The Scotland Referendum

If prudence and reason prevail, Scotland will vote “no” on Thursday in its referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. The “yes” vote has the momentum and has been surging in the polls, causing the Better Together campaign to dispatch the leaders of the three main British parties (Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats) north last week to make the case for preserving the proud union that dates to 1707. The last-ditch efforts at staving off an irreversible separation seem to have stopped the bleeding and the smart money has returned to the bet that Scots will decide in the end to remain a part of Great Britain.

The most intriguing aspect of this independence debate is the degree to which Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond is telling the truth to his enthusiastic would-be William Wallaces. The Westminster political class have moved quickly from elitist nonchalance to panicked desperation as the polls have shifted and the prospect of Scotland leaving the UK has become a potential reality. As a result, the Bank of England has warned that Scotland would not be allowed to remain with the British pound, that divorce proceedings over assets such as North Sea oil will not be easy or appealing to Scots, and that basic legal and commercial contract disputes will drive the bureaucracies of London and Edinburgh to (more) drink. UK Defense voices have suggested that Scottish and English national security would suffer were the union to dissolve. All of these warnings are met with cheery brush offs and cocky dismissals by Alex Salmond, a tactic Daniel Hannan believes is working to the SNP’s advantage:

The SNP has grasped that elections are generally won by the more optimistic side – a truth its leaders apparently learned during a session with an American political consultant, who handed out bags of pennies, and made them put one on the table every time they said something negative. Alex Salmond has, since that session, been relentlessly upbeat, both about the prospects of a “Yes” vote and about the prospects of an independent Scotland. Any problems – currency, disinvestment, EU membership, funding shortfalls – are swallowed up in a supernova of cheeriness.

Salmond has taken all the warnings of dire economic, security and logistical consequences and essentially said “so what?” He has successfully leveraged the quite socialist Scottish youth, which is more aptly described as a belligerent anti-English (and anti-American for that matter) mob, and cultivated an environment where anything coming out of England is received by Scottish nationalists as just “more Tory lies.” The “yes” voters don’t believe anything the English say because Salmond has stoked the sentiment from the beginning.

But it is on the basic question of independence that Salmond has told the real lie. The SNP’s platform is to break away from the UK in order to join the EU. Which would be like California seceding from the United States to become a satellite state of China. If Scotland joined the EU as an independent nation (a big “if” if ever there was one: Spain, for one, would be mightily opposed to Scottish membership lest it lend encouragement to the Basque separatists of Catalonia), it would have to adopt the euro. The euro sucks, and everybody knows it. It especially sucks if you’re a smaller nation with socialist passion and are intent on maintaining your giant welfare state while having no say on your currency or monetary policy. Membership in the EU further weds you to the European Court of Human Rights as well as primacy of Brussels law over your own. Border sovereignty and foreign policy are immediately forfeit to the larger plans of the mandarins at the European Commission. Whatever discontents currently exist in Scotland concerning the House of Commons in Westminster, joining the EU would quickly cause the people to yearn for those bygone days once they’re forced into complying with the maze of law and regulation emanating from Brussels.

The principle of self-determination is not to be downplayed, however. If Scotland votes for independence, the vote should be respected and the Scots should be praised for believing in themselves and their ability for self-government. But leaving the UK to join the EU is not a vote for self-government, but a vote for being absorbed into a plainly anti-democratic political union on a stagnant continent where you will have less say over local affairs going forward, not more.

For a whole host of reasons, I hope Scotland stays. The union that has lasted for over three hundred years has been one of the most successful and prosperous political integrations in history. Anyone who has seen Braveheart knows that these peoples haven’t always seen eye to eye, but the marriage into Great Britain has allowed some of humanity’s great achievements to flow from the British Isles, as once they were united, we had the Scottish Enlightenment and historic names such as Adam Smith and David Hume introduced to the world. Scottish soldiers proudly fought and died for English, Welsh, and Northern Irish brethren in the 20th century. A great bit of nostalgia for the union jack and the Kingdom as a whole persists today. Deep down, a large majority of Britons really aren’t in favor of seeing Scotland leave.

