Monday, April 07, 2008


There's been a bit in the news over here recently saying that within a couple of years there's likely to be a referendum in Scotland about whether it should remain part of the UK. My immediate reaction to this news was that the rest of the UK also needs to hold a referendum on whether we want to remain unified with Scotland!

I myself have roots all over the UK, and have always been interested in the history of how the UK came into existence as a combination of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. But although one of my grandfathers has Scottish ancestry, and one of my grandmothers has Welsh ancestry with the other two grandparents having English ancestry, I've always labelled myself as English because I was brought up in England.

Co-operation is fundamental to modern society. If any of us city dwellers had to make from scratch any of the items found in our homes, whether food items, furniture or anything else, then it's likely to take us literally hundreds of times longer that it takes us to earn the money for it and buy it in a shop. How did we manage to evolve into such an advanced state of existence, given that most people are fundamentally selfish? This question can in fact be answered mathematically via a variation of the prisoner's dilemma, which shows that even if there are some short term advantages in not co-operating, provided the long term advantages of co-operation are greater then always co-operating is the best strategy .

The 1707 Act of Union which united Scotland with the rest of Britain is a perfect example of the advantages of co-operation. Around 1707 Scotland was quite a poor country, but after the Act of Union Scottish merchants were able to start exploiting opportunities which became available because England was a colonial power. A lot of wealth was generated in Scotland, and if the Act of Union hadn't happened then it seems likely that The Scottish Enlightenment wouldn't have happened either.

But how do Scots feel about all this today. In spite of everything that England and Scotland have been through together since 1707, I have a strong impression that a lot of Scots people don't like the English. The Scottish reaction to England playing in international sports matches is particularly revealing. Whatever the event, and whoever the opponent is, it seems to me that a Scottish person would usually prefer to see England lose. Another example is the reaction that an Indian colleague had while holidaying in some of the remoter parts of Scotland, where he was told that he was particularly welcome because he wasn't English! Although I'm a strong believer in co-operation, when the other party doesn't want to co-operate it doesn't work.

Does the rest of the UK need Scotland? Not really :-). It's true that the UK's oil in the North Sea would be Scottish if Scotland was an independent country, but in today's global economy GDP figures are more relevant. Less than 10% of the UK's population lives in Scotland, and their GDP per head is a bit less than the rest of the UK. Without Scotland, the GDP of the rest of the UK may still be greater than France's GDP, and if behind France then not by much.

The idea of becoming independent countries seems madness to me for many reasons. None the less, with their history of unfriendliness with the rest of the inhabitants of the UK, I think it's time for the rest of us to vote on whether to break the union with the Scots. The Scots have been quite clever at always discussing this issue in terms of what Scottish people get out of the union. A discussion about whether the rest of us get anything out of the union with the Scots is long overdue!


Anonymous said...

"My immediate reaction to this news was that the rest of the UK also needs to hold a referendum on whether we want to remain unified with Scotland!"

I agree. I've always said this. I'm partly Scottish and think the idea of independence is incredibly short-sighted and generally ridiculous.

However, let the rest of the union vote! At the risk of sounding a little extreme, England has its balls cut off decades ago. It's about time it started asserting itself a little more.


Anonymous said...

Not all Scots think like that. In fact despite all the spin recent polls show support for independence at lower levels recently. Dont abandon your gay scottish readers!

Sir Wobin said...

Considering the offered (threatened?) formation of The United States of Europe, is Scottish independence really an issue? If they secede from the union with the rest of the UK, they might then be running into the arms of the EU.

Do we want them to stay? This link and this one sum it up for me. :-)

(Hope you don't mind me posting links GB. Delete if inappropriate.)

Monty said...

I just can't understand it - what the hell will Scotland get out of independance? After all, they are autonomous already. Seems rather silly to me.

Welshman said...

I am Welsh and don't particularly desire or seek independance for the Welsh - albeit some of my countrymen and women do.... but I can also understand some of the traditional conflict that exists between the English and the other Celtic nations - the English Majority and more often than not the London based media display breathtaking arrogance sometimes which gets under the skin of the other countries - there is a certain type of englishman who permeates a sense of superiority over the subservient celtic races...

I dont particularly think its economically viable and frankly wouldnt trust another bunch of self serving politicians with that much power over us - I have enough problem with the ones we have to deal with now...

GB said...

Well I'm partly Scottish too first-anonymous-commenter, but I think you're right, a little bit more English patriotism (NOT nationalism) wouldn't be a bad idea!

I'm glad to hear that there are some friendly Scots out there, second-anonymous-commenter :-). And don't worry, I have no intention of abandoning my Scottish readers, or readers anywhere else in the world come to that!

Nice pics Sir Wobin, and I'm sure that even if Scotland does secede from the UK, there'll still be some Scottish guys in London for us to play with :-).

Well said, Monty, the Scots are aleady autonomous is so many ways. I sometimes think the whole idea is just an ego trip for the Alex Salmond (the Scottish nationalist leader).

I think you're right Welshman, and there are old examples of English arrogance all over the place. Why is it the "Bank of England" that's the UK's central bank, and not the "Bank of Britain" or something? I reckon there needs to be enough celtic patriotism to keep that arrogance at bay, but not too much patriotism on either side to prevent co-operation. I think that perhaps some Scots sometimes go a bit too far!

GB xxx

Alexander said...

An independent Scotland could never fully occur. Britain, which would be completely controlled by England, would retain control over foriegn and defense policy.

czechOUT said...

"England needs Scotland's Oil."

I remember that from my primary school days.

And now as a lawyer, well draw the continental shelf for yourself and $110 a barrel the revenue is far more than Buck House postcards, Tussauds "Mind the Gap" magnets.

Perhaps England needs scotland's revenue.

But for a full discussion, let's be informed!


Anonymous said...

Two things, first - as has been mentioned with a more federal EU what the hell does it matter if Scotland, or Brittany want to become their own country?
Second, rather than these unanalytical and nationalistic and macro economic formulations on how the Scottish are better off in the UK now, or after the Act of Union, shouldn't we look at if the standard of living or distribution of wealth is better for the avg. member of the population as an independent nation? Considering that the Act of Union meant the end of the more equal clan system, the Highland clearences, and the upper class sold out basically to gain a foothold in the English class system allowing the Scottish population to be used as fodder for English colonial ambitions I really dont think that most Scot's benifited from the Act of Union. Even now it seems that the Scottish population want a more egalitarian, just society more like Scand,/nordic countries than the brutish, greedy neo-liberal Enghish upper class will permit their population. Actually, hasn't that been the case through most of English history, this quest for empire to keep the lid on their own pressure-cooker class society?