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The referendum question

(I've been under the weather due to a chest bug picked up in Dublin, so haven't had time to write the lengthy article I promised a while ago. Here's it's truncated summary version. Please don't bring up the referendum debate in discussions under other blog posts, okay?)

"Should Scotland be an independent country?"

I have a postal vote. I already voted "yes".

For what is probably an unusual reason ...

Forget all the short term arguments advanced by both sides about what currency Scotland will use, about whether we'll be economically better or worse off, the nature of post-independence Scottish defense policy, whether we remain a monarchy or become a republic, what passport we'll carry, and so on. That stuff is all short-term and will be resolved within a generation.

No, seriously: 95% of the discussion in the referendum debates and on the street has been about short term issues that can be resolved one way or the other in the coming days and months (occasionally, months or single-digit years). There's a remarkable amount of FUD—fear, uncertainty, and doubt—flying around. Many folks seem to think that if Scotland opts for independence on September 18th then on the 19th they'll be stripped of their existing British citizenship, armed border checkpoints will show up on the M76 and A1, and the Queen will be given the boot by the end of the month. (Needless to say, none of this is going to happen.)

In making my mind up, I looked at the long term prospects.

In the long term I favour a Europe—indeed, a world—of much smaller states. I don't just favour breaking up the UK; I favour breaking up the United States, India, and China. Break up the Westphalian system. We live today in a world dominated by two types of group entity; the nation-states with defined borders and treaty obligations that emerged after the end of the 30 Years War, and the transnational corporate entities which thrive atop the free trade framework provided by the treaty organizations binding those Westphalian states together.

I believe the Westphalian nation-state system isn't simply showing its age: it's creaking at the seams and teetering on the edge of catastrophic breakdown. The world today is far smaller than the world of 1648; the entire planet, in travel terms, is shrunk to the size of the English home counties. In 1648 to travel from the south of Scotland (from, say, Berwick-upon-Tweed, the debatable walled border city) to the far north-west would take, at a minimum, a couple of weeks by sea; to travel that distance by land was a harsh journey of hundreds of miles across mountains and bogs and through still-forested glens, on foot or horseback. Today it's a couple of noisy hours on board a turboprop airliner. Distance has collapsed under us. To some extent the definition of the Westphalian state as being able to control its own internal territory was a side-effect of distance: a foreign army couldn't rapidly and easily penetrate the inner lands of a state without fear of retaliation. (Tell that to the residents of the tribal provinces in Pakistan.)

Moreover, our nations today have not only undergone a strange geographical implosion since the 17th century: they have exploded in population terms. The population of the American Colonies in 1790 is estimated at roughly 2.7 million; the United States today has over 300 million inhabitants. In 1780 England and Wales had around 7.5 million inhabitants; they're now at 57 million. So we have a 1-2 order of magnitude increase in population and a 2-3 order of magnitude decrease in travel time ... and possibly a 3-5 order of magnitude decrease in communications latency.

Today we're seeing the fallout from this problem everywhere. Westphalian states can't, for the most part, control their own territory to the extent of keeping intruders out; just look at the ghastly situation in Ukraine right now. Non-state actors play an increasingly huge role in dictating our economic conditions. And it seems to me that something goes badly wrong with representative democracy in polities that grow beyond somewhere in the range 5-15 million people; direct accountability vanishes and we end up with what I've termed the beige dictatorship. Beige isn't the worst colour‐some of the non-beige contenders are distinctly alarming—but their popular appeal is a symptom of an institutional failure, a representational deficit: many voters feel so alienated by the beige that they'll vote for the brownshirts.

My feeling is that we'd be better served by a group of much smaller nations working in a loose confederation or treaty structure. Their job should be to handle local issues (yes, this is localism) while compartmentalizing failure modes: the failure modes of a gigantic imperial power are almost always far worse than those of a smaller nation (compare the disintegration of the Soviet Union with that of Czecheslovakia). Rather than large monolithic states run by people at the top who are so remote from their constituents that they set policy to please lobbyists rather than their electors, I'd prefer to see treaty organizations like NATO and the EU emerging at consensus after discussions among numerous smaller stakeholder entities, where representatives are actually accountable to their electors. (Call me a utopian, if you will.)

Yes, this is also an argument for Wales, the North of England, and London itself all becoming independent nations. But they aren't on the ballot. So Scottish independence is a starting point.

One final note: what about left-internationalism? Isn't nationalism the enemy of the working class? (And to the extent that all of us who aren't in the 0.1% are "working class"—if you have to work to earn a living, you're working class, even if you're a brain surgeon or an accountant—the enemy of all of us?) Well yes: but the kind of nationalism that brought us the Great European War (for the Second World War may best be viewed with the perspective of long-term history as simply a flare-up of the war that began in 1914, after the combatants time out to breed a new generation of cannon-fodder) is pretty much dead. As dead as the Westphalian states that had territorial integrity they could defend, because getting from one to the other still took days or weeks by railway or steam ship, and invading another from the one took days or weeks of marching infantry divisions. Nor is the working "class" still obviously an entity you can point at, with which people share a strong sense of solidarity: where is the solidarity between lawyer and street-sweeper, nursing home care worker and robot designer? Yes, capitalism and the crisis of capitalism is still with us: but the continuing and ongoing recomplication of the world around us makes the traditional movement of masses one of questionable relevance. We need better structures, it's true. But I don't see them emerging from the kind of monolithic, territorially hegemonic state that thinks its place in the world is best secured by building bigger aircraft carriers. Firepower doesn't build external stability, as the past decade in Iraq demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt. We need consensus, and we need a finer granularity of constitutional decision making. Hence smaller nation-states.

373 Comments

1:

"I favour breaking up the United States, India, and China. Break up the Westphalian system."

Side note of amusement. I have a character, a NPC in one of my games, a demigod, whose name is Flavius Marcus Westphalius. He's the demigod of treaties, who made his bones with the Treaty of Westphalia.

He'd not be amused by your suggestion one bit. ;)

But, seriously, are you right about it being good for the world?...I do think a new system is needed, because that system has strained under the rise of transnational corporations and the impracticality of 17th century politics being played out today again and again.

2:

Does it even make sense to have nations based on physical location? Could nations and their services be abstracted from the physical layer? Some sort of online presence that provides the services of the physical (garbage collection, fire putting out) without an nation tied to a substrate of islands and territories? I don't know, I don't have a model of that in my head. However I feel that I belong in a sense of nationhood of shared values with SF readers than I do with the guy next door who yells at the TV to encourage his sports team to greater heights of corporate advertising.

3:

PS, if we could abstract the physical layer, could I get dual citizenship with both the SF and the Linux communities? The Linux community seems very helpful and friendly. (by and large)

4:

You make no comment, past your introduction, of the "transnational corporate entities"; do you see any non-catastrophic resolution of the relationship between them and your, essentially syndicalist, replacement for nation states?

5:

Two things Charlie, first the disagreement, then the agreement.

For the first; I don't think you can ignore the short and medium term. If they have a deep and yawning chasm in them, then no matter what you might wish/think the future will hold, you would be insane to try and jump them based on hope.

And thanks to the crassly poor (public) planning of the SNP - hope is all there is, because the evidence is all against it. It's not FUD; it's cold hard facts - that are unpalatable to some Braveheart fixated fools.

I say public because there is always the possibility that the SNP aren't as ill prepared in private - which is worse since their solutions to the intractable problems would have to be so unpalatable they dare not tell the voters in advance.

Either way, no sane person should be voting yes (and that's without even getting to the suspicious desire of Cameron for a do or die vote).

On the agreement side - yep, the nation state has distinct problems. It should be remembered that the larger nation state was an imposition on top of the city state as reach grew and it was tractable to have such a beast in more than just name. You could project your will over those kinds of distances, and you could bring the peasants under your tax banner at a distance as well.

Today, as you say, we are at a global scale. Communication and reach is such that the US can kidnap and tax around the world - not a nice prospect, but an accurate one. And as you also say, it doesn't really work as a democracy - since accountability is shot and the voting system usurped.

However, I would say that the solution is not smaller nation states, but an end to the fundamental idea of the nation as mother and father entirely. Already I have more in common (and more contact) with people around the world than I do with someone next door. The natural groups are by outlook, education, and other allegiances - not geography.

So view the local nation transitioned to the equivalent of the local council - emptying the bins, keeping the potholes filled; but with the other aspects, the national aspects, delivered by the group you owe allegiance to on a supra national basis.

And bringing it back to the beginning, getting there from here is difficult with difficult paths to be navigated - but I would suggest more possible than scotland not getting reamed in the great nation state game that Cameron and the EU have scoped out.

6:

I agree with pretty much all of this. Well done Charlie, both for your vote and also explaining your reasons. I live in the deep south (Sussex that is), but if I had the vote to break up the UK, even to the extent as you suggest as splitting the north, south, and London (and I live in Sussex, but was born in London - what kind of 'passport' would I have, and what would a 'passport' mean in such a world?). The same goes for the rest of Europe, the rest of the world. It's a view that is remarkably similar to Noam Chomsky's view of how things should be (as compiled in a book of his writings), that is living in 'anarchic' states/regions, with powers devolved down to committees/co-ops representing regions as appropriate (local issues to a local co-op/board/parliament, national issues to the national equiv). So not anarchy as portrayed by the mainstream - lawlessness - more like ultimate-devolution.

7:

Largely agree with you analysis Charlie, but speaking as one who lives in a small nation, Ireland, most of irelands problems (IMHO) stem from being so small that pretty much everyone knows everyone else. With out the EU and stuff like the European Convention on Human Rights and EU labour and Environmental regulations a lot of things that should have been done anyway would still be delayed by people unwilling to push through reforms because it would upset people that they know well.

8:

While generally in agreement with Charlie here (Being Danish and therefore from a Charlie-approved-size nation-state) my worry is that a gaggle of small countries will not be able to stand up to our corporate overlords.

We saw it for instance with the OOXML thing, where Microsoft bought the necessary number of cheap/small nations to get the ISO vote the way they wanted.

Charlies proposal probably needs a clause to limit the size of $BIGCORP as well.

9:

The increase in population is an argument for smaller nations and states. The decrease in travel time and communications time is an argument for the need of larger supra-national entities.

Smaller nations and states are a means of preserving cultural and political diversity, and making governments more responsive to the people.

The problem with smaller nations and states is that they are have a hard time defending themselves against larger nations and large corporations.

Here in the USA, large corporations can get pretty much anything they want from state governments by threatening to pull up stakes and move to another state. To some extent, they can do the same thing to the national government by threatening to move overseas.

The solution, I suppose, is to have smaller nation-states and more powerful international organizations. The problem with that, at least in the short term, is that all the existing international organizations - the IMF, WTO, etc. - exercise quasi-governmental powers, but on behalf of global banks and corporations.

10:

do you see any non-catastrophic resolution of the relationship between them and your, essentially syndicalist, replacement for nation states?

That's a very hard question. (See also Invaders from Mars.) But I will note that in some ways they've already seceded from the nation-states within which they originated; for example by funnelling their profits through extraterritorial tax havens and loading down their profitable subsidiaries with "intellectual property" royalty payments for using their own branding (which get paid to tax-free offshore subsidiaries -- thank you, Starbucks, for showing us how it's done!). The stable door is already smashed off its hinges: maintaining the status quo is not a good option.

11:

Ireland has ... peculiar ... problems of its own. In particular, Ireland currently is at around 1.1% population growth, in stage 3/4 demographic transition; but I have the distinct impression that Ireland remained stuck in stage 2 until the mid-1980s; so, big families, lots of siblings and cousins, which in turn means everyone is a friend of your brother/sisters/cousins/aunts/uncles. Hence the incestuous nature of political horse-trading there (building on top of the post-1920s fallout, which left a lot of buried bodies and a lot of questions that nobody wants to ask).

Scotland and the UK in general did the stage 3/4 shift at least a generation earlier and so have had more time to stabilize, with sparser families and more groupings based on voluntary association -- a more "atomized" society, in other words, which may paradoxically be better at adapting to change (people are less worried about changes upsetting their first cousin's apple cart).

12:

P.S on a side-note (and completely off-topic), I have just got to the part in Hannu Rajaniemi's latest book where there is a spaceship named Bob Howard?! Coincidence , flattery, or an in-joke? I'm guessing not a coincidence - I only ever bought Hannu's first novel due to your glowing praise on the front cover :-D

13:

Hannu and I are sometime fiction workshop-mates going back many years; we regularly meet up for coffee and/or beer. (He's in the process of moving to California, so maybe there'll be less of that in the next few years ....)

14:

Speaking as an American, the idea that smaller governments are better doesn't entirely work for me. We have 50 smaller governments (the states) and many of them (including Illinois, my home sod) are rife with corruption and idiocy.

15:

"The predictable and localized consequences of this massive and disruptive policy shift should be ignored, since the long-term supposedly favors my abstract theory of governance" is not a terribly reassuring viewpoint.

Not to mention that the Scottish economic vision put forward by Salmond is highly favorable to corporate power - a slashed business tax to undercut the UK (along Irish lines, and that worked out wonderfully), backing Murdoch's media expansionism, etc.

16:

I was with you (if not necessarily in agreement) up until that definition of "working class" which expanded the scope to the point it was meaningless.

I always used to find it laughable when the professional seat warmers on Question Time used a similar definition when describing themselves.

I'd contrast their definition of hard work ("going to lots of meetings and drinking tea") with my Dad's ("crawling under large industrial machines through pools of oil and swarf, to diagnose and repair faults by touch") and somehow they didn't seem comparable.

Despite what you might think solidarity exists - but it's between the street-sweeper and the nursing home care worker. Trouble is since we're all middl^h^h^h^h^h working class now they've few places to express it politically.

17:

I was fascinated, Charlie by your rationale for your Yes vote. I had assumed other reasons would have been behind it, more fool me.
I absolutely agree that it's the strongest argument for a Yes vote. There is no doubt in my mind that smaller entities create the conditions for more focused, responsive and engaged populations.
I recently reread the Nano Flower by Peter Hamilton (the final book in the Greg Mandel trilogy) where one of the main protagonists makes the same argument powerfully, for Wales rather than Scotland in that instance.
Still, as you say, you really need to to be taking a long term view. Paul Krugman in the NYT today points out some of the short term hurdles quite forcefully.
Anyway, the results will be fascinating, though a narrow No vote followed by everyone sitting around the table like grown ups and looking at a federal structure for the UK, might achieve most of what everyone wants without the short term disruptions.

18:

So basically you'd like something like Switzerland but on a global scale?

19:

Small states, even in federalized systems, tend to either the highly functional and communal, in places where social democracy was in place early and a relative egalitarianism developed (e.g. Holland, Denmark) or highly corrupt, in places where elites emerged rapidly and nepotism/tribalism became the norm (e.g. Ireland, Portugal, a huge swathe of the US). Scotland, which is in inequality only fractionally behind the rUK at this point, looks a lot more likely to fall into the second category.

20:

As an American as well, I feel the opposite. Better to have localized corruption that is easier to address on a small scale than serious corruption in a distant and all powerful national government.

21:

With all due respect, the US States are not governments; they're regional/municipal administrations -- they can't set the terms of their relationships with other states (not since 1865, anyway) and so a very interesting leverage situation ensued, circa 1865-1895, that allowed inter-state interests to trade off leverage within individual states against leverage at federal level to deliver a framework favourable to (ahem) oligarchic trusts. Partially dismantled during the New Deal, subsequently reconstructed under and after Reagan's presidency (largely by the post-1994 Republican congress).

22:

A retrospective analysis of just what happened when Salmond met Donald Trump might be instructive on this point. (TL:DR; Trump got his ass handed to him on a silver platter. With a knife and fork.)

23:

As a resident of New Jersey I have huge sympathies for your position. The legacy of
Machine politics and gerrymandering doesn't map very neatly to the UK. Smaller, nimbler and responsive units create the conditions for a more engaged and effective government.
Sadly, creating the conditions for that does not guarantee such an outcome.

24:

It seems like the EU creates a framework that allows for small nation states to split off from the large ones that formed in the past few centuries. Though I'm looking in from the outside, a trend toward breaking up the large nations into ones under 10 million people seems likely.

Africa and Asia would probably go the same route if they had something like the EU.

The Americas (North and South) are a bit different though. There are some areas that could still split off, but by and large we're underpopulated for our land area and have fairly homogeneous culture. The US splitting up becomes less and less likely, because there is less and less geographic distinction between the various groups. People in Georgia an people in New York are more similar today that they were in 1914 or 1814. There might be a few places that could go independent. Some of the Native American reservations, a few coastal areas.

What might make more sense in the US is breaking up some of the large states. California, Texas, New York, Florida, etc. Bumping the number of states up to 60 would increase local representation and control.

25:

Indeed: virtually all nation states are already less powerful and influential than the largest corporations; splitting states into smaller entities will hardly change that (pace Poul-Henning Kamp's comment above).

The only practicable control I can see is in larger federal entities, like the EU or beyond that the UN, but the existing structural and organisational issues that bedevil such aren't going to go away. Even the multi-level delegation systems of Anarcho-syndicalism are open to subversion and corruption; representative organisations are worse. how do you stop people and organisations being bought?

26:

Despite what you might think solidarity exists - but it's between the street-sweeper and the nursing home care worker. Trouble is since we're all middl^h^h^h^h^h working class now they've few places to express it politically.

Yup. See also "New Labour". Oh, my bad: New Labour are intensely comfortable with massive accumulations of wealth (thank you, Lord Mandelson of Darkness, for spilling the beans in public).

Look, either you sell your labour on the market, or you don't: if you don't and you're not lumpenproletariat you probably have a capital accumulation that allows you to buy assets and charge rent on them. Thereby, capital accumulates more capital. The capital accumulating class is vanishingly tiny compared to the rest of us, and that's the key distinction: do you work, or not?

Yes, I will grant you there's a social definition of "working class" that's left over from an earlier age. But the pattern of the 21st century is that the mass middle class (forged during the social-democratic era of the late 1930s to late 1970s) is being systematically de-stabilized and pushed down into the mass of the fungible labour force. The consequences of this shift, combined with automation finally beginning to eat into managerial/technical/mind-worker jobs, is going to be seismic. And that's what I'm getting at: the old definitions are not useful any more.

27:

The Greg Mandel trilogy is good, with some very interesting political views, very conservative in many ways, yet with very liberal aspects. Re-read them recently, and found the tech quite prescient in some ways - everyone has stuff exactly like smartphones, only called something completely different. I forget what he called them, but I remember thinking it sounded better than 'smart phone' which sounds like the kind of dumb, dumbed-down, name Douglas Adams gave to all the tech in HHGTTG ^_^

28:

I can see the argument, but... as a brown-skinned American the idea that individual American states wield more power is kind of terrifying, since the Federal government is basically the only thing keeping many of them from going full Jefferson Davis. (e.g. the almost immediate changes some US southern states made to disenfranchise voters in the wake of the US Supreme Court's partial dismantling of the Voting Rights Act.) I'll concede that the idea of smaller states might work better in areas where there isn't a history of "state's rights (to enforce chattel slavery)." YMMV

29:

I agree with your comment about limiting the size of corporations, or something like that.

I feel that a lot of what use to be political power (of the people) has been slowly passed over to large international corporations, a reasonable number of who behave in a way that if they were ordinary citizens would result in complaints about the load they were placing on the legal and prison systems. I'm not sure if this is a cause or a consequence of the "beige dictatorship".

It seems to me (i.e. I'm probably wrong) that the smaller the country the less able that country is to protect and defend its population against coporations that don't pull their weight and behave "helpfully". And you won't get international agreement on controlling that, regardless of who you are as too many countries (both large and small) see the status quo as best for them (or that's what their lobbyists say).

I'm an expat Scot without a vote, but I still don't know which way I'd vote even if I could: because both sides have good points. I agree with Charlie about the short-term stupidity of the argument at the moment (worried about the pension if you leave the pound? perhaps you should be equally worried about the pension if you don't leave the pound!), and neither Charlies post, or Ken Macleod's video have helped sway me to one or the other.

What I'm more worried about is what this vote will do, whatever the result is, to Scotland. From the outside, it could trigger some bitter splits: sadly Scotland is not without the ability to have schisms. However, if could (again regardless of which way the vote goes), really strengthen the idea of being Scottish. I'm hoping for the latter, regardless of the vote outcome, and that I'll be able to get a Scottish passport if the vote does go yes.

30:

The thing with politics in the US is that people are pro-state's rights when their view is unpopular on a national level, and pro-national legislation when their view is unpopular in their state.

We also have the side issue that the idea of state's rights became associated with racism due to state-level opposition to civil rights in the 60s. Though that seems to be fading, as things like legalizing drugs and increasing environmental standards become more of a state-level issue.

I'd like to see a weaker US federal government and stronger state governments. Though perhaps not to the pre-1865 level of state governments were the Constitution didn't apply to them.

31:

cybofaxes, and yes they were very prescient. naming can be weird, Charlie had an issue with Bitcoin (and al Qaeda) going huge after he used them as obscure terms, so did William Gibson with Microsofts from Neuromancer.

32:

That might have been true in the past, but not any more.

33:

I'd be a lot happier seeing California split into four states (with additional senate/congress representation) than seeing Mississippi going it alone as a national government, yes. But in general, smaller failed nations cause smaller problems for everyone else (outside them). If the USA fails as a nation the global consequences would be far worse than if, say, the Christianist Dominion of Alabama fails as a nation. (Although this is scant comfort if you're stuck in the CDA without a passport when everything goes to hell in a handbasket ...)

34:

Personally, I'm more concerned abuot things like Scamoron's plans for the NHS, and Clueless George generally, than about whet might happen to the value of my pension pot in real terms in the next decade.

35:

Oh yes, Neuromancer had all sorts of crazy dissonances! It was (AFAIK) the first book to mention cyberspace, but everyone still used phone boxes!

Which books by Charlie had bitcoin in? Either I haven't read it/them, else the use slipped past me (maybe I read them a while ago, maybe I was already familiar enough with BTC to not notice it any more that I'd notice EUR)...

36:

Well, yeah - Ferguson, Missouri is an example of how local governments in the US are not like that anymore. OTOH, it's also evidence for the proposition that smaller failed states cause smaller problems for people outside of them.

37:

"Could nations and their services be abstracted from the physical layer?"

Yes, they are called multinational corporations, and they don't particularly like you.

38:

"I favour breaking up the United States, India, and China. Break up the Westphalian system."

Its worth reading some of the discussions that took place around Irish Home Rule. 'Home Rule All Round', federalism, break up of England into smaller units were all considered.

I've been working (for too long...) on an alt history starting just pre WW1 which uses some of those ideas for a PoD during the period known as 'The Great Unrest.'

There are lots of references in the bibliography posted on Dropbox here: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/47807417/bibliography%20for%20frozen%20spring%20TL.doc

but I would especially recommend this:
Ireland and the Federal Solution: The debate over the United Kingdom Constitution, 1870-1921, John Kendle, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1989

39:

I agree (well, maybe not with the California thing, which always seemed like Lex Luthor's plan from the first Superman movie - how come nobody ever wants to break up Texas?). I like the idea of smaller states to improve RAS and latency, and I can see how it could be a good idea for Scotland, but I can't see it happening in the US in the near-term without creating one of the problems it's intended to solve (bad failure mode for large nation state gets on everybody). Also, I'm happy on my local maxima since it's surrounded by deep valleys in which armed militias go door-to-door shooting brown people. Maybe in a few decades this won't be true anymore.

40:

There's also the Ottoman millet system that can be used as a historic example of nations being divorced from physical location. Though it was primarily religiously based.

41:

I would argue that size is mostly (not entirely) irrelevant, and, that in fact, petty authoritarianism is harder to root out than in a larger state. Ferguson is a classic example where local government creates the majority of its revenue f predation upon the poor, and has a much easier time of control through surveillance of a smaller population. Other examples of failed states where size isn't of prime importance: Somalia, Afghanistan, North Korea, Kansas.

Smaller states are more easily preyed upon by large multinational corporations. In fact, large multinational corporations are themselves small states that are not particularly successful at existential survival.

42:

I think we part company on the Road to Wigan Pier, Charlie.


43:

Neptune's Brood. There was some discussion about it in the recent crib-sheet comments.

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2014/09/crib-sheet-neptunes-brood.html

44:

Neptune's Brood. (See Crib Notes blog entry from last week.)

45:

how come nobody ever wants to break up Texas?).
Because it's much more fun to divide Alaska in half, and make Texas the third largest state in the Union?

And as I type this, the radio plays "Anchoridge" by Michelle Shocked.

46:

I agree, I think, that the endpoint is desirable.

I could see an argument for a world-state with a decent federation structure so there's something big enough to actually regulate the effectively mega-corps. The trouble is, I'm not sure we've seen a federal state structure (such as the founding fathers' presumed dream of the USA), at least not on a scale bigger than Germany, and I'm not sure it will really work with human nature.

So, given that, let's say smallish quasi-nation states in treaty-bound confederations is the best solution. Looking at the news from East Ukraine and Putin, at the myriad ways the various despots in the Middle East are clinging to power and the like... the process of moving from here to their seems really, really scary and fully of failure states that involve lots of people dying.

And as a gay woman I don't much fancy going to large parts of the USA right now. If the USA splits up into separate countries - well I won't go to the Republic of Texas for one. The current legislature with the Supreme Court to try and keep them in line approves of them carrying guns in, but won't let them use correct medical language 'for fear of shocking members,' seems to think tampons are obscene, and... I could keep on listing things. While the people in many states are moving to a more sensible position on women's rights and gay rights, their legislatures are dragging about 2 centuries behind the rest of the developed world. Texas is just the one that's crossed my reading most recently with the most egregious and memorable examples, there would be others. But the list gets boring and the point should be clear enough.

As other commentators in this list are pointing out, it's not only on this issue but we each have our hot topics.

As I've commented elsewhere on this topic (on this blog), I'd like to see a federalised UK. Regional governments and a sort of senate replacing the House of Lords. A smaller step to your long term goal.

