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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

They'll Never Take ... Our Freedom

Scottish flag stone in Ardersier
Yesterday, a friend posted on Facebook a photo of Mel Gibson from Braveheart, painted in Pictish blue (and Scottish white), yelling "They'll never take ... our freedom"! It reminded me of what we'd seen and heard in the Scottish highlands regarding the upcoming September vote on Scottish independence.

Oil platform, Cromarty
Clearly, there is widespread pride in being Scottish, but there is a deep division on the question of Scottish independence. Media polls are split about 50-50, and our unofficial man-on-the-street poll was pretty much the same (sign us Nate Silver). A pro-independence patron at a Kyleakin cafe we'd stopped in for tea was emphatically on the "Yes" side, saying that England hadn't demonstrated any concern for Scotland "for a donkey's age." Alternately, a checker at the Co-op grocery in Kyle of Lochalsh expressed his distrust of any nationalist movements, and warning about the negative effects of exchange rates and tarrifs. A waitress who's English, married to a Scot, told us the Scots hate the English, noting that Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond had disdained her at a local event upon learning she was English; she said she'd pack up her kids and leave Scotland if voters approve independence. Another person we met insisted Scotland could easily support itself economically, and should.

Scottish flag at information session
One one of our first days in Inverness, we came upon an information rally, where supporters of independence stood side-by-side with opponents, handing out literature and buttons, and chatting up the voters. There was no rancor, no virulence, no anti- expressions. Pretty cordial, all in all. Perhaps that's because the government in London and the SNP have been playing political small-ball. Actually, economic small-ball.

Perhaps the government's most serious threat is pulling the pound from Scottish usage and withdrawing support from the Bank of England. So what? Royal Bank of Scotland benefited hugely from a government bailout during the 2008 financial crisis. Not a problem, says the SNP, we'll still get to use the pound as our currency; and if we don't we'll deal with it.

On Sky News, we watched excerpts from across-the-street presentations by the British government and the SNP on the difference in benefits to families regarding Scottish independence. The SNP argued that Scottish families would gain an additional 1,000 pounds ($1,678); the government insisted that by staying in the UK Scottish families would benefit by 1,400 pounds ($2,350) a year. So, that's the big public argument - a difference of  $672. Hard to imagine William Wallace shouting to his fighters, "They'll never take...our freedom - but we'd gain 400 pounds a year, per family."

And, the political parties - Conservative, Labor, and Liberal Democrats (UKIP seems only interested in disentangling from Europe) - are climbing all over themselves to offer enhanced ideas for distribution of funds and taxing authority to Scotland. Very small ball. Would Adams, Jefferson, et. al. have cancelled the American revolution if George III had made a similar offer to the colonists. Doubt it. We'll see in September what the Scots do.


  1. Thanks, Jay, for this first hand view. I did not even know this vote was coming up, so much for international news in Phoenix!

  2. Fascinating. I've heard some about this on NPR (of course) but it's great to get a first hand perspective.

  3. Thanks for the report. I can't see what Scotland would gain by pulling out of the UK, but stranger things have happened.