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April 13, 2012 7:52 AM   Subscribe

A recent article in the Economist followed up on the British cover of this week's edition with a scathing attack on the economic case for Scottish independence. The Scottish National Party, currently in power and preparing for an independence referendum, are not amused but at least they have a powerful friend that can help out these days.

A hint of sweet irony is added by the fact that Alex Salmond, the nationalist First Minister of Scotland is himself an economist by training.
posted by Talkie Toaster (67 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Seems like Salmond is doing what he does best, turning a negative article into an opportunity to point south and feign outrage.

Heaven forbid he might address the points made in the article and explain to the poor sods expected to make a decision on independence why he thinks Scotland would be some kind of powerhouse without the Union.
Demonize, demonize, demonize is about all the SNP seem to be able to do at the moment, I hope their campaign will focus on more positive points in the run up to 2014, but somehow I doubt it.

Having said that, as far as politicians go there aren't many better than Salmond in the UK at the moment.
posted by Markb at 8:15 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


This cover isn't just trolling. It's Economist trolling.
posted by jaduncan at 8:37 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Any and all English efforts to dissuade Scots from voting Yes will backfire.
posted by Acey at 8:40 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'll take SNP over S&P any day of the week, thanks.

I don't really like that they're constantly described (often by their own damned selves) as a nationalist party. They're not a nationalist party; that would suggest racism and xenophobia, which is not part of their platform at all (unless you could anglophobia, where anglo- refers to the English government). They're not a far-right party; they're the far left. They're not a nationalist party, they're a separatist party.

Branding!
posted by Sys Rq at 8:42 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Watching that cover, I must point out Salmond could have easily gained the upper hand merely by pointing out that in that map Scotland may have become "Skintland", but England is actually underwater...
posted by Skeptic at 8:43 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read an interesting proposal recently regarding the theoretical difficulties surrounding membership of the EU. Assuming that one part of the future former UK would retain EU membership and the other would not, why can the default member not be Scotland? The Euroskeptics and little Englanders can then pursue their oft-mentioned goal of a re-negotiated EU treaty, or they could carry on the present course to becoming Airstrip One. Everyone wins!
posted by Jakey at 8:44 AM on April 13, 2012


Why Scotland would want to remain part of England at the moment is hard to understand.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:12 AM on April 13, 2012


I would be very interested to see how an independent Scotland would fare. Isn't one of the issues differences over austerity? I thought Scotland had stuck to a less austere approach and was seeing better results and less popular despair/anger?

Scotland seems to me to be one of the most underrated Anglophone countries - a very strong intellectual history and history of including women in intellectual life, a comparatively liberal political culture, lots of arts stuff, various strong music scenes. I have read in Orwell that it was popular to scorn Scotland and make fun of Scots in a sort of "we're going up to our [Scottish estate] for the shooting, where our stupid but loyal ghillies will speak in comic accents and beat for game!" way. I assume that perhaps this is why I never found about about the Edinburgh Review and related intellectual stuff until I read allusions in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell.

Anyway, I wonder if Scotland could end up being more like Iceland instead of following England into V for Vendetta territory if they were independent.
posted by Frowner at 9:14 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


why can the default member not be Scotland?

The United Kingdom is a member of the EU. There will be a Scottish referendum about leaving the union, not a UK-wide referendum about splitting the country up.
posted by robtoo at 9:16 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


And if Scotland leaves, the UK will still exist. Northern Ireland and Wales will still be in there; it won't just be England.

The real tragedy of Scottish independence will be the permanent Tory majority in the London Parliament.
posted by Fnarf at 9:26 AM on April 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why Scotland would want to remain part of England at the moment is hard to understand.

Scotland is not now and never has been "part of England."

I notice that there are several people in this thread who appear to disagree vehemently with the Economist article, I'd be interested to know on what grounds. It seems a very straightforward and commonsense analysis.
posted by yoink at 9:27 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't really like that they're constantly described (often by their own damned selves) as a nationalist party. They're not a nationalist party;

Yeah, words and their damned "meanings"! Who do they think they are?
posted by yoink at 9:30 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


>Why Scotland would want to remain part of England at the moment is hard to understand.