But thanks for sharing your thoughts. Very different to all the coverage we're hearing down here in rUK (and I suspect to up in Scotland).

On a more positive note, what is a good size for your ideal state? Should there be a process for states undergoing fission built in to their constitutions in your ideal future?

47:

An odd fact that's not widely known, that I was taught in my Texas history class, growing up around Dallas: Texas is the only state, AFAIK, that can secede from the United States at any time. It's part of the charter that made Texas a state, a sort of pre-nuptial agreement.

It's something you hear about every so often, some random wing-nut trying to formally bring up the secession question, and while it might be political madness, in practicality it's not actually that insane. Texas is one of the few American states that could probably function self-sufficiently. It certainly has all the resources: vast swaths of arable land, water, its own oil supply, a lot of coastal ports for shipping, minerals, etc.

California, by contrast, is completely un-self-sustainable, for the reason we're seeing right now: it doesn't have enough water on its own. Not even remotely. Most of Southern California's water supply comes from the Colorado River, which is controlled by the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Most Americans overlook the fact that the entire West, from essentially the Rockies onward and probably the Missouri River, only exists because of a lot of hardcore irrigation and water diversion; I think there's something like less than ten rivers in the entire West that aren't dammed or diverted somewhere along their course, out of thousands. It's part of the reason it would be so frigging hard to split that territory into independent nations, because without the federal system maintaining all of that water, things would go very bad very quickly. (I lived for fifteen years in Las Vegas, a city that literally could not exist without constant intervention, and if you want a dystopia with a low barrier to entry, imagine Las Vegas if the Colorado runs out of water. The city would die within a matter of weeks, if not days.)

Texas could basically tell the rest of the US to go screw and, in theory, get away with it. (So could Alaska, for obvious reasons, but why in Hell would they want to?) But if you wanted to go all sci-fi on it and break California into NoCal and SoCal, you could just as easily do the same with East and West Texas, or even three states: everything west of Austin, everything east and north of Austin, and everything south and east of Austin.

I don't think America could be broken up easily because so much of our infrastructure requires federal oversight, mainly due to geography and the sheer scale involved. I just drove from Yakima, Washington, in the northwest, to Ferguson, Missouri in the rough geographic middle to cover the protests, and if you've never done that, it's an object lesson in just how incredibly big and empty most of the western US is. I drove one stretch on I-93 roughly equivalent to driving from London to Edinburgh through central Nevada where I saw maybe ten other cars in four hours, and there aren't even gas stations for a hundred miles or more, just the Big Empty. When I got back I'd driven 5200 miles, and that was only halfway across America and back.

You could argue that we could establish a treaty body to regulate between American nation-states, but, hell, if you think it's bad with a federal system, imagine if the states actually still did have those pre-1965 rights. Or what would happen up here in the Pacific Northwest if the dominionists and/or skinheads actually did take Idaho and parts of Washington and Oregon, as they've been wanting to do for a long time. How do you deal with that?

I just don't see it, barring massive catastrophe. But I could be wrong.

48:

I would argue that internal politics in the US is quite different than in European nations and arguments that are valid there do not necessarily apply.

I deeply agree that the problem of Transnational corporations is going to become more pronounced and not less unless nation states seek to redefine them in a fairly fundamental way. When you are defined to be an essentially sociopathic profit seeking organism, then that is how you will act. As Charlie says, this is a deep problem.

49:

Texas is a good example, as it composed of roughly five or six regions: the piney forests of East Texas, really more like Louisiana or Arkansas, the lakes and prairies around Dallas, the Gulf Coast, the central hill country surrounding the People's Republic of Austin, the South Texas plains and Big Bend country (which is to say Chihuahua and Coahuila), and the Panhandle that no one would know what to do with if it weren't for the oil and cattle.

(The one thing you notice about the US of A is that those regions that are stuck in low upward mobility and some of the highest income inequality are those states that had the institution of slavery. It appears this institution has brain damaged both victims and victimizers alike at a long-term societal level, and I would suggest as still another argument against small-state provincialism).

What would be an interesting experiment to build a Wall of Mordor around Texas, and check back on them in one hundred years...

50:

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE

That's enough comments about splitting the USA, folks. It's a minor sub-topic in the broad thrust of the argument about Scotland, and it's in danger of derailing the discussion -- especially as more American readers hit the end of their workday and have time to chip in.

51:

While Texas may teach that it can secede, that isn't actually based in any fact. In the 1845 Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas, there is a clause allowing Texas to be divided in to 5 states. There is no secession clause.

52:

I quite like the idea of small nations and have long felt that 3-10 million or so population countries are in a good position to have efficient, effective and close to the people government. By which logic England is very much too large. I started thinking that way when I moved here from NZ and experienced living in a mega city and densely populated country.

A down side is that one gets pushed around, or could be by larger entities. New Zealand, to a certain extent, plays the same game as other European small countries but if push comes to shove, we don't have a lot of hard influence on bigger countries. Now given we are ages from everyone, we can get away with that. But in an age of a revanchist Russia and the rise of an excitable China I'm starting to wonder if there is safety in size or numbers.

53:

Noted. Let's say worst comes to worst.

How about the scenario of a 1) a failed Scotland in, say, five years, versus, 2) a failed UK in five years?

Obviously, Scotland has no nukes, not that I'm aware of, so that's an obvious difference.

54:

So, if the referendum doesn't result in an independent Scotland, what do you see the longer term outcome being? Any possibility of a more federalized UK, possibly with a separate English parliament or even England being split into regions?

55:

Define "failed". Even Greece doesn't quite qualify for the same adjective as, say, Iraq or Libya today. Are we talking economics? Ireland weathered a massive down-turn only 5-7 years ago but is now recovering. For a state to actually fail usually entails more than an economic recession, or even national bankruptcy; it tends to require a breakdown in the mechanisms of state legitimacy, enforcement of law and order, and disintegration of the currency system. I don't see any way (short of Mr. Putin's people accidentally launching a Big One) for either Scotland or rUK to "fail" in that way within the next five years.

(The British nuclear deterrence makes no difference insofar as it's entirely dependent on -- indeed, an annex to -- the US naval deterrent: AIUI the Trident D5s come from the same pool as the USN Tridents and are maintained by Boeing in the USA. In other words, the USA can pull the plug on the British "independent" deterrent and within 12 months it will have degrated to, at best, free-fall bombs dropped from Tornado GR4's or Typhoon-IIs -- assuming the expertise still exists to rework the Trident-compatible physics packages into something that fits in a free-fall bomb not unlike the (retired) W-177.)

56:

"close to the people government"

Government close to the people also suppresses best.

Again, you can have Big Government at the local level, and Small Big Government can be far worse than a vast tenuous out-of-touch and far away Big Government.

Examples: Albania, East Germany. Henry Ford's River Rouge Complex, Homeowner's Associations, and the book Red Plenty and...

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/09/ferguson-worst-governments.html

57:

I suppose I was thinking more in economic terms vis a vis, downside for Scotland, versus downside for the UK.

58:

If I had a vote I honestly don't know how I'd use it. I've always been sympathetic with Scottish (and Welsh) nationalism; I don't have any particular investment in the UK applecart staying horizontal; and I think there is a genuine argument to be made about rebuilding class solidarity within smaller political units (I assume that the longer version of this post would have made it).

But I worry. There's a really interesting symposium on the referendum in the current LRB. Ferdinand Mount makes the point that the Yes campaign is rich in creative writers, and that they're a bit too fond of big statements about the Future is Unwritten and we can Dream a New Dream; it's a bit of a lampoon, but there's a grain of truth to it. And John Burnside distinguishes between the actual referendum question ("Should Scotland be an independent nation?") and the original proposed wording ("Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent nation?"). He says he's temperamentally inclined to a Yes answer to the first question, but answers No to the second on the general basis of "agree - with this shower?"

I worry that the practicalities are in the No basket, in other words. Salmond & co have been posed some massive practical challenges, and as far as I can tell they've done nothing to address them other than saying "we'll sort them out later - and by that time we'll be in a stronger negotiating position, so it'll be fine". It's a weird kind of brinkmanship - instead of two parties daring each other not to go up to the edge, we've got one determined to go over the edge and daring the other not to pick up the pieces.

Incidentally, does anyone know what's going to happen to party politics if there's an independent Scotland? Will the unionist parties dissolve, on the grounds that they're no longer required? (Even if 48% of the voters voted No?) Or will the SNP dissolve, on the grounds that its mission has been accomplished - and what will it stand for if it doesn't?

59:

especially as more American readers hit the end of their workday and have time to chip in.

Umm, the workday is (mostly) just starting over here. Maybe they're using work machines?

And Paw4thot @45; that's "Anchorage", like the town where fishing boats weighed anchor.

Sorry, pedant switch gettting flipped. Other than that I'm staying out of this.

60:

IIRC, a few years ago THE Economist ran an article suggesting that smaller states were "happier" and possibly more successful.

While smaller states might be easier fodder for corporations, interestingly Iceland did not kowtow to the banking interests in 2008 and subsequently recovered a lot better than nations that did. Anecdotal evidence to be sure, but is does suggest that small states can have greater freedom than larger ones.

The more interesting questions for Scotland, post independence, are whether it should stay in the EU and whether to be part of NATO.

61:

Hi, Charlie. Can I, as a contribution to the debate rather than an exercise in spamming, attach a link to a YouTube video of me and Ken Macleod trying to make a writerly case from the left for No ?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOnk1FzX1jA

62:

The referendum really mixes up two things: the long-term vision, and the particular case of whether the SNP is up to the job right now in Scotland. As others have noted, to get to the long term, you have to get through the short term --- and the SNP pronouncements that filter through to here in the States seem to involve a certain amount of denial about what that entails.

Take the recent fracas about whether there would be border posts between England and an independent Scotland. The SNP insists that there wouldn't be, and accuses "better together" of scaremongering for even raising the subject. But that's just the normal state of affairs for an international border; you don't see them much in Western Europe because of the Schengen agreement, but the UK is not a party to Schengen, and I don't see how Salmond can presume that the rump UK would agree to a Schengen-like agreement with Scotland. Failing that, you get border posts, as we have between the US and Canada, which is otherwise about as tranquil a border as they come.

By itself, this isn't much of an issue, but a similar air of denial pervades their consideration of currency management, and particularly, the blithe assumption that it is not only possible, but desirable, for Scotland to keep using a currency managed by a central bank that would no longer have any real incentive, let alone formal responsibility, for looking after Scottish interests. The current state of small nations after the 2008 financial crisis is a warning here: Iceland did notably better than a lot of other victims in part because they could, and did, manage their own currency.

FWIW, if I was in Scotland, I might still be tempted to vote "Yes". I'd be hoping that the SNP deals more responsibly than they currently promise with these realities once they have to. But there may be better odds of that than for anyone being able to drag the conservatives now in control of Westminster from the 19th century back to the 20th.

Regardless, though, the first few years of an independent Scotland would be a very bumpy ride. And if I were there, voting "yes", I'd be expecting that.

63:

What the current situation seems to be demonstrating is that as soon as they think they are going to lose, the Westminster politicians start making wild promises that amount to the devo-max that they refused to countenance.

I think it's a bit late for that.

It does show that it is a good thing if you can scare the buggers.

And we have a General Election coming.

64:

the kind of nationalism that brought us the Great European War ... is pretty much dead.

That may be true in western Europe. It's not at all true in the U.S., China, or (from what I can tell) Russia. India's BJP party has an ethnonationalist streak a mile wide, and nationalism seems to be on the rise again in Japan. The Middle East generally prefers religious chauvinism, but that's not an improvement.

the failure modes of a gigantic imperial power are almost always far worse than those of a smaller nation

One of the main failure modes of a smaller nation is to be forcibly absorbed by a rising imperial power. The Scots you live among are surely able to explicate this principle at some length.

In Chinese history, every so often people get really sick of the corrupt central government that's been long captured by special interests and they throw their support behind separatist movements. A few generations later, people get really sick of the corrupt local governments and their constant petty warfare and support unification movements.

65:

"As an American as well, I feel the opposite. Better to have localized corruption that is easier to address on a small scale than serious corruption in a distant and all powerful national government."

So far, the reality seems to be that corruption at the state level is *harder* to address than at the federal level. Notice the effects of the Tea Party takeover of many (US) state governments.

66:

"We also have the side issue that the idea of state's rights became associated with racism due to state-level opposition to civil rights in the 60s. Though that seems to be fading, as things like legalizing drugs and increasing environmental standards become more of a state-level issue."

I would have thought so a few years ealier, but it's clear by now that states' rights/Confederatism in the USA is much stronger than it had appeared.

Note that the right is doing its level best to prevent blacks and minorities from voting, and they're now barely denying it.

67:

"Well, yeah - Ferguson, Missouri is an example of how local governments in the US are not like that anymore. OTOH, it's also evidence for the proposition that smaller failed states cause smaller problems for people outside of them."

Don't worry, the all-good state government - well, doesn't seem to have done much. And Missouri is far from the worst state in the USA. Mississippi, Alabama and Florida are worse any and every day, and other states can match it on most days.

68:

>>One of the main failure modes of a smaller nation is to be forcibly absorbed by a rising imperial power.

The solution to this is nuclear weapons. If Israel can do it with 8 million people, others can as well.

The annoying consequence is the planet eventually becoming even less habitable, but SpaceX got that covered. :-)

69:

An interesting post. I find myself in the odd position of being a leftish, Green voter who'll be lining up with the Tories and the Orange Order and all sorts of others I wouldn't want to associate with, to vote 'no'. The last time I did that was when the vote on the creation of the Scottish Parliament was held, and precisely because I suspected that this is exactly where it would lead. Create any political unit, and it will inevitably seek to increase its own power...

In part I think it's because I have an exactly opposite view to you on the merits of small vs. large states. There are problems facing the world over the next few decades - in terms of climate change, energy shortages, for example, that I think a small number of large states are more likely to stand a chance of solving than an enormous mosaic of little ones.

Sadly, I think there's a real possibility - given for example, the rise of Marine Le Pen in France, who is currently polling better than either the UPM or Hollande's Socialists, that the EU may not hold together in the next couple of decades, and in the event that this comes to pass, I think larger countries will have a much better chance of weathering the storm than small ones.

And then there's my gut reaction that I'd rather be a citizen of my whole country than just the part of it that is north (or south) of the Solway Firth and the Tweed. One can find oneself at a disadvantage working in a country that one is not a citizen of and while I would probably retain dual nationality, that wouldn't be true of the next generation. Set against that, I accept that the agreement between the UK and Ireland has meant that this has not thus far been a major issue but a messy divorce between mutually antipathetic SNP-led and Tory-led Governments may not end well... And the negative effects may go beyond the short term.

70:

An independent Scotland would be about the same as Norway in terms of population, natural resources, sharing a border with a much larger and more powerful neighbor, etc. So being a smaller economy isn't necessarily a recipe for disaster.

Disaster would likely come from how much history the typical Scot tends to drag along as part of his/her nationalistic baggage/self-identity. So -- how divisive are the Scots? How much does family/clan history/tradition matter in this? Has late 20th century immigration diluted this aspect of Scottish nationalism to the point where 'Our family has always ...' is no longer a sufficient argument?

In a referendum where every vote counts, what the ordinary Scot thinks and does actually matters. How engaged are ordinary Scots in voting - what's the typical voter turn-out? Which side can use social media more effectively to get out the vote?

Neil Oliver's History of Scotland which recently aired on PBS suggests that the Scots have yoyo-ed on this question for centuries, so unless there's a new compelling reason for independence, and if the vote were restricted to only the same socioeconomic class as in previous rounds, the odds would favor 'no - no change'.

BTW - The only demos stats I could find for Scotland are on the UK gov site which also show that the Scots have the highest level of self-identifying themselves with their country even though Scotland has (overall) a not-so-low net immigration. This could be where to place the yes-vote fulcrum.

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/compendiums/compendium-of-uk-statistics/population-and-migration/index.html

71:

The solution to this is nuclear weapons.

Great. Now what's your solution to having large numbers of people (sometimes erratic, usually stressed, occasionally drunk) with their own nuclear arsenals?

72:

I've got problems accepting any of these as decent solutions. Every single one of them seems bad.

First off, a government is that entity which claims a monopoly on the use of force in an area. Almost(?) all of them claim also the right to delegate that use of force to other entities operating within their jurisdiction. This is why embassies require extra-territoriality. But it means you *can't* abstract away the physical layer. You can have social service agencies that are non-geographically bound, but those aren't governments. Even fixing potholes wouldn't make them governments.

Secondly, I'd like proof that smaller governments are less likely to fail, as that's not the way I read history. (Admittedly, most countries in history are "small countries", and ALL the big ones failed within 200 years. Sometimes they fail and reconstitute themselves in a radically different form, e.g. the US before and after the decade of the 1860's.)

OTOH, I agree that a large democracy is probably impossible using any existing structure. I think that a system with a hierarchical tree that allows node division and recombination ala a B+Tree might work, but notice that each level would need to only govern it's immediate "child nodes". I once "sort of" designed a system where at the root level one out of 50 citizens was "elected" to the base level council. One out of 50 of those was "elected" the the next higher level council. Etc. It required not a majority vote, but a sufficient number of citizens "signing up" to support them...and citizens could remove their name from the supporter, or move it to someone else at any time. If you dropped below the critical level you were out. And this applied to even those who had been delegated up to the top node. This might not have worked, but it sure would have been interesting. Clearly it couldn't support more than 50 levels of nodes, but an m-way B+Tree with an m of 50 and a height of 50 can handle a huge number of entries. So you need a rule that whenever the tree is more than 50% full, you increase the value of m by one.
(My original design called for an m of 13, because that seems to be the best size group for a reasonable decision...but 50 isn't too bad, and 13 wouldn't handle enough.)

Another thing that's needed is a limit on the length of laws (and forbid inclusion by reference, unless you want to include the length of the referred to law in the length of the law). And a limit on the number of laws. When you hit the limit, you need to remove a law to add a law. And a test for comprehensibility. If the average citizen can't understand it, then it can't be a requirement that the citizens obey it. (You determine this by having several classed of high school seniors, chosen at random, write essays about what the law means, and answer a multiple choice test. If the law fails the multiple choice test [i.e., if there's not a 70% or better pass rate with the correct answers being supplied as an appendix to the law] then the law is not considered valid. If the essay questions are not in substantial agreement, then the law is also not considered valid. [This second test is, admittedly, more subjective. I can't think of a better way to put it though.])

73:

Disaster would likely come from how much history the typical Scot tends to drag along as part of his/her nationalistic baggage/self-identity. So -- how divisive are the Scots? How much does family/clan history/tradition matter in this? Has late 20th century immigration diluted this aspect of Scottish nationalism to the point where 'Our family has always ...' is no longer a sufficient argument?

As a late 20th Century migrant myself, I'd say yes, it pretty much has. Even in the last 20 years, I'd say it's changed for the better. The dying embers of the old Protestant/Catholic divide haven't quite entirely cooled, but I think they're heading that way. And most people would look blankly if asked what clan they're from. Scotland is not Albania. The clan feud thing is pretty much an 18th Century thing, though there might be one or two places up north I wouldn't let people know if I was a Campbell...

74:

@21:
With all due respect, the US States are not governments; they're regional/municipal administrations
---
Not even close, Charlie. You'd have to rewrite both the Constitution of the USA and the fifty state constitutions to support that viewpoint.

75:

Youtube away! (I'd have been at the Summerhall debate except that was the day this 'orrible chest infection first dug its claws into me.)

76:

I find the concept of more and smaller states simultaneously romantic, infuriating, and unworkable.

Here's the problem: empires.

Here's the worse problem: corporate empires.

Small nation-states (contiguous territories occupied by a group of people who were sufficiently homogeneous to be considered a nation) have existed since the neolithic. They aren't the only form, because there have always been mobile tribes who did not defend a contiguous territory, but with the advent of agriculture, there's been a need to defend fields and trails, if nothing else.

For who-knows-how long, but at least 4,000 to 5,000 years, there have been empires, which are states that have conquered other states and subjugated them. It's a simple issue, really: if a chief gains power in a nation, there's only so much he can rule. After a while, if he asks for more resources, his subjects will throw him out. It's far better to conquer weaker neighbors, add them as subordinates, take their surplus, and expand as far as possible. China, Rome, and the Mongols were the first truly large-scale practitioners of this art, but it's even turned up in Micronesia (the Yap Empire). It takes very little other than fixed populations with uneven resource bases) to start an expansionist imperial tradition.

So basically, breaking the world up into lots of little states means there are lots of little fish for would-be empire builders to conquer. That is not a happy place to live.

Even more unfortunately, at this time, who are the empire-builders? I'll give you a big hint: look at the skyline of any modern city. What are the biggest buildings? They aren't palaces or temples, they are corporate offices. That's who's waiting in the wings if we chop up conventional government power. World government by giant corporations would be chaotic, to say the least, because there is no hierarchy and no structure in the business world. Rather, it's something like an aristocratic anarchy (where the richest live in something like a post-scarcity world ranked in power), something like what the mongol hordes used to practice before Genghis Khan showed up, and partly a unique system of governance whereby the structure is optimized to pass the buck and avoid taking responsibility, rather than take responsibility for keeping the system together.

Making the world safe for corporate domination by breaking up the only things (like the US) powerful enough to (theoretically) oppose the big corporations will emphatically not make the world a better place. Everything from the Spanish Conquest to Putumayo argues exactly the reverse, as do conditions in much of corporate India, China, and Bangladesh, among many others.

So while I don't like the way the American Empire is functioning right now (and ditto with China and Russia), I think carving these up on purely ideological grounds would be even worse.

How do I feel about Scottish independence? Let's see what happens. If my pessimistic predictions come to pass, you'll see a Scottish Parliament that's a bunch of corporate sock puppets, even more than they are now, as Scotland becomes a minor colony of the corporate world.

Hopefully I'm wrong.

77:

Take the recent fracas about whether there would be border posts between England and an independent Scotland. The SNP insists that there wouldn't be, and accuses "better together" of scaremongering for even raising the subject. But that's just the normal state of affairs for an international border;

Nope.

There is a strong precedent: namely another nation of about 5 million people that split from the UK within living memory (just) -- the Republic of Ireland! Most likely any constitutional settlement by the UK government for allowing one nation to leave will follow existing precedent and case law relating to the other. (There's no reason not to, and it makes the whole business vastly simpler to organize if you know what the legal consequences and issues are going to be in advance.)

1. There are no border checkpoints between the Republic of Ireland and the UK (yes, Northern Ireland is part of the UK). I know this because I drove from the one to the other two weeks ago. Seriously, I'm trusting my own eyes here.

2. British citizens prior to the separation of Ireland have the right to claim Irish citizenship. Residents of Ireland after the separation were granted Irish citizenship as well as their existing British citizenship (which some chose to ditch -- but note that the UK recognizes dual and multiple nationality, and indeed you have to proactively petition to get rid of your British nationality unless you trip over some piece of 21st century anti-terrorism law of dubious constitutional legality).

3. British citizens today have unlimited right of entry and residence in the Republic of Ireland and can vote in Irish elections if they live there and register to vote. And vice versa. After a period (I think it's 3 years) they can take an oath of allegiance and acquire an Irish passport. I believe it's become harder in recent years for most people to acquire British citizenship ... but it's still easier for Irish citizens than anyone else.

Upshot:

If Scotland leaves the UK and the Irish precedent is applied to the separation, then anyone in Scotland at the time will simply acquire a second nationality, and anyone in the rUK will retain right of residence and voting rights if they move to Scotland, and vice versa.

I believe the onus is on the doom-sayers to explain why a prior existing equitable precedent would not be applied in the case of Scotland, especially as Ireland left the UK under conditions of considerably greater acrimony!

78:

Conceded on the borders issue --- I was honestly unaware of the Irish precedent. I still find the currency thing worrisome, though...

79:

Ireland ran its own currency, pegged at a 1:1 exchange rate to the Pound Sterling. It ran it on that basis for nearly 50 years, and there wasn't a thing that the British government could have done to stop it. (Irish Pounds were, during that period, recognized as equivalent in the UK for all non-banking purposes.)

If a future Scottish government wants to peg its currency against Sterling, then, again: that's what'll happen. Westminster can't stop them. (We even have currency issuing banks already, although they're licensed by the Bank of England and are required to have deposits on hand with the BoE to cover their issued cash obligations. Presumably a different relationship/authority would be required if the Scottish government wanted to float the currency on their own. Most likely there'd be a bond issue to create the debt against which the currency could then be issued, via the existing issuing banks -- Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland, and Clydesdale Bank. (I believe Linen Bank also has a license to print currency but it hasn't been used in 50 years. Possibly the Scottish government would simply purchase it and go into the printing business for themselves.))

My broader point stands: there is a precedent for a constituent nation peacefully leaving the UK within the past century. (Well, relatively peacefully. There was an attempted revolution in 1916 ...) And there is no obvious reason why that precedent should not be applied in event of a "yes" vote; in fact, I think the onus is on the skeptics to explain why an existing precedent would be set aside.

80:

A peg is a reasonable starting point, in part because it can be abandoned with minimum fuss when the interests of Scotland and England diverge far enough. Straight currency union is a lot harder to untangle, though, as we've seen in the Eurozone.
(Spain and Portugal would be prime candidates for devaluation, if they could, but the logistics make it nearly impossible.) And full currency union, with both England and the rump UK continuing to use the pound, as managed by the Bank of England, does seem to be the SNP's preferred position at the moment.

81:

WRT post #2 Gasdive's "Could nations and their services be abstracted from the physical layer?"

The phrase to search for is "Franchise Operated Quasi National Entity" and that leads to Stephensons "snow crash" and "diamond age".

