many of these colonies began seeking new partnerships such as the ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty) Treaty of 1951. Despite it’s worldwide empire fast falling to pieces Britain could be safe in the knowledge that it still had Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland (Republic of Ireland was recognized in 1922) to maintain the title of “United Kingdom”.
Now even that appears to be in question as the Scottish Parliament has recently taken the extraordinary step of deciding to hold a referendum on whether or not Scotland should remain part of the UK. If the vote in favor of ‘Devolution’* passes in November 2014 that would mean with immediate effect that Scotland will become it’s own state completely independent from British politics. That would only leave England with Northern Ireland, which is experiencing ongoing tensions with it’s republican neighbor, and Wales, who’s future in the UK also seems in question.
* Devolution essentially means the transfer of powers from the UK parliament in London to assemblies in Cardiff and Belfast, and the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
What this essentially means is that “The United Kingdom” would lose it’s second biggest member leaving England, Wales, and Northern Ireland as the remainder of what was once a global empire. The world has seen the death of the British Empire (if you’re one of those patriotic zealots who believes Britain still has an empire you’re delusional) and I genuinely think we’re about to see the death of the United Kingdom. If Scotland leaves the UK what does that mean for Wales? Even more so what does that mean for Northern Ireland, will it join it’s republican neighbor?
Sceptics have said that without support from England Scotland would fail to keep itself afloat, pointing to the recent Euro bailout of The Republic of Ireland as a fear-inducing example. However, consider this… Scotland is not part of the Euro currency and has shown little inclination of ever joining it. It has a considerable advantage that many sceptics overlook when addressing this issue, the size of it’s population. As of 2012 England has a staggering population of roughly 60,000,000 people whilst Scotland has a mere 5,000,000. Nay-sayers will eagerly point out the potential costs Scotland will face without support from Westminster but the fact remains that Scotland has a tiny population to care for compared to England and that any public services bill would be minute compared to the ever-rising English bill. Scotland has the means to care for itself outside of finance, something that England is now learning the hard way (thanks for that Maggie Thatcher…). It is already rearing it’s own livestock, cultivating it’s own land, and has access to North Sea oil which can help sustain it’s economy for the time being.
English critics of the 2014 referendum generally sound like parents who are desperately clinging onto their children and who don’t want them leaving the nest. I think that a more suitable analogy is that of overly-protective grandparents taking care of their grandchildren in a similar manner, except they are stuck in a time warp and cannot get over the fact that the British Empire is dead-and-buried.
Can Scotland stand by itself come 2014?
We won’t know until we let them try though, it’s time to let Scotland decide it’s own future.