Scotland is not now and never has been "part of England."


Whoops, that was an unfortunate mistake. What I meant was, why would Scotland wish to continue to be tied to England?
posted by KokuRyu at 9:34 AM on April 13, 2012


Any and all English efforts to dissuade Scots from voting Yes will backfire.

But what if it's reverse reverse reverse psychology on the part of the Economist?
posted by Slothrup at 9:37 AM on April 13, 2012


I don't really like that they're constantly described (often by their own damned selves) as a nationalist party. They're not a nationalist party; that would suggest racism and xenophobia, which is not part of their platform at all (unless you could anglophobia, where anglo- refers to the English government). They're not a far-right party; they're the far left. They're not a nationalist party, they're a separatist party.

They're civic nationalists, not ethnic nationalists. I would guess that many or most people in the US are civic nationalists.
posted by Jehan at 9:38 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Scotland is not now and never has been "part of England."

Hahahahahahaha....




...hahahahahahaha.
posted by Jehan at 9:39 AM on April 13, 2012


Just another greedy attempt to take over resources and territory by using fear, rage, and trumped up nationalism to accomplish the goal. Scotland reminds me of the American South. And, if Murdoch supports the move it's a sure thing to hurt Scots, in the long term.
posted by Vibrissae at 9:41 AM on April 13, 2012


I have to say that from a US perspective, the idea of Scotland leaving the UK seems completely insane. The last few years have not been kind to small countries -- they seem to be able to rise fast, but fall faster. Unlike Iceland or Switzerland or some other countries, Scots could simply move en masse to England when Scotland hits hard times. And economically...Scotland's economy would be so dominated by Royal Bank of Scotland that they'd own the country.

Ireland has done OK by having lower taxes than England and attracting tons of English companies. But I don't think that trick is going to work twice.
posted by miyabo at 9:43 AM on April 13, 2012


Just another greedy attempt to take over resources and territory by using fear, rage, and trumped up nationalism to accomplish the goal.

Yes and I'm sure Westminster has no ulterior motives. Not those energy reserves in the North Sea that would become property of a newly created Scotland, right?

Ireland has done OK by having lower taxes than England and attracting tons of English companies. But I don't think that trick is going to work twice.

Scotland has the resources to be a European energy powerhouse. Think Norway not Ireland.
posted by Talez at 10:10 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Scotland seems to have done better than England during the economic meltdown, partly due to the fact that the government in Scotland has not been hell-bent on gutting the private sector (a major part of the economy) in the name of rationalization.

As a Canadian, we have already gone through this entire debate, and fundamentally I believe in the concept of the right to self-determination. If the majority of a population wants to leave a political or economic union, they have the right to do so.

Thankfully, as others have pointed out, the SNP is based on civic nationalism, rather than ethnic or cultural nationalism as is the case in Quebec.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:11 AM on April 13, 2012


Scotland has the resources to be a European energy powerhouse.

For how much longer? And what do they do when the oil runs out?
posted by yoink at 10:11 AM on April 13, 2012


For how much longer? And what do they do when the oil runs out?

Well shit. You've got me there. What could Scotland do with some of the notoroiusly roughest seas and some of the strongest winds on the planet?

Nope. Not a bloody clue on that one. Maybe a Captain Obvious can stumble into the thread and help me out.
posted by Talez at 10:14 AM on April 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Hahahahahahaha....

I take it you think I'm suggesting that Scotland has never been "oppressed by" or "taken for granted by" or "subjugated by" England or something of that order. I'm not--I'm simply pointing out that the Act of Union did not, in any sense of the words, make Scotland "part of England." That would be as incorrect as saying that Kansas is "part of California" or that Quebec is "part of Ontario."
posted by yoink at 10:15 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Remember: you are too poor, too stupid and too lacking in talent to control your own affairs. To do so will result in your country becoming a sort of Northern Albania.

