Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Scottish referendum, the EU and the old new ideas

Here's a reasonable case for Scottish independence.

Ignore all the anxieties about the transition, the tussles over currency and oil and nuclear submarines: plenty of nations smaller than Scotland do fine, and in the long run Scotland can do too. The Union was great in its day, but that day has passed. The future belongs to the small, nimble, united nation-state, competing in a globalized market; not to the lumbering imperialist conglomerate that was put together to build an empire with armed force.

Reasonable, plausible, but wrong. We are no longer living in the optimistic post-Cold War world where free trade was what mattered. Old conflicts have returned in force. Today nations need military and economic heft. The UK is outdated, in some ways, but because it is too small, not too big.

The bigger unit that we need is, of course, a strong European Union. Could Scotland not play an independent role underneath its protective shield? Unfortunately, the politics is all wrong. A Yes in the referendum is bound to weaken the Tories and the establishment, strengthen the insurgency of UKIP, and increase the chance that the rump state of Britain exits the EU. That exit would be a crippling blow for Europe. The future of Scotland would then look much less certain and safe.