And yet.

Another part of me hopes it will happen. And I’m just some Yank with no skin in the game. There are many sentimental “no” voters in England who agree with me and are frankly fed up with Scotland and its dead-weight welfare statism which, under the SNP, has morphed into a more virulent form of activist socialism and militant anti-nuclear crusading. Much of Scotland’s younger generations believe they are more kin to Scandinavia than to the English. They find it beyond the pale that Great Britain’s Trident nuclear submarine docks in Scottish waters. They curse that they haven’t been granted “devo max,” a near-total devolution of powers from Westminster back to Edinburgh in the event of the union staying together. Never mind that the Scottish parliament and “home rule,” two things they had to give up in 1707 to join the UK, have been incrementally restored and are poised for even more devolution now that the English are essentially grovelling for Scotland to stay.

But many English wonder why they should beg Scotland to stay. England subsidizes Scotland’s welfare state, of which more than 50% of the population is on some form of government benefit. Scotland is represented in the House of Commons (59 MPs) while the rest of the UK is not represented in the Scottish Parliament. There is only one Tory MP from Scotland, meaning that if the “yes” vote wins, English Labour will be in a sudden bind politically, as they currently reap a good deal of Labour votes and money from Scotland. There’s also Margaret Thatcher’s timeless truth about socialists and other people’s money. It might be a fun and enlightening experiment (if painful for the Scots) to see a newly independent Scotland have its socialist dreams shattered within a couple years. No lesson learned like a lesson lived.

I wish the best for Scotland, and in that vein I hope they vote “no” in two days. But if they do vote “yes” I will not be entirely chagrined to witness the inevitable comeuppance for Alex Salmond and the SNP, and especially for his army of militant millennial supporters who make America’s progressives look almost like free market libertarians by comparison. I also wish the best for the United Kingdom and hope for a “no” vote all the same. Yes, the cynical political calculations of a “yes” vote would mean a neutered Labour Party in England as well as a forced economic correction in Scotland once they were hit in the face by reality. But Great Britain is bigger than short term ephemeral politics; it is our ancestor, our patrimony, our sacred lineage. The British and American peoples share a genetic coding for how to do statehood: the citizen above the state, not the other way around.

Scotland may be flirting with rebellion, adolescent contempt for the hand that feeds, and nationalistic confusion about the practical meaning of independence all at the same time, but that still should not be enough for those of us who value their vital contributions to human freedom to abandon them now. There will be no shortage of scoffing and vitriol and also plain indifference among the English if this divorce does happen, but at the end of the day there are definitely many more English (and Welsh and Northern Irish) who want Scotland to stay than to see it go.

Let’s just hope the same is still true in Scotland.

Better Together.



The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) is having a moment. The libertarian-ish party was founded in the early ’90’s as a protest faction among the conservative Tories, its principal mission to get the UK out of the European Union (EU). Though England has three traditionally accepted, entrenched parties in Labour, Conservative and the Liberal Democrats, as well as a host of smaller, more marginal parties (such as the Greens, the British National Party, etc), UKIP was never seen as a threat to become a viable voice in British politics. And yet, UKIP has been leading in the polls as the European elections approach, giving us the hilariously predictable and panicked responses from the major parties. You see, UKIP are a bunch of racists, and must not be trusted. At least there are a few sane voices who see the accusations of racism as irresponsible and dangerous but, for the most part, English media reached consensus that the UKIP rebels were racists ages ago.

There just has to be a global leftist cabal akin to the pentaverate. How else does one account for the remarkably consistent message that conservatives, libertarians and anyone else unimpressed with the status quo are nothing more than racists, the tactic most used by the left in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States? Do these groups coordinate with each other, or is it just a universal trope that left wing parties will inevitably resort to accusations of racism? I’m inclined to believe it is much more of the latter than the former, given the left’s propensity for viewing society as a clash of class and race, and not much else. As with most things that are terrible, we can thank Marx for this too.

