Scotland on the Edge...?!?!

Monday, 15 September 2014 13:55
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by Quintin Oliver*
EPOS Insights


Under the unwritten UK Constitution, referendums are rare.

In my lifetime there have only been four: 1973, a border poll on N. Ireland’s future (failed), 1975 on staying in the EU (won), 1998 on the Good Friday Agreement (won) and in 2011 on introducing a new alternative voting system (failed).

Now the whole world is gripped by the prospect of Scotland seceding from the UK – the world’s most peaceful and democratic expression of nationhood amongst the 143 states created since the second world war? Or a greedy grab for the oil and financial services wealth by a component part of one of the world’s great political unions over the past three centuries?

The polls are tantalisingly close – the whole of Scotland is buzzing with excitement after an unprecedented three years of campaigning; turnout is expected to be 80%; the rest of the UK is suddenly rocked by the possibility of losing its northern neighbour.

So what is going to happen?

First, the chances remain low, in my experience, of a Yes vote; citizens tend to the status quo, after looking over the edge of a possible break of this magnitude.

Second, the big unanswered questions about the choice of currency (sterling, the Euro or a new one), entry into the EU (fast track or ‘back of the queue) and NATO / OTAN, with or without the Trident nuclear bases – the "Yes" campaign wishes to become non-nuclear), future oil reserves (large or diminishing) and the possible flight of the financial services from Edinburgh to London are unsettling for voters and could precipitate a reversion to "No".

Third, even though many accept that Scotland could, of course, survive independently, the question about whether it should remains high in the mind of the doubtful voter.

Now, in the alternative, if the simple majority of 50% plus one is achieved, what will happen?

1. There will be a run on the pound in the London markets, a run on the banks in Scotland, reflecting the uncertainty of the last three years turning into outright fear of change, and protection of assets;

2. Voters’ remorse, as was experienced in Ireland, twice, after failed EU Treaty polls on Nice and Lisbon, may occur. This could influence the next scheduled poll for the Westminster UK elections in May 2015, when the Scottish National Party (leaders of the Yes call) could suffer;

3. The English voter could turn against their Scottish neighbours, not in a violent manner, but with a sullen irritation and annoyance, posing a modest threat to social cohesion;

4. The Northern Ireland polity could also be unsettled, again short of violence, since Scotland is our mothership, rather than England; many of us can trace our roots back to Scotland over the past four centuries; we could be left clinging on to England like Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands;

5. The north of England, long neglected by all parties as London and the south east sucks up wealth and talent will be energised, with passion and some bitterness, that they again have been overlooked.

And on the positive side, assuming all these technical and institutional challenges can be overcome:

- Scotland could be refreshed, reanimated and enlivened to rise to statehood with confidence and verve;

- The arts, sports and creative communities will experience a new lease of life, lifting Scottish culture back into world favour;

- The economy, after a short dip to accommodate the costs of establishing a new state, will flourish and thrive!


* Quintin Oliver ran the successfu "YES Campaign" in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement poll in Northern Ireland; he advises Better Together on a "No vote" on Thursday 18th September in Scotland @QuintinOliver


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect EPOS WorldView’s editorial policy

Last modified on Monday, 15 September 2014 14:17
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