Chapman’s News & Ideas Aye or Nay in Scotland

Photo by Judi Beck.

Scots are famously (or notoriously) tight; er, frugal. They may look at the upcoming referendum through the lens of Braveheart resentments going back hundreds of years (and to the recent Mel Gibson movie), but those old issues really don’t apply today in any meaningful spiritual sense, let alone a practical one. The smart vote is “No”, as the Scotsman newspaper just said on its front page.

Nationalism is largely eroding as peoples marry and mingle, move and learn. But eroding strengths often breed fears and fears breed impulsive decisions–like breaking old ties. The regional groups–former medieval kingdoms–that make up Germany today didn’t come together until the late 19th century, nor did Italy, but it would be hard to take them apart now. Germans overall are fairly confident these days and the Italians have in common a certain fatalism that marginalizes politics in any case. Centrifugal force, if you well, has worked in those countries.

On the other hand, the old constituent parts of the Hapsburg Empire broke up after World War I, largely based on language. Czechoslovakia was created as an amalgam of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia. Trouble was, the Slovaks resented the lead role of the Czechs, so after the fall of the old Soviet sphere, Slovakia insisted on going its own way. That hurt the Czechs’ feelings, perhaps, but it certainly didn’t hurt their wallets. Slovakia is a lot like Scotland–pride of distinction, but weakness of economy. Ordinary Slovaks would have been better off staying in a united Czechoslovakia. Having your own flag and your own bureaucracy doesn’t necessarily keep you warm.

The same is true of Scotland. But try telling that to many patriotic Scots who think that their identity is not as an important member of a strong and United Kingdom that is respected word-wide, but as their own small kingdom–like Denmark without the money.

It is said that North Sea oil will make Scotland rich. But with the exception of Norway, oil has become a crutch for one country after another, an excuse for avoiding hard work and hard choices.

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