You are dependent and you always will be. Do not believe in yourselves. Do not have aspirations beyond the way Scottish society currently is. Know your place. Here is a map of your place. Memorise it." -- Bella Caledonia
posted by feckless at 10:18 AM on April 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


What could Scotland do with some of the notoroiusly roughest seas and some of the strongest winds on the planet?

Nope. Not a bloody clue on that one. Maybe a Captain Obvious can stumble into the thread and help me out.


Well, thanks for answering the question--I'm not sure why you felt you needed to do so in such a shitty way as the question was perfectly genuine.

I'm skeptical of the notion of Scotland as "Saudi Arabia of alternative energy," however. Predicting the future of the world's energy markets even thirty or forty years out seems like a pretty dubious game--and presumably when it comes to the question of dissolving Scotland's ties with the UK you really ought to be thinking several generations into the future.
posted by yoink at 10:21 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


They're civic nationalists, not ethnic nationalists.

Well, yeah. But the fact that the name of their party reads like a more specific version of the British National Party can't be helping them.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:22 AM on April 13, 2012


Speaking as someone who was born in England and who has lived in Scotland for 17 years now, I have to say that a lot of people outside Scotland don't seem to understand what this is about.

Scotland is culturally very different from England. To put that in perspective, we have more giant pandas than Tory MPs; we have a parliament with three-and-a-half left of centre parties and a rump right-wing party so vestigial that at its last leadership election one of the candidates was running on a platform of shutting it down and starting a new centre-right group (because the Conservative brand was so completely non-viable in Scotland). Meanwhile, England—for the past 33 years—has consistently returned centre-right administrations who are following the neoliberal agenda, which is deeply unpopular up here to a degree I find hard to describe.

The devolution referendum in 1997 defused the political impact of this divergence for some years; the election of a radical right-wing coalition in 2010 has opened up the gap again, and there's a perception that in event of a "no" vote on independence Cameron will take this as a mandate to extend Conservative control over Scottish affairs by the central government in Westminster.

(As for the energy issue, well, thanks for sucking most of the North Sea oil revenue south. But if the proposed UK/Iceland grid interconnect happens, to bring Icelandic geothermal energy into the British Isles, it's probably going to come ashore on the north-west coast ... meaning, probably in Scotland. And Scotland is uniquely blessed by renewables, to the extent that with tidal barrages providing base load net energy autonomy should be reachable even without oil.)
posted by cstross at 10:22 AM on April 13, 2012 [19 favorites]


disagree vehemently with the Economist article, I'd be interested to know on what grounds.

It's a poor article that starts by bringing up Darien as some kind of proof that Scotland can't survive as an independent country in the 21st century and then witters on for 5 paragraphs of nonsense before attempting to make any kind of case to back up the idiotic cover. The case it then tries to make is that oil will run out. Unspoken I guess is that they assume the independent Scots will be too stupid to use the revenues in the 50 years until that happens to change the economy in any way.

The whole article is FUD. Just once I'd like to see someone try to make a positive case for the Union instead of insulting the intelligence of the people of Scotland.
posted by IanMorr at 10:22 AM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


It seems to me that Scotland has a significant leg up on independence vis a vis Ireland (and Iceland)--Its economic, educational, political and physical infrastructure is much more mature than when Ireland achieved independence. Further, Ireland was/is very much dependent on its membership in the EU to help it move ahead with major capital projects and currency stabilization . However, as one who has lived off and on in Ireland for the last nine years I see the extreme difficulty in quickly adjusting to changes in the economic climate. i have deep admiration for the Irish people, there willingness to make difficult decisions in the recent economic turn down and the personal resilience of the people and families. However, Daily I see the extreme difficulty that a small nation has in supporting the infrastructure that the citizens of first world nations expect--whether it be healthcare, education, roads or broad based social safety nets such as retirement and unemployment benefits. No one knows what would come with independence but I strongly believe the economic stability, meeting global demands and fulfilling the hopes of the Scottish people is going to much more difficult that articulated by SNP leaders. Unlike huge international corporations ( with huge but granted smaller revenues) small countries can not easily release a new product, expand exploration,move manufacturing to another country or eliminate 10% of its work force. I think it will be a struggle.
posted by rmhsinc at 10:23 AM on April 13, 2012


What could Scotland do with some of the notoroiusly roughest seas and some of the strongest winds on the planet?

