Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Will a new nation be born or an old union reaffirmed?

One of the world’s longest lasting political unions – that of England and Scotland – will be put to the test on September 18.

Both the English and Scots are very emotional about the referendum, with those for and against Scottish independence about equal in strength.

Despite the 300-year old union, the Scots now want to go their own way without any control or interferences from Westminster. This pro-independence initiative is in keeping with worldwide trends as even small islands now opt for independence.

Larger countries too want to break up, citing irreconcilable ethnic, religious or other differences and many futurologists have predicted that even the US and India could break up in the 21st Century due to pressing needs in the coming decades.

Truth be told, many nations are better off being small and easy to manage politically and socio-economically. It appears that the larger the country the more problems it has to overcome.

We must admit that these days there is a dearth of capable politicians and visionary statesmen who have the ability to keep large nations together. As such the rise of self-determination, freedom and democracy has led to calls for self-rule.

In some countries this has led to civil war, instability, chaos and rebellion, among other things. The core issue in all this is the desire to be left to manage affairs on their own despite the majority not ill-treating the minority.

So it appears with Scotland where the majority English have managed the union in as amicable a way as possible with no discrimination against the Scots.

Scotland has benefited much from the union.

England’s colonial exploitation and gains from tapping the vast resources of the colonies were shared with Scotland, which became better off as compared to their Irish cousins, who went through tumultuous periods of poverty, famine and mass migration, especially to the US.

The gains of the industrial revolution, which started in England, also benefited Scotland and this led to both England and Scotland becoming among the most prosperous nations in Europe.

Looking back at history it appears that the Scots gained more from the merger with England than the other way round. Scotland’s recent hosting of the 20th Commonwealth Games was perhaps the best in terms of organisation and spectator participation, and the Scottish crowd’s enthusiastic support for all UK athletes showed their loyalty to the union. A break-up will no doubt be difficult for them to contemplate.

In sports Scotland is recognised as a separate entity by FIFA (football), FIH (hockey) and others. However, Scotland’s prowess in sports is less illustrious than England’s and this could be a pointer to whether Scotland can have a brighter future as a free nation.

Whether Prime Minister David Cameron and the English will be drowning their misery and disappointment at at Scotland breaking away with an extra pint of beer or whether Alex Salmond, the nationalist leader, will be victoriously toasting a glass of Scotch whiskey for a “yes” vote will be known when the referendum results filter in by the late evening of September 18.

Whether a new nation is born or an old union reaffirmed, this episode is sure to be a boost for independence campaigners worldwide. However, most commonwealth countries would prefer Scotland to remain in the union rather than welcome the new Scottish nation.

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