Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scotland is Voting on Independence Today

Today, Thursday September 18th, all Scots age 16 and older can go to the polls to decide whether or not Scotland should remain a part of the United Kingdom or become independent.

While Scotland was an independent nation during the Middle Ages, it has shared the same monarch with England since King James VI of Scotland succeeded the childless English Queen Elizabeth I in 1603.  James was the closest heir to the English throne following the death of his cousin Elizabelth who had never married and left no children to succeed her.

While the two nations shared the same monarch from 1603 onward they remained independent nations (just as Canada and other Commonwealth nations today have Queen Elizabeth II of England as their Queen but are independent of Britain).

It wasn't until 1707 that the Parliaments of both nations enacted legislation uniting the two kingdoms into  the present day United Kingdom of Scotland, England and Ireland.  The flags of the two kingdoms were combined as well with English banner containing the red cross of St. George, the patron saint of England, on a white background combined with the white cross of St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, on a blue background to form the Union Jack which is the flag of the United Kingdom,

Pro independence forces seem  to be mostly idealistic young people, artists and other intellectuals and nationalist politicians.   Opponents seem to be people satisfied with the current political arrangement as well as businesses and those concerned about the economy of an independent Scotland.

The current Scot government is basically socialist and the British Labor party dominates Scot politics.  Independence will be a threat to the Scot economy since the extensive welfare system in Scotland relies heavily subsides from both England and the EU.

The leaders of the independence movement feel that they can survive on oil revenues and taxes on the wealthy English owners of Scottish estates.  They are also banking on being allowed to join the EU.

However, there are some clouds on the horizon.

First, while ownership of the North Sea oil fields would  fall to Scotland once it is independent, vast new oil and gas reserves in North America (Canada and the U.S.) threaten to drive oil prices down as well as replace oil with less expensive natural gas.

Second, as for the wealthy English landowners, wealthy people don't mind spending money but they like to get something in return.  Simply paying more taxes is not appealing and they may abandon the properties (or donate them to a charitable preservation trust) thereby avoiding the taxes.

Finally, with separatist movements in other EU nations, such as Catalonia in Spain, EU members may not be open to allowing a separatist Scotland into the EU for fear of encouraging separatist movements in their nations.

We will know in a few hours whether or not voters in Scotland vote to separate.  If they do, they may find themselves in for a rough ride economically.

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