Indeed. Scotland is actually one of the world leaders in commercializing (which is much, much harder, and much more useful than simply researching it) tidal energy. When I worked in the tech commercialization side of government during the last decade, everyone here on the Pacific coast of Canada were impressed by the Scots and their approach at being first-to-market with commercialized ocean energy projects. Meanwhile, here in British Columbia the government is more concerned with building oil pipelines than trying to move up the value chain.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:30 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


@IanMorr, no that's just vague hand waving and mudslinging, which is what many Scots confuse for intelligent discourse. As for this nonsense about "insulting the intelligence of the people of Scotland", more little Scotlander rhetoric to avoid answering the question. The Economist raises many questions which the SNP apologists refuse to answer.
posted by epo at 10:32 AM on April 13, 2012


Well, thanks for answering the question--I'm not sure why you felt you needed to do so in such a shitty way as the question was perfectly genuine.

My apologies. The general tone of the detractors in this thread is that Scotland can't do any bloody thing on its own and I mistook you.

I'm skeptical of the notion of Scotland as "Saudi Arabia of alternative energy," however. Predicting the future of the world's energy markets even thirty or forty years out seems like a pretty dubious game--and presumably when it comes to the question of dissolving Scotland's ties with the UK you really ought to be thinking several generations into the future.

a) If Scotland manages its resources and the resulting income wisely they can set themselves up for a very long time after any collapse in fossil fuel energy revenues.

b) Short of the collapse of global society or a scientific miracle there's going to be an ever increasing demand for energy.

Since both a global scientific collapse and an energy miracle seem extremely unlikely it's far more prudent to prepare for the most likely scenario. This basically involves investing time, money and research figuring out the ways to effectively harness bountiful natural energy supplies and constructing the apparatuses that are required to do so.

Then selling it to other idiots for a pretty penny.
posted by Talez at 10:33 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


But the fact that the name of their party reads like a more specific version of the British National Party can't be helping them.
It really doesn't to the average UK voter I would guess, let alone the Scots; nationalism has a long history (particularly in anti-colonial politics, think Irish and Indian nationalists etc.) that isn't necessarily associated with the right, let alone the far right.
posted by Abiezer at 10:35 AM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's a poor article that starts by bringing up Darien as some kind of proof that Scotland can't survive as an independent country in the 21st century

No, it doesn't.

and then witters on for 5 paragraphs of nonsense

Care to explain why any of the points it makes are "nonsense"? You know, with "facts" and stuff?

For example, what is incorrect in this statement:
This is a stormy economic world, and an independent Scotland would be a small, vulnerable barque. It would depend on oil for some 18% of its GDP, making it subject to shifts in global commodity prices. Though high oil and gas prices have pushed up tax revenues, if they drop production as well as receipts would plummet. The richest reserves have already been exploited, leaving inaccessible oil that becomes uneconomic when prices fall. North Sea production has been falling by about 6% a year for the past decade. Eventually the oil will run out entirely.
Every part of that seems fairly self-evident to me. As indeed, do most of the points which follow. (The difficulties for a small, economically vulnerable nation in the bond-market, for example).

before attempting to make any kind of case to back up the idiotic cover. The case it then tries to make is that oil will run out. Unspoken I guess is that they assume the independent Scots will be too stupid to use the revenues in the 50 years until that happens to change the economy in any way.