In my infinite spare time I've contemplated rolling something like this out where the franchise would be extremely small indeed (like morocco sized) and of almost a theme park environment. So live in Ancient Athens for awhile with rather strict building codes and importation laws. Or live in the country of civil war re-enactor-ville for a summer. Or furry-land. Or whatever your peculiar idea of utopia resembles. Its quite a puzzle. You could say its like abstracting the legal financial and other business concerns of Disney Land from the Disney IP and slapping in a variety of other IP.

82:

Ummm... make that "both Scotland and the rump UK". (Can't edit.)

83:

After Independence the former colonies did try that loose confederation of states. It was an abject failure -- and that when the U.S. was only 13 states.

Thus the Constitutional Convention and the battle over a strong central government and states rights -- which hasn't been resolved yet, not really.

Some things states and localities do better, others -- such, for instance slavery, Jim Crow, big public works such as dams and railroads (which are necessary if that shrinking globe and travel is to be maintained), many small entities can not or will not, or do not do at all, i.e. former the slavery states which are against any cooperative, public works at all -- so much so that they couldn't even cooperate with each other while fighting the Union in the Civil War.

And then, of course, as with the Civil War, the entities wish to expand into the territories of others, and bring their rules, regs, and slaves with them, overriding what was already there. The Civil War was not fought to contain slavery, but to prevent slavery's drive to expansion.

84:

Valar Morghulis.

Nuclear bomb is 1940-s technology. Sooner or later everyone will be able to afford it.

85:

For a person from a sub-3m EU country the ideal end-state world view would consist entirely of sub-10m nation states that all belong to the same coalition that is an equivalent the what EU + NATO + Shengen are now - the central bodies of EU coordinate minimal possible common policy and standards, NATO drives security and disaster relief and Shengen regulates flows of people and goods.

This is also the response to how to handle "crazy" US states without the federal government - they must adhere to the same EU-like laws and regulations to participate in the international trade on the same level as others.

And if anyone gets out of line - he gets "Putinized"

86:

Everyone having nuclear weapons? See Tom Lehrer's song "Who's Next?"

Here's the stupid thing about that: Somewhere, unless I threw it out, I've got the blueprints for a nuke. It's an engineering joke, non-functional in multiple ways (among other things, the circuit diagram is the most intricate multi-pathway short-circuit it's ever been my privilege to examine). However, it makes the problems with nuclear bombs quite plain. Nuclear warhead design is comparatively simple, simple enough that someone can sell a parody plan and not be nailed by the FBI for leaking secrets. Designing something that can be delivered by a device smaller than a semi-trailer is not so simple (the nuke in the joke was about three meters long, one meter wide, and weighed around 5,000 kilos, if I remember right). Designing and building the infrastructure to produce the heavy water, enriched uranium, plutonium, and high explosives is many orders of magnitude harder still, and impossible for people not to notice. That's why the IAEA focuses on infrastructure. Given our post-9/11 silly paranoia, I'm not sure I want to hang onto that stupid blueprint (heaven forfend that a terrorist get their hands on it), but it makes the point abundantly clear: building the infrastructure to build a nuke is very, very difficult, massively more difficult than designing the bomb that would use all those exotic materials.

87:

I like the idealism, I have grave doubts about the practicality.

A retrospective analysis of Trump may well be instructive - but then, Salmond had already overridden the local council's objections to the initial plans. However - Trump, being a foreigner, can't contribute to British political parties.

What's more instructive is the SNP response to a bus magnate giving them a half-million pound contribution. By sheer coincidence, and in no way connected to this fact, their manifesto promise to re-regulate the Scottish bus industry (and interfere with his profits) was dropped from the manifesto a month later.

My disquiet comes from the fact that a small country is cheaper to buy, and cheaper to corrupt. The Labour Party in Glasgow operates its selections in a non-transparent fashion - the effect was to create the perception that the First Minister was selected by a small committee in the City Chambers. Similarly, it was the Falkirk constituency where a Labour Party power struggle (between Unions and Party HQ) was revealed to have distorted democracy.

But that's small scale - I also have doubts on the regional scale. While you champion the Westphalian ideal, it was still a German confederation of small states, rather than a single German nation, that started a war in 1914. Small countries have no credible first-world defence against bigger countries; alliances rely on the big members. The Baltic States can realistically hope to hold up first-echelon Russian troops for hours, not days; to stand up against Putin's "hybrid war" for days, not weeks.

Yes, I like the ideal. No, I doubt the practicality. It's like unilateral disarmament - look how well the Budapest Agreement has worked for the Ukrainians (and they had everyone's signature on the paper). Ask yourself whether the Russians would have invaded a Ukraine that could "accidentally" drop some non-persistent nerve agents (or worse) on the Russian "training camps"... Depressingly, I worry that we're in a world where a Trident replacement is now more likely, not less likely.

88:

Charlie,

For most of my life I would get sick 3 or 4 times a year with head colds, chest colds, flu, etc..., on occasion leading to full blown pneumonia. Then a couple of years ago I started rinsing my nose out twice a day with saline, using a squeeze bottle from NeilMed. Plus, I would use a neutral ointment like aquaphor to keep the inside of my nose moist throughout the day.

For two years now I have not been sick.

Try that and see if it works for you.

89:

Ooops - forgot this point. I'm an internationalist, not a nationalist.

I'd like to see a world where personal allegiance is not taken to be an exclusive concept (i.e. the "if you're Scottish, you can't be British" attitude of the more extreme SNP types).

..oh, and World Peace, Stan

90:

I should have added: I'm an internationalist too.

And I find the expression of English nationalism that has blown up in the past 20 years absolutely repellent -- the worst kind of Little Englander jingoism is not the norm, anti-immigrant sentiment has become a socially acceptable outlet for expression of racist sentiments, and the sort of exclusionary discourse which was the territory of the fascist fringe in the 1970s and 1980s, the BNP and NF, is now everyday currency among the main political parties.

There is, worryingly, a lot less xenophobia among the Scottish nationalist movement than there is in the English political mainstream.

91:

Three words: "I have a moustache". (There's nothing as vile as dripping snot-infused water through your moustache.) But yes, I pay attention to keeping my mucous membranes moist. Also: zinc FTW (at least when it comes to stopping common colds getting bedded in).

92:

Hi Charlie,

I am just wondering about your progress with Metabolic Syndrome. I have achieved good results with the following:

5g creatine monohydrate powder
5g myo-inositol powder

mixed in a glass of water every morning.

93:

"My disquiet comes from the fact that a small country is cheaper to buy, and cheaper to corrupt."

However, if you now have to buy 400 countries instead of only 10 or 20 ... that's way more expensive.

Personally, I'd also put a limit on corp size ... if grow beyond a certain size, must spawn off into a new and completely separate entity. Or, if you absolutely must grow that size, up the taxes .... It seems that corporate tax rates/strategies are punitive to the mid-size corps, basically forcing them to go on acquisition binges so that they can get the large ($) corp tax breaks. Then they fall apart because whatever they were originally good at doesn't really work when super-sized.


94:

"In other words, the USA can pull the plug on the British "independent" deterrent and within 12 months it will have degrated to, at best, free-fall bombs dropped from Tornado GR4's or Typhoon-IIs -- assuming the expertise still exists to rework the Trident-compatible physics packages into something that fits in a free-fall bomb not unlike the (retired) W-177.)"

From what we know now, my money would be on the USA holding the codes to the software.

95:

Ha ha no. (Although I'm doing well enough on meds/weight loss/exercise that I'm now down to annual reviews with the cardiology clinic.)

96:

However, if you now have to buy 400 countries instead of only 10 or 20 ... that's way more expensive.

Depends what you're shopping for. If it's low, low, tax rates, or lax safety inspections, then you don't need to buy all 400; you just need to find a few whose pols are desperate (or corrupt) enough to deal, and play them against each other for the best offer. See, for example, shipping "flags of convenience", and the garment industry's endless chase around the planet for the lowest wages. (Or, if you just look within the US, how industries of various kinds play state governments off against each other for tax breaks, or out and out subsidies.)

97:

The physics packages are actually still built in the UK as far as I know, using British-sourced plutonium -- although there may be some pooling with the US stockpile; there's a unique nuclear sharing treaty between the UK and USA. The British Trident warheads are based on a standard US design, obviously, for compatibility; and the V-class SSBNs and their reactors and systems are British built. But the rockets themselves are a Boeing design and supplied by Boeing and form part of a common maintenance pool with the US Navy stockpile: and that's the choke-chain: intercontinental rockets aren't exactly maintenance-free turnkey items with a multi-year shelf-life.

98:

you just need to find a few whose pols are desperate (or corrupt) enough to deal, and play them against each other for the best offer.

And that's where transnational treaty organizations like the EU, which sets legal standards for business operations, should come in handy: you can make it far too expensive (in terms of trade sanctions) for a corrupt small country to play fast and loose with standards that way. (The real problem is keeping corporate lobbyists out of the trade treaty negotiating system, but that's an oversight issue in principle ...)

99:

Charlie, Re Borders and Banks,

I think you are missing out on some characteristics of post 18th Sept, if the vote goes the wrong way (yes).

For a start, the RBS has already said that it intends to jump ship for London, and we can expect the other financial institutions to do the same for good banking (and EU) type reasons. At the same time we can expect the BoE to curtail the note printing activities of 'scottish' banks - and for fairly similar banking type reasons.

As far as businesses are concerned, I'd expect most with presence both sides of the border would seek to take advantage of the situation, and to put most of their assets into the UK side (risk reduction). What would be left in scotland would be branch office level - able to be cut adrift if things went wrong.

See http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/c38bd692-377f-11e4-bd0a-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3ClNjMdYq

As such I think we are looking at a 'run on the country' - or rather a run to get assets out of the country and the situation for those left behind looks worse and worse as more and more jump ship. It looks like some people in the BoE agree, with the expectation that they will impose currency controls attempting to stem the flow of money; put in place on the 19th.

Roll that forward to a putative 'independent' scotland, still using the pound as it currency, and I think there will be border posts - put in place by scotland to attempt to stem the tide of those easily transportable, and very necessary, pounds out of the area. Bits and bytes are much easier to stop than smuggling physical assets.

100:

The US constitution delegates foreign affairs unambiguously to the federal government. As a result, the US tends to seem more unified from outside than from inside.

101:

intercontinental rockets aren't exactly maintenance-free turnkey items with a multi-year shelf-life

It's also fortunate that fusion bombs tend to go bad over time as the tritium decays.

102:

As someone living in a nation of 4 million, I'm entirely in favour of nations of this size.

NZ has 120 MPs and most of them seem to be human beings, as opposed to people who work for people who have helicopters.

Another major factor in political stability is proportional representation. We've also a tradition of very direct democracy, complete with water pistols. The Occupy movement failed to take off here, because there are easy paths to having your voice heard - most minority positions are represented in parliament.

We're currently eleven days out from an election and the campaign is proving Charlie's points. In a nation this size, then yes, it's easy to buy your way into a political party and possibly parliament. We currently have a bonkers rich guy running a vanity party on a religious platform (the Conservatives) and another bonkers rich guy who has set up a political party to avoid extradition to the US joining with what remains of the far-left (Internet/Mana). Both may get enough votes for a couple of MPs and therefore may end up as king-makers in a coalition government.

However, here's the key point - the impact of failure is small and the cause of failure can be understood and resolved. Yes, a minor party could start throwing its weight around and threatening to bring down the government unless said tiny party gets everything it wants. When that happens, then NZ voters have shown a willingness to punish tiny parties for behaving that way.

103:

While I totally agree on the internal borders issue ( and Ireland currently serves your argument) well, I am less convinced that it serves as a good example of the currency debate.
I was a while ago going to post a long argument about the vote and the Venn Diagrams of various voters ( I am glad I didn't as I saw it as Nationalists, Politicals and Pragmatists, I hadn't anticipated your post Westphalian stance)
However, if I were trying to sway the vote one way or the other I would try and sway the Pragmatists, and the currency issue would be my strongest suit.

It is very complicated, I am not sure I myself understand all the details but the post-Indy currency options are not great and carry some risks. However, they are worth discussing, in part, because they highlight how interconnected nation states are. An independent Scotland would still be subject to the influence of the rUK, the EU and global markets. Consequently, however tedious it is thrashing out such details, if it leaves people with a greater sense of what they control and how cooperation between various spheres is a mutually beneficial enterprise then it would be worth it.

It might also stop those UKIP idiots from forcing us through all these hoops again in a referendum (as a personal anecdote that reading the telegraph is bad for your brain, a close relative of mine in London now rails against immigrants, despite her status as a second generation Swiss-Russian, sighs)

104:

that's where transnational treaty organizations like the EU...

This is what I think a lot of peole above have missed. If you have freedom of movement with common standard and restrictions, the freedom of your local nation-state to be a unpleasant is limited. It's possibly hard for people in the US to imagine because they don't have a lot of the "common heritage" stuff (UNCHR, ICC for example) that makes the EU actually work.

Fixing Je'z link to the Aro Valley Meet the Candidates above, I'm another kiwi (but I live in Oz) and the gap between NZ and Oz politics does seem to be size related. In NZ I could meet not just my local MP, but members of the other parties who were interested in my area (list members, or candidates).

But in Australia I have only met about five or six serving members of parliament, mostly Greens MPs. I've met my local federal member, but not my local state member. It's much harder to get a chat about an issue in Australia, despite them having 600-odd MP's for 20M people compared to NZ with 120 MPs for 5 million.

105:

Also, I have met and had polite discussions even with MPs that I disagree with. During the Homosexual Law Reform Bill campaign I was one of a small group of pro- campaigners that met with Police Minister John Banks where we explained our view and he very politely explained that he would be voting no. He is now, famously, disgraced former MP John Banks, convicted fraudster. Schadenfreud!

In Australia... not so much. The closest I've come is hissing "sellout" at Peter Garret while disrupting one of his party meetings (I was wearing a koala suit at the time). He did take it in relatively good humor, but on the other hand there were tv cameras present and they've love to catch him shoving a koala off the stage...

106:

Re original post: This makes the opposite of sense. The smaller the country, the greater the bargaining power of corporations threatening to move operations elsewhere.

107:

This strikes me as a statement of belief (i.e. that smaller states are better than larger ones). I see no particular proof of that and, as a conservative (small c) I would counter with "if it ain't broke why fix it?".

In terms of larger governments being in thrall to special interest groups, I could quote many examples of the same thing happening at all levels of government. Here in sunny Oakland, for example, local government seems in thrall to the ACLU to the detriment of the residents, particularly those whose civil rights are being violated by being shot.

On the other hand, I suppose it is more a question of the size of government which makes the governed feel happy. Clearly, if the Scots vote yes then they feel happier with a government which more closely reflects their beliefs, which they feel that the UK government does not; I can't really disagree that the UK government tends to be more right-wing than governments in Scotland.

I have no doubt that an independent Scotland will thrive, for the short term at least. Longer term I am not so sure. It will depend on the management of the demographics. However, what will happen the next time a Darien scheme occurs? I suppose the European Central Bank steps in instead of the Bank of England. It worked for Ireland.

I continue to be puzzled by how low key the treatment of this issue is in the UK outside of Scotland. This is a big deal, yet the UK government seems not to care. Perhaps I am missing something since I don't live in the UK but I did spend much of the last month there.

I hope the Scots vote no, but I am resigned to them voting yes. Given that, can they please keep the Royal Family when they leave?

108:

Charlie, at what scale would 1) fiscal policy and 2) monetary policy (and thus currencies) be set in your post-Westphalian world?

I see a tension between the following:

1) It's not much of a nation if it doesn't set its own fiscal policy.

2) Setting fiscal policy at a smaller scale than monetary policy is either unsustainable in the long run or sustainable only with a lot of suffering in low-productivity regions of the monetary policy area (e.g. euro crisis and its fallout).

3) Having many small monetary policy areas is inefficient and increasing the risk of destabilizing monetary crises.

109:

a statement of belief (i.e. that smaller states are better than larger ones). I see no particular proof of that ... Here in sunny Oakland,

Amd I right to take that as a statement that you think the US system of government(s) is working well? I suspect that puts you in a minority, even in your own country. To me, the US seems to work ok for middle-aged, rich, straight, white, christian, men and worse the more of those qualifications you lack.

Writing this I find myself inclined to compare the US to failed states rather than any country I'd like to live in. I'd rather be poor and black in the US than in, say, Zimbabwae. Hooray for the USA! (ex)muslim and queer... yep, the US is better than Poland. Probably, and if I'm also non-white then definitely. Either way better than Jamaica. But compared to Japan or Estonia? Urk!

Interestingly, a lot of the poorer countries that the rich-white-male demographic like tend to suck if you're not a RWM. As Scalzi has pointed out, RWM is the lowest difficultly setting and playing at that level it doesn't matter a huge amount where you start from. Hence the comments from a couple of people above that if you're not in that lucky group, your definition of a "working state" is likely to vary.

FWIW, I don't think Scotland is likely to become particularly awful whichever way the referendum goes.

110:

And you concluded that how exactly?

I merely suggested that there is little proof that smaller countries work better than larger ones.

Following your logic, I would assume that Zimbabwe is an excellent place to live. After all it is a small country and has virtually no RWM.

111:

Concluded what? That you think the USA works? I quoted the relevant part, and asked whether that's what you actually think. Which is explicitly an opportunity for you to say that you think the USA doesn't work very well.

Following your logic, I would assume that Zimbabwe is an excellent place to live. After all it is a small country and has virtually no RWM.

How do you get from "Moz would rather be poor and black in the US than Zimbabwae" to "Moz thinks Zimbabwae is an excellent place to live"?

Given our current state of knowledge it appears unlikely that it will ever be possible to create a formal proof that smaller states work better than large ones. But using a looser standard, and being selective about how we measure "better", there are a range of measures of "goodness" where increasing country size correlates with lower performance. Education, health, happiness, social mobility, gini coefficient, that sort of thing. Comparing similar countries, like Germany and Denmark, gives similar results to comparing the USA to Germany.

On other measures, like GDP and military spending, the USA does very well. If you believe that money and power are what matters, that puts the US on top. Or close to it, in GDP terms.

112:

Not interested in heading down this path since this is not the subject of the discussion and I don't wish to bore my host. I would say that I am not clear that I can define the relative value of success with respect to states and any suggestion that the US is somehow a failed state is facile. We know catastrophically failed states when we see them but it's harder to say that state A is better than state B - how would one compare Italy and Switzerland for example?

I believe that Scotland will operate as an independent state. I believe also, however, that there are risks for an independent Scotland with respect to its size and current industry base. Most of those risks are ameliorated by the European Union (assuming Scotland is accepted) and the European Central Bank.

The nightmare scenario would be that Scotland becomes independent and then the European Union collapses. The possibility is small, but the possibility of the European Central Bank becoming overwhelmed is somewhat higher, particularly given the continued financial irresponsibility of some of the bigger member states. If that happened then small countries would risk a worse fate than that of Greece.

By remaining part of the U.K., Scotland would continue to have the U.K. as financial guarantor, Scotland would continue to have a direct voice and the UK would have a direct interest in the stability of Scotland. Compare that to the influence of Scotland in Europe. How eager would Germany (the major contributor to the ECB) be to bail out Scotland in the event of major financial instability?

Speaking as an Englishman (although resident in the US) I think the UK would miss the Scottish point of view. Scotland has many policies of which I approve - a much more liberal funding of university education for example.

113:

I can't help feeling that your focus on money as the measure is limited and unfortunate. Your argument appears to boil down to "the combined GDP of Scotland plus England is greater than that of either alone, therefore they should stay together".

At this stage it seems that partial monetary/financial union as the Eurozone is doing doesn't work very well. So Scotland might get dragged down by the ECB while the UK escapes. But by the same token, the City of London types might destroy the pound leaving the Eurozone sitting there saying "thank fsck we didn't let *them* in". I suspect the latter is less likely, but I also doubt that the UK rulers have what it takes to follow the Icelandic example rather than the Irish one.

If the world financial speculation system collapses, as seems increasingly likely, I struggle to see how the City would escape with much at all. More likely they'd take a haircut that would leave their servants in the UK parliment gasping.

114:

The problem here is that the States don't get to bear the full responsibility of their actions. The Feds will bail them out if necessary and for which they take a chunk of change to boot. Example: NC denies AGW and sea level rise - FEMA to the rescue.

115:

Just to keep facts straight, Scalzi thinks SWM is the lowest difficulty setting. He explicitly refused to consider class and that's where some of us parted ways with him, while otherwise largely agreeing with his gist or at least for the potential of the metaphor as a very basic teaching tool.

While it verges on a tautology, I think Scotland should be independent if that is how the people within its borders want to govern themselves. (And it should remain in the UK if not.) As a theoretical matter I don't know where I would draw the dividing line between areas that are entitled to this choice and those that are not. On this specific issue, I think I have an out because Scotland has been a viable political entity in the past; so there is some reason to believe it could be so again. We don't have an historical benchmark for some other areas of the world, such as the western United States for example.

116:

You are right in that the financial focus is limited. In many ways my comments reflect the nature of the wider debate thus far (i.e. the debate outside of this blog).

In the short term, and particularly in the light of the last 5 years, Scotland should be concerned about financial stability. It is all very well wearing a kilt and sgian-dubh but if, as in Spain, Scotland ends up with 24% unemployment (currently around 6.5% in Scotland) then I can't see that this is a good exchange.

The UK as whole has escaped much of the wider European financial woes of the last 30 years and I can't see this changing in a hurry. I agree that financial flight may be an issue with the UK but nothing currently indicates that this will happen any time soon unless the UK decides to leave the EU.

In the longer term, the problem for Scotland is one of demographics. Scotland has a small population and whilst it is currently growing slightly, this is after 40 years of decline. Changing this is going to be difficult since letting in large numbers of outsiders will change the nature of their society and (money again) may well prove expensive. Without such a change, however, Scotland will face the sort of problems currently envisaged for Japan, a greying population increasingly unable to fend for itself.

The UK as whole faces a similar demographics problem. However, with a population of 63 million, it is a little easier to absorb immigrants without fundamental changes to the nature of the society; England, in particular, has a history of accepting and (with some variation) acclimatizing immigrants.

It's difficult to see what else could be debated here. The Scots are a distinct social group with their own customs and history. In that sense there should be no debate - if they as a group would rather have self-determination then have at it. Clearly Scotland can prosper even given the small size of the population, so there is no question that Scotland can become a successful state.

I still get more than a whiff of headlong rush with little thought spurred on by a ridiculously inaccurate portrayal of Scottish history by Hollywood aided and abetted by a group of politicians with more vanity than sense. I suppose we can at least blame the Americans if it all goes pear shaped.

117:

Deliberately not reading intermediate commemts, yet ...
however:
In 1648 to travel from the south of Scotland (from, say, Berwick-upon-Tweed, the debatable walled border city) to the far north-west would take, at a minimum, a couple of weeks by sea; to travel that distance by land was a harsh journey of hundreds of miles across mountains and bogs and through still-forested glens, on foot or horseback.
Total rubbish Chrlie.
I suggest you look up Carey's Ride.

There are many other reasons for voting NO
As I've posted elsewhere:
"WHAT "Peaceful transition"?
The biggest banks & many large employers will be moving out of Scotland within hours of a "Yes" vote.
Scottish unemployment will quickly climb to Spanish levels, or even higher - possibly over 25%
Money & supplies will run out & the Snats will immediately blame "the rich" (i.e. any one with an income of more than (say) £75k a year & tax them @ 60%+, thus triggering further flight.
[ This includes you, Charlie! ]
It will get messy.
Meanwhile, in England the tory ultra-right will revive, to everyone's equal discomfort, & our unemployment will soar & wages decline also.
It really is not going to be nice if the Scots allow themseleves to be conned by the SNP."

I think you are wrong about "The Westphalian State", too.
But, those states need to associate ( In an "EFTA" rather than "EU" - style) & they need to fight back, on behalf of their populations against the new (not so new, actually) international corporate monsters that are sucking the life out of every citizen of those states.

118:

James Palmer:Not to mention that the Scottish economic vision put forward by Salmond is highly favorable to corporate power ...
AND
Don't forget the stasi side of the SNP.
They are a modern version of the Presbyterian interferers, running every aspect of your comestic & social life, know what's "good for you" too ...
Couple these & you have corporate-state, semi-socialist panopticon vision of some sort of hell or other ....

119:

The only practicable control I can see is in larger federal entities, like the EU or beyond that the UN
Except that the corrption here is even worse.
It's why I've turned against the EU, having been a fervent supporter since about 1964 .....
Oh & Charlie @ 26
Agree 150% with your analysis, disgree 100% about the solution to this nasty little problem.
Um.

120:

The trouble with arguing demographics is we can't tell.

What makes a country an attractive place to live? If you go to Calais, it's clear that the UK is considered a nice place to live and France less so. There's lots of refugees keen to get into the UK and out of France despite the weather after all. But there's plenty of older people retiring from the UK to France...

Within the UK, including from Scotland, there's net internal movement from just about everywhere to London. From London to the suburbs/Home Counties. And then from that part of the country back to the country proper.

Of course these are generalisations and net flows and so forth, there are people who go the other way, people like me that look at London and just won't consider applying for a job there and so forth.

But if Scotland is a different country, will Edinburgh exert that magic pull for the Scots rather than London? It's easy to look at the Irish, particularly the Irish working in London and say "No, they'll still go to London" but Ireland still has a lot of weirdly Catholic laws and official attitudes in place that Scotland hasn't had for centuries and a large part of the the younger Irish people look at the laws and say stuff that and move. I'm sure there are rebellious young Scots, but in the same numbers?

Will Scotland, with a potentially genuinely left-of-centre government, particularly if there is a Tory government that starts to privatise the NHS get a nice influx of appalled English people? In a country of currently 5M, 1M disgruntled English and Welsh people moving to Scotland over say 5 years makes for a big bump in the demographics and offsets a lot of potential years of small decline. That might not happen if there's 25% unemployment but it might if there's similar unemployment to the UK.

Better conditions for teachers, nurses and the like could be very attractive too, and so on. The current government seems very keen on not giving them pay rises despite shouting about how the economy is recovering. A reasonably healthy Scottish economy might well be treating them better.

