Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The ultimate devolution

The September referendum on independence in Scotland is touted as the ultimate in democratic decision making. The politics are playing out on sentimental and economic grounds. Will there be less to study about the UK next year?

Scots Ponder: Should They Stay or Should They Go?
The Royal Lyceum Theater [in Edinburgh] has a modest hit on its hands, a slightly scabrous play that tells the story of Scotland’s parliamentary vote to dissolve itself and join the kingdom of England in 1707…

After each performance, there is an informal poll among the audience, with a late-night rush to vote in the ballot boxes set up in the foyer, asking whether the union 307 years ago had been a good idea — “Aye” or “Nae.”…
 
The votes for independence seemed to just outnumber those against, reaching a little bit higher in the clear ballot boxes. But in real life the balance is still the other way, with every poll so far giving the pro-union camp a clear, though shrinking lead.

For the independence camp it is in many ways a race against time: Over the last six months the momentum has shifted toward independence, but at least one-sixth of Scottish voters in recent polls have said they were undecided or refused to answer…

With the polls tightening, the former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown spoke in Glasgow last week in defense of the union, arguing Scotland is better off economically inside the United Kingdom, especially in terms of pensions and social welfare.

Sowing doubt about the strength and viability of an independent Scotland’s economy is at the center of the anti-independence campaign… But the “no” campaign against independence emphasizes the negative, and the sense that the English are patronizing the Scots as ineffectual and incompetent also feeds the independence campaign, stirring indignation…

Bookstores feature volumes on Scottish culture and history, community centers are planning summer history classes and seemingly every segment of society has its own campaign for independence, many supported by the well-organized Scottish National Party, led by Alex Salmond…

People have become afraid of the passions stirred by the debate, but Mr. Fraser [Malcolm Fraser, an Edinburgh architect who designed the… Scottish Storytelling Center] said they should not be afraid of that. Britain is undergoing “an inevitable unraveling of empire.” It was time Scotland became “a bit more Danish,” saying goodbye to England’s more right-wing politics, he said.

The pro-union campaign thought of the Scots as “too small, too poor, too stupid,” Mr. Fraser said. “It plays right into the ‘yes’ campaign.”…


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