Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | September 17, 2014

Assorted Scotland Links on the Eve of Election

As I write this, it is already Thursday in Scotland, and in a few hours the voters there will begin going to the polls to decide whether Scotland will remain a part of the United Kingdom. (Thousands have already voted by mail.) Apparently, for this referendum, the franchise has been expanded to include 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds.

For your consideration:

1. Andrew Sullivan:

I’m against secession, but I understand where the Scots are coming from. People want to be in charge their own destiny, be in control of their own future. If they no longer truly identify as British rather than as Scottish, then their future is effectively being determined by someone else – and it doesn’t help matters that Cameron is almost a text-book example of the kind of Englishman the Scots have always detested. This deep sense of identity matters in politics.

2. Steve Saideman, “Why I Would Vote Nay”:

So, why I am opposed to most independent movements on democracies? Because there is another way. Sure, there are some democracies where an ethnic group is small enough to be politically irrelevant and thus dominated with no chance to affect its fortunes. But mostly, democracy means both having one’s rights protected and having access to the political system. The Scots are not powerless. Much of the independence movement is mostly frustrated because of who governs the UK right now–the Conservatives. But that is temporary (unless Scotland secedes).

An essential part of democracy is that when a side loses, they accept defeat and work to come back into power some time later. Democracy will not work if losing an election or two leads to secession. Again, losing is an essential part of democracy.

3. David M. McCourt at Duck of Minerva: “Britain’s Role in the World and Scottish Independence.”

4. Tyler Cowen notes that simply holding the referendum has awakened some slumbering resentments and controversies throughout Britain: “this story will not end with a ‘no’ vote from Scotland, unless it is strongly decisive. Regardless of the result, allowing this referendum to go forward likely will go down as one of the greatest unforced errors in recent times.”

5. At the Volokh Conspiracy, Ilya Somin looks at the Scottish government’s proposed interim constitution for an independent Scotland. (Significant: “If the ‘yes’ side wins the referendum, Section 33 of the interim constitution requires the Scottish parliament to establish an ‘independent constitutional convention’ that would draft a permanent governing document. It leaves most of the details of how the drafting and ratification of the permanent constitution would work for the Scottish Parliament to determine…”)

6. Alan Trench: “Negotiations after a Scottish referendum Yes vote.”

7. Giving Scottish Independence Referendum the Middle East Expert Treatment. (H/T: Phil Arena.)

8. John Oliver. (On the long side, but really funny. Worth watching in full.) (H/T: Althouse.)

9. Groundskeeper Willie. (H/T: Steve Saideman.)

Update (Thurs., Sept. 18, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT): 10. Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber:

My reasons for favouring “yes”, initially, were sort-of quasi-Rousseauvian. Democracy thrives better in small states where government is closer to the people; large anonymous states, whatever their political form, have distant governments often captured by special interests. That’s a general inclination, to which I would add a sympathy for Scots who are sick of being ruled by Tories they didn’t vote for and who hope for a more inclusive and socially just society. I doubt their hopes will be realized in an independent Scotland though.

For me, though, the balance of reasons decisively favours “no”, for three reasons: abhorrence of nationalism, a dislike of the idea that smaller entities claiming full state sovereignty should proliferate, and disbelief at the economics of separation, which will not turn Glasgow into Stockholm.

So I hope there’s a “no”; “yes” could turn things very nasty, both in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. But DevoMax brings its own problems. If Scotland gets so much devolved power, then why should similar local control not be vested in other parts of the UK? In short, what we need is a federal structure with Scotland, Wales and a selection of English regions being the constituent Länder. Eine Bundesrepublik Britannien, in fact. If Ed Miliband and Labour are smart, then they will make the call for a UK-wide constitutional convention part of their campaign for 2015. If not, then the question of Scottish independence will keep on coming back until “yes” wins.

Yeah… “If Ed Miliband and Labour are smart…” Good luck with that.


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