Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Letter to the Scots: Read between the Lines

The answer may be staring you in the face. Such might be the best feedback the rest of the world could give the Scots as they discern whether their region should break off from the state of Britain. How do the English feel about the Scots? The answer is presumably relevant, as who wants to remain where they are not liked? On this matter, the Scots could do worse than read between the lines of a poll done roughly a month before the referendum on what the English think should be Scotland’s relation to Britain if the region leaves and if it stays.[1]

"It is striking how tough people in England are on Scotland whatever the referendum outcome," Jeffery said. The message appears to be, 'Vote yes, by all means, but if you do, you're on your own.'" In the poll, two in three respondents in England said they would not want Scotland to use the British pound even though the Queen would continue as the head of state (i.e., Scotland would be in the British Commonwealth of nations--a partial residual of the British Empire). Only 1 in 4 were in favor of Britain helping an independent Scotland negotiate its accession as a state alongside Britain in the European Union and membership in NATO.[2]

If the residents in the Scottish region vote against breaking off from the state, English voters would overwhelmingly be in favor of giving the region more autonomy from the state government. Lest this seem too good to be true, those voters "also want to cut funding to Scotland and prevent Scottish members of the British Parliament from voting on issues concerning only England." The message here, according to Jeffery, one of the study's authors, is: "By all means have more devolution, but you can't then have a role at Westminster you do now, and don't expect any funding to flow northwards from England."[3]

Either way, the not so subtle message for the Scots is that they are hardly welcome. Such tension between two groups that both self-identify as a people in one state is doubtlessly counter-protective from the perspective of the state itself; two separate states in the E.U. would be more optimal, for the E.U. federal system permits both homogeneous political subunits, or states, and a diverse empire-scale polity—hence the advantages of both. A state of two contending peoples, proverbially at each other’s throats, is thus far from optimal for the federal system, not to mention the state itself. Put another way, arguing that the UK is just such a political arrangement that works best with such a basic contentious difference in terms of group-identification treats the E.U. state as if it were like the E.U. (or U.S.) itself, rather than a state thereof. A state in the E.U. cannot logically be equivalent to the E.U., or then a subunit would be commensurate to that to which it is a subunit. 

For the Scots, the simple message is that it is not good to remain in close quarters with a people who want the worst rather than the best for you. Reading between the lines, the English want you out. I submit that this factor ought not be a trivial one as the Scots deliberate on whether their region should break off from the E.U. state to become a new, relatively homogeneous one, and thus more conducive to both Britain and Scotland as states, and to the E.U. as well.

1. YouGov conducted the survey of 3,695 adults living in England via the internet on April 11-12, 2014
2. Katrin Bennhold, "How Scottish Independence Relates to Larger Tax Fights," The New York Times, August 21, 2014.
3. Ibid.