Very few countries have managed that neat-sounding trick. It's hardly suggesting that the Scots are somehow especially foolish or incompetent to suggest that managing the transition from an economy dependent on oil revenues to an economy without those revenues will be a significant challenge.
posted by yoink at 10:35 AM on April 13, 2012


I think independence could go very well, but there is a real danger they'll end up with a mickey mouse football league dominated by two big teams in Glasgow. Oh, hang on...
posted by Abiezer at 10:37 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I take it you think I'm suggesting that Scotland has never been "oppressed by" or "taken for granted by" or "subjugated by" England or something of that order. I'm not--I'm simply pointing out that the Act of Union did not, in any sense of the words, make Scotland "part of England." That would be as incorrect as saying that Kansas is "part of California" or that Quebec is "part of Ontario."

Yeah sorry, I thought you were talking about "reality" and not "lines on a map".


Speaking as someone who was born in England and who has lived in Scotland for 17 years now, I have to say that a lot of people outside Scotland don't seem to understand what this is about.

Another person from Northern England here: we get it.
posted by Jehan at 10:40 AM on April 13, 2012


This basically involves investing time, money and research figuring out the ways to effectively harness bountiful natural energy supplies and constructing the apparatuses that are required to do so.

I don't know what the alternative power source of the future will be, but I know it will be manufactured in multibillion-dollar fabs, funded by enormous investment powerhouses, and staffed by top graduates of the best engineering schools in the world.

With all due respect, Scotland can't compete in this business. Not because Scots are poor or dumb or anything -- there just aren't enough of them to win when competing directly against the US and China.
posted by miyabo at 10:43 AM on April 13, 2012


As for the energy issue, well, thanks for sucking most of the North Sea oil revenue south.

To be fair, that is where most of the people live.

And post-independence, will the East coast complain about oil revenue getting sucked off to the West?

Of course, successive governments could have used this revenue to disproportionately benefit the people living where the oil was, but I expect they would have a hard time finding anyone living in the middle of the North Sea to actually give it to.
posted by robtoo at 10:54 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah sorry, I thought you were talking about "reality" and not "lines on a map".

No, I'm talking about words having meanings. In "reality" Scotland is not part of "England." This isn't that complicated. If it were "part of" England then there would be no question whatsoever of it becoming an independent nation by means of a simple referendum. Cornwall, for example, is "part of England"--Cornwall is not going to get a chance to vote to become an independent nation. These words and their meanings actually matter in the real world.
posted by yoink at 10:55 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


With all due respect, Scotland can't compete in this business. Not because Scots are poor or dumb or anything -- there just aren't enough of them to win when competing directly against the US and China.

This is not true. Denmark competes quite well in wind energy, having been able to develop and license the technology to others.

Anyway, how is England any better off? The economy came to depend on the City for much of its GDP, which has been devastating. In the aftermath of the economic crisis, the Con/Dem government has shown no inclination whatsoever towards supporting more traditional industries such as manufacturing. A case in point is the decision not to award a key rail contract to Bombardier, meaning an entire manufacturing cluster will shut down.

Scotland at least appears to be looking forward while its southern neighbour seems intent on turning back the clock.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:07 AM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is a stormy economic world, and an independent Scotland would be a small, vulnerable barque. It would depend on oil for some 18% of its GDP, making it subject to shifts in global commodity prices.
OK. And the UK depends on the financial services industry for 9% of its GDP and approximately one pound in every four retrieved in corporation tax. Making it 'subject' to global market clusterfucks.

Honestly if I'm stuck with the choice, I'd prefer to be somewhat-too-dependent on something that's actually tangible and can be sold for money. Oil can go down in price but it's never worth nothing.
posted by genghis at 11:17 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anyway, how is England any better off?

It has a bigger and more diverse economy, which will insulate it from economic shocks more than an independent Scotland.