121:

(I meant to say, there's no guarantee of any of these things of course - Scotland could equally go to hell in a hand-basket, but saying "It's doomed!" (in, aptly, a Scottish accent) is just as unreasonable as saying "It's all going to be wonderful." There are so many factors that it's time to practise wu-wei.

122:

hetreromeles
SPOT ON!
Meanwhile, what are the SNP doing?
Pursuing "private wealth" - meaning the land you own is no longer yours & you can't pass it on & will be (likely) broken up into smaller units - the idiocy that ruined France & other places, agriculturally.
They are fighting a battle that is already 100 years out of date.
At the same time, carwling to corporate (Murdoch, euw) overlords.
NOT a pretty picture.

123:

On my way home last night, I saw the front page of a copy of the "Daily Heil". This bore the front page headling "10 Days to Save Great Britain". Well, if that's what the Daily Heil wants, that should be all the reason anyone needs for voting the other way.

124:

Chralie: And as an English & British Nationalist [note], can I garee with you?
THIS is (another) reason why I loathe the SNP.
They are not actually pro-Scottish.
Their entire raison d'etre is based on hatred of the foreigner, specifically, the English ...
IF they get independance, then, amongst the rapidly-increasing poverty & unemployment, expect "sectarian" strife & petty oppression of "enemies of the people" - and of course: "It was as if all the walls of the houses in Geneva had been turned into glass"
[note] "nationalist" in the sense used by Therem Harth rem ir Estraven { "Left Hand of Darkness", U K le G }

125:

Sorry; It's the only time I've ever written the place name, and I was being surprised by the co-incidence of Anchorage being played as I made a comment about Alaska!

126:


And that's where transnational treaty organizations like the EU, which sets legal standards for business operat

Except the opposite is happening.
The EU is crawling on its belly to the corporate giants & shitting all over the rest of us.
Less-safe lightbulbs with Mercury in them, banning the use of safe fungicides for allotment use, so the agribusiness crooks can clean up, vacuum cleaners (etc) with ridiculous power-limits etc, etc ....ad nauseam.

127:

An excellent analysis of the situation Antonia. I'm not sure the matter is helped any by the fact that one of the main spokemen for that position is an ex-MP, oh and a member of the Cabinet that were responsible for the original Scotland Act.

128:

Para 2 - The (British) Linen Bank is now a wholely owned subsidiary of either RBOS or BOS (since about 1969 if memory serves).

Para 3 - I know you were in Dublin recently; it doesn't take a hugely detailed exploration of O'Connell Street to find some of the bullet holes in the statues there, or in the fabric of the General Post Office.

129:

Para 6 - Some of us, OGH and myself included, would really rather that rUK kept Lizzie Battenburg and the rest of the Saxe-Coburg-Gothes.

130:

I'm not a weapons physicist, but I thought that a thermonuclear bomb has a lithium blanket that absorbs neutrons from the fission core detonation and breeds the tritium at the point of use for the main D-T fusion process.

131:

If Scotland wants to join the EU don't they need to sign up to the Euro as well? I think that's a requirement for all new member states. That is if they have to sign up again.

132:

I'm not a weapons physicist either, but I believe most weapons begin with a hollow sphere of plutonium into which tritium is inserted shortly before the implosion charges are fired. The tritium (half-life of ~12 years) requires regular replacement, and to manufacture _that_ requires a nuclear reactor run at rather different settings than the power generation ones. Hydrogen bombs rely on lithium deuteride for the fusion phase.

The simplest (uranium gun) fission bomb is rather simple in engineering terms and (thankfully) extremely difficult in terms of the infrastructure needed to produce the enriched uranium to build it.

133:

The UK as whole has escaped much of the wider European financial woes of the last 30 years

Ya think?

The UK has gone from a Gini coefficient of under 0.30 -- Scandinavian/socialist level egalitarian -- to over 0.4 -- more unequal than the USA; more unequal than any developed world nation, and pushing close to sub-Saharan kleptocracy levels of stratification and social immobility -- in just 35 years, thanks to Thatcher and her heirs (Blair/Brown included).

They started by selling off the "family silver" -- some industries that arguably shouldn't have been state-run to begin with -- but then proceeded further than anyone has even dreamed of going in the US. For example, they're in the process of turning the Highways Agency into a GovCo (private company, government owned shareholding) and outsourcing its work to the usual large contractors who make out like bandits; they're using the TTIP trade treaty as a lever for privatizing the NHS via the back door: they're also talking about privatizing the social security and state pension systems in the next Conservative-led parliament (if they get one). Meanwhile we have a ubiquitous surveillance state, corrupt police intelligence agencies spying on activists campaigning for enquiries into racist murders the police didn't bother investigating, other undercover police officers fathering families on activists then legging it (where is the Child Support Agency when it's needed?) and a Conservative Party with so few actual grass-roots members that at its last party conference in 2013 the non-parliamentary constituency party members present were outnumbered by corporate lobbyists trying to buy access to power.

In central London real people can't afford houses: entire streets have been bought up (as investments) by sovereign wealth funds and left empty to rot while homelessness explodes and in the still-affordable neighbourhoods a 100 square foot "apartment" goes for roughly US $2000 a month rent.

Oh, and average wages (adjusted for inflation) are down more than 20% since 2008 and we're in the longest recession since the South Sea Bubble of the 1720s -- most of the "recovery" is a property bubble driven by those sovereign wealth funds I mentioned; when Eric Schmidt (let me jog your memory: billionaire former CEO of Google) can't afford a house things are out of control.

Britain hasn't escaped the financial woes; it's just that the ruling elite (and their Russian and Arab oligarch friends) opted for a different package of them and outsourced the pain to the other 99.9% of the population.

134:

Note wrt. immigration: Scotland is apparently happy to accept immigrants, to such an extent that when Alex Salmond said UK policy on immigration was harming Scotland the opposition parties declined to take a shot at him.

England is so hostile to immigrants this decade that policies that were the preserve of the National Front, the British National Party, and the extreme right of the Conservative Party -- total ban on immigration, paying existing immigrants to "go home", mandatory deportation for non-citizens found guilty of a criminal offense -- are now unexceptional across the board; the level of dog-whistle racist xenophobia pervading political discourse down south is breathtaking.

Upshot: without English xenophobia setting policy, Scotland could receive the inward immigration it needs. But that's not going to happen as long as we stay within the union.

135:

Greg: I suggest you look up Carey's Ride

You're not helping refute my claim by citing an incident so famous that it's remembered in the history books four centuries later.

Yes, a crown courier carrying FLASH priority documents with unlimited remounts on tap at every stage could, if unwilling to sleep, make the journey in a few days rather than a few weeks. This is like saying that "of course, anyone can fly from Sydney, AUS to London in ten hours rather than the usual 24" -- if they're sitting in the back seat of something with afterburners and a string of in-flight refuelling tankers waiting to fill them up without landing between each supersonic dash!

136:

Just when I think I've got out, they drag me back in.

"My broader point stands: there is a precedent for a constituent nation peacefully leaving the UK within the past century. (Well, relatively peacefully. There was an attempted revolution in 1916 ...) "

Charlie, posts like this make the baby Jebus cry. The "attempted revolution" that began in 1916 lasted until 1922/3, and it may have ended in de facto Dominion status for most of the land of my fathers, but it was definitely not peaceful! There was no quarter asked or given on either side, and I don't think it's a precedent you want to invoke as you walk the streets of Edinburgh town (singing as you go, your kilt flapping wildly in the breeze).

137:

You are absolutely correct: maybe I should have sprinkled emoticons all over that comment?

The point is, however bad-tempered and vindictive things get after September 18th in event of a "Yes" vote, it's almost inconceivable that they'll turn as bad as the situation in Ireland got. There's a little bit of difference between an adversarial divorce and a civil war, after all! Nevertheless, the legal precedents and legislative boilerplate for separation exists, and it's not obvious why it wouldn't be applied in event of a "ye" vote.

On banking: I'd like to refer everybody who's wondering about the future of the big Scottish banks to the pressure coming from the Tory back benches for a referendum on the UK exiting the EU. London is the largest centre for Euro trades in the world, outstripping Frankfurt -- but only as long as the UK remains in the EU. There's considerable domestic pressure in England for an EU exit, and a Scottish exit from the EU will both weaken David Cameron personally and energize other separatists.

It is important to note that RBS and BOS are not really "Scottish" banks in any meaningful sense, other than being headquartered in Edinburgh and having licenses to print banknotes: the majority of their investment and trading arms operate throughout the UK. They are de facto part of the British banking sector.

One sneaky option that I think Alex Salmond must have considered is to offer the banks a replacement for the Double Irish arrangement: in other words, to position Scotland as a tax shelter wrt. the UK, in order to retain their business. This might well work if Scotland opted for the Euro rather than Sterling as a currency sharing arrangement -- although this is basically an inadmissible option prior to the referendum (enough people in Scotland are dubious about the Euro zone that it would kill the "yes" campaign dead in the water). But by using the ECB to back RBoS and BOS, and a tax shelter arrangement to make Scotland attractive, Scotland could potentially seize a disproportionate chunk of the British investment banking sector at or after separation while making it look like an inevitable side-effect of Osborne's bloody-mindedness.

Another 5 year outcome that we can't really prognosticate about might be: Scotland becomes independent, initially pegging a Scottish point against Sterling. EU accession is fast-tracked. Some of the banks move a large chunk of their business south. There is a UK general election and the Conservatives win: a referendum on EU exit is held and the UK moves to exit the EU. Scotland transitions the Scottish Pound peg to the Euro: the larger banks then move their operations to Edinburgh and/or Frankfurt to retain access to the Euro-zone. Upshot: by 2020 Scotland's banking sector is doing fine, it's London that's in the tank.

I don't think this is a particularly likely outcome, but the state of mind of rUK in the wake of a Scottish exit is just totally impossible to predict from here. We're sailing into a fogbank, basically. And what both sides are presenting as their Plan A, Plan B, and "There is no Plan C" are clearly blinds concealing their top secret Plans D, E, and F.

138:

You could be right. I've used helium-3 in the lab before (good NMR nucleus), and I was told that it had come from weapons refurbishment, but maybe they're doing things differently now.

139:

'in other words, to position Scotland as a tax shelter wrt. the UK, in order to retain their business.'

Surely that works for approximately the number of seconds it will take the rUK government to think of a lower number?

140:

Surely that works for approximately the number of seconds it will take the rUK government to think of a lower number?

You might want to ask yourself why the Double Irish is still working for Google, Amazon, Starbucks, et al. It's not exactly new.

141:

In terms of corruption many other serious problems aren't we going at it a$$ backwards? Rather than limiting the size of the national state, shouldn't we be limiting the size of corps -- and not allowing them the status of persons?

In the meantime, knowing as intimately as I do the history of the U.S., and our own secession movements, and that of the one that created the Civil War, it's impossible not to have tracked how much influence on the south's drive from the beginning for secession -- yes, even in the colonial eras -- came from the Scots who settled and merchanted there, particularly in South Carolina.

We know how that turned out -- and how it is turning out now ....


A variety of independence movements in Europe as far as I can tell from over here -- and I have lousy vision -- are aimed deliberately at destablization of the EU and / or the Euro. Whether or not that is a good thing, I can't tell from over here -- lousy vision, after all -- as well as contemporary affairs in other lands (with a very few exceptions such as some of the Caribbean and African nations) are generally out of my areas of expertise.

Love, C.

142:

Also, I would like to add, nations whose economy is about tax shelters for the internationally obscenely wealthy are not healthy places to live, any more than nations whose economy are based on tourism.

I live in a city whose economy is based on both, and have been watching this up close and personal for a long time -- as well as having spent a fair amount of time in those tax shelter economy - tourism islands.

143:

The southern secession thing in the US had other, less familiar, roots; remember, a lot of the southern plantation owners were refugees from the British Isles in the wake of the Late Unpleasantness of the 1715 and 1745 uprisings? There was an element of dynastic struggle to that, with backers of the Jacobite line rebelling against the Hanoverian renta-monarchy that Parliament brought in after the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

144:

Thank you for a very interesting and engaging post, Charlie.

I fully agree with one of your central points - that smaller political entities are generally a good thing, provided they're not too small. There's probably a golden mean, and 5-15million people seems about right. I'm not convinced, though, whether this needs to be achieved in the form of separate nation-states or whether a properly federal system might not work also (e.g., the German Länder, with their strong powers). Monolithic "nation" states are seriously problematic, though.

For personal reasons, I am worried by the prospect of Scotland leaving the UK. In the longer-term, I tend to think it might be better for all parties. Probably just as well I don't have a vote.

Just a few thoughts that I haven't seen aired, which I think are relevant (sorry if I've missed something).

1. Be under no illusions: Scotland will have real trouble joining the EU.
The EU is a club and all existing members get a veto on new members joining. Unless something changes greatly, I cannot see an EU member like Spain agreeing to reward Scottish independence with EU club membership (think Catalonia, the Basque region and so on). Membership of EFTA seems more likely.

2. If Scotland leaves the UK, then Little Britain becomes far more likely to leave the EU. That is a horrifying prospect to someone like me.

3. (Related to 2) An independent Scotland would be free of some of the more xenophobic policies of the UK. That would be hugely beneficial to Scotland, to the detriment of Little Britain.
Example: higher education. It used to be that non-EU students received a post-study work visa to allow them to stay in the UK for a period of time (a year, I think) after completing their studies to give them time to find work in Britain. This was good for the students and good for the UK (though probably not so good from a brain-drain perspective). That visa has been withdrawn, the message now being sent being, "Give us your money, finish your studies, then sod off back home." I heard an address by a Scottish education minister a few days ago at a conference in Glasgow (wonderful town), who made it clear that an independent Scotland would reinstate the post-study visa. I know where I'd rather spend my thousands as an international student...

145:

Just a note on the whole "states should be less than ten million people" idea: there are twenty-some cities on this Earth larger than that. So, that particular rule of thumb really wants to have kind of a lot of exceptions; I don't think any actual human wants The City to be even more independent of London than it already is, not to mention things like Pasadena seceding from Los Angeles or Tokyo somehow chopping itself into four separate units.

146:

In today's (9/9/14) NyTimes column, Krugman is rather skeptical of the "No" assumption of no disruption of the economic and financial situation. Since this is very much his area of expertise, it bears thinking through carefully if Scotland votes "Yes".

147:

The roots go much further back than that. South Carolina was never for any government at all, and certainly not any founded outside itself.

However, the Lords Proprietors -- none of whom actually lived in Carolina or ever went there -- were determined to create a feudal slave state from the beginning, with their own baronies, along with margraves and landgraves -- positions that harked to medieval times of central Europe, that no longer existed in England by the 17th century. Nobles and slaves, and nothing in-between, was their vision. It's in the articles.

Carolina was long searching for its staple commodity; nor did it take indentures.

Long before rice was successfully cultivated, and very long before cotton, the Carolina economy was Indian trade -- deer skins, but the traders' (many of whom were Scots) principle trade was Native American slaves. These were mostly shipped to the Caribbean, particularly to Carolina's "homeland," Barbados. Barbados did not take the side of either the crown or the Commonwealth -- they'd already gotten their sugar industry against the rules, by taking both instruction and investment from the Dutch.

The deal is Carolina was a colony of a colony, Barbados, and Georgia was a colony of Carolina.

The traders and their factors rebelled against the Proprietors, and that was the first Carolina secession -- which they call in Carolina history, their first Revolution -- in 1715. And the Proprietors were poof.

Le longue durée perspective -- "Big Picture" -- is very useful, and really interesting, in many ways. But it will leave out a lot essential elements when the framer isn't knowledgable about the local and micro as well.

Love, C.

148:

As a Yank, I don't have horse in this race, Charlie, but I'm a shocked that no one on either side of your border has been doing any real planning for what will happen if Scotland votes yes for independence. You confidently say that the short-term stuff "will be resolved within a generation." I could propose scenarios where the initial conditions could create a cascade effect that would be impossible to recover from for many many generations. An example is the United States, where the slavery questions were never really addressed in the Constitution (drawn up in 1787). These initial conditions led to a terrible civil war 70 years down the road -- and our Civil War is still haunting us today (as is our slave-holding past).

Politics in a parliamentarian democracy is mostly about compromise. The trouble with compromise is that it can allow the actors to kick the can down the road (so to speak) on critical issues that should be addressed quickly. I wish Scotland the best no matter what happens, but an attitude of "well, we'll sort it out and muddle through" doesn't bode well for a future nation.

149:

"Rather skeptical" is a bit of an understatement. Krugman's summary on his Twitter feed is "What is it about the words “epic disaster” that you don’t understand?"

The NYT is paywalled, but you can get to Krugman's blog entry via the Twitter feed:
https://twitter.com/NYTimeskrugman

The Twitter feed doesn't link to his NYT op-ed piece on this from yesterday, but this will get you there:
http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2014/09/paul-krugman-scots-what-the-heck.html

150:

WEONG
The new monarch in 1688 was married to the daughter of James II & VII ...
Her sister succeeded, when she & her husband (Willian III) had both died.
It wasn't until 1714 that the Hanoverians succeeded, through descent from the younger sister of James I & VI ...
errrr ....

On an earlier point of yours ... Actually almost no-one can afford houses anywhere in London at present.
It's an overblown bubble that must burst some time soon.

Oh how I wish Devo-Max had been on the ballot paper - it would have got at least 80% of the vote IMHO.
Of course, that would have meant Devo-Max for everyone, wouldn't it?

IF Scotland secedes, I hope to see Cameron joing the war criminal Blair at the end of a rope, incidentally....

151:

William,

I'm a resident of Oakland for a decade and I have no idea of what you're talking about. Local government in thrall to the ACLU? The same local government that can't manage the city? How about a police department under a federal judge because of losing a class action lawsuit after police vigilantes got caught framing people? The same police that, years later, was highlighted on national and international tv beating on Occupy protesters with either the consent of city hall or as an act to make city hall look bad to everyone?

Oakland has no reasonably functional, non-corrupt government and has a police force perceived as so out of control that *everyone* is afraid of the cops, not just minorities, and for good reason.

I wish they were in thrall to the ACLU. Maybe we'd get a functional government.

152:

Describing a plausible league of nations that functions adequately, as opposed to a single state with localism, would be an interesting exercise in World-Building. Note that the EU, which is closer to this, is distinctively different from the US. In the EU, states have the same policy on regulation of vacuum cleaners, but different foreign policies. In the US the reverse applies.

There appear to be basic problems with group decision making - search on e.g. "Doctrinal Paradox". If you resolve them by electing a single executive what you have is a single state plus localism, and I suspect that you need a common language for this to work. Many nationalists who are pushing local languages for political reasons would doubtless agree with me (see also the translation issues behind the filioque).

As another example of EU group decision making note that we currently have an executive (Tusk) and foreign policy chief (Mogherini) with very different approaches to Russia - not a minor issue. This divergence may even be an attempted compromise, or the result of horse-trading. I doubt if it will improve our chances of having a consistent policy in this area.

Here is a quote from Machiavelli's "Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius" on leagues - Moreover, we find from experience that this method has certain fixed limits beyond which there is no instance of its ever having passed; by which I mean that some twelve or fourteen communities may league themselves together, but will never seek to pass beyond that limit

153:

Hoooooooo Kay -- but I don't know what the point you're making is. Eeeks.

Love, C.

154:

" Local government in thrall to the ACLU? "

Note - the original poster (no Al) is, ah, not in touch with reality. For example Occupy Oakland was shut down with extreme brutality and criminality, which was *not* out of character from the Oakland police.

155:

@ 120- El,
re : immigrants in Calais headed for U.K and away from presumably dreadful France.

Nice piece of anecdote, but lacking a bit in context : the flow of immigrants / refugees (overlapping but non-fungible) is not informed by objective best economics / quality of life prospects, but by limited available knowledge and perceived opportunities. In a nutshell, people try to move where acquaintances and relatives, at their departure point and en route, have told them is their best bet.

Typically, people fleeing countries that have strong historical ties with Britain are more likely to head for G.B or commonwealth countries.
For ex : the 1st choice destination for Iraqis since 2005 has been Canada, thanks to pre-established Iraqi community there, and the easier path to employment for qualified professionals (thanks to similar curricula and diploma recognition).
By the same rationale, immigrants from west and north Africa are less likely to try and settle in U.K, since they have more opportunities to join a supportive community in France.

That's not even factoring asylum seekers, whose destinations of (relative) choice are informed by whatever advance knowledge they have about local biases and national preferences to grant refugee status (this varies widely from a country to another, relative to the applicant's nationality and social/religious affiliations).

@132 - Charlie,
Wealth distribution and inequality, as per latest Credit Suisse Global Weath Databook (2013) finds U.K at 67.7% and U.S.A at 85.1% (worldwide GINI at 90.5%).
[ http://www.international-adviser.com/ia/media/Media/Credit-Suisse-Global-Wealth-Databook-2013.pdf ]

Note that these figures apply to wealth, not income, where the most recent compounded GINI figures for income disparity I could find (circa 2009-2011) bring U.S and U.K closer (around .45 and .40 respectively).
This is not great, certainly, but not quite as dire as your numbers (which I guess might be more up to date than mine) would indicate.

This doesn't detract from your general point, however : the trend of pillage capitalism and confiscation of public-interests purviews by corporate entities in the U.K is a dramatic parallel to that in the U.S.

@144 - Stephanos,
to your point 1) Ouch.

Spain would indeed have a very solid motivation to veto a newly-independent Scotland rejoining the EU, which would be bad for iScotland, not just insofar as it would actually stop it from entering the EU proper, but because of its therefore very diminished bargaining power in trade negotiations with little Britain, for lack of alternatives.
Using the EUR as main currency remains an option nonetheless (see Iceland, during the ISK crash), although not necessarily a very attractive one.

This is a biggie, and one I haven't seen pointed before, either -- any ideas about how iScotland could overcome this particular hurdle ?

156:

As a Yank, I don't have horse in this race, Charlie, but I'm a shocked that no one on either side of your border has been doing any real planning for what will happen if Scotland votes yes for independence.

The Westminster parties have been playing a game of chicken with the Yes campaign; they refused to allow any contingency planning to take place, because then whenever the Yes campaign said "we'd do [X] ..." about some policy, they could say "but there's no guarantee that [X] will be possible".

At the same time, the "Yes" campaign can't engage in detailed contingency planning because they've got no solid commitments from the other side as to how things would happen in event of a "yes" vote.

This policy is going to come home to roost with a vengeance in event of a yes vote on the 28th.

157:

Great Britain is "great" in relation to Brittany, the place where many of the Brythonic people fled after the Saxons second more successful phase of invasion. (Oddly enough, when the Saxons were in retreat between the phases, a lot of them fled to create or bolster "Saxony." History is an odd duck.)

158:

That's very interesting. I knew that the early phase of slavery in parts of SC and Georgia were the most brutal of any slave regime in the English North American colonies--basically labor to death with less than subsistence food/shelter and replace via constant importation. Now I wonder if that "business model" is directly related to your point.

159:

So, post 'yes', a xenophobic England clamps down more tightly on immigration; meanwhile a xenophilic Scotland opens up to "all and sundry". Then the Daily Mail tracks down a few immigrants hopping from Scotland to England and pretty damn quick there are border control in place. I'm sure the Northerners would complain, but when are they ever heeded?

This argument seems to fall out of your logic - especially if the rUK exits the EU just as Scotland is joining. It does depend on the cost to business being smaller than the measure of a Little Englander's paranoia; that's what I expect would stop it. I have no idea why it hasn't happened in Ireland (though Irish Nationalists command more attention than Northerners) but Ireland is a separate land mass (which is important psychologically, if not in reality), its messy divorce is receding into history and one suspects Northern Ireland is a special case. Not a reason to vote 'no'; I'm just pointing out an eddy in your argument.

160:

Yes, I know about the Britain/Brittany connection. I was riffing off the UK comedy show, "Little Britain" to suggest something diminished.


@ 155, ArmchairDesigner
More seriously, I have no real notion of how an independent Scotland would/could overcome the veto challenge. I presume some kind of work-around would emerge, but that it would take some time.


@ 156, Charlie Stross
Nicely put. Events of the past few days suggest that the Westminster parties have suddenly realised that the Yes campaign isn't going to blink.

161:

An interesting idea. I share the concerns about what the southern US would become -- particularly as I kinda live there.

From reading the comment thread, tho, there seems to be general agreement that you would need to have global organizations to keep the system working, maintaining standards and human rights. These organizations would have to have serious enforcement power.

That is the take-away for me. But, we need these organizations with countries just as they are now. We'll never control runaway capitalism when countries can engage in all kinds of races to the bottom to entice the corporations and oligarchs.

So if we can figure out that part, then we can organize however we choose to, underneath a world umbrella of good behavior and virtuous cycles. But, it will be hard to get there from here IMO.

162:

This brings up yet another reason for succession: punishment. Or, if you prefer, a necessary action in the feedback loop of good governance. As I understand it, it's not just Scotland but the North in general who have been getting the boot since at least the Thatcher years on the grounds that the Party needs to placate it's base in the South, and hey, we've already made sure they'll never vote for us anyway.

Letting that sort of thing pass uncontested is bad politics and bad policy; perhaps by giving these yobboes the boot back for a change it will a) show the electorate and other polities that they don't have to lie there and take it when this sort of thing happens and b) show the elites down South that their actions have consequences.

THAT'S long-term thinking.

163:

Another DAY another burst of vituperation from a nominally independent Source...

"The governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has said a currency union between an independent Scotland and the remainder of the United Kingdom would be incompatible with sovereignty, dealing a blow to Scottish nationalists before next week's referendum on independence.

Speaking in Liverpool to the Trades Union Congress, Carney said a successful currency union would require a Scottish government to go further than countries in the eurozone have so far managed, to make the joint venture work."

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/sep/09/currency-union-independent-scotland-unworkable-bank-governor

And then there is ...

