Potiphar12's Blog
An Octogenarian in the modern world


This issue comes up more frequently as the referendum gets closer. I am English, but a great admirer of the Scots and would be sad if they decided to leave us. It does not seem at all clear whether an independent Scotland would be better or worse off economically. So it looks like an emotional decision. It is all about national identity: – how Scots perceive themselves and how they would like to be perceived by others. 

They have been messed about often enough by the English, but they have bravely and successfully resisted attacks and they only joined up with England because it suited them to do so. But the union does mean that they have sacrificed some power  to the more numerous nation and it is understandable that total independence should be seen as a re-assertion of national identity. But just how meaningful is such re-assertion?

 All nations have events in their past which are a source of pride and make them feel united.  Scotland is well provided with such events and all nations should treasure such memories. But the future is now more important. Is it Independence from England that some Scots want or is it Independence Period? They can get the former but in the modern world they are never going to get the latter. Is English interference so very different from EU interference? If they leave the UK and join the EU nothing will be different except the emotional satisfaction, if it is such, of having initiated the break.  Will the fact of having made that break change the image of  Scotland held by other EU members? Will other EU members really notice?

How about not joining the EU? There is great satisfaction in belonging to a small homogenous group that is beholden to nobody and can’t be ordered about. Problems arise if that separateness  means that you are obviously missing out on some of the goodies that bigger groups enjoy. Then discussions begin about a trade-off. For what benefits are we willing to sacrifice some aspects of our independence? This is the question that exercises all the nations that belong to the EU. The satisfactions of being small and separate are not going to fade. But they won’t increase either. The advantages of the alternative may get greater and greater, so that what once seemed desperately important looks like an out-dated concept.

The argument going on in Scotland is no different in nature from the Pro-EU or anti-EU argument in the UK. If the UK government ever does give citizens a vote they will also be balancing an emotional loss against possible future gain. There will be doubts about what influence we will have in a more integrated Europe.

Would an independent Scotland belonging to the EU have more influence on that organisation (which included a diminished UK) than a Scotland that influenced the EU through it’s continued membership of the UK?  Obviously, it would have a completely separate voice, but how much would it influence policy?

I suspect that EU policy will depend on three things, population size and economic strength and leadership quality. Without the 6 million in Scotland, the UK will still be a significant player with 57 million and will also be economically influential. Leadership is more variable. A leader perceived to be forceful, visionary , skilful and determined, and to have his people united behind him will be listened to. Scotland is as likely as any other nation to throw up such a person.

I believe the Scots should look at the issue in these terms. It worries me a bit that some of them may be looking backwards and seeing independence as a chance to kick the English in the teeth and pay them back for past interference.




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