My friend, the Las Vegas political player and former Griffin editor-in-chief Ken Kraft, recently sent me a succinct, restrained, and fairly convincing article on “Why Scottish independence is a bad idea.” In it, Amanda Taub (from what I gather, some kind of quasi-Scot, linked by bonds of family, education, and gastronomy) breaks uncertainties about Scottish into two categories: those that would cause trouble during the process of separation, and those that would hit Scotland after the separation.
Taub touches on one issue that hasn’t gotten much press lately, but which comes up in just about every referendum conversation I’ve had at the University of Edinburgh: research funding.
Scottish universities are worried that they wouldn’t be able to obtain research funding from their current sources and that their best scholars would leave.
I.E. all the anxious little one-year Masters students like myself and my friends from the UK, who could shortly become “international students.”
This, of course, is bundled up with a bevy of other financial challenges:
The Royal Bank of Scotland says that it would relocate its headquarters to London in the event of a “yes” vote on independence. (No word yet on whether it would change its name to the Royal Bank of We Sure Are Grateful for that Bailout.) The green energy sector says that investment in wind power could stagnate for years due to uncertainty over the future of the current subsidy scheme. … It’s unclear how much of the UK’s national debt Scotland would be saddled with, or whether independence would lead to costly litigation over the North Sea oil fields. It’s true that all of those things might work out in Scotland’s favor — but then again, they might not.
Then there are there are the challenges that would arise after independence. As I’ve mentioned before, the issue of an independent Scotland’s currency is such a glaringly overlooked question mark that it ought to overshadow even the recent controversy surrounding the NHS.
The Scottish independence movement has made clear that it wants to keep using the pound, which would mean that Scotland would be at the mercy of the UK’s monetary policy. Even setting aside the lessons of the Eurozone’s recent history on whether it’s a good idea for small countries to rely on a currency union they don’t control (it’s not) this is an astonishing plan in the context of the broader arguments for independence. If the pro-independence crowd thinks that the UK is screwing Scotland now, why would it be a good idea for the UK to have control over Scotland’s currency, but no democratic accountability or responsibility for its economy at all whatsoever?
The second option would be for Scotland to join the euro — as Vox’s Matt Yglesias points out, that may turn out to be mandatory if Scotland joins the EU — but joining the Eurozone would risk even more severe problems, because the Eurozone has already proven itself to be an economic calamity.
And of course, let us not neglect to mention that “the UK’s major political parties have all pledged to grant Scotland greater control over its own affairs if it stays in the UK.”
These aren’t new ideas, and for the record, I’m not endorsing the Better Together campaign, the Orange Order, or Westminster’s Labour government. The article also steers clear of the identity question – and understandably, as touching on it would have muddied the otherwise crystalline waters of a lucid piece of writing.
Taub has written one of the most concise summations of the unionist arguments currently available on the web; with the vote less than 24 hours away, you might want to read it.