"But the suavely dressed Canadian predicted that the Bank of England would have to raise the base rate, just a little bit at at time, ending up somewhere more normal than the current historically low 0.5%.

After a 28-minute speech - long on technical detail and short on rhetorical flourish - he was greeted with polite applause.

Satwant Saloo, a delegate with the public sector union Unison, said: "It was quite a long speech. But I think it gave some hope to the people.

"Whether the wage rise will happen or not, I don't know, but overall it was quite a positive effort. Mark Carney was calm and his message was subtle."

Oh well, no doubt these matters are to high for me? Must do as I'm told by ...

"
Former Governor (2008 - 2013)

Mr. Carney was appointed Governor of the Bank of Canada, effective 1 February 2008, for a term of seven years.

After five and half years of service as Governor, Mr. Carney departed the Bank of Canada on 1 June 2013 to become the Governor of the Bank of England. He was appointed to this position on 26 November 2012, with an effective date of 1 July 2013.

Born in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Mr. Carney received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University in 1988. He received a master’s degree in economics in 1993 and a doctorate in economics in 1995, both from Oxford University. Mr. Carney was also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Manitoba in April 2013.

Prior to joining the public service, Mr. Carney had a thirteen-year career with Goldman Sachs in its London, Tokyo, New York and Toronto offices. Mr. Carney was appointed Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada in August 2003. In November 2004, he left the Bank to become Senior Associate Deputy Minister of Finance – a position he held until his appointment as Governor of the Bank.

While serving as Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mr. Carney was also appointed as Chairman of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) in November 2011 for a three year term."


Still, "thirteen-year career with Goldman Sachs " ? Eh, Wot?

I must be missing something somewhere.


In the Mean Time...and Oh My but aren't They Mean? The British Head of State THE QUEEN...who has more money than GOD and all Her Angels... has declared that...


" .. Hours after Mr Salmond’s comments, Buckingham Palace issued a stern statement saying that the Queen was above politics and “those in political office have a duty to ensure that this remains the case”.

A spokesman said: "The Sovereign's constitutional impartiality is an established principle of our democracy and one which the Queen has demonstrated throughout her reign.

"As such the Monarch is above politics and those in political office have a duty to ensure that this remains the case.

"Any suggestion that the Queen should wish to influence the outcome of the current referendum campaign is categorically wrong. This is a matter for the people of Scotland." "

Bloody Hell! The Head of State...who is consulted by all British Prime Ministers as a matter of Routine... is Above Politics!?

I should declare that I'm a Republican shouldn’t I Charlie?

Well FUCK ME PINK whatever next? This is the silliest mistake that the English Royalty has made since the Princes Diana’s Death shambles of long ago. And this woman and her highly paid advisors are supposed to be highly knowledgeable and savvy? The British Establishment appears to be falling apart under the strain of the possibility of Scottish Independence. What will they do if the Scots do vote to become an independent Country separate from their ... natural superiors?

Damn It,THEY might well Say ... Don't these People -Plebs? - know their Place?

Well that “ Stern Statement “ will put them in their place!

164:

Sadly the show was what got me to look up the answer to the question "why is there a Great Britain?" And yes the show does call to mind the diminishing of British culture. Can the BBC survive on Welsh, Irish and Northern actors alone? Will the 12th Doctor refuse to land in England anymore? Can the BBC still call itself the BBC? Will the inevitable Tory super-majorities turn the BBC into a new Fox and cover the Atlantic in a second Darkness?

165:

Writing this I find myself inclined to compare the US to failed states rather than any country I'd like to live in. I'd rather be poor and black in the US than in, say, Zimbabwae. Hooray for the USA! (ex)muslim and queer... yep, the US is better than Poland. Probably, and if I'm also non-white then definitely. Either way better than Jamaica. But compared to Japan or Estonia? Urk!

I can't say anything about Estonia but everyone I've talked to who has spent non trivial time in Japan and everything I've read say they are a very racist culture. Just very polite about it. With a very strong cast system based on parentage and schooling.

As to the way the men treat women, they are over the top compared to most of the USA and Europe.

166:

Well FUCK ME PINK whatever next? This is the silliest mistake that the English Royalty has made since the Princes Diana’s Death shambles of long ago.

Wrong.

Salmond took her out of play by saying it's official SNP policy to retain the Monarchy in event of a "Yes" vote. She gets to be Queen of UK, or (Queen of rUK and Queen of Scotland), as long as she doesn't dip her oar in.

If she mixes in on behalf of the "No" campaign, a future independent Scotland suddenly views her in a new -- and much less friendly -- light.

167:

Oh, I forgot to link ...

" Mark Carney: The George Clooney of finance

The new governor of the Bank of England, the Canadian Mark Carney, has been hailed as the saviour of the British economy. But who is he – and is his record that good? "

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/06/mark-carney-george-clooney-finance


I wish the small state model well against all of these Corporate Multi National SuperState Bastards.

If the Scots Dare to defy their Masters - of the Universe - then there wil be an immediate move on the part of the Major Powers to teach them a leson that all the other Small States in the Independence Q will not be able to forget ..we WILL see Financial Tanks parked on the Scottish Lawn.

168:

t's also fortunate that fusion bombs tend to go bad over time as the tritium decays.

It's my understanding that they become less powerful but still go off with a really big bang.

I'll defer to someone with more knowledge on the subject.

169:

Perhaps, But, all that she and her advisors had to do is keep Quiet. They didn't have to say anything at all. Instead we have ..

" The Sunday Times had reported the Queen had "a great deal of concern" about the prospect of a yes vote. It quoted royal sources saying it could place the monarchy in uncharted territory.

"The Queen is a unionist," the paper had one source saying. "Lots of people were telling us that it was going to be OK but there is now a great deal of concern."

The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday also reported that some MPs wanted David Cameron to consider asking the Queen to speak out. In 1977, the monarch had used a speech at the time of her silver jubilee to remind people that "I cannot forget that I was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland".

The royal statement was issued amid growing concern at Westminster over knife-edge polls as the leaders of the three main Westminster parties travelled to Scotland to reinforce the Better Together campaign. The palace said: "The sovereign's constitutional impartiality is an established principle of our democracy and one which the Queen has demonstrated throughout her reign. As such the monarch is above politics and those in political office have a duty to ensure that this remains the case." "

From the Graniad ..who do quote the right wing press pudits ...

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/sep/09/buckingham-palace-queen-opinion-scottish-independence

170:

If the Scots Dare to defy their Masters - of the Universe - then there wil be an immediate move on the part of the Major Powers to teach them a leson that all the other Small States in the Independence Q will not be able to forget ..we WILL see Financial Tanks parked on the Scottish Lawn.

I agree with this sentiment; but really, what other options are there? Devo-max was the better outcome, but that was taken off the table with malice aforethought. And the North has been getting the nasty for a long time; should an independent Scotland adopt its own currency there's very little more anyone can do to punish them short of calling up a few divisions.

In fact, Scotland could be the domino that Greece or Italy was (hopefully) seen to be. Sure, the immediate consequences could be rough. But they would be survivable. Does anyone doubt that the endgame in the EU is total economic subjugation of the periphery?

171:

Out of sheer curiosity I posted, " should an independent Scotland adopt its own currency " in google ..

' About 474,000 results (0.36 seconds) ' Oh, dear oh Dear!

Some of the first responces listed are quite sensible, but ..

" If banks in London decided to exclude payments to or from Scotland from their central clearing system – and there would be little reason other than spite to do so – a Scottish Government would encounter little difficulty in setting up its own. "

https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/politics/referendum/independence-referendum-guide/323544/professor-john-kay-outlines-currency-options-independent-scotland/

' ..there would be little reason other than spite '

People of Good Will do have a tendency to underrate the power of Spite. If the Scots do vote for freedom then there will be such a Wave of SPITE from the Torys and their allies as the Dis-United Kingdom hasn't seen in generations.

Survivable? I think so ..but it will be Bloody Painful.

172:

In addition to the other comments about the states, they're not the right size either. Living in the western US, there are a variety of regional problems that can't be resolved at the state level, but are of little interest to the rest of the country. For example, the seven-state Colorado River basin problems. When California, Nevada and Arizona couldn't reach an agreement on how to handle severe shortages, the federal government stepped in. Without a higher authority, there would be no reason for the upper-basin states to agree to guaranteed deliveries to the lower-basin states. Well, there is, but Southern California saying, "The price is too high, so we'll just have to invade and blow up your dams" isn't real attractive.

173:

I don't just favour breaking up the UK; I favour breaking up the United States, India, and China.

Hmmm. Maybe, just maybe India might do it. Slim chance of the US doing it. China is going the other way. They want control over any area that has people with strong to slim DNA (racial) ties to them. Then economic control over everyone next door to that result.

And you left out Russia. Which seems to be on a slow march to rebuilding the Russian Empire or USSR or some version of it. Do it by force but slow enough that none of the other big players are willing to get too involved. And to hell with the economics.

How do all this now smaller nations deal with a new Russian Empire.

174:

I agree - arguing demographics is almost as bad as arguing future economics. Malthus has clearly yet to be proved.

175:

Admittedly I am out of touch and the following is anecdotal. I recently visited London and the South East and was struck by the much greater diversity than my last visit in 2009. My primary experience of Scotland was Edinburgh, where I spent some considerable time in the 1990's. At that point I saw (and more importantly, heard) few obvious immigrants.

I did some poking around but found little information beyond the fact that Scotland had around 18,600 immigrants a year in 2003. This spiked to 30,000 in 2010/11 and dropped to 13,000 in 2011/12. The UK treasury estimates that Scotland would need 500,000 immigrants over 20 years to achieve and equivalent balance of pensioners to the working age to that of the UK. These figures are from here http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/independent-scotland-would-need-500000-immigrants-to-balance-workers-and-pensioners-says-treasury-9430082.html.

Admittedly these are UK treasury figures so could be taken with a huge pinch of salt.

As I said above, arguing demographics is a little like arguing future economics, fun but probably rubbish.

176:

Also have lived in Oakland for a decade. Lake Merritt is particularly pretty today.

Whilst the response to OO was over the top, I am more concerned about the 130 people murdered each year including 62 year old grandmothers and 8 year old girls. This doesn't even count the number of people injured by gunfire.

If you don't think the ACLU are involved then look at what happened the last time there was an attempt to introduce CCTV - something which would help to address some of this violence. Theories are great, practicalities are something else.

FWIW, no one I know expresses any particular distrust of the Oakland police (beyond the normal caution of dealing with the police). You will no doubt claim that this is because I am a caucasian male. However, not all of my acquaintances are.

I won't respond beyond this since this thread addresses other issues but feel free to disagree.

177:

The non-UK born population of Scotland has been increasing at a greater rate than the rest of the UK (from a lower level to start with). In Aberdeen where I live the non-UK born population had reached 16% by 2011, an increase of 167% from 2001.

If I went by overheard mobile-phone conversations I would assume the non-UK born population to be much higher. Part of this is probably due to the immigrants skewing younger and actually using mobiles much more than the locals.

178:

Charlie, I think you’re logic is mistaken. You might want to reconsider your position. Not on Scottish independence, but on your desire for small states.

Good governance: There is really no empirical evidence for the proposition that smaller states are better-governed. Scandinavian countries are well-governed, yes, but so are the Netherlands and Germany. So, for that matter, is Canada. The same applies with regard to responsiveness to voter concerns. Once you move outside Europe, in fact, there is a fairly-clear negative correlation, but I would agree that the comparison might not be valid. What metric of good governance, then, are you using for your claim? In short, you have made an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence.

The beige dictatorship: This is somewhat orthogonal to the discussion of good governance. What I fail to understand is how a smaller state would be more responsive to voter concerns in the face of national or transnational concentrations of wealth. You seem to contradict yourself on this point when you write about the “transnational corporate entities which thrive atop the free trade framework provided by the treaty organizations binding those Westphalian states together.” After all, smaller states are much more dependent on that framework than larger ones; consider Brazil versus Honduras. In a related argument, I am no fan of the institutional governance structure of the United States—give me the Canadian constitution any day. But transposing those (badly designed and horribly kludgy) structures to the European Union would produce much better outcomes that the E.U.’s current structures—let alone what you could get from a sensible confederal design. Condemning the world to be ruled by “treaty organizations” with no large democratic states to challenge them would not seem to weaken the beige dictatorship.


Then there is solidarity. Many secessionist movements are based on a desire to say “fuck off” to a subset of the less-well-off — this underlies a frightening amount of Catalan nationalism, for example. Smaller states are simply less able to provide the cross-insurance that forms the basis of modern social democracy. The Scandinavians have done well, yes, but less well than they would have as part of a greater Scandinavia … and certainly less well than as part of a Europe run along Scandinavian lines. (Lest you say that federations imply races to the bottom, let me point out that my former state of residence outdoes all Scandinavian countries on most social indicators.)

Now, it is legitimate to argue that the kind of solidarity needed for social democracy is very hard to maintain across national lines. That, however, contradicts the argument that successful small states are not based on a cramped and limited nationalism. That may not apply to Scotland — but in general, smaller states are not immigrant-friendly, and the independence-minded parts of Canada and Spain with which I am familiar are not more open than the societies of which they are a part. I do not see how you derived a general view from what you see north of the English border.

Note that I have not made arguments about scale economies and the like. They are probably correct — Paul Krugman has argued that they explain the persistent income differential between the U.S. and Canada. (I would agree that they are the only explanation left standing over how America manages to stay relatively prosperous considering all the things we do wrong.) But they are, as I understand it, not relevant to your argument.

Nor have I repeated Paul Collier’s arguments about how larger states would reduce the incidence of civil war in Africa; they are also irrelevant to your argument.

So to sum up, it would seem that you are wrong. By your own value system, you should favor larger federal states. That does not alter your worries that the English electorate has gone dingo — the response to that is another conversation. But I would urge you to strongly reconsider the belief that smaller states are a good thing in-and-of-themselves.

(P.S. I do not quite understand what you’re getting at when you write, “Firepower doesn't build external stability, as the past decade in Iraq demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt.”)

179:

Interesting, I particularly like the mobile-phone correlation - hadn't thought of that.

Aberdeen has long had a mobile population as a result of the oil industry. As a matter of interest, how has this affected the nature of the city? Would you consider Aberdeen to be a scottish city? (ridiculous question I know)

I lived for some years in Bradford which at that time had a large Pakistani population. It was a slightly weird mix in that one could witness Ramadan in a northern city. Not sure what it is like now but at the time it retained a substantially northern english character - mostly from the architecture and a great market - but modified by the Pakistani culture. It was fascinating. The major change appeared to be religious, as non-conformist Chapels became mosques.

180:
We'll try to stay serene and calm
When Alabama gets the Bomb

I grew up in a corrupt town, in an extremely corrupt county, in a moderately corrupt state (province), in a moderately corrupt nation...so I have no inherent preference for the local. I'd rather they were all breathing down each other's necks, which might keep them relatively honest or at least busy.

I'm also concerned about the greater ease of surveillance of a smaller population, e.g. correlation-detection at least naïvely scales as N^2, and the greater the cultural uniformity I'll speculate the better the ability to predict behaviour....

181:

Charlie, any chance you could go into detail explaining these transnational federal arrangements you speak of?

Because it seems to me there are some potentially insoluble dilemmas there. If the transnational federation has the power to dictate policy directly to member nations, it is a nation-state with administrative units that have locally-elected governors... which is exactly the situation we have in the US, and that you decry.

If the transnational federation doesn't have the power to dictate policy directly to member nations, then it is basically toothless and not an effective tool of policymaking, which means you have every postage-stamp size nation scrambling for itself... which accrues advantage to the largest and most powerful among them... which will leverage that advantage to turn themselves into hegemonic powers.

And in both cases, the problem of the beige dictatorship remains, does it not? In the case of a transnational treaty structure that can compel obedience from the member nations, best case you have arrangements like in the US where at least everyone gets a say in national governance. Worst case, you have members of a managerial class with little or no responsiveness or responsibility to actual citizens crafting policy to suit their own ends. In the case of a transnational treaty structure that can't compel obedience, hegemonic powers will form instead, and input into their policymaking will only come from fully paid-up members of the hegemony, which many people will not be.

I am genuinely confused as to how you square that circle.

182:

Charlie your theory sounds like something you want to be true, not anything in which there is any evidence for otherwise the malaise in Western democracies would have shown in large countries only and only manifested when they gained a large population.

The problem is none of that is true, the recent voter disinchantment is everywhere and has grown in the last few decades. This suggests a structural problem. The obvious one is that high growth rates are no longer easy to achieve in the West and all the income growth is either occurring to the owners of capital or the workers in the newly industrialising world.

Also the current crisis in income growth will not go away as low growth means governments can no longer persue debt financed government spending. The debt burden no longer falls so easily if growth is not faster than debt growth.

People will either have to face lower government spending and or higher personal taxes. Either way they will feel the squeeze.

183:

# @ 162
Indeeed - the Scots (some of them - radio interview yesterday } seem to think the whole of Lonmdon is bleeding Scotland dry, & deliberately.
If only they knew.
Of all people Norman Tebbitt ( !! ) said this: (Meanwhile) In the meantime that establishment hides away its face from the real problems tering England apart
In faqct, it lookas as though N.T. of all people has finally noticed the Beige ...
What next?

184:

Correct & for good reason.
It is reported that Salmond has already publicly stated (It's in dispute) that an independant Scotland will repudiate its share of the existing GB's debt.
If true a VERY stupid move.
How to go bankrupt in about a week, in fact.

185:

Rational Plan
Yes
This is the Beige
Or ConDemLab or LibLabCon or whatever ( "the Ruling Party" as at Loncon3 )
But
An "independant" Scotland would be much worse, given their sectarian past & tendency to automatically mind other people's business.
Here:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scottish-independence/11084603/Scotland-should-heed-a-harsh-lesson-from-across-the-Irish-Sea.html
Is a very interesting take on an only-too-possible failure mode of one such.
Please take note of the author's background, too ....

186:

I can't give an exact quote, but that is a misquote which deliberately ignores critical facts.

What Alex actually said was that, if rUK are not prepared to share certain state assets (include sterling and BoE as lender of last resort; note that most of the "crash losses" were incurred in The City irrespective of the name and HQ of the institution) then Scotland would not be prepared to accept a proportion of the UK's sovereign debt.

187:

One thing I'd like to understand better: is the upgraded deal now offered by the No campaign equivalent to the Devo Max option? If not, what are the differences?

Can't help feeling that Salmond SNP are in a win / win situation. They either get the credit for gaining independence, or a vastly better deal for Scotland.

188:

The question is how to make sure the new deal sticks after the referendum date passes. It would be very easy for the Tories to renege at that point and then claim that they were doing 'the right thing' and 'making hard choices'.

Does anyone think they would be called on it? Or that they have some code of honour that would hold them in check? I'm skeptical of either.

189:

And you left out Russia. Which seems to be on a slow march to rebuilding the Russian Empire or USSR or some version of it. Do it by force but slow enough that none of the other big players are willing to get too involved. And to hell with the economics.

I will grant you the central Russian power structure's desire to rebuild the empire, and economics be damned (the Soviet empire was nearly unique in that the periphery sucked resources from the centre rather than vice versa), but it's essentially a vanity project. Not only does it not make economic sense, it's hard to see it making demographic sense either -- Russia's population base is shrinking fast enough that they should be in a deflationary cycle.

I read it as being a patriotic campaign to distract attention from the lack of prosperity at home; Putin stabilized the economy and converted the focus to resource extraction and export, but things are still pretty shitty if you're not a Moscow-based millionaire. Nothing plays well for popularity in the short term like "a patriotic campaign to take back what's rightfully ours" and it was a Russian foreign minister after all who came up with the sentence, "what this country needs is a short, victorious war" (right before the Russian Bear broke its teeth on the Imperial Japanese navy -- oops).

Now, some of the small nations on the fringe of the former USSR are probably safe. The Baltic republics were invaded by Stalin in 1941; these days they're only minority-Russophone and they're either already in NATO and the EU or fast-tracked. (I have not yet finished my morning caffeine ritual and can't be arsed googling.) Finland, of course, is pretty much safe unless Putin is replaced by someone with a really bad case of the bad crazies. The vulnerable cases are those xSSRs that are mostly russophone or have majority-russophone enclaves, making for large-scale fifth columns.

And this strategy has a natural time limit. It's going to expire when Russia runs out of resources for conquest, because military adventures are capital intensive on a scale that vastly outstrips anything they can hope to replenish by looting the territory (see also: Iraq). And the EU is going to get increasingly resistant as they source alternatives to Russian natural gas. Germany tried to ditch nuclear too early but is installing solar at a crazy rate; the current UK government is engaged in a dash for fracking: if the EU relaxes its targets for decarbonization they could crank the sanctions on Russia up to the point where they start to draw blood.

(Ahem. Wandering off-topic.)

Key point: Estonia is in NATO and in the EU. Current disputes with Russia: a bad-tempered squabble over an abducted Estonian detective (Russians say he's a spy, Estonia says he was kidnapped while tracking cross-border drugs smugglers). Ukraine is not in NATO or the EU. Current dispute with Russia: 3000+ dead, airliners being shot down, armoured battalions invading. The moral of this story is fairly clear: if you don't want Russia to invade, join NATO and the EU!

190:

@Paws4thot A currency is not an asset, it is backed by the power of a government to tax it's citizens. There is no way in hell that any English person is going to agree to underwrite Scottish banks.

As to the losses there were no major crashes in the UK due to City trading or debt equity swaps etc.

It was all down to excessively cheap money chasing investments, or ever grander mergers between the banks fuelled by more debt. BOS lost £8 billion on commercial lending for example all the broke building societies came about from excessive consumer lending, whether through mortgages or ordinary consumer lending.

Instead of lending money from their depositors they found it cheaper to borrow on the money markets and lend that instead. Until 2005 total lending commitments were still below deposits. If interest rates had risen then, as they should have, we would have had a recession still but the financial fallout much less. Instead ever lower interest rates were persued to avoid recession, storing up more and more problems.

As to Scotlands future options. Scotland can't support a financial industry with liabilities 12 times the size of it's GDP. IT JUST CAN'T. There is no getting away from that. Unless England was prepared to underwrite the entire Scottish financial industry. The answer to the that is, no fucking way. There is no way the English tax payer will be liable for the debts of a foreign country. No, nope, nada, non, niet.

Gordon Brown maybe happy to sell the English down the river to maintain Scottish Labour in the Union, but why the hell should we.


As to reality. The future options for Scotland are either Sterlingisation (that means no central bank or much of a finance industry at all), a free floating currency with your own bank or a currency union where England has full control over your taxes and borrowing ability, in which case why bother having independence at all!

You can't have a currency peg as Scotland has no foreign currency reserves (The UK does not either, but thats not a problem with a floating currency). You need huge reserves to be able to maintain one. Hong Kong maintains a reserve equivalent to 50% of GDP wages also need to be able to adjusted as well. In times of crisis wages have fallen in Hong Kong by 10% to maintain the peg. Scotland is not so flexible.

There is no time to argue over who does what, you will need your own currency almost immediately. Capital flight will destroy any attempts at a temporary currency union.

When Czechoslovakia split they planned on a 6 month transition period, it did not last a month, as people fled Slovakian banks.

A couple of positive opinion polls have already produced a batch panicky international briefing notes. Quotes of clients wanting to get out etc. A series of more positive opinion polls will start the ball rolling.

Scottish finance companies will either have to move South or split themselves in two. Not only because English customers will demand it, but because European law states that financial institutions need to be domiciled where the majority of their customers are.

How that shakes in employment terms I'm not sure, as they can;t move everybody south over night, but it won't just be a name plate exercise either.

Scotlands economy has evolved over 300 years in a much larger single market than it has in it's own borders. There will be huge transition costs as it adjusts to it's much smaller size. The introduction of borders will see a huge cut in trade, even in quite benign circumstances.

191:

If I went by overheard mobile-phone conversations I would assume the non-UK born population to be much higher.

Also, selection bias: we notice non-Anglophone cellphone conversations much more.

192:

Great example. Incestuous politics leading to corruption is a very real problem for small polities. You see it in the Caribbean, small states and provinces of North America, and eastern Europe.

Scotland could be different, of course! Many places are. But I don't understand where on God's green earth Charlie gets his general preference for smaller states. Just not computing.

193:

So to sum up, it would seem that you are wrong. By your own value system, you should favor larger federal states.

No, larger trade blocs/treaty zones. I'm all in favour of an independent Scotland being tightly integrated into the EU -- more tightly than the UK is comfortable with (ditching the Schengen opt-out and the social chapter opt-out, for example).

It's a question of scale: the UK has gone through a half-century long cycle of increasing centralization of power, and this has been horribly detrimental to its citizens. The EU is a much looser set of constraints on a similar/larger scale. I'd have been happy to vote for Devo Max if it had been on the ballot; happier still to see the UK as a whole opt for a revised constitutional system based on federalization. But that's never going to fly as long as Westminster holds a death-grip on the reins of power.

194:

There isn't time left in this parliamentary session to push through a new deal for Scotland before the next election in May 2015. At which point a new government can say, "not our problem" about any previous government's voluntary commitment to Devo Max.

It'd be a lot harder to set aside a majority vote for independence by the Scottish people, though. Which is what Salmond is planning on.

My gut feeling is that in event of a "yes" vote the real arm-wrestling will begin, and it will be over: whether Scotland becomes a true no-shit separate nation (seat in the UN, embassies overseas, its own military), or settles for something between Devo Max and full autonomy -- largely autonomous but sharing some institutions, notably a continued currency union and shared defence. And from where we're standing right now, there is no way to guess what the eventual outcome would be.

195:

The trouble is that the official statement from Lizzie is "The Queen will not speak on these matters."

Our newspapers, North and South of the border are not neutral reporters in almost any issue. Regardless of what she might think about it, it's essentially unthinkable that she'd speak out in public about the issue. It really is.

