UPDATE: The Scottish referendum on independence is now less than two weeks away and, for the very first time, a reputable public opinion poll — published in today’s Sunday Times, no less — puts support for the Yes Scotland side slightly ahead of the anti-separation Better Together side.
I really have no sense at all which way the final vote (including results of a massive mail-in ballot) will go. The YouGov poll (which has the separatists ahead) apparently shows the culmination of a massive shift in support over the past month. Other polls have shown no such radical shift. So we will just have to wait and see.
In any case, Sept. 18 is going to be a fascinating — perhaps momentous — day for Scots and political armchair quarterbacks everywhere. And I still stand behind everything I wrote in this (unrevised) blog post.
Here’s a link to the original posting of this Nosey Parker piece back on June 15, if only to see a number of very interesting comments attached to the original.
“Should Scotland be an independent country?”
— the formal question in the Scottish referendum to be held Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014
I have a bet with my son — a brilliant and learned fellow who is a much more astute and pragmatic political observer than I am — about the upcoming Scottish referendum on independence from Great Britain.
His position — probably the winning one — is that the majority of Scots will vote to remain within the warm embrace of the so-called United Kingdom.
My betting position is that the Scots will buck up their courage and shed the shackles of centuries of English domination, re-assert their native independence and say “Up yours, Whitehall b’stards!”
I’m pretty sure I’m going to lose this bet. So be it. We all choose our own destinies.
Here’s a link to the Wikipedia entry on the Scottish independence referendum if you want to delve more deeply into the complexities of the issue. I urge you to do so. You may come to a different conclusion than I do, and that’s fine by me.
But consider this …
What if Canada was Scotland and the United States of America was the United Kingdom or Great Britain or whatever you want to call the island queendom?
After all, Britain wasn’t “Great” until the English bribed and cajoled and bullied and manipulated and cheated their way into political mastery of Scotland three centuries ago.
I know, I know — that sounds like some ancient blood feud, but it’s not. Three centuries is a mere blink of the eye in the grand scheme of things. People in the Mideast, Europe and Asia are still killing each other over things that may or may not have happened 500 years ago or a thousand years ago or two thousand years ago.
And there were many times — four at a bare minimum — during those three centuries that the present nation of Canada could easily have been absorbed into the hungry maw of the United States of America.
That was, after all, the ultimate plan of the U.S. founding fathers and their successors — Manifest Destiny, the creation of a grand empire encompassing the entire North American continent. Great America, in other words. Much bigger and better than piddly Great Britain over on the other side of the Atlantic.
And that annexation could have occurred many times over if not for the likes of John A. Macdonald and his ilk. And luck. And fortuitous timing.
Now I’m not putting the U.S. down here. I was, after all, born in the U.S. and I’ll defend to their early graves the suicidal and/or homicidal right of all Americans, regardless of their mental state, to bear arms and slaughter each other and their children and their children’s children. I just think it’s a dumb approach to life.
But, hey, I don’t live in the U.S., so it’s not my problem any more.
If Canada was Scotland and had been absorbed by the more powerful and populous nation to south, the border would be meaningless and America’s problems would be the former Canada’s problems.
Granted, Canada and the U.S. are joined at the hip economically — although the U.S. War on Terror is doing everything it possibly can to impede the free flow of trade between two sovereign nations.
And granted, Canada is — as that subversive separatist (separating Canada from the U.S.) Pierre Trudeau put it so picturesquely — a mouse sleeping in the same bed as the American elephant.
Canada is definitely a junior partner in the North American consortium.
Canada is not part of the U.S.
Canada is surviving quite fine, thank you, despite the fact that Canada’s natural resources could probably be exploited more efficiently and profitably if completely under the umbrella of American law and corporate dictate.
And, yes, that efficient, profitable exploitation of Canada’s natural resources — and Canadian whiskey too, I guess — might mean a slightly higher income for the average Canadian.
But at what cost?
Would you, as a Canadian citizen and national stakeholder, willingly give up the independence — however illusory — of your country to our southern neighbour?
Would you trade your Canadian birthright for swift approval of an oil pipeline or cheaper six-packs of beer? (By the way, Canada could — and should — have much cheaper beer without giving up national sovereignty. It’s just a case of government cutting back a little bit on the usurious taxes imposed on alcohol.)
We are so lucky.
We don’t have to step into the unknown. We don’t have to try to wrench our society and our economy out of the larger organism of Great America. I think it would be almost impossible to do so, just as it is probably impossible for Scotland to break free from the only form of government and dependence that 15 generations of Scots have known.
Scotland’s predicament could so easily have been Canada’s.
Canada could easily have been absorbed by the United States in 1867 — the same year the U.S. bought Alaska from Russia — instead of becoming an independent nation.
Canada beat the odds. Scotland didn’t. That’s the only difference.
Do you really think the London money men would give two figs about Scotland — or give Scotland a dime — if it didn’t have oil? Do you really think the New York money men would give two figs about Canada — or give Canada a dime — if we didn’t have oil and water and other coveted natural resources?
And the only difference is that Canada is an independent, sovereign nation and Scotland is a … bump on the rump of England. What a terrible place to be.
Imagine if, when Scots go to the polls on Sept. 18 to vote in their referendum, Scotland was an independent nation and the Scottish people were voting on whether or not to join England in a new union.
Do you think they would really vote to give up their independence and nationhood in that circumstance any more than Canadians would?
I certainly don’t.
Instead, Scotland has been held in thrall for so long that comfortable but recalcitrant subservience seems the normal state of being, not an unacceptable abberation.
And the fear mongers do their job well: “If you venture outside the harem, you will starve on the streets.”
It’s hard not to compare Scotland’s relationship to Great Britain with Quebec’s relationship to Canada.
I, for one, always had a problem with using threats and holding a hammer over Quebec’s head to maintain Canada’s territorial integrity. I don’t think threats and warnings of dire consequences and implied violence are a good basis for nationhood any more than they’re a good basis for a personal relationship.
So I’m glad we’re through that phase of the Quebec-Canada relationship and into a more positive, aspirant interlocution.
Yes, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens in Scotland’s Sept. 18 referendum.
As I’ve already said, I think the majority of Scots are going to opt for the safe, the known, the tolerable, the secure option of remaining a junior clerk in the United Kingdom counting house. They may have a twitch and an itch before marking their ballots, but the majority will almost certainly go down on their knees.
I’m just glad Canadians aren’t in that position. Yet.
UPDATE FROM THE GUARDIAN ON LONDON’S PANIC: “The debate has intoxicated Scotland. Feeling involved in something BIG has intoxicated Scotland. People have seen the opportunity to seize power. It has become worthwhile to take an interest in political issues, achieve an understanding of them, discuss your own understanding with others, start formulating your own ideas.
“The possibility of informed consensus, real democracy, rising up from the people, has become real. Why would Scotland turn its back on this, now that the tang of it hangs in the air? Many undecided voters, when they find themselves in the voting booth, will be asking if they want this feeling of involvement, of agency, of purpose, to end? Many will vote yes, simply because they don’t want it to end. Why would they?”