The Scottish campaign for political sovereignty and economic association with the rest of the United Kingdom and the European Union updates the Quebec independence playbook. Effectively, not only are we a little nicer than they are, we’re smarter. Scotland can be as competitive as England and, at the same time, it can be more socially enlightened as an independent unitary state.
The Scots gave the world Adam Smith’s mind and Canada’s banking culture. Naturally, their sovereigntist government wants to keep the Pound, their common currency with Britain and their 40-year-old free trade association with the European Union as well.
The response of England’s political, bureaucratic, and business leaders now effectively mimics Canadian federalist "no" campaigns in Quebec’s two independence referenda. This shouldn’t, however, make Canadian federalists proud. Cameron, his ministers, and their Bank Governor (Canada’s former Bank Governor) Mark Carney, and now backed by England’s business leaders, are hammering those careful Scots with that terrible word: instability.
Carney first advised the Scots that their wished-for independence would be highly circumscribed in this interdependent world of easy nervous flows of capital. The "no" campaigners insist, too, that what’s left of the United Kingdom could, in fact, refuse to let Scotland stay in the Pound currency area and, as well, that the EU might be reluctant to allow them to stay in the European common market as an independent nation. They could destabilize politics in Europe and cause uncertainty about the stability of the Pound.
If the Scots vote to stay, these warnings will appear shrewd. If the Scots leave, these warnings probably will not survive the night the votes are counted.
Nothing about the future uttered in any election campaign can be totally refuted. Nevertheless, their warnings are both hypocritical and farfetched.
Britain’s precious Pound and Carney’s old Canadian dollar are highly influenced by what others think of their government’s fiscal and monetary policies. Neither Britain, nor Canada, nor a separate Scotland in the future would be free to do — or threaten to do — whatever it likes economically. Economically literate Scots know about the limits of economic sovereignty today as well — and possibly better — than anti-Europe and anti-American nationalists in either Britain or Canada.
Indeed, there exists no separatist sentiment in Scotland as nostalgic and as ambitious as Britain’s vehement keep-the-Pound-and-don’t-use-the-Euro majority to Scotland’s south.
If the rest of the United Kingdom refused to maintain its currency union with an independent Scotland, their citizens and businesses that hold equity in Scotland could lose a fortune, and Carney’s Pound would become even less stable in currency markets.
The "no" campaign says their threat is credible because keeping an independent Scotland in the currency union could threaten the Pound’s reputation. The Scots, after all, could turn around and act like the Greeks and those other places on the continent that still don’t speak English in the office.
This is truly bizarre.
Today, Scotland holds 59 seats in the UK Parliament. A Scot today has as much right as a Londoner to aspire to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom or Governor of its central bank. Cameron, Carney, and the entire English establishment sleep soundly knowing: if the Scots vote "no" in the referendum, the Scottish electorate next year could determine who forms the next government of the United Kingdom.
They’re smart enough to influence the destiny of the United Kingdom. But they’re not competent to manage their own affairs?