The ONLY time the monarch speaks on political issues is a very carefully drafted speech where it is not very definitely not party political, even though it is usually drafted by one party. It's the state opening of parliament where she gives a really dull speech saying "My government will do x, y, z in the coming year." Obviously that contains bills that were in the manifesto by and large but it's drafted to be non-contentious, non-political, at least in the sense of not referring to what's going on. "My government will introduce a bill to reform welfare payments." It's not "to undo the mess that the last Labour government left behind" even if that's what the campaign and the debates in parliament say.

The Sunday Times reporting the Queen having a great deal of concern... based on what? There's bugger all the Queen can do. Any statement the Queen makes is instantly political fodder for someone. The Sunday Times makes a political statement about what it thinks without appearing to lay it directly at its own door.

Tory backbenchers calling for Callmedave to get the Queen to speak out... almost certainly. But Tory backbenchers say all kinds of crazy things. Especially as they're seeing their votes get squeezed, facing the possible breakup of the Union - which really will piss off another group of their core voters. I'm sure Callmedave would love her to speak out. But it ain't going to happen and while I'm not sure he's smart, he's slick enough to know he'd end up with egg on his face if he asked, because she'd say no. (I'm cynical enough to suspect them asking is the first step in a move to oust him if the Scots vote yes. It will be "You didn't do everything you could to keep them on board, here's a vote of no confidence if you don't go!")

But sorry. I'm trying not to make it sound like an ad hominem... but I'm just wondering if you believe everything you read in the newspapers? If so, can I interest you in this lovely bridge I've got for sale? :)

196:

Charlie, you're still not making sense.

These treaty zones of which you speak lock countries into policy courses with no possible democratic recourse save withdrawal. Worse yet, they allow large transnational organizations to pick off smaller countries in their design. And even worse yet, they offer no provisions for fiscal transfers, which is why the eurozone is doing so poorly.

Constraints by themselves are bad things.

I understand that you don't like the way the U.K. is governed and would like Scotland to leave. But you're trying to mash that desire into a general principle, and as a result you're going completely off the rails. Frex, "Devo Max" is a far cry from independence. Rather, it's SOP for Canada and would still involve large-scale fiscal transfers under the right circumstances. It's rather strange to make the jump from "more fiscal autonomy is good because I don't want English voters running things" to "independence for everyone! Yeah! The Republic of the Island of Long! Go away, Manhattan."

(Info on Devo Max from: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2009/02/23092643/6. These guys argue that enhanced devolution makes the most sense here: http://ideas.repec.org/p/uct/uconnp/2004-42.html.)

Even inside Europe, small states show no superiority on indices of corruption, violence, growth, or equality. Nor do I understand why in theory they should be better; your arguments allow for someone to arrive at the exact opposite conclusion. So what is it that I am missing which has convinced you that small states bound-by-treaties are superior to large states and actual federations?

197:

Not a lot of difference to Devo_Max as far as I can see.
Why this option was not on the ballot-paper is beyond me.
Thw whole thing's a disaster

198:

Slightly off topic.
We should be IN Shengen & OUT of the EU ...
Just like those terribly poor & badly-off countries of Norway & Switzerland, ahem.
Repeat reminder: I was fervently pro-EU from before I could vote (MacMillan's attempt to join, back in the early 60's) until about 3 years back.
Now, I've switched sides, because the EU is suffering from rampant corprate corruption, Washington-style.

199:

Didn't read far enough...
Charlie @ # 193 & 4
Your piece on "Westminster centralising eveything & refusing Devo-Max" is spot on.
But your "cure" is worse than the disease, because .... My gut feeling is that in event of a "yes" vote the real arm-wrestling will begin, and it will be over: ... [ snip ] ... And from where we're standing right now, there is no way to guess what the eventual outcome would be.

I'll tell you.

It will be a very, bitter, acrimonoius divorce.
Everyone, N & S of the border will suffer.
The Scottish economy will crash & burn utterly, probably in a month, maybe even less.
The rUK guvmint will turn the screws down as tight as they possibly can, as fast as they can.
We will be lucky not to have street-fighting & real rioting (Not the fake outbreaks we had 2 years back, when the police didn't bother ...) English people in Scotland will be attacked & spat on & discriminated against which will cause retro-backlash here.
Meantime Cameron will be lucky to live - he will certainly be thrown out as PM within a week, I'd guess.
How sad, that will be the least of our worries.

As somoenone who, in the "celtic" social system has ties tothe Johnston, Freguson & Neil clan-lines this was & is so totally unnecessary.

200:

Why this option was not on the ballot-paper is beyond me

Basically because Scamoron and Cain Miliband thought that making the question "Independance or Status Quo" would result in a massive majority for "Status Quo" and kill the whole question for at least 2 generations. Not for the first time, the Scottish electorate are showing signs of doing what they think is best for Scotland and not what English public schoolboys think is best for them.

201:

Water

Reading through the comments and thinking about it a bit makes me think that some of this only makes sense if your water supply is local enough to allow it to be mostly inside of the borders of one of these "small" states.

I can imagine that in the UK the various break away states could control their water. (Without doing a watershed analysis of the UK.) But in places like the US where you have rivers that drain vast areas equal in size to most of western Europe, these smaller nation states would have major issues if their upstream neighbor didn't play nice.

Google watershed maps for the Columbia, Missouri, Mississippi, Colorado, and Ohio rivers. None of those encompass ares anywhere near small enough to contain a nation state of 10 million people.

And I use water because it's the one things that is needed in huge quantities for modern life and reasonable quantities for just plain life.

202:

Imagine what you like; even in the UK, Birmingham (West Midlands) gets most of its potable water from reservoirs which Victorian Brummies build in Wales (different country even if presently part of the same nation).

And I'm well aware that the Mississippi/Missouri complex drains fro mthe Canadian border into the Gulf of Mexico at New Orleans. Actually, don't most of the "Great Lakes" (Well except Great Slave Lake obviously) eventually drain down the St Laurence?

203:

"Google watershed maps for the Columbia, Missouri, Mississippi, Colorado, and Ohio rivers. None of those encompass ares anywhere near small enough to contain a nation state of 10 million people."

Hmmmmmmmm,.......

The Empire of the Great Lakes! It'd be bigger than 10 million people, but we'd be controlling a resource which is getting more and more valuable.

204:

"There isn't time left in this parliamentary session to push through a new deal for Scotland before the next election in May 2015. At which point a new government can say, "not our problem" about any previous government's voluntary commitment to Devo Max."

A classic problem, related to quitting a job. By the time that you've got a new job lined up, you don't have the time for your current employer to do anything to keep you, and that's if you trusted them not to f*ck you the second that you don't accept the new job.

205:

Point of order, Ed Milliband is many things but he isn't a public schoolboy.

Regards
Luke

206:

> The vulnerable cases are those xSSRs that are mostly russophone or have majority-russophone enclaves, making for large-scale fifth columns.

You mean like in Odessa Oblast, Ukraine? If one is given to worrying about such things, that's a pretty good candidate.

207:

Some interesting nonsense about the "new powers" on offer - and from both sides, at that.

First, Osborne announced a whole raft of new powers.

Next, it was pointed out that he couldn't do that so close to the vote (purdah rules - which were later revealed to be more binding on Holyrood than on Westminster, and barely at all on political parties, but no matter).

Then, someone in Better Together came out and said (albeit fairly quietly) that the "new powers" were just a re-packaging of the stuff not only already offered, but already packed for delivery from the last Scotland Act.

In the meantime, various BT types started trumpeting the great offer of DevoMax that was going to change the game and put them back on top.

And here's the bit I don't understand. Instead of Yes Scotland pointing out that there was nothing new on the table - and in fact, it would have been against the rules had there been - they start crowing about how the last minute offer is proof, proof, I tells ya, that BT are On The Run....

So, with both sides accepting (or pretending to accept) the idea there are new powers on the table, what does Hague do while standing in for Cameron at PMQs today?

He only goes and announces that the statements in the last few days by various ministers, party leaders and the prime minister are in no sense binding, but are more in the nature of election promises (and, presumably, not even manifesto commitments): http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/09/do-party-leaders-promises-more-power-scotland-mean-anything

Could one make it up?

208:

So, with both sides accepting (or pretending to accept) the idea there are new powers on the table, what does Hague do while standing in for Cameron at PMQs today?

I'm pretty sure Hague stood up to ritually hit himself in the face with a half-brick because someone quietly took Cameron out back and explained that offering new powers at this point broke the purdah rule and put the government at risk of criminal prosecution. By having a minister formally say "... but this is not official government policy" they can cast reasonable doubt, while swivelling their eyes at the TV cameras and desperately hoping they look good and nobody spotted them snapping flies out of the air with their tongues.

209:

Paul Krugman has argued that they explain the persistent income differential between the U.S. and Canada.

And here I thought it all had to do with Monday night NFL and C-Suites ...

The story goes that over-paid NFL quarterbacks led to overpaid U.S. executives, led to over-priced goods/services, led to a mania using staff cut-backs to reduce salary line totals which would then inflate EBIT reports thereby justifying higher (below the line) remuneration C-Suites (in guaranteed value shares), etc.

Okay, basically the above rant means that I think that the U.S. seems to be ground-zero for very creative ways of getting non- or minimally taxable money for C-Suites. Unfortunately, because the universe says there is no free lunch, somebody in some other part of the system/economy has to pay up - the 99%.

Despite some of the US-sourced posters visiting this site who say otherwise, there's some sort of $-mystism going on in the U.S. that basically equates goodness with $, more than in other countries. It's not just a power attraction, it's a goodness attraction. (Maybe some social scientist could do a multi-country study showing the relationship between TV evangelism and attitudes toward wealth.)

What this has to do with the current topic thread: don't use $ as the only metric in your argument.

210:

"Despite some of the US-sourced posters visiting this site who say otherwise, there's some sort of $-mystism going on in the U.S. that basically equates goodness with $, more than in other countries. "

Didn't our host touch on this in The Apocalypse Codex, wherein a professional theologian identifies the Prosperity Gospel as one (comparatively normal) element of the cultists' modified bible.

211:

I've translated the article in italian for Megachip, one of the foremost think tanks of the independent left (and also Five Star Movement). Thanks for the insights. Down south we're facing some similar issues and reaching similar conclusions.

212:

You talkin' to me? Talk to Paul Krugman!

But if you are talking to me, could you explain where I'm conflating goodness with income? That would be a pretty massive failure to communicate and I'd like to know how I made it.

213:

The (London) "Evening Standard" is not normally known as anything other than a fairly right-wing paper (given its ownership).
However when THIS ARTICLE appears (earlier today) one begins to wonder if even its columnists have begun to notice the "Ruling Party"/Beige syndrome.

Mr GOdwin makes some valid poins, entirely familiar ot us (I think) ... and suggests that the "referendum question is a SYMPTOM, not a cause or problem in itself, except as a result, perhaps.
Though it is a problem, of course.

214:

The polls still suggest that the Yes campaign will lose. I would bet against secession. Why am I wrong? Convince me, please!

215:

Charlie, you still seem to have the idea that the SNP will get a vote for independence, their entire raison d'être, and then settle into some cosy negotiation with Cameron for a devo-max.

Not going to happen.

It's not happening from the SNP side since they would get lynched by their most fervent (and deranged) English-hating supporters. And it's not happening from the Tory side because a 'yes' vote is exactly what Cameron has been working towards this entire term.

A 'yes' vote is not just for Christmas.

You say you don't think there is time for Cameron to get shot of scotland before May 2015. You are assuming he doesn't already have the "Act of the Boot" already drawn up and ready to go. Something that *really* needs to be remembered is this is an act of the Westminster parliament - voted on by predominately English MPs. Sure there will look to be negotiation; but it will much more be the case of "this is what you'll get". The SNP hold no real aces in this, whilst Cameron has about 30 to call on. It will go down as Cameron wants, as this whole thing has done.

Please remember, Cameron didn't have to allow a real referendum. He could have kicked this can down the road, past the end of his first term, without breaking sweat. Instead he pushed it forward, and aggressively took off the table the halfway house of devo-max. He also put perhaps the least charismatic man this side of a filing cabinet as the public face of the "no" vote.

He has a plan.

216:

This tweet & reply from Nassim Taleb put me in mind of the above piece:

Nassim N. Taleb @nntaleb 21h

Scottish vote: not the death of the standard nation-state, rather its funeral ceremony. Welcome to City-states under Empires. #Antifragile

RakesRevenge @Eagle_force_555 21h

@nntaleb What happens when governance moves to captains of industry - directly - instead of via our political hookers?

Nassim N. Taleb @nntaleb 21h
Large corporations /lobbyists have a harder time with small units than with a large central state they can control @Eagle_force_555

Asked for a cite, he responded:

For those worrying about Scotland, my mathematical derivations of the "small is beautiful"

https://t.co/uyHRl6fjOb

which is some heady mathematical fare, looking at the effect of scale on a statistical model of harm (as best as I could make out.)

The assertion being, I guess that 12 states of 5M people would be more resilient under the "corporate stressor" than a single state of 60M.

I'm not at all saying this is now a proven fact, of course, just pointing out what I hope is, to some, an interesting idea.

217:

He has a plan.

Never assume malice when the same actions can equally well be attributed to incompetence.

218:

QUOTE
The problem for the Scots, though, is if they vote "yes" next week, they will not get independence. Rather, they are voting for rule by Brussels. As Mr Cameron has brutally discovered, no EU member is truly independent.
“Better Together” cannot, of course, say this. To do so would be to admit how little freedom of action the UK retains.
A Scotland outside the UK, but in the EU, can no more have its own trade, agriculture, fisheries, immigration, environment or justice policies than any other EU member.
...
long snip ...
The Scots’ rejection of the way in which Westminster operates is not unique to them. The English and Welsh feel it, too. Millions of voters are rejecting the entire British political class.
ENDQUOTE
Hmmmm .....

Oh Ian S @ 215
The entire reason for the SNP's campaign & Salmond's behaviour (& that of many SNP'ers) is that, as you say, they hate the "English", & you are entirely correct when you say: their most fervent (and deranged) English-hating supporters - spot on the mark, in fact.
That Charlie has been gulled (sorry, mate, but you have!) by the anti-privatisation rhetoric of these serial liars (even more so than ConDemLab, etc) is really sad.
And this hatred is for no reason at all, actually, that I can see - but I have encountered it in London, never mind Edinburgh - though I have not been to that beautiful city since 2003, more's the pity ....

P.S
To the above list inside the first quote, can I also add environmental, farming & food policies, also skewed horribly to lobbying of the "Big Corporations"?

219:

Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
(J. Porter Clark on Usenet)

220:

Thing is, it can't be attributed to incompetence. The SNP wanted to hold a referendum, and without Cameron doing a thing it would be pointless (since it wouldn't be binding or legal).

He went out of his way to make it legal - even when countries like Spain and Germany have been ignoring similar in their countries. Further, he went out of his way to get rid of devo-max.

Nah, that was gamed to hell and back - no incompetence in those active actions taken.

221:

Contrarywise. A referendum on the sovereignty of Scotland is always binding, because, since the Declaration of Arbroath, the sovereignty of Scotland has vested in the whole body politic and not in a sovereign or a parliament. What may actually have been illegal (since it wasn't put to a referendum) was the passage of the "Act of Union with England (1707)".

222:

221
So, Paws: a "No" vote will therefore be legal & binding?
Interesting.

223:

A "No" vote means "not this time" rather than "the question may never be asked again".

Similarly, a "Yes" vote does not mean that Scotland and England can not at some future date negotiate a "future treaty of union between Scotland and rUK" but rather than this treaty can only be mutually ratified by Act of Westminster for rUK and referendum Aye vote in Scotland.

224:

Based on this I'm really worried about what Scots living in England (say, for the past 25 years) should do in the event of a Yes vote.
Should they:
(a) paint themselves blue, move back to Scotland, find English people to attack and discriminate against (and spit on if you want to take things that far);
(b) don't paint themselves blue,stay in England but be outed nonetheless, be attacked and discriminated against... etc
(c) carry on as usual?

225:

@ # 224
Grow up (!)
But, nonetheless, their hatred of the English, for no reason, is the reason for the SNP.
They are spiteful & mean & interfering ...
oh and paranoid ...
Salmond's attack on the BBC
See here:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scottish-independence/11089702/Alex-Salmond-goes-to-war-with-BBC-over-RBS-leak.html
is typical of their fundamental insecurity.

P.S. Paws @ 223
Binding for now - I made no mention of the future, did I?

226:

The Declaration of Arbroath was a letter sent by a bunch of 14th century noblemen to the Pope, it doesn't have the foundational constitutional status that you seem to believe it does. Having failed to organise a popular vote in the four centuries following it, it's ridiculous to claim that the validity of the Act of Union is undermined because it wasn't put to a referendum.

Having said that, we are now a democracy, and so when the Scottish people gave a majority to a party which stood on a manifesto of organising an independence referendum then I think the UK government was obliged to facilitate this. (And the SNP were going to organise a vote, and the Tories refusing to facilitate it would have massively played into Salmond's hands.)

227:

Re: "212: But if you are talking to me, could you explain where I'm conflating goodness with income?"

I was responding to one of your comments - and no, I don't think you're the one who's conflating goodness and $. However, I do believe that it is going on, and happening something like this syllogism:

Good people work hard (hard workers = good people);
Hard work = more $;
Therefore, people with lots of $ are good.

Syllogisms are not 'proof'. Other cultures have their own different bases for how individuals are valued, so the "$=good" relationship/syllogism may instead be "old=good", "religious=good". (Because this type of syllogism is how conditioning can also be described, it makes it very hard to argue against.)

Basically, I'd like to understand the how and why of countries who are in some ways very similar to my own yet have better or worse outcomes in terms of: infant mortality, life expectancy, tertiary education rates, mental illness and suicide rates, etc. So a blog like this, with its multinational/multicultural readership is a good source of perspectives and ideas that I would not normally encounter.

You would be conflating goodness with income if your metric for a good solution/society was to only use $, i.e. per capita income, GDP, etc. and not consider other non-$ measures.

228:

On Scottish independence, I live in a state in the US populated largely by Scots (we call them Rednecks over here), and say that, regardless of the outcome of the vote, Scot independence will remain an issue forever. We had an independence event 150 years ago, our Civil war, fomented primarily by the aforementioned Scots. The war ended, but the political issue lives on, used to motivate any dispute under the rubric of "State's Rights". Currently, the most odious and reprehensible Senator is trying to get re-elected by opposing the Federal government, in all its forms and actions.

As far as your romantic notion of post-Westphalia smaller states, it will fail in the presence of larger, non-state actors such as Dynastic Wealth and Trans-National corporations. These forces are controlling the large nations of today, smaller states will be even easier to devour.

In the US, the Walton family is setting the wage and benefits policies for employers, and the Kochs are binding us forever to fossil fuels. In my state AT&T is writing telecommunications policy and laws, and in the US as a whole it is Comcast.

Religion is also larger than nations, see the Middle East for historical lessons.

229:

Andreas writes:

He has a plan.

Never assume malice when the same actions can equally well be attributed to incompetence.

Andreas, this is not malice: this is practical politics. I have played and lost against David Cameron thirty years ago when we were both student politicians in Brasenose. You may be sure that the loss of Labour seats was factored into the equations surrounding his decisions.

230:

"Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
(J. Porter Clark on Usenet)"

I've also noticed that frequently 'sufficiently advanced incompetence' is rather carefully aimed; these people usually f*ck up others, not themselves. Of course, they didn't get to power by f-ing themselves over, but that's the point.

231:

That makes sense.

The model introduced in comment 216 does not. It assumes that shocks are uncorrelated across states and uncorrelated with the size of the state. It also rules out cross-insurance; that is, that New Englanders and Texans will bail out Floridians.

Charlie, your thoughts about the greatness of small states is wrong and pernicious. I would ask you to lay out the logic in a longer post. Either you'll convince people like me (and, FWIW, the rest of the people you used to interact with back in the SHWI days) or you will change your mind.

Right or wrong, the idea you've presented is that fucking serious. It is a grave disservice to the people you influence to toss it out like that and walk away.

232:

And turning specifically to Scotland:

It seems batshit crazy that an important constitutional change should be made on the basis of a simple majority. Why in the name of God did PM Cameron agree to that? And can someone explain why he took normal-Canadian-federalism (what y'all weirdly call "Devo Max" over there, which sounds to me like a bad New Wave band) off the ballot as an option?

These both seem so crazy to those of us outside your as-of-now-still-a-country that they cry out for explanation.

233:

Also turning specifically to Scotland:

Charlie, why do you think a currency union with the U.K. would be good idea in the advent of independence? My prior is that it would an unmitigated disaster; an independent Scotland should immediately introduce a separate currency, even if it chooses to keep the exchange rate fixed at 1:1.

I'd like to know if I'm misunderstanding you or if we disagree.

234:

Some of us are thinking "keeping Sterling for now means one less thing to do when we're all as busy as 1-armed paper hangers".

235:

"And can someone explain why he took normal-Canadian-federalism (what y'all weirdly call "Devo Max" over there, which sounds to me like a bad New Wave band) off the ballot as an option?"

The charitable-to-Dave reason is that having a three-way question is confusing and whichever option won would almost certainly not have an absolute majority.

The cynical (therefore correct) answer is that Cameron thought that the Devo-Max voters would break overwhelmingly to 'No' in a straight-up contest and thus kick the independence question into the long grass for a generation or two.

Regards
Luke

236:

The Tories will be up for reelection in 2015, unless there is a vote-of-no-confidence. That election will be weird. Scotland will likely still be in the U.K. (the Scottish government wants independence negotiations to wrap up by March 2016) so Scottish votes might count.

But … they probably won’t matter. I played with the crosstabs from this poll. Here are the results:

Tory Labor UKIP
Total U.K. 33% 36% 15%
W/o Scotland 34% 36% 16%

My general impression from the literature is that the district boundaries in England generally favors Labor, even after the recent redistricting. So Labor is likely to win. That would make the Brexit poll moot.

My gut feeling, which could be entirely wrong, is that allowing Scotland to succeed will kill Cameron and hurt the Tories at the election. Absent some sort of black swan, Labor will be more likely to win, and Brexit will be moot.

This analysis fails if the Tories pick someone popular to replace Cameron. But I have no idea who such a person would be.  

On the other hand, if the Tories pull off reelection, then Britain is likely out of the E.U. The above analysis, from this poll:

 

Brexit E.U. Total U.K. 39% 41% W/o Scotland 40% 39%

 

Any Cameron-replacement is likely to demagogue the Europe issue and the voters south-of-the-border will be pissed. The momentum will be towards withdrawal and the polls will likely move that way.

But I would bet against a Tory election victory in the wake of Scottish secession, and thus against Brexit. On the other hand, I think that the Spanish government is going to be much bolshier about letting Scotland in than I did a few months ago … they won’t veto, but they will drag things out, and Scotland is going to hurt.

237:

Devo Max might well have won, because the middle option always wins. Everyone likes to think they are a reasonable, sensible person, as opposed to those extreme folks. (Status quo would win if the three options were independence, status quo and going back to the pre-1999 situation, for example.) But the Tories want the status quo, and the SNP want independence, so the fact that those are the options on the ballot shouldn't be surprising.

238:

So Cameron might be breaking up the United Kingdom merely for a few more years of conservative dominance? More than ever, bovine by-product seems to be the lubricant the earth turns on.

239:

"So Cameron might be breaking up the United Kingdom merely for a few more years of conservative dominance? More than ever, bovine by-product seems to be the lubricant the earth turns on."

Possibly a lot more. I don't recall the figures, but separating Scotland off gives the Tories a massive lock on the government in London. They'll eventually p*ss it away, but it'd have the potential to make the reign of Thatcher look like a short-term 'caretaker' government.

Especially as the first thing they'd undoubtedly do is to change the system to hand even further advantages to themselves.

240:

Oh, I think an independent currency initially pegged 1:1 against Sterling would be fine. Eventually transitioning to either peg against the Euro if convergence is deemed safe and useful, or free-floating once the post-separation FUD dies down.

There's no reason why a nation of 5 million people can't run its own currency, unless it wants to be a major financial trading hub in someone else's currency.

241:

1) Making countries smaller with respect to corporations doesn't seem a step forward in balancing their power.

2) As I think Noel mentions, bigger countries have insurance advantages in the face of economic (other than currency) shocks or natural disasters.

3) Old fashioned treaty negotiations between countries are far less democratic than national legislatures. Elections tend to be determined by domestic policy, not foreign or trade policy (except for special interests, like US sugar), and negotiation between countries of different sizes violates one person, one vote principles.

3a) Of course, if treaties needed to be approved by referendum, Swiss style, that'd obviate that problem. I'm all for that.

3b) Or there's the future EU model, where the European Parliament makes the decisions... but then, you've re-created the large federated state.

4) Some critical issues imply world government for stability, or some other mechanism of strong world governance. Things like the global thermostat and how hot we should let the planet get, or how acidic the oceans.

4a) Also less critical but important issues like regional water use, transportation networks, and such.

5) While up in NW Europe it may be easy to think of war as a thing of the past, across history one reason small states turn into bigger states is that they get conquered by each other, or more rarely form unions for mutual defense. I'm not sure world of over 1000 states with population 5 million each is stable.

5a) Also, all those borders inhibiting trade and movement would be a decrease in wealth and standard of living. If they have open borders, that has risks of races to the bottom

***

I don't have a strong opinion on Scottish independence. I think it has risks -- especially given Salmond's many statements in defiance of reality -- but I can understand wanting to escape the Tories, or more generally the plurality voting of Westminster elections.

242:

Mind you, Jane Jacobs would probably approve of 1000+ city states all with their own currency...

243:

Wait, what? I put up an entire comment with data and links and all that shit (put in a nicer format here) stating that the Tories will not gain much from losing Scotland and it completely disappears?

Come on, Barry! Not kosher on a thread, man. Seriously, WTF?

