Scotland The Not So Brave

Overnight a small revolution was narrowly averted. Wars have been fought, won and lost over the issue of independence. Unlike the United States, Scotland didn’t go to war to fight for independence from the United Kingdom. All they had to do, if they wanted it, was turn up and vote in a referendum. And when push turned to shove, the canny Scots decided it was better to be inside the tent than out.

Make no mistake this could easily have gone the other way and if it did we’d be saying cheerio the nou to the United Kingdom as we know it. So there was a lot at stake, a lot to lose and a lot of people very worried especially the British Prime Minister. Why he, or anyone else would want to remain joined to a country whose national dish is a sheep’s stomach filled with heart, lungs and liver, whose male population insists on wearing a skirt and whose people speak in a way that no-one can understand is beyond me. Of course I am having a huge joke. But you could almost hear the collective sighs of relief when Scotland said no, instead of aye, to independence.

So, what made the Scots want to take the high road to independence in the first place? Here’s a brief history lesson. The Scottish National Party won the country’s General Election in a landslide result in 2011. They ran on a platform promising a referendum on independence. The Scottish National Party also claimed the country’s 300-year-old union had as much relevance and oomph as a deflated set of bagpipes. There is also Scotland’s North Sea oil wealth that people like the country’s First Minister seem to think could make Scotland one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It was time for the Scots to take control of their destiny and free themselves from what pro independence supporters saw as the shackles of the British Parliament. The Yes vote had some high profile lobbyists including Scottish actor Sean Connery, even though he didn’t vote in the referendum. Independence for Scotland has to be seen for what it is: an in your face challenge to the United Kingdom, the most successful political, social and economic union in the world. But for all the political rhetoric what the issue is really about is money. The Scots want a lion’s share of the tax from North Sea oil and gas. People like the British Prime Minister argue it is very much a finite resource. And because it’s getting harder to extract these resources, now is the time more than ever for the United Kingdom to stay united so it can support the industry with the broad shoulders of England, Scotland and Wales.

The pressure was on for the Scots to decide which way to go. Eight six percent of the country’s five million eligible voters cast their ballot. Fifty four percent voted No and 45 percent Yes. Scotland’s First Minister and the leader of the country’s National Party who campaigned tirelessly for a Yes to independence said the referendum had been “ a triumph of the democratic process.” Reading between the lines what he was really trying to say was all of those caber tossing, whiskey drinking, kilt-wearing tossers who voted NO were nothing but a bunch of losers. The British Prime Minister was seriously worried. So much so that after the NO vote was declared he went on British national television to say that he had listened to the Scottish people and that changes would be introduced to give them greater independence without having to become an independent country.

But some wise old sages suggest the real reason the Yes vote fell over has to do with whiskey, the Scottish National drink. The Scotch Whiskey Association while never officially opposing independence did say the risk outweighed the advantages. And again the issue was money. An independent Scotland would be a smaller country. The banking industry would shrink limiting available credit to the country’s whiskey distillers and pushing up interest rates.

An independent Scotland would also inevitably lead to changes in terms of trade, which could make it more expensive to ship Scotch whiskey overseas. Whiskey accounts for 20 percent of Scotland’s exports and nine out every 10 bottles produced, are sent overseas. The UK has diplomatic representation in most countries around the world and is able to bring some heavy lifting to the process of marketing scotch. An independent Scotland would have a much smaller profile and diplomatic footprint and would offer much less marketing support.

But realistically the more things change the more they stay the same. Scotland will always be Scotland even if the country had voted yes to independence. It will still have its shortbread and its neeps and tatties and most people I know will struggle to understand one word in 20 every time a Scots person opens their mouth to talk. So I say this to the Scottish people: Lang may yer lum reek. If you want to know what it means you’ll have to look it up.

Leave a Reply