Archive for October, 2010

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“Untied Kingdom”

October 5, 2010

By Patrick Hanley

England sent a soccer team to the World Cup; Scotland did not. England sent a Conservative government into 10 Downing Street; Scotland did not. An English Prime Minister pledged participation in the invasion and occupation of Iraq; Scotland did not.

The fact of the matter remains that Scotland is a nation. It is an ancient colony of the United Kingdom, dominated by the heavyweight England. Colonial occupation has lasted for so long that many in England have forgotten about it entirely; Scotland has not.

Our American revolution took place over the course of 13 years; theirs is pushing 303. Under the leadership of Alexander Salmond, the head of the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Scottish government is seeking to pose a question to the Scots, the Brits, and the World: Is now, at last, the time for independence?

Generally, the regions of the UK operate similarly to the states in the U.S.   Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England all participate in the British Parliament, which serves at the pleasure of the English Queen Elizabeth II.

Since before the days of the American Revolution, Scotland has suffered “unity” with her southern neighbor. The two centuries since have witnessed futile bloodshed and failed lunges toward freedom. The past century has balked at the near extinction of Scotch dialects, and the crippling domestication of the once proudly independent highlanders.

Then suddenly, everything changed. In 1997, with the forced blessing of the British government, the Scots established a parliament of their own, with powers ranging from health policy to police services. Politicians and personalities from Gordon Brown to Sean Connery came out in favor of freedom. In 2007, the independence-seeking SNP won control of this parliament.

Now an independence referendum is on its way to the Scottish polls. At long last, Scottish statehood has left the land of traditional toasts or radical rants and entered the realm of pundits and politics.

Not all Scots are behind the independence movement. Many arguments stem from a fear of leaving the status quo, leaving the Union, and losing the diplomatic umbrella of Great Britain. Some argue that Scotland will lose prized special diplomatic relationships enjoyed by the United Kingdom. Others fear the loss of key businesses wary of revolutionary politics, or the instability that could follow.

But if the status quo is hurting the Scottish economy, blocking Scots’ right to a legitimate Scottish government, and forcing Scottish troops to obey the British crown, perhaps breaking from the norm isn’t such a terrible idea.

In fact, breaking from an overweight, bureaucratic, and ultimately imperial state structure, like the U.K., would free Scotland to capitalize on a potentially dynamic economy. Independence would grant Scotland its own seat at the European table and in the international forum. A sovereign Scotland would have the power to defend herself, in her own way; Scots overwhelmingly support the eradication of nuclear weapons.

Under independence, the Scottish government will have complete control over fiscal and economic policy. The SNP hopes to attract business investment by cutting corporate taxes, a move London is unwilling to make. An independent Scotland will capitalize on huge oil and natural gas reserves in the North Sea, the largest in Europe. A smaller Scottish economy will have ample room to grow without the red tape of the unwieldy UK bureaucracy.

Independence for Scotland means complete control over the powers to tax, broadcast, educate, and negotiate – powers that are necessary for any fully functioning democracy to operate efficiently and effectively.

As a member of the EU, Scotland will have a say in the direction of the continent and be able to broker deals with countries the UK neglects. English wars will no longer cost Scottish lives, and English market practices will no longer lose Scottish jobs.

It is nearly impossible to gauge a people’s views on independence. Five polls conducted over the last two years among the Scots predict wildly different results. Scots are understandably anxious; it is not every day that a trip to the ballot box can close three centuries of occupation.

Like marching with Washington to face the King, or facing King at the march in Washington, history rests with those marching in Scotland; saying ‘no’ to a Kingdom, voting ‘yes’ to be free.

Patrick is an alumni and current student of the Elliott School of International Affairs.  Having earned his B.A. in International Affairs, he is now a graduate student in the M.A. Global Communication program.   Patrick was also a member of the inaugural Elliott School Undergraduate Scholars, for which he completed a project titled: “Winds of Change: A Study of Contemporary Nationalism and European Politics.”

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