Now, if I were going to argue that I'm wrong, I'd say that losing Scotland knocks Labor down to 217 seats, versus 304 for the Tories. I would then look at the Tory constituencies and ask how much of a swing would be needed to flip the weakest 44. If the required swing is huge, then the Tories would indeed have a lock on the 2015 election sans Scotland.

Only whaddaya know? The Conservatives are facing 82 swing seats. See here and here and here.

Translation: It won't take much of a swing to knock the Tories off their perch. The polls are already showing a 7-point swing even if Scotland walks away.

I'm happy to be wrong, Barry. I'm annoyed to be ignored.

244:

Does it bother you that the SNP is not making that argument? Right now it looks to be cruising right into an economic disaster. Even if it decides to quickly introduce a Scottish pound, the prevarication over currency will make such introduction way more rockier than it had to be.

245:

What you said in the first post!

You're right about what Jane Jacobs would say. But, well ... I am not a fan of Jane Jacobs, not least because I sometimes feel like blaming her for American housing shortages. My wife and I took a stroll through Greenwich Village with her chortling, "Co-op City would look good placed right around here."

246:

Charlie, you do realize that small countries really can't muster much in the way of competition policy? That is, to quote Joe Biden, a big fucking deal.

247:

Wait, what? I put up an entire comment with data and links and all that shit (put in a nicer format here) stating that the Tories will not gain much from losing Scotland and it completely disappears?

Come on, Barry! Not kosher on a thread, man. Seriously, WTF?

Now, if I were going to argue that I'm wrong, I'd say that losing Scotland knocks Labor down to 217 seats, versus 304 for the Tories. I would then look at the Tory constituencies and ask how much of a swing would be needed to flip the weakest 44. If the required swing is huge, then the Tories would indeed have a lock on the 2015 election sans Scotland.

Only whaddaya know? The Conservatives are facing 82 swing seats. See here and here and here.

Translation: It won't take much of a swing to knock the Tories off their perch. The polls are already showing a 7-point swing even if Scotland walks away.

I'm happy to be wrong, Barry. I'm annoyed to be ignored.

248:

I flew to Frankfurt one time seated next to a German woman who had married a US serviceman and who lived in Maryland. "Why not Virginia?" (I'm a snob about which side of the Potomac I live on.) "Because in those days, he and I couldn't live in Virginia."

The idea of individual State governments within the US having more power, rather than less, is pretty terrifying. Even in Virginia, which is a beautiful and affluent place in which to live, there is a history of a) slavery, b) ok, slavery not allowed, but do whatever it takes to keep them folk from voting, c) forced sterilization, d) enforcement of laws against miscegenation up until the bitter end (1967), and other miscellaneous mistreatment of women and minorities. And the votes are there to do some of that again: covenant marriage (no divorce), mandatory trans-vaginal ultrastounds, discrimination against gays, the list goes on.

249:

Comments with multiple links are flagged for moderation. Long comments are as well. Certain keywords are as well.

Posting the same comment multiple times won't generally help.

I do apologise for the delay; I saw your comments had been held, but then I got distracted by waffles.

250:

Actually the proposed boundary changes were cancelled by parliament in January 2013 when the Liberal Democrats withdrew support for the planned reduction of the Commons to 600 members after Conservative backbenchers blocked reform of the Lords despite it being in both party's manifestos. So the 2015 election will be contested on the same boundaries as the 2010 election.

251:

The dirty secret of the SNP (apart from the fact that their entire policy is to blame & hate the "English") is their not-so-crypto fascist past.
Such as when the then leader of the SNP looked forward to nazi bombs dropping on London, shortly before Sept 1939.
IIRC he wasn't even detained under 18b, when he should have been shot - along with O Mosley (who was detained, at least)
Now it looks as though they are all set to try to intimidate voters on polling day & break the law by breaching the terms of the Representation of the People Acts .
If so, this is extremely stupid, because, unless stopped, this could get the entire poll, or at least those places where such intimidation ("marches") take place declared invalid.
They also appear to be already threatening companies & groups that have put their heads above the parapet to warn against so-called "Independance".
As in here
This last is actually less serious, if true, but very unpleasant.
How to win friends & influence people - not.
And a dead give-away.

252:

Was just checking for this year's Ig Nobels when this caught my eye ... small nation vs. mega corp.

1993 Ig Nobel Prize ...
ECONOMICS: Karl Schwärzler and the nation of Liechtenstein, for making it possible to rent the entire country for corporate conventions, weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other gatherings.

REFERENCE: www.xnet.li and www.rentastate.com and www.rentavillage.com


"Liechtenstein for hire at $70,000 a night

The principality of Liechtenstein has decided to make itself available to private clients, from $70,000 (£43,000) a night, complete with customised street signs and temporary currency. It’s a big step for the country best known for its tax-haven status and exporting false teeth…"

BTW - This year's Ig Nobel's are on Sept 18, same day as the Scottish Independence Referendum.

253:

Running our own currency may be possible; but that's not what the SNP are promising. And reducing the Scottish financial sector to a manageable multiple of GDP will cost thousands of jobs in Edinburgh alone.

I also suspect that Jim Sillars (the former SNP deputy leader) has leapt off the Yes campaign's Xmas list by threatening a "day of reckoning" for anyone insufficiently supportive of the SNP, banks, and threatening nationalisation for BP.

http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/sillars-scaremongering-business-leaders-will-face-a-day-of-reckoning-if-sco.1410533089

Just when Salmond is reduced to phoning round CEOs to persuade them to make public statements that they won't move their HQs in the event of independence...

254:

That's exactly the kind of dumbness that those CEOs are worried about.

"This referendum is about power, and when we get a Yes majority we will use that power for a day of reckoning with BP and the banks."

How fast can Salmond come out with the damage control, and how far will he go towards guaranteeing a good business climate?

It's exactly the kind of thing he wanted to avoid - either spooking the already spooked bosses even more, or making it clear to his electorate that their taxes rise or spending falls, since he's going to have to give the bosses an easy ride to keep them there at all.

"Come the referendum, I'm going to put Sillars up against a wall and shoot the b*st*rd."

255:

240: "There's no reason why a nation of 5 million people can't run its own currency, unless it wants to be a major financial trading hub in someone else's currency"

Umm... Scotland has a significant financial sector - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29140457 - and - pre-independence - had a lot going for it, such as a well-educated workforce and a public image of being thrifty and staid. It could and should be a major hub in the pound sterling and for that matter the Euro and the Euro-Dollar, given the backstop of a government credible enough to make sure that runs on banks did not develop.

256:

The family statistician has been explaining to me why the current polls are genuinely "too close to call".

First, the ordinary errors of taking samples. When a poll shows a 51/49 split, the result could be 49/51. And, the way errors work, that is exactly as likely as a 53/47 result. Also. the proper way to report the error is connected to things such as Standard Deviation: the number is most of the error, not all of it.

Second, Polling errors can be reduced by checking against previous polls. That's partly why they ask questions about your home and your income. They have accumulated demographics on who is more likely to vote Labour. But this isn't a multi-candidate choice between party representatives. There is also a larger class of people who have never voted before. Not just the time since the last election, but the 16-18 age range. and the expected very high turnout.

Third, what the figures do show, as a sample of opinions through time, is that the results have shifted from a clear advantage to "No" to the current razor thin margin. Does that trend tell us anything? And, with all the turmoil of the past week, remember that it takes time to carry out a poll and process the results. I've been polled, and it took a couple of researchers about an hour to do the job. The processing can be faster, but can any Poll result published Friday take into account the effects of a speech on Wednesday?

If this were a horse race, expect a photo-finish. And expecting a result to be that close is really unusual. But we are in the home straight, the starting gates were opened long ago, and they're neck and neck in a field of two.

257:

If you want quite a detailed discussion of it, yesterday's (Friday 12th) More or Less on Radio 4 (4:30pm) had a 5-10 minute piece discussing the methods used to gather the results, the ways the pollsters correct for known sources of errors, the potential unknown errors that they're worried about and the like.

It should be available in the UK on iPlayer and outside the UK as a podcast.

258:

Or it could last until the next global finance Carlie Foxtrot, my perspective might be at fault looking at this from Missouri, but aren't they betting a lot on the continued well being of greater London?

259:

Thanks for the pointer, it's a joint BBC/Open University production, there's been a lot of episodes so far, and they're available on iPlayer.

More of Less page with lot of stuff linked.

260:

"Come on, Barry! Not kosher on a thread, man. Seriously, WTF?"

I'm sorry, but you think that I did something?

261:

"I'm happy to be wrong, Barry. I'm annoyed to be ignored."

Again, some context would really help here.

262:

"If this were a horse race, expect a photo-finish. And expecting a result to be that close is really unusual. But we are in the home straight, the starting gates were opened long ago, and they're neck and neck in a field of two."

Adding on, it's a race in which the horses are unknown, and running on that track for the first (and only) time.

263:

This is US-centric, but I'm sure that parts apply elsewhere:

"The idea of individual State governments within the US having more power, rather than less, is pretty terrifying. Even in Virginia, which is a beautiful and affluent place in which to live, there is a history of a) slavery, b) ok, slavery not allowed, but do whatever it takes to keep them folk from voting, c) forced sterilization, d) enforcement of laws against miscegenation up until the bitter end (1967), and other miscellaneous mistreatment of women and minorities. And the votes are there to do some of that again: covenant marriage (no divorce), mandatory trans-vaginal ultrastounds, discrimination against gays, the list goes on."

For Europeans, I'll put it this way - at this point, Republican politicians are getting open about wanting to use government powers to keep blacks from voting; newscasters like Fox News have long talked about whether or not a politician would have won without minority votes (i.e., delegitimization).

I won't say that in a looser state system, some states would have reinstituted slavery, but I will say that they'd come really, really close to South Africa. The main difference would be 'kinder, gentler' language to cover up the apartheid-era level of evil.

264:

...Republican politicians are getting open about wanting to use government powers to keep blacks from voting...

And Latinos - black people have been here longer than there's been a USA, but many Fox News viewers can be talking into pretending that Latinos are sneaking in from Mexico (in numbers that would require the throughput facilities of LAX, if you listen to the fringe elements). This to the point where one county's law enforcement wound up with a federal injunction forbidding them from even trying to enforce immigration laws, as they'd used those as excuses to be unpleasant to people of insufficient whiteness.

265:

For what it's worth, when pollsters seriously differ about the state of a race in the US, it's often not because they disagree about raw public sentiment, but rather because they disagree about the likelihood that voters for one side or the other will show up at the polls. And this extends to tactics: whipping up one's own side with emotional issues like abortion, while depressing the other side's turnout by attacking the character of their candidates, or (as in several US states these days) trying to make it harder for them to vote at all.

Which applies to pre-referendum polling and tactics in a couple of different ways.

First off, nobody's turnout model for this referendum is any damn good at all, because of the high levels of registration, the presence of the youth vote, and so forth.

Second, the No campaign has engaged in an extended round of scaremongering which Our Gracious Host has been roundly mocking on twitter. He's likely right that this is unlikely to persuade currently undecided voters --- but it may still make sense if it's intended, instead, to get out the "No" vote, by driving non-voting Unionists to the polls.

266:

OTOH, US state powers have allowed the incubation of gay marriage, legalized marijuana, and Romneycare. Three states had legal abortion before Roe vs. Wade, and California is still advancing in abortion and birth control access. Elsewhere, Mexico City has gay marriage in advance of Mexico; Canada's provinces pioneered Canadian Medicare individually; Scotland's devolution protects the NHS and free university.

For that matter, back in the day of Dred Scott, the US federal government existed to suppress states' rights and to enforce property in slaves across the union.

This sort of thing is basically arguing from anecdote, not from data. "What about the time government form X did good/bad thing Y?" is not a sound argument for the superiority or not of X. You'd want to look at overall performance, not emotionally significant cases. Absent a good empirical survey, you'd fall back to arguments about how causal factors should tend to play out, such as "a large diverse country makes it harder to do anything, whether agreeing to oppress a minority or to set up universal health care."

267:

Remember the "Dodgy Dossier" over Iraq?
Well, the journalist who did that work, Andrew Gilliagan, has written about another one...

Meanwhile, "No" campaigners were alerted to electoral fraud by people in Ayrshire, who found that four children, aged betwee EIGHT & ELEVEN had been registered to vote ....

And, I thought all open campaigning on polling day was illegal? (Representation of the People Acts, various) ...
Meanwhile "yes" are organising piper-led marches to polling stations - which sounds like open intimidation to me ....

If only for Charlie's sake, I hope "No" wins, because as a "rich" Englishman living in Edinburgh, he will be a (financial) target for the SNP, I would guess about 2-3 years fter so-called "independance" comes.

268:

Charlie is a sustained source of foreign currency for Scotland, just as he has been a foreign currency source for the UK.

Maybe the SAS will try to kidnap him.

269:

A T T
Very funny - I like it.
On a more serious note more on apparent SNP voter fraud
Please note the "apparent" - there is, as yet no proof.

270:

The Simpsons' groundskeeper Willie has weighed in on the subject, just in case you wanted the viewpoint of a homicidal, drunken, deranged, stereotypical Scot.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6vDzf-wSbk

271:

Greg, your anti-SNP grandstanding is getting very tiresome. Have you thought of writing for the daily mail?


As an antidote to Greg's bilge, I suggest the following:
http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/09/08/labour-pains-labour-of-love/

272:

THat Torygraph article is atrocious; no awareness of how Scotland today is a bit different from the late 19th/ early 20th century; no mention of all the anti-sectarian work done in the last decade or two which has borne a great deal of fruit; no rational argument at all in fact, just lots of pointing at bad things and suggesting they might happen in an independent Scotland. If other parts of the UK etc are so poorly civlised and governed that independence awakens their own sectarian beasts, then tought, that's their issue. I am confident there isn't much of a problem in Scotland and it would not get worse after independence.

273:

Perhaps the Telegraph has an axe to grind; or perhaps, as the Nationalists claim, all criticism is politically-commanded scaremongering.

Still, Deutsche Bank probably doesn't have an axe to grind...

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/09/deutsche-banks-devastating-analysis-scottish-independence-would-bring-austerity-on-a-scale-never-seen-before/

274:

Hi, Barry!

I'm referring to comment 239, where you wrote: "I don't recall the figures, but separating Scotland off gives the Tories a massive lock on the government in London."

If you scroll up to comment 236, then you'll see evidence that the above statement is not true. I was a bit peeved to see someone repeat a canard that had I just debunked (with data!) just a few comments up. What am I, writing in Spanish?

(Actually, being a good American, I have been known to do that without realizing.)

To be fair, a skeptical reader could respond to my comment by saying that the fact that although losing Scotland would not substantially affect the national vote swing, it might substantially reduce the number of Tory-held swing seats. I gave district-level data showing that the more sophisticated argument is not true here.

Scottish secession would make a Tory-led U.K. more likely to vote to leave the European Union. But that is not a problem, since Scottish secession as the polls currently stand will only change the margin by which the Conservatives will lose.

275:

Damien, there is a sophisticated rejoinder, although it may be specific to the United States.

American states found it harder to oppress black people because the U.S. is large and federal. The specifics of the U.S. constitutional structure mattered only indirectly; a Canadian-style constitution would have led to a similar outcome all else equal.

The United States found it hard to establish universal health care because Ted Kennedy made a terrible mistake during the Nixon administration. The Clinton administration then made another mistake in 1993, when it chose to present a German-style plan rather than a more-expansive version of what became Obamacare. Both mistakes were possible because of the peculiar details of the U.S. constitution rather than because the U.S. is a large federation --- they would not have happened had American run its affairs under the Canadian constitution.

I may be wrong, of course, but I would submit that American history supports a different argument: the fact that the U.S. was large made the pernicious effects of its cobbled-together rather-silly constitutional structure less harmful than they otherwise would have been.

276:

I feel rather bad about beating on you on your own blog, but I like to hope that you would do the same if I proposed something that you really believed was wrong and worth reconsidering.

You wrote, "The failure modes of a gigantic imperial power are almost always far worse than those of a smaller nation (compare the disintegration of the Soviet Union with that of Czecheslovakia)."

This seems silly and without foundation. Consider Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. The former was far smaller and had a far more traumatic collapse. You simply can't adduce a general principle from two examples.

In Africa, the evidence is quite strong that neither the incidence nor the severity of civil war is related to the size of the country. (This applies to both population and land area.) In Latin America, I will admit to knowing no general study, but I will also say that the reason nobody has bother to run such a specification is that it does not fit with a general overview of the region's history. Guatemala is not more stable than Mexico; Costa Rica is not more stable than Brazil. (Costa Rica has done well since 1948, but not before.)

In short, I really do not understand where you get the evidence that small states are better governed, more stable, and fail less often or less painfully. Are you really sure that you aren't engaging in wishful thinking because you want Scotland to separate from Britain? I do hope you reconsider this belief ... or at least show skeptical readers how you came by it in a way that might convince somebody who does not share your priors.

277:

Good luck on the Referendum. As an American I find the paranoia used by those supporting the No vote off-putting. A yes vote means a nation that might be more open to innovative ideas, businesses, and technologies than a class-based society centered around the City and Whitehall.
As a West Coast resident of the U. S. I watch while the innovation and economic power of the West Coast is sapped by the Power Elite based in the Boston to DC area.
I understand your yearning for a country that truly represents your concerns, or at least a smaller, more responsive government in a smaller less militaristic country.

278:

Charlie: TypePad is too buggy to let me log in via LiveJournal. "not passing e-mail address" error even when I do so.

Noel: my impression is that the difficulty with universal health care in the US is not one of contingent political mistakes, it's that lots of Americans *don't want universal health care*. In part, because they don't want to be paying taxes to support Them, where Them are often, ahem, black. Or "illegals".

Thus my previous comment. Diversity can make brute oppression harder, without a unified majority that can beat up a particular minority (for civil rights, the diversity is of opinion among whites, especially north and south) (also, size can help: a distant government may be unresponsive, but it can also see a bigger picture, or maintain a bigger playing area, and anyway not be caught up with local personal politics.) But that diversity also makes agreeing to go do stuff harder.

As for the failure modes issue, I'd note that bad government is only one failure mode for a country. As I think you've mentioned, there's also the social insurance aspect. A big hurricane affects a small part of the US, but can devastate entire (small) Caribbean countries. Monetary policy can take out a country of any size, but shocks in the real economy are buffered in a more diverse, probably meaning larger, economy.

Scotland doesn't seem subject to many regular natural disasters (though if the currents shift...) but it's a lot smaller than the UK, and more exposed to oil dependence. (Though maybe not, if the Shetlands and Orkney object to leaving the UK, and keep most of the oil.)

279:

The Daily Nazi!
You must be joking! (I hope)
No, I'm afraid that the SNP remind me far too much of the EDL with Presbyterianism attached. Their entire policy is based on "Blame the evil greedy English for everything".
SEE ALSO:
Martin's comment @ #271 (Which IIRC I also linked to) re "Deutsche Bank's opinion on the subject.
I'm also afraid, Guthrie, that sectarian beasts do lurk, even in London ... provoked & awakened by the twin monsters of the good little RC Blair & nice churchgoer Camoron, with both of them crawling to any & every religious believer you can find.

On the same trope, Elton Elliott @ # 275
Err - I think your picture is somewhat distorted.
"class" is a joke that doesn't actually exist here, any more [ I won't bore you with my diverse family background ] but as for Scotland being "more open" ... err, no.
It will, under the SNP, become a total-surveillance panopticon state very rapidly indeed, much more so than even the rest of the UK now.
It will, of course, be entirely for your own good, to make sure that you don't hurt yourseleves ......

280:

Well, given that one of the better Sunday papers were moved to comment that "Worse Apart" will soon be claiming that "A 'Yes' vote in the Scottish Independance Referendum will cause an large asteroid to strike the Earth" I think you can see why we're getting a bit fed up with their claims.

281:

Consider this - Yugoslavia is/was highly atypical for Europe. It consisted of several small states which had intense political and/or racial and/or religious antipathy towards at least one of the others (see any discussion of Chetniks vs Partisans in WW2, and the various circa partition wars in the (former) Yugoslavia).

Most present African nations were "created by a white cartographer drawing some straight lines on a map irrespective of tribal boundaries". Those are the sources of most of your African civil wars.

That, it seems to me, is an argument for performing partition whilst it can still be done by negotiation alone.

282:

Wait, what? I put up an entire comment with data and links and all that shit (put in a nicer format here) stating that the Tories will not gain much from losing Scotland and it completely disappears?

Noel: I have a chest infection and I'm editing a book. Also, I'm not following this thread religiously. Digging through the spam trap is a low priority right now, so I only just found this. My bad. (I should have warned you: putting too many links in a comment triggers the spamcop plugins because it looks spammy to a first approximation.)

283:

Only that from the comments I read today a Yes vote might put an end to Cameron's political career. Do you still think he manufactured the referendum to loose?

284:

Hm, I doubt that OGH's meagre income alone will make a big difference. And doesn't the foreign currency go to the publisher first?

OTOH apparently there's billions in the whiskey trade. An independent Scotland could also cut the VAT on domestically produced alcohol and leave it to the Brits to set up border patrols to catch whiskey smugglers...

285:

"If you scroll up to comment 236, then you'll see evidence that the above statement is not true. I was a bit peeved to see someone repeat a canard that had I just debunked (with data!) just a few comments up. What am I, writing in Spanish?"

It's called 'skipping to the end'. This sometimes results in things like that.

286:

"Most present African nations were "created by a white cartographer drawing some straight lines on a map irrespective of tribal boundaries". Those are the sources of most of your African civil wars."

This actually applies to a lot of US states. For example, during the US Civil War, the mountainous areas of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama were generally anti-secession, and some resisted being dragged into the Confederacy.

There's a saying about Pennsylvania, that it consists of Philadelphia (big city on the east), Pittsburgh (big city on the west), and Alabama (meaning the rural area in between.

I live in Michigan, and there are massive differences within the state, with a very strong racial corrrelation. Given the recent Republican state government, I've heard for the first time the term 'Michissippi'.

287:

Noel: Barry may have posted comment 239 while your comment 236 was still held up in moderation, which would sufficiently explain why he didn't see it at the time.

288:

While I'm still missing a serious coverage of the Scottish independence vote in German news media (the debates in the other blog entry and in this one are actually way more informative than anything I've read in German news outlets), there has now been an extensive and highly recommendable coverage in the US by John Oliver: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YkLPxQp_y0&list=UU3XTzVzaHQEd30rQbuvCtTQ

And it comes with a heart-felt plea for the union at the end! :-)

289:

I actually knew most of that Barry. It just wasn't very relevant to my point, due to the lack of intra-state civil wars in the Yousay compared with in Africa.

290:

For example, during the US Civil War, the mountainous areas of Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama were generally anti-secession, and some resisted being dragged into the Confederacy.

The most extreme case resulting in a lasting alteration of the map: the present state of West Virginia consists of a few dozen counties that seceded from the Confederate State of Virginia at the start of the Civil War.

291:

Greg believes he's a fair, balanced, rational human being. Some of the rest of us agree he should write for the Mail or perhaps the Express.

Personally I've just given up reading what he writes. He's perfectly entitled to express his beliefs of course. I don't have to read them and if I'm awake enough I don't.

292:

The Torygraph has an axe to grind, which does not mean they might sometimes publish an accurate opinion piece, but that one certainly doesn't. It also wasn't about economic issues, so bringing in the Deutsche bank (Hey, aren't they pally with the Euro money people who like austerity despite it being economic suicide?) is a bit odd. I actually agree that independence wouldn't bring any particular economic windfall, to a large extent because north sea oil production peaked 8 or 9 years ago and has been falling at around 4% per annum, IIRC.

293:

Think I've mentioned this on another thread, but we went with the kids to the Appin Show in August. Typical village gala, total attendance at the show was a few hundred; in a single large field next to Castle Stalker (big field, heck of a view).

Stood next to us at the "Tossing the Sheaf" competition was a TV crew from 2DF; on asking why they were there, they replied that they were touring around interviewing Scots on the subject, because it was "of interest" to a German audience; as in, "we spent years trying to unite or reunite, why would anyone split up?"

294:

My apologies, Charlie. I understand the problem. And thank you for the tip about links.

I hope that cold clears quickly! By the way, do you ever make it to Corusc ... er, the District of Columbia?

295:

@292 "north sea oil production peaked 8 or 9 years ago and has been falling at around 4% per annum, IIRC."

North Sea oil has been declining at ~10% pa for 14 years. The only times when it flattens out is when a new field comes on stream (flattens, not reverses), then it's back to fast decline the next year.

See http://euanmearns.com/uk-north-sea-oil-production-decline/ and in particular fig2.

There is no expectation that things will change in future (most developments out to 5-10 years hence are already known about). As OPEX costs go up and revenues decline, the area as a whole becomes less enticing for investment, meaning that if any of those remaining prospects are to be developed, the tax take will have to fall.

Basically, you should assume ~£3bn from North Sea tax and falling by the time the SNP got their hands on the reins of power - they'd do better to concentrate on whiskey instead.

296:

"aren't they pally with the Euro money people who like austerity"

Attacking credentials is a poor substitute for attacking an argument, if the argument is comprehensible. And it's pretty simple here: what's iScotland going to use for money and central banking?

1. Currency union and the Bank of England? No, everyone in London says no, and they have no reason to back down.

2. Just use the pound. So Scotland has no monetary policy, is highly sensitive to the balance of payments due to its deficits, and would need to build up an ocean of pounds to act as plausible lender of last resort for the banks. Which means higher taxes or reduced spending, i.e. austerity.

3. New currency, pegged to the pound. Same problems as 2, maybe even more so, since speculators can attack your peg with currency trades, like Soros driving the UK out of ERM.

4. Floating currency. This has pluses of getting to have last-resort lender and monetary policy, maybe aiming for full employment, and boosts to exports (though more expensive imports.) But issues of how you handle existing contracts and debts, possibly leading to capital flight and recession.

Basically, if Scotland is subsidized now by the UK, independence is going to mean being poorer, unless the trade boost from a floating currency can make it up fast enough.

