Monday, May 07, 2007
It is patently ludicrous to argue, on the one hand, that Montenegro or Kosovo are viable as independent entities but that Scotland, with its five million people (larger than any of the three Baltic States), its natural resource base and its position as location of one of Europe's leading financial centers could not function as an independent nation (within the European Union).
It's also interesting to watch how people suddenly feel that history matters, that the 300 year union between Scotland and England deserves maintenance when a longer union between, say Russia and Ukraine, should be consigned to the dustbin of history. Or the arguments that England and Scotland are now so intertwined that separation would be impractical if not nigh impossible.
My assumption is that most people in Scotland want to continue the United Kingdom (then again, most Ukrainians voted in March 1991 to retain the USSR, too), and even a proposed referendum would be unlikely before the next decade. But the refusal of some to even countenance the idea that Scotland should be free to withdraw from its union with England speaks volumes about double standards.
(Just thought I'd get it out of the way early.)
How big a country needs to be to make it viable ?
It looks to me that there are a lot of countries that are not that big and are doing ok....
The process of state disintegration that began in the east is making its way west. This is why Spain is revisiting the whole Kosovo question for itself because it will be difficult to argue why Kosovo should be independent and Catalonia and the Basques should not. And then what about Brittany and Corsica for France?
There is a lot of resentment at the way the devolution legislation left Scots MPs able to vote on domestic policy issues in England, which in relation to Scotland are the preserve of the Scottish Assembly. And the fact that public expenditure per head is clearly higher in Scotland also creates resentment -- notably in London, where it is widely felt that more of the city's tax revenues should be spent on updating its decayed infrastructure.
The Tory Party's historical association with unionism has stopped it attempting to capitalise on such resentments. But, given their weakness in Scotland and Wales, it is hardly surprising that the Tories have come round to contemplating excluding Scottish MPs from voting on certain domestic issues in England.
In effect, this would make it impossible for Scots politicians sitting for Scottish seats -- like Gordon Brown -- to be Prime Minister, Home Secretary, etc etc. The logic of party politics, then, may be progressively to reinforce the sense of separate Scots and English political identities, leading to eventual separation.
Would this deeply worry the English? I rather doubt it. The situation is not like that of the Ukraine -- Russian culture started in Kiev, English culture did not start in Edinburgh. Frankly, I think an increasing number of English would be very happy to see the Scots go!