Fortunately, a hero is on the scene. Nigel Farage is impugned by many in the English media as a “one man band” and UKIP comes under immense criticism for lacking a deep bench of members on par with Farage. The degree to which this criticism is fair or not is open for debate (my own unscientific analysis is that UKIP has many capable leaders but also has many who are unqualified and undisciplined and who wither under the klieg lights of scrutiny, which bolsters the view that it’s all about Farage) but what is not debatable is the prowess and pedigree of Farage himself. Rarely photographed without a pint or a cigarette, Farage uses his everyman charm to compliment his commanding voice and passionate opinions. His diatribes on the floor of the European Parliament against what he sees (accurately) as policies leading inexorably towards a super European single state are riveting and inspiring. Farage boldly accuses the leaders of the (unelected) European Commission as being closet communists, and he’s right. Juan Manuel Barroso and Herman van Rompuy are indeed interested in creating a communist superstate in Europe, all under the guise of stability and security, for in their view, it was the pernicious “nation-state” with its borders and its nationalism that led to the tragedies of the twentieth century (haven’t they heard Obama and Kerry trumpet the virtues of this new century being gloriously free of conflict and aggression? You know, “nineteenth century behavior” is behind us?). Farage has been shoving EU failure squarely in the faces of those responsible, and the commissioners at the EU have been forced to sit meekly as Farage has spent years thundering about the inevitable demise of the euro and the coming electoral wave that disbands political union and restores national state sovereignty to all concerned. Farage is particularly exciting to this American observer because of the parallels UKIP shares with the “libertarian moment” here at home. And just as we libertarians find ourselves in pitched battle on two fronts, with our own arrayed against us in many respects, so too does UKIP take flak from all corners.

There’s a great piece in the UK Spectator about how UKIP isn’t really a party but a rebellion within conservatism. In this regard it is very similar to the Tea Party, the difference being that in Britain it is much easier to go third (or fourth, fifth, sixth) party, whereas our two-party system forces intra-party rebellions to remain intra-party. Still, despite a lot of Labour and Lib Dem disaffected voters coming over to UKIP, it is still essentially a libertarian-conservative movement made up of mostly pissed off Tory voters who view their conservative establishment in Westminster with as much a jaundiced eye as we view ours.

Step one of the UKIP revolution is winning the European elections held May 22-25. Step two would then be leveraging that momentum in order to secure a referendum on getting the UK out of political union with the EU. But even with an expected triumph in the elections, UKIP will still face an uphill battle in getting David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband to convince their staid party establishments that a referendum on EU membership can no longer be avoided. To date, only UKIP have offered a committed stance on leaving the EU, which explains UKIP’s success more than anything, as it is the issue above all others in England right now. Once you separate the UK from the EU (a prospect that was deemed quite impossible just a year or so ago), then UKIP will likely come to a gradual reconciliation with the Tories if the Tories show that they’ve gotten the message and are willing to ditch their current brand of statist conservatism.

It’s striking how many parallels exist between UKIP and the Tea Party/libertarian cohort here in the States. Both are facing entrenched opposition from unhinged leftists as well as from establishment grayhairs in their own parties, and both represent the lone voices of sanity on liberty, markets, sovereignty and composition of government.

It’s interesting that political insurgencies seem to only come from the right these days. Probably that is because the hard left long ago co-opted the Democratic and Labour parties, making it quite unnecessary for the left to worry about facing energetic insurgencies from its base, its base already being well placated and pandered to. That establishment “conservatives” across the Anglosphere have become such squishy statists explains the persistence of both the Tea Party and UKIP. Their anxiety over society’s growing divide between the rank and file citizens they represent and the entrenched special interests and bureaucrats fighting to defend the status quo is not going to abate until such time as the powers that be have taken notice and changed their ways.

With the barbarians at the gate, the temptation to order archers to the towers and trebuchets to the ready is surely strong but, as President Obama loves to remind us, this is “the twenty-first century” and, with such direct recourse unavailable, establishment elites in both England and America resign themselves to rhetorical warfare, hence racism.

This guy never butchered language as badly as the progressives do.