On the 18th of September 2014, the Scottish will vote in a referendum that might grant them the independence that some have been fighting for for decades, or, depending on how you look at it, perhaps even for centuries. Fortunately, this fight for independence from the United Kingdom has been possible without any violence, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting. In fact, perhaps it only makes it more interesting. The reasons to back independence are similar to that of many nations who have gone before them, yet the way they go about it is completely different. But why would Scotland want to become an independent country in the first place?
Let’s start simple: “England” is not a sovereign state, unlike what many people might think. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are four “countries” bound together in one state, the United Kingdom. They do each, since 1998, have their own parliament, but these only have powers on a national level and not on every kind of issue (see this for a list of them, and this for a video explaining the entire thing). That doesn’t only sound complicated, but it IS complicated, and since governing a nation isn’t so easy in the first place, that division certainly doesn’t make it any easier. That, evidently, is something the Scottish National Party (SNP) would agree with.
The SNP is a political party that, on its own, has a majority of seats in Scottish parliament (>53%) and that has been advocating for Scottish independence for decades. Their reasons for this can be brought down to three: 1) Nuclear disarmament and membership of the EU, because these are two keys issues that, according to opinion polls, the Scottish and the rest of the UK disagree about, with England in particular being more negative about EU membership and being more determined to hold on to those nuclear weapons; 2) Oil, seeing as Scotland has got oil that it now has to share with the rest of the UK, and 3), the reason that binds it all together, nationalism.
It is this last one in particular that is the cause for the debate. The Scottish don’t feel British (if you’ll just allow me to use the term “British” there even though it technically disregards Northern Ireland). For as long as the United Kingdom has existed, there has been an “us and them” dialogue. The idea that Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland are inherently different has dominated since the very start, and these differences are constantly repeated. Why? Because of history. Because hundreds of years ago Scotland had its own kingdom and was at war with the English.
Some might say that these differences are important, but that means overlooking one important fact: every part of a country is different. The big city is different from the country-side, a region on the coast making its money from trade is different from one in the centre of the country making its money from tourism, and all of these regions, all of these people, desire different things. In the end, however, everyone realises that combined, they are strong, and while there is a certain amount of regional pride, people still identify with the sovereign state they live in.
This is not the case in the UK. Because of nationalism, because of a situation that was brought about hundreds of years ago, the Scottish don’t have the same national identity as the English, and vice versa. That nationalism, as I wrote before, is purely irrational, but yet it still dominates modern day Western politics. Time and resources that could have been spent elsewhere are being wasted on this kind of nationalism, to debate, to plan, to research, yet the eventual benefit is just a loss of efficiency and an increase of… well… independence?
The question we should ask ourselves is whether there even is such a thing as political independence. Aren’t we always dependent on someone? Won’t Scottish independence just lead to the Scottish being dependent on another person, this time someone who happens to share the same national identity? In the end, the reality is that different people have different interests, regardless of nationality, and the quest for independence will never end until we have reached complete anarchy, at which point we will lose all our modern efficiency. There is no point to it.
The problem, of course, is that this dialogue cannot be changed. Whether there is good reason to identify with different nationalities is irrelevant as long as it remains the case, and growing up in Scotland or Wales, it’s difficult not to develop that feeling. But that doesn’t take away the fact that it’s a shame. A waste of an opportunity. Neither the UK nor Scotland would benefit from independence, both of them losing efficiency, and all that could be gained is the satisfaction of an irrational sense of nationalism.
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