“The Chasm Tilting Scots Toward Independence”
The New York Times, August 18, 2014, p.A6
“There is a vast ideological chasm between Scotland, whose political center of gravity is distinctly to the left, and England, which is the geographic base of the Conservatives. If Scots vote ‘yes’ in September in the independence referendum, it will be at least partly a rejection of the Conservative Party, which under Margaret Thatcher reshaped British politics in the 1980s and is now in a governing coalition with the centrist Liberal Democrats. It will also reflect a desire for economic, social and diplomatic policies well to the left of anything on offer from the British government. Even before the independence vote, Scotland is pursuing a very different course from the central government in London, thanks to earlier agreements that granted it considerable freedom to pursue its own policies. Scots enjoy several benefits that are more generous than those available in England, some of them free, in areas including home health care for the elderly, university tuition, medical prescriptions and bus travel for retirees. The Scottish National Party, which controls the Scottish government and supports independence, wants to get rid of nuclear weapons, raise the minimum wage in line with inflation and begin a sweeping extension of child care. And it is more favorable toward immigration and the European Union than the British government is. … Others contend that the divide is not between Scotland and England but between the south of England and the rest of Britain. Politically, Scotland has more in common with the north of England than London does, they say. … Yet Cairns Craig, professor of Irish and Scottish studies at the University of Aberdeen, contends that Scotland ‘has always had what one might call a strong “communitarian” tradition, dating back at least to the Reformation, in which it is assumed that the members of a community support each other.’ … David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, is campaigning to keep Scotland in the union. But his Conservatives might stand to gain politically should Scotland opt for independence, since Scotland would take with it a large population of left-leaning voters, weakening Britain’s Labour Party.”
Quickie Analysis: Great article on the politics behind Scotland’s upcoming referendum on independence. Scotland may consider the Nordic countries, not London, its political model, but can politics outweigh economic considerations?