None of which is to say (nor is the Economist saying) that an independent Scotland will be a disaster or even that it will necessarily do worse than it would if it remained in the Union. It's simply to say that if it chooses the path of independence it will be choosing the relatively riskier path and that in all probability it will do slightly worse, economically, than it would if it remained in the Union. It might be that the emotional rewards of independence outweigh those economic deficits, in which case have at it--but it also might be that people are fooling themselves about the economic risks because they like the idea of the emotional rewards so much. This thread, so far, doesn't suggest that clear-eyed assessment of the risks is a big factor in the nationalist program.
posted by yoink at 11:18 AM on April 13, 2012


Scotland needs to think long and hard before voting to agree with Rupert Murdoch.
posted by thewittyname at 11:19 AM on April 13, 2012


Murdoch (though obviously not FOX) supported Obama too. He has a thing for joining bandwagons so he can claim he led them after the fact.

Worth mentioning that he owns no market-leading newspapers in Scotland.
posted by genghis at 11:22 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure all the risks and benefits can be categorized as "economic" vs. "emotional". There are no shortage of not-strictly-economic policies where the two nations differ.
posted by feckless at 11:22 AM on April 13, 2012


OK. And the UK depends on the financial services industry for 9% of its GDP and approximately one pound in every four retrieved in corporation tax. Making it 'subject' to global market clusterfucks.

9% is half of 18%.

Honestly if I'm stuck with the choice, I'd prefer to be somewhat-too-dependent on something that's actually tangible and can be sold for money. Oil can go down in price but it's never worth nothing.

Once you can't extract oil economically from your reserves, your reserves are worth "nothing." The point at which Scotland's reserves will be worth nothing is actually foreseeable. Many of us will live to see that day. I don't know that we're all that likely to live to see the day that the London financial sector's contribution to the UK economy is negligible.
posted by yoink at 11:26 AM on April 13, 2012


Care to explain why any of the points it makes are "nonsense"? You know, with "facts" and stuff?

You asked why the article was poorly received. I explained why I received it poorly. What "facts" were you looking for other than the fact that paragraphs 1 through 6 are almost entirely irrelevant to the inflammatory cover? The article is standard pro-union FUD.
posted by IanMorr at 11:29 AM on April 13, 2012


9% is half of 18%.
Well done. And 25% of all corporation tax is a truly enormous amount of the government's current account.
I don't know that we're all that likely to live to see the day that the London financial sector's contribution to the UK economy is negligible.
You've already lived to see the day when its contribution is negative. Right now the London financial sector's "contribution to the UK economy" primarily takes the form of structural government debt that outweighs its benefits since 2009 by 5:1.
posted by genghis at 11:31 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


The article is standard pro-union FUD.

So that would be a "no" then to having any counterarguments or to being able to point out any actual errors in what the article says. Thanks.
posted by yoink at 11:32 AM on April 13, 2012


Once you can't extract oil economically from your reserves, your reserves are worth "nothing."

Right. But that will happen anyway. Until it does, the revenue can go to Britain, or it can go to Scotland alone. In which of these scenarios is Scotland better off?
posted by Sys Rq at 11:34 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


"You" "are" "entirely" "missing" "my" "point".
posted by IanMorr at 11:35 AM on April 13, 2012


"You" "are" "entirely" "missing" "my" "point".

I think you've made the point that you don't have any substantive criticisms of the article to offer clear enough, thanks, IanMorr.
posted by yoink at 11:38 AM on April 13, 2012


However, Daily I see the extreme difficulty that a small nation has in supporting the infrastructure that the citizens of first world nations expect

I think you're seeing the difficulty that a nation that had to pay 40% of its GDP in one go to clear the bad debts of some private companies has. In general, it's never been a better time to be a small nation, especially within the EU and NATO like Scotland would be. I normally see the opposite argument - that the US is too big to compete in quality of life with Sweden, Holland, Switzerland etc.
posted by kersplunk at 11:40 AM on April 13, 2012


Was hoping the "powerful friend" was Sean Connery. Was very disappointed.
posted by dry white toast at 11:44 AM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right. But that will happen anyway. Until it does, the revenue can go to Britain, or it can go to Scotland alone. In which of these scenarios is Scotland better off?

In the short term? Scotland. That's what the Economist article says. That's hardly in dispute, is it?

The question is "and then what"? With the "then" being on a pretty short horizon. So far the one answer to that question offered in this thread is 'alternative energy powerhouse.' To which all one can say is "well, maybe." But there's many a slip twixt that cup and lip. For one thing, the easiest customer for that (as yet only projected) energy surplus is England--but being heavily dependent on imported Scottish energy will not be politically popular in England in the wake of Scottish independence, and the Brits obviously have alternatives, should they choose to pursue them (it's not as if there aren't strong tides around the coast of England and Wales and Northern Ireland, for example--and if it's true that excising Scotland from the union gives the Tories a permanent majority in the UK, the political barriers to increased investment in nuclear power drop etc. etc.).

Opting for independence just to get your hands on the fading revenues generated by a past-its-peak oil and gas field would seem like the definition of short-term thinking.
posted by yoink at 11:44 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think you've made the point that you don't have any substantive criticisms of the article to offer clear enough, thanks, IanMorr.

You're being condescending and fighty, and I suggest you knock it off if you want to engage with people in good faith on this topic. I explained why I didn't like the article. If you disagree with my explanation, you're entitled to. If you don't understand it, you can ask for clarification.
posted by IanMorr at 11:50 AM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


being heavily dependent on imported Scottish energy will not be politically popular in England in the wake of Scottish independence
As opposed to being heavily-dependent on politically-unpopular Russian gas like it is now?

Yeah, I can see that causing street protests.
posted by genghis at 11:57 AM on April 13, 2012


Wind power is a little more expensive than the alternatives, so governments have to require it in order for it to really take off. Do you really think the government of the UK would require the purchase of electricity from an independent Scotland? In other words, why do you think the natural advantages of wind farms in Scotland be enough to overcome the political advantages of wind farms in the UK?
posted by miyabo at 12:05 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, I'm talking about words having meanings. In "reality" Scotland is not part of "England." This isn't that complicated. If it were "part of" England then there would be no question whatsoever of it becoming an independent nation by means of a simple referendum. Cornwall, for example, is "part of England"--Cornwall is not going to get a chance to vote to become an independent nation. These words and their meanings actually matter in the real world.

Are you some sort of anit-Kernowist? Or just some arch-Westphalian? My North England Republican Army friends also have something to say about the idea that "England" can't be split up.

More seriously, yes "word" have "meanings", but in this case the words were pretty misleading for 250 or so years.
posted by Jehan at 12:10 PM on April 13, 2012


In other words, why do you think the natural advantages of wind farms in Scotland be enough to overcome the political advantages of wind farms in the UK?

No no, Scotland commercializes, licenses and manufactures the technology to a global market. That's where the money is, not simply selling the power.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:15 PM on April 13, 2012


Because of the bizarro wind farm hate that's going on in the UK I suspect it's *way* easier for it to buy wind power from Scotland (or Ireland, where capacity is expanding at a staggering rate year-on-year) and count that towards its renewables consumption total.

There's an EU-wide target and directive about this, in fact, and the UK is supposed to be up to renewables being 22% of consumption (and not, importantly, domestic generation) by now. Ireland occasionally gets up to over 50% wind on the grid and its capacity is expanding at a phenomenal rate.

Since the SNP has been using Norway's Statoil and Oil Fund as an example in policy docs for a while, specifically trying to answer the question of 'what next?', it's not exactly beyond the realm of possibility that Scotland could deliberately use revenue from old-energy to shore up new-energy.

Or, as KokuRyu said on preview, do both that and export the shit out of the tech.

(As an aside, the one thing definitely more expensive than wind/wave tech is nuclear. The UK conceals a lot of that by effectively nationalising the costs of long-term waste management, and burying some of it under the Ministry of Defence. Scotland can't afford to.)
posted by genghis at 12:21 PM on April 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Crap. Repeated myself there. Doh.
posted by genghis at 12:22 PM on April 13, 2012


Predictions about the economic future of Scotland are pretty pie in the sky unless we know details about the separation that are simply not forthcoming at the moment.

