Going solo: The Scottish dilemma



Alsir Sidahmed

Published — Sunday 27 May 2012

Last update 27 May 2012 3:59 am

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In the age of globalization and big political and economic blocs, Scotland is trying its luck to break away from the United Kingdom to thrive on its autonomy as a society and a nation.
It is not that every day a 300 years’ old union is broken up, nor it is the first time for Scotland to try to go solo and have its impact on world stage.
Back in 1698, it tried to colonize the Isthmus of Panama and have a world role; the attempt backfired and few years later Scotland signed to join the UK.
Last Friday saw the first shot in a long campaign that will last more than two years to woo voters to side with independence or to continue the status quo of unity. Arguments look equal. To those who want unity with the British crown, whatever Scotland is going to gain in terms of taxes on oil is slated to loose in subsidies; while those favor independence think by having its oil for itself alone, Scotland stands good chances of booming and ally more with Nordic countries in northern Europe where a well-established welfare state is the envy of many.
So oil and economics are more or less in the heart of the debate.
It was the North Sea oil that has been fueling British economy for more than three decades.
Although recent figures speak of an annual 6 percent decline in oil production from the North Sea, attempts to write out its obituary had always proven to be premature.
Still basing the economy of yet to be born state on one commodity, highly affected by movements of world market, is an unhealthy development that would be compounded by the fact that Scotland has only a small population of merely five million people.
Because of that, stream of polls were trying to gauge the mood of the audience and how they will vote when the time comes in October 2014.
Interesting enough one of these polls found out that only 21 percent of Scots could vote for independence if it would leave them 500 pounds a year worse off; and only 24 percent would vote to stay with the Union Jack even if they would be less well-off sticking with Britain.
Aside from that, votes will go for independence if it would bring in enough cash to buy a new iPod and against it if it is not! Reducing a big issue to do with national independence to a personal preference like this is quite revealing of the general mood.
It is interesting to note that the program of those calling for independence looks for the same monarchy, the same currency at least initially, though a European Union membership and euro look like a possibility, but now it has started drifting away given the current problems of the euro zone.
Problems that may face independent Scotland are for its people to worry about, but the implications for such a step that are the source of concern to many.
A successful bid for a break up will encourage other minorities and groups around Europe and far away to try their luck also. High on the list are the Welsh and Irish. If that also is to take place, it will diminish British role not as a leading power on world stage, but even within its own borders. Add to that what could happen to Spain’s Basque or Catalans and a host of groups around Europe. Even far away Canada can feel the heat, though it had its chance and has managed to escape narrowly the independence drive by Quebec more than 15 years ago.
And if that is the case with well-established societies with mature political experience and traditions like the United Kingdom, where civil rights are respected, how about developing countries?
Last year’s break-up of Sudan and South Sudan, though conducted smoothly through a recognized referendum, later proved far away from a velvet separation — with Sudan getting into the worst case scenario of losing both unity and peace.
That is unlikely to be the case of Britain and Scotland, but with the European Union facing a tough choice of between breakups and moving toward a super state where other countries cede some of their sovereignty, the issue became more than a bilateral one. Europe’s attempt to integrate for more than 60 years is now being put to test; the same like the 300 years of British-Scottish union.
It is the age of globalization that has been raising the stakes and dictating a new game and its rules.
Ironically enough with the communication revolution that has engulfed the world and disintegration of the politico-economic order created by the industrial revolution, no new system has emerged to substitute what has been disintegrating. And what we see now between Scotland and Britain is only a symptom and a signal of what to come.
— Alsir Sidahmed ([email protected]) is media consultant, trainer and freelance journalist.

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