Seems a simple enough argument to analyze, independent of DB's affiliation. And economists across the political spectrum are skeptical of Scotland's prospects.

297:

Paws ...
Like those two total disaters of British policy in the past: - Ireland & India, you mean?
/snark
Admittedly, Ireland would not have been so bad if the ultras hadn't started the 2nd civil war, in which M Collins was killed.
If he had lived, I think things might be a little different, & better.

298:

El ;
That is personally insulting, & untrue.
And I object.

I tend to read the on-line "Torygraph" ( & allowing for its bias) rather than the Grauniad, because its reporting is usually better.
But I strongly disagree with many aspects of the editorial policies of both papers.
I am, in fact a lapsed member of the Lem-0-crat party, ( I have stood for local council election) resigning when it turned out their education policy was, in fact a total sham.
The Daily Mail is, as I hinted, an ultra-right paper, that usually fills me with disgust, on the rare occasions that I ever see it.
The Express is just a bad joke.
And it has been since the long-dead & still lamented Timothy Birdsall lampooned the paper with an epic cartoon, called: "Eating people is Wrong" THIS is the best image I could find. The anthropophage monster is Beaverbrook, the Express' then proprietor.
Nothing much has changed since.

I think you might owe me an apology?

299:

Heard on the "Today" programme, about an hour ago [ i.e after 07.10 & before 07.25 ....]
As yet, there is nothing in on-line papers.
EU commission / council (Not sure which) senior members stating that a separated Scotland could not possibly join the EU as a new member in less than five (5) years at the very least, & giving reasons.
In the meantime, what then?

300:

While you may be offended can I suggest you put aside your feelings for a minute and think about what I actually said?

Whatever your actual politics, in the recent past on this blog you've been warned, and I think shown a red card for Islamophobia and variations on religious intolerance, called out pretty repeatedly for views that could loosely be described as 'little England' xenophobia and more. You've trotted out a line that George Osborn has saved the UK economy. Your comparison basis for Scotland is "the population inside the M25" and so on. I'm sure if there's a move for greater devolution for Wales after the results on Thursday and if Charlie feels moved to write about it, I'll be dreading your comments on the Oes campaign given the vitriol you've poured out towards the SNP and the Yes campaign.

It might not be a true reflection of you, any more than the impression you have of me is probably a true reflection of the whole of me, but given at least two people have called you on it, it is true to say "some of the rest of us think you should be writing for the Mail." It is the summative impression of you that the way you write here has built up, at least in my mind and the mind of at least one other person. I suspect others.

I'm sorry if you don't like that impression I've got of you but waving around facts about what you read and how you despise the papers in question doesn't change the impression about what you've written in the past and the way you write it and, if it was in a newspaper my idea of what newspaper it would probably be in.

301:

@296 And it's pretty simple here: what's iScotland going to use for money and central banking?

Whilst the medium term future (after a yes vote) is STILL undefined, 2 days out from a vote (!) the near term is less so :

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/exclusive-millions-of-banknotes-sent-to-scotland-in-case-yes-vote-sparks-run-on-atms-9734658.html

getting ready for a run on the magic money machines, either because people don't trust the banks, or because they want money for a booze up.

@299 Scotland could not possibly join the EU as a new member in less than five (5) years at the very least

That's basically been understood for a while - and 5 years is a long time relative to finances and economic decline. Not many businesses dependent on exports could survive the impact (which is another reason they would be jumping over the border. Paradoxically the best bet for scotland would be for the UK to vote to leave the EU in 2017 and for the EU to then award scotland successor status in a fit of pique.

The thing I haven't worked out is that there have been statements about how the impact of scotland leaving would hurt the UK's balance of trade, etc. - yet I've not seen an accounting of the impact of business and assets jumping out of scotland, and debt jumping in, on the UK's finances. Surely, if a few tens of billions in assets goes south, that will give the UK a financial boost out of scotland jumping ship?

302:

Er, if your statement was correct and we take production in 2000 as being 100, then production this year would be 25.

303:

Explain to me again how finding exceptions makes a generalisation untrue in the general case.

304:

Possible clues in the differences in the names "The Federal Republic of Germany" and the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" I think. Well, to me this indicates constitutional differences between the 2 states even without the clue of "Northern Ireland" indicating a partition of a whole called "Ireland".

305:

It's fallen from just over 3Mbpd to currently stand at less than 1Mbpd, with a few static years in there (as stated).

Your point was?

306:

Do Yes voters expect that SNP will become the leading political party of iScotland? Is a Yes vote necessarily a vote for SNP (or a party a lot like it) to control iScotland?

How mad would Salmond be if he didn't get any votes in iScotland's first election? :P

307:

@Kyle

I can't speak for Yes voters in general, but I'd be surprised if the SNP didn't form the first government after 2016, referendum or no. In the case of a Yes, the best case scenario is that, the party having done it's work and taken responsibility for stabilising the country in the wake of the referendum, it then dissolves, either officially or unofficially, and reforms as a new party, or something else happens. God only knows.

The labour party will have a hard time adjusting I'm sure, they're a pretty mediocre bunch these days, having grown up on the idea that all you have to do to get elected is to be selected by the local party and stand on a platform of "better than the tories". I'd expect the LP to go through a 10 year period of reforming itself, if it doesn't fade into obscurity altogether, being replaced by the greens as the new party of leftist opposition to the SNP, who are very likely to (assuming they don't dissolve or split into myriad sections) drift to the centre ground and be co-opted by special interests, becoming the party of Beige within a generation.

A strong argument could be made that a Yes vote is a vote for the labour party in scotland breaking free from the central party and regaining it's heritage as a social democratic fighting force, but I don't see how that's realistically possible given the toxic nature of their part in the campaign, as well as the serious long term neglect of their traditional voting base.

What's more interesting to imagine is what happens to the tory party. though it's counter intuitive, I think they're in a better position to revitalise themselves in iScotland, as they can finally break free from their thouroughly toxic legacy and perhaps give a credible voting alternative for the small c conservative vote this side of the border, who for the last twenty years have I believe, been voting LD.

In conclusion, here's my bet. SNP for one or two terms, the greens will become the party of left-opposition, the tories the party of the genuine right, the LD's drift into obscurity and the labour party stews in it's own tribal soup before eventually following the LD's into the annals of history.

308:

"Most present African nations were "created by a white cartographer drawing some straight lines on a map irrespective of tribal boundaries". Those are the sources of most of your African civil wars."

Here we go, the Single Transferable African Fact - African state borders are artificial.

Gee whiz, thanks for pointing that out, I would have never noticed otherwise. Strangely, people who think they've scored a big point by deploying the STAF never quite specify exactly how the artificiality of borders would become a source of African civil war. There's usually some vague handwavium about 'tribalism' involved, though they can't (of course) be bothered to define this 'tribalism' of which they speak.

Essentially they're just falling back on old, ill-thought out tropes about Africa being a dark continent where benighted savages do all manner of outlandish things.

Alas, they've forgotten (or never knew) that back in the 1960s Saadia Touval demonstrated that only about 30% of African borders are straight lines on a map, and that the rest of the borders often resulted from 'facts on the ground' created by colonial regimes relations with local leaders.

They also don't appear to know that some ethnically heterogeneous African states have got on just fine, while some of the most homogeneous (e.g. Rwanda where guess what the state borders more or less match those of the precolonial Rwandan kingdom, or Somalia under Siad Barre) have had some of the worst wars.

But hey, it's only Africa, why bother having an informed opinion?

309:

Not necessarily; there are lots of policy issues where I disagree with the SNP (eg nuclear power).

As for Liebour, I think they will wither on the vine since their only tactics seem to have been "be better than the Con party" and "be toxically negative about the other parties".

310:

You're the only person I know who's ever disputed the original claim that you're challenging. You do have cites to back it up?

311:

Cites you say?

Here's one to start you off:

Africa's Frontiers: Reactions to a Colonial Legacy
Saadia Touval
International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 42, No. 4 (Oct., 1966), pp. 641-654

312:

"I actually knew most of that Barry. It just wasn't very relevant to my point, due to the lack of intra-state civil wars in the Yousay compared with in Africa."

There haven't been intra-state wars for the past century and a half in the USA, but we are still living in the echoes of the last one, and these differences strongly affect politics to this day.

313:

"The most extreme case resulting in a lasting alteration of the map: the present state of West Virginia consists of a few dozen counties that seceded from the Confederate State of Virginia at the start of the Civil War."

To be a pendantic d*ck, the lawful government of Virginia OK'd the secession. The 'awful government of Virginia', of course, consisted of those locals who were not in revolt, which meant that they were from West Virginia :)

314:

People should check that link (http://euanmearns.com/uk-north-sea-oil-production-decline/) and not the trend for 'annual value'. That's increasing. Ian, you naughty boy, you.

315:

"Most" is incorrect, DJP and Paws4thot. But arbitrary borders are a cause of civil war. See:

https://www.dartmouth.edu/~elias/scramble_africa_stelios_elias.pdf

I gave them a very hard time at their presentation, but that was over the mechanism more than the finding.

That said, it is clear that most civil conflict in Africa is unrelated to colonial borders. Consider Collier's finding that civil war is unrelated to country size -- if borders caused war, then countries with more border should have more war. Similarly, if simply lumping different groups together caused war, then larger countries should also have more war.

There is also Ted Miguel's work, which shows that nation-building is quite possible in Africa. Ironically, it uses the arbitrariness of the Kenya-Tanzania border as a natural experiment: http://emiguel.econ.berkeley.edu/assets/miguel_research/48/_Paper__Tribe_or_Nation_-_Nation_Building_and_Public_Goods_in_Kenya_versus_Tanzania.pdf

Enjoy!

316:

To be fair, Damien, the long-term is different from the short-term. As far as I know, serious dispassionate observers are united that the short-term looks at best neutral and the medium-term (say the next few years) is poor.

But in the long-term, one's beliefs about Scotland's prospects really hinge on its internal policies. If one is skeptical about the benefits of market access to the rest of the UK and the value of cross-insurance, then Scotland could do well regardless.

FWIW, I am the opposite of skeptical about the above. The lack of both will give the Kingdom of Scotland a headwind.

But ... it is possible that the Kingdom of Scotland will make up for that by having better policies and better institutions than it would as part of the United Kingdom. I am unsure what those policies and institutions would be (taking the current Scottish status quo as the baseline) but that is a different question.

In addition, if one believes that the U.K. is about to adopt worse policies and institutions, then exit before that happens would be wise.

My beef with Charlie concerns the general principle, not the Scottish specifics. If pressed, I would say that knowing what I know I would vote "no" were I living in Scotland. But that "knowing what I know" is key. Short-term pain (which is pretty much inarguable) might be worth the long-term gain.

317:

Ok, I've only skimmed the papers, but I think there's a possible weakness in your post. No-one is claiming that "civil war is a function of land area". Nor is anyone claiming that "number of tribes per nation is a function of national land area". Or even that "2 or more tribes are incapable of sharing a nation".

What I was originally claiming was that "arbitrary and inappropriate borders increase the likelyhood of civil wars and/or economic stagnation" which I think is what the papers also argue?

318:

I should come clean that I do set a very high bar for secession from a democratic state. I can only think of three examples over the past century ... all of which share a common factor. Namely, in all three cases violence broke out before the unified state was a democracy.

The U.K. could not be called a modern democracy before the Representation of the People Act of 1918; the Easter Rising broke out two years previous.

France could not be called a democracy before the 1958 Constitution extended the franchise to Muslims, by which point violence had been ongoing for four years.

Serbia was not a democracy before 2000; the violence in Kosovo preceded that.

(I will add that in all three cases there was a very long-standing history of ethnic discrimination verging on attempted genocide in all three cases. Note "verging"; I understand that the famine was deliberately engineered by London.)

That is a pretty high bar. Whether I am right to set it depends on your opinion of two things: (1) national attachments should be something else other than the product of random history, the way your family is the product of random history; and (2) it is okay for a regional electorate to pick up its marbles and go home when elections don't go their way. Both of my presumptions are very arguable.

What I don't think is correct is that small states have any kind of intrinsic superiority in terms of outcomes, using Charlie's own value system.

P.S. Colonial independence movements did not take place in the context of democracy, almost by definition. Djibouti and Comoros a few other small mostly ex-French places are the exception, and it is hard to think that their independence has been anything short of a disaster.

319:

I see your point, but let me ask the question from the other side. Should a union between two states be driven by factors other than economic expediency on the part of one, and imperialism on the part of the other?

320:

Shit, I didn't remember it started dropping that long ago. I recall Euawan Mearns form the oil drum, he seemed to know what he was doing. But then that's one of the reasons I'm more of a no person, because I know the oil is running out, and have known about peak oil for a decade or more.

321:
I will add that in all three cases there was a very long-standing history of ethnic discrimination verging on attempted genocide in all three cases. Note "verging"; I understand that the famine was deliberately engineered by London.
No, London was merely absolutely awful at coping with it. Irish ethnic cleansing was last systematically attempted by Cromwell, with his "to Hell or to Connacht" and barbadosing. The Famine was caused by a land system which strip-mined value from tenant farmers for the enrichment of absentee landlords and agents.
322:

"People should check that link (http://euanmearns.com/uk-north-sea-oil-production-decline/) and not the trend for 'annual value'. That's increasing. Ian, you naughty boy, you."

I retract the 'Ian, you naughty boy, you', because in the text they forecast declining value (although given the ongoing wars in the Middle East.........).

323:

I am on record as wanting, long since, a federated UK - we are not getting it.
Islamophbia - WRONG - I'm phobic about all religions, having escaped christinity in painful stages.
I admit to errors of phrasing - but don't we all do that?
As I said, I'm also a lapsed lem-0-crat memeber.

In the meantime, I mentioned a piece from the "today" programme ... this has now made the on-line press and:
LINK FYI ...
From that article:
The Spanish Prime Minister has also said Scotland would start life outside the EU, ....
Which means an English Land-Border with a truly foreign, non-EU country.
Barbed wire, frontier posts, exchange controls, passport scrutinisation, the works.
Hope this shocks a couple of percent of voters to join the "NO" camp ...
Meanwhile, I note that an SNP spokesman uttered a few more platitudinous lies....[ See last paragraph ]

324:

One of the reasons I loathe the SNP is that they are already the party of Beige .....
Something El doesn't seem to want to acknowledge, namely that the SNP are snoopers of a very traditional sort in that part of the world. [ c.f Calvin's Geneva, where they got the idea from ]

325:

I understand that the famine was deliberately engineered by London.
Utter tosh
The whole of Europe, excepting England, central Scotland & Belgium was starving in 1847-48, and even in the exceptions, food prices rose alarmingly.
There were two bad harvests with shit weather,
Ireland got it worst, because of its dependance on the potato & then Blight killing the spuds.
This is not to say that some awesome & truly British managerial screw-ups of the grossest sort occurred, but to ascribe it to malice is just wrong.

326:

Which means an English Land-Border with a truly foreign, non-EU country.
Barbed wire, frontier posts, exchange controls, passport scrutinisation, the works.

Greg, you're confusing the Schengen area (which the UK isn't in) with the EU. Norway and Switzerland are both in Schengen, and have no land border controls with their neighbouring EU members.

It's all somewhat speculative as there has always been a certain amount of making it up as they go along with every country that has joined the EU, but I don't think that Schengen would be a major issue for iScotland joining the EU, I suspect that the pragmatic view would be taken that the common travel area between the rUK and RoI should also include iScotland.

327:

"This is not to say that some awesome & truly British managerial screw-ups of the grossest sort occurred, but to ascribe it to malice is just wrong."

What do you call armed soldiers guarding food shipments being exported while dying people are held back by bayonets, if not malice?

328:

In a sane world I'd absolutely agree with you. In a world where policy in this area is being driven to an alarming degree by UKIP and the nutter wing of the Conservative party I kind of wonder how this is going to work out a few years down the line...

329:

I do set a very high bar for secession from a democratic state. I can only think of three examples over the past century ... all of which share a common factor. Namely, in all three cases violence broke out before the unified state was a democracy.

Not clear what you mean by "I set a very high bar", as the people involved generally are not seeking your permission. But if you're looking at examples of peaceful secession from more or less democratic states which the people involved don't regret and don't want to reverse, there is at least one recent example: the Velvet Divorce between Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

330:

...and look at what happened to the currency union between the two parties to the Velvet Divorce.

An interesting view is expressed here:
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2014/03/slovakia-life-after-velvet-divorce

331:

"This is not to say that some awesome & truly British managerial screw-ups of the grossest sort occurred, but to ascribe it to malice is just wrong."

From the perspective of anyone involved in civil service or government, in fact simply living in Ireland, the facts were fairly clear:
(1) Between 1800 and 1840 the population approximately doubled to over 8 million.
(2) The vast majority of the population completely depended on potatoes for food. No substitution was possible on that scale.
(3) The potato crop regularly failed every 5 years or so, with a major multi-year failure/famine every 20-30.

While the continent-wide famines of 1847-1848 were happenstance, the scene was long set for the great famine of 1845-1848 of Ireland. Gross incompetence vs. malice is in the eye of the beholder in my opinion. Many Irish landlords looked enviously at the clearances in Scotland.

The structural failures were squarely put at the feet of absentee landlords, typically living in London, whom the status quo benefited. The population was dependent on potatoes because there was no security of tenure to those renting land; if they improved their plots in any way , such as to grow barley, etc, they would see themselves evicted and higher rents chargedd to their replacements. So they grew potatoes in 'easy beds', making no investment in their lands. Indeed in the west of Ireland today you can see fields being 'improved' by farmers, cleared of stones, turned fertile and productive; an investment that would have happened centuries ago in England or continental Europe.

This was taught to me as a child by a neighbour who fought in the war of independence, who learnt _his_ history at the knee of someone who had survived the famine as a child and fought in the land leagues of the 1890s.

I wish Scotland an rapid and amicable divorce :-).

332:

...and look at what happened to the currency union between the two parties to the Velvet Divorce.

Could you be more specific? At least according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, there was a currency split; Slovakia subsequently joined the Eurozone, but the Czech Republic retains its separate currency, the (Czech) Koruna. And while the Eurozone has not been a happy place lately (which is one reason I've been echoing Krugman in warning about the dangers of the SNP's current "Pound union" plan), I'm not sure the Velvet Divorce has a whole lot to do with the problems...

333:

I was going to let this lie. I am after this, I promise. But you're selectively quoting and kind of reinforcing my opinion.

If you read what I said properly, I didn't say you were Islamophobic, I didn't say anything about your opinions of other religions. I said I've seen you warned and I think shown a red card for Islamophobia in posts on this blog.

You've said at other times that I remember that you're opposed to all religions but I don't remember you actually writing in a way that shows that, except about Islam. I think you may have about Roman Catholicism once. Now, the fact it's limited range is probably reflective of the topics on the blog and the news, it's not necessarily reflective of the whole rounded you. I accept that. I was careful to point out that it was about impressions gleaned from what you've written.

But shouting that I'm wrong about what I very carefully said about what you've written here as opposed to the whole of your personality, and selectively quoting to support it, sorry. It's not a trick that only a Mail writer would use, granted. Politicians and journalists of all ilks are good at it.

OK, I don't normally get to call people on their bullshit misquotes. I don't expect you to read and take this on board. I won't post a reply to this sub-thread.

And I'm sorry to the moderators. I know Greg feels this very close to ad hominem but while he doesn't like being told he writes like he's right-wing, I've tried to not get ruder to him personally than that. If I've stepped over the line, let me know.

Sorry to everyone else too. I should have kept to my normal policy of just not reading Greg's comments.

334:

From around 2000, oil prices tripled or maybe quintupled, offsetting what can only be called collapsing production. But that can only go so far, especially as the current trend line looks like 0 barrels by 2021...

If you go from the 1998 to 2007 extremes, you can squeeze out a tripling in oil value, but that's clearly not robust. The average looks more like less than doubling, despite soaring prices. Granted that average looks like it's still going up, but hard to see how that can happen.

Maybe they'll scrape up tight/shale gas, though then I'd make fun of a country trumpeting its renewable energy while scrambling ever harder for greenhouse gas export.

335:

Look Greg, there you go again. I've never seen or heard of any evidence, can't even find any on the net, that the SNP got the idea of named guardians for children from Calvin and his Geneva experiment. You're just making shit up to stir things.

You are however right that the closer they get to power, the more beige the SNP gets, which is of course why real revolutionaries eschew the parliamentary route.

336:

What do they do instead? Bullets, not ballots?

337:

I dunno, it depends on which philosophy of revolution you prefer. The question of whether to go the parliamentary route or marshal your forces for a proper overthrow of the status quo has divided political groups on the left for perhaps 150 years now.
It was meant as a throwaway partly funny comment.

338:

Err ...
At another blog I comment on, one of the regulars, whom I know to be RC regularly calls me a "Common Purpose" socialist.
Now what?
Just because I don't line up with Dave Spart or Occupy, doesn't automatically mean I'm a rabid right-winger.
On religion, actually, I'm not phobic - which is an irrational fear. My fear of religion (currently mostly islam - see *note) is based entirely on reason & history. If I was in the USA I would probably be as frightened of the Dominionists. If you or I were female, we would have every right to be afraid of islam & almost(?) all the other religions, wouldn't we?
{ A woman is worth half a man. Women are inferior to men & subject to their orders, or so says the "recital". }

*note: The guy 6 doors away from me is a Sufi, he regards all "jihad" as spritual, so, like a Quaker, he's harmless.
Or my neighbour & friend (the best neighbour I've had in 60+ years), is nominally muslim, but he drinks occasionally & has booze in his house. Great bloke, with, unfortunately, medical problems, which he bears up under, & keeps quiet from his kids - who love our remaining cat.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Breaking News
Salmond has been shown, via an f.o.i. request, to have attempted to put undue pressure & influence on the Principal of St Andrews University over her stance on the outcome after a possible "yes" vote.
Analagous to PQ attempting to pressure McGill before the Quebec referendum (?)

339:

The issue is your tone of comments, that's what. Obviously free blog up to the owners limits of ability to put up with us etc, but there's a commonality between silly and badly toned and worded comments that transcends any political distinction. Or maybe that should be the opposite to transcend, whatever that word is.

340:

"I retract the 'Ian, you naughty boy, you', because in the text they forecast declining value"

Thanks. Point is if the oil price goes up much more, we hit a global recession, the global economy tanks, and the price of oil falls. There is something of a wall in oil price that limits the upside, and tends to create a downside that coincides with a recession (not a good combo).

And it's even worse than that. In order to get oil companies to invest in new, barely profitable, fields the treasury has had to give tax incentives; meaning in recent times the actual tax received has fallen ( http://news.bbcimg.co.uk/media/images/73184000/gif/_73184641_oil_and_gas_revenue_624.gif ). The SNP would have to do more of this in order to get exploitation of those west of Shetland fields. If they don't then the OPEX numbers mean that the entire oil region gets less economic and when things need fixing they tend to get shut down instead.

Given that the SNP would need the revenue, and the future revenue, its a battle - one that short term would probably win. eg that 10% decline will continue and will kill the production figures.

I did answer @302 as well, but it seems to have disappeared in the system. Peak was ~3Mbpd, we are currently less than 1Mbpd (actually more like 0.9Mbpd). Taking account of the times when new fields came onstream and the decline was 0%, we get 3Mbpd * (0.9 ^ (14-3)) = 0.94Mbpd (which it pretty close to what we've got).

Yes, the north sea is declining, and it's pretty small beer (actually there is probably more money to be made out of whiskey, and that's a renewable asset...)

341:

I would be surprised if you didn't know what I mean, Cdodgson! There is absolutely no implication that I'm a megalomaniac in my comment, although I may indeed be in fact a megalomaniac.

That aside, the breakup of Czechoslovakia is interesting. Did it leave anyone better off politically or economically? On the Slovak side, the answer is pretty clearly "no," although the country managed to survive the Mečiar years. It came close to some ugly outcomes, though. (See Hungary for a bad but-still-not-worst-case example of the bullet that was dodged.)

Even more interesting is whether the split reflected popular opinion. Of course, the answer has no bearing on the benefit of small states or the morality of breaking up democratic polities, but it is interesting ... because it didn't! The deal was hashed out between Klaus and Mečiar with no popular input. Neither politico was a particularly admirable person. Polls showed no support for the split. (Support never exceeded 38% in either region.) In fact, the papers reported that both leaders refused to hold a referendum because they believed that they would lose.

Moreover, Czechoslovakia already showed a rather impressive level of decentralization: in 1992, the federal government controlled only 22% of public spending. (An additional 0.5% of spending went through the federal government to the two states via federal grants.)

So .. why? Well, on the one hand fiscal grants from the federal government had dried up as an almost accidental response to de-communization. That might have annoyed some Slovaks ... only the polls didn't show it.

However, a continuing federation would have eventually led to more fiscal transfers. It also would have ended Mečiar's ambitions. So Klaus threw out the poorer chunk of the country and Mečiar escaped the limits of the federal system. Win-win for them.

Lose-lose for everyone else. Trade collapsed despite a customs union, and both countries went through a painful adjustment. It worked out OK in the end, but why?

There is a value in democratic political communities. It is hard to see why they should be broken up. (Unless, of course, they are turning undemocratic.) It may be the case that some members of a democratic community have so soured on the others that they wish to share none of the responsibilities of being in a community with them. But that just seems parochial and cramped.

But to return to the point: the breakup of Czechoslovakia was nothing like the proposed breakup of the United Kingdom. It had no popular support (unlike Scottish independence), led to great economic dislocation for both new countries (unlike Scottish independence, which will likely have no impact on England), occurred in a situation of low fiscal transfers (unlike Scottish independence), led to a near-breakdown of democracy in one of the countries (unlike Scottish independence), and did not occur after several decades of divergent policy preferences (unlike Scottish independence).

Comparisons with it are best avoided, I think, unless the discussion is solely focused on short-term economic effects.

344:

Charlie, the foreign-born (outