Monday, 23 April 2007

The future of Scotland, and the state of a Union

It would be hard to believe that the land united for hundreds of years with England and Wales could become independent some day soon. But it may be a reality.

Although the Scottish Parliament is weak compared to the British parliament, one might compare the power to that of an American state, albeit more deluded, England does not have its own separate legislature — just Westminister. Therefore lies the argument by English nationalists: Scotland gets more powers from political devolution, and England has even less of a say. Put simply: Scotland has its own MPs in the House of Commons, it also has its own parliament; England just has its MPs in the Commons. They both also have representation in the mostly-symbolic European Parliament. Do only the Scots deserve partial domestic rule, or should the other parts of the union of Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales) and Northern Ireland get similar devolution too, as odd as it sounds. I'll discuss that — the fairness, practicality, and my 'solution' — later.

The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), an up-and-coming political force in Scotland, may at first sound right-wing, like BNP. However, it is a progressive center-left party whose primary goal is Scottish independence. I skimmed through their policies and other writings on their website, and I must say I'm impressed. One issue might be if Scotland does reach independence, what's to keep the SNP from not following through on its bold promises? What will it have to work for — besides reelection? Right now SNP is working hard for Scottish independence, not just pressing for devolution yet also not being militant about it. When their primary goal is accomplished — if ever — how do we know they will act as they promise when their basic political premise has been accomplished. (Alas, therein lies the problem with party politics.) People ranging from businessman Sir Tom Farmer to world-famous actor Sir Sean Connery have voiced their support for SNP, and Connery has provided plenty of funds also — that is, until regulations prevented him from doing so. SNP is doing well in the opinion polls.

The SNP may even take power in the Scottish local and Parliamentary elections on 3 May. The election ironically falls two days after the 300th anniversary of the union of England and Scotland (i.e., with Wales, the United Kingdom). If SNP stays in the minority, a referendum on splitting the union — one that could officially take place as early as 2010 — would be pointless. As of now, no other major political party supports such an independence referendum, and even though SNP is up in the polls, no party is likely to come out with a clear governing majority.* Gordon Brown*, British chancellor of the exchequer, heir-apparent to the prime ministry later this spring, and a Scotsman himself, has stated a Scottish split from the union would be devastating economically for Scotland. Others seem to view the same of the SNP's proposed economic policy. I guess he also wouldn't have a constituency in the British parliament if Scotland were independent... At least England would be an independent Scotland's 'biggest pal'.

In my mind, if further Scottish devolution is to take place, why shouldn't England, Northern Ireland, and Wales* get their own parliaments? They would only deal with local matters, and be pretty powerless. Britain is a unitary state, with a central government; if there would to be devolution for lands other than Scotland in the Union, maybe there'd be less resentment to the Scots and xenophobia in England, and less problems between Westminister and Wales and N Ireland. It seems only fair. Either that or a push for Scottish independence. But a 300-year union is a hard one to break. Let's see how things play out at the polls in a couple of weeks. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has emphasized the upcoming Scottish election's importance. He is right to do so: the state of the Union is at stake.

Update:
One of the Nationalists' primary goals is entry into the EU and UN as a proper nation-state, of course that is yet another barrier for those yearning for an independent Scotland. Might their dreams look better on paper and manifestos than as a reality?

***Corrections:
Thanks to Anonymous for informing me that Wales 'already has devolution', it is the Labour Party that has a deal with the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, and that I once again misspelled "Brown" (I am used to spelling it 'Browne' on account of a family name).

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5 comments:

H Carter Edinburgh said...

The SNP is only for Independence from England, it wishes us under the control of Europe, which is not appealing at all.
The inflx of cheap migrant and transient labour is the wet dream of the socialist, for this reason I'm voting BNP on my two ballot papers.

Anonymous said...

An independent Scotland would not "be devastating economically for Scotland" if Scotland were allowed to keep revenues from oil extracted from the North Sea. In fact, the result of that might be an economic devastation for the rest of the UK. Scotland would make out quite well in that deal.

clearthought said...

h carter edinburgh,

While you are entitled to your own views, I believe the BNP's policies to be extreme, dangerously nationalistic, and xenophobic on a racist level. And aren't many socialists against unfair cheap labor policies?

We no longer — and in fact never have — lived in a world that is all black and white with no gray. There seem to be pros and cons to pretty much everything.

clearthought said...

anonymous,

What about when that oil runs out? While oil demand is still up, it cannot, and will not, be that way for long. Scotland needs to find better ways to diversify its economy, and the wind and wave power potential that Scotland is blessed with are great renewable energy ideas.

I'd say education is a good way forward for any country; services are the dominating sector in developed economies, namely because of global trade and the ability for cheaper and more abundant resources and labor.

Anonymous said...

Wales already has devolution , contrary to what you seem to think.
The SNP does not have a pact with the Liberal Democrats , the Labour party does. Browne(sic) and his cronies are running scared of the SNP because they know they are behind in the polls.I think independence would be great for Scotland. If you want to know what Scots think of their First Minister Jack McConnell , have a look at this video
www.picturesofscotland.com/scotland.html