How much of the UK's debt will Scotland take on, and under what terms?

What about the 200 million pounds worth of property currently managed by the crown estates, or the UK military bases and equipment?

Will the Royal Navy keep building ships in Glasgow, if not, what happens to that industry?

How will fishing rights be apportioned?

Under what terms will trade and commerce with the remainder of the UK be conducted?

Will Scotland be an automatic EU member? (I've looked at the news reports, and the Scottish sources seem to say 'yes', while everyone else says 'maybe').

The responsible thing would be for both parties to spend the next two years working out the separation agreement which can then be ratified by a referendum, so people could make an informed choice on the matter.

Won't happen of course, Cameron can't be seen to be negotiating independence and Salmond won't want to enter negotiations from a position of weakness, since the worse the deal is for Scotland, the less likely he'll get a positive result in the referendum.
posted by Grimgrin at 1:15 PM on April 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


I explained why I didn't like the article

Repeating the fact that you disagree with it and providing minor variations in the language you use to describe it as being wrong is not the same thing as providing the "grounds" for your disagreement with it--which was what I originally asked for. You are saying it is wrong, and when asked to exlain why it is wrong you are saying: because it is incorrect. You haven't given a single instance of a claim made or an argument advanced in the article that is incorrect or illogical (except for what you said about Darien, which was simply false).
posted by yoink at 5:57 PM on April 13, 2012


Another person from Northern England here: we get it.

There are plenty of disenfranchised left-wing southerners who are looking northwards with great envy.
posted by Summer at 2:21 AM on April 14, 2012


Oh for FFS yoink, you make it sound like we have to write essays, fully-supported with citations, to be graded by you, when commenting on MetaFilter.

Leading off with Darien is a bit of a red herring - there's no connection between Darien and the push for Scottish independence today. At the same time, the article leads off with Darien and its failure in order to make a powerful argument agains SNP.

Next, the article claims that breakup will affect other regions of the world, and pulls the Catalans out of the air.

After that, with no supporting evidence, the article states "played on local resentment at being bossed around by posh Westminster politicians—so successfully that no politician with an English accent, let alone a plummy one, is likely to play a large part in the pro-union campaign."

Is this really an accurate statement? If so, it would at least be useful to hear an actual Scot be quoted as saying so in the article.

So we're two-thirds of the way through the article now, and there's absolutely nothing substantial about it.

Next:

A small country is more vulnerable to other shocks. In 2008 the British government had to bail out Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and HBOS, Scotland’s two biggest banks. At its peak, RBS’s balance sheet was 13 times Scottish GDP.

When was Scotland ever a financial centre? Are both of these banks purely Scottish institutions? My assumption was that they were Scottish in name only, and in any event were governed by British (rather than Scottish) statutes. The failure of the City has more to do with Westminster than Scotland.

That makes this statement from the article harder to stomach:

Mr Salmond has already rebuffed suggestions that he should take a share of RBS’s £187 billion of toxic assets.

This alone makes the most sense in the entire article:

By virtue of its size, an independent Scotland’s borrowing costs would almost certainly be higher: its bond market would be small and illiquid. But Scotland’s biggest problem could be its currency. The SNP’s enthusiasm for the euro has faded: it wants Scotland to stick with the pound for the moment. That would mean entering a monetary union without fiscal union, a set-up that has proved disastrous in Europe. Though Mr Salmond claims Scotland would enjoy automatic EU membership, European Commission lawyers are doubtful. A candidate Scotland would have to negotiate entry terms—and commit to join the euro one day.

The article ends, once again, with a red herring, and with guilt by association:

In the 18th century, Edinburgh’s fine architecture and its Enlightenment role earned it the nickname “Athens of the North”. It would be a shame if that name became apt again for less positive reasons.

Terrible article with very little substance.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:25 AM on April 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Terrible article with very little substance.

It was actually a leader (editorial) rather than an article, hence the tone and style.
posted by robtoo at 1:33 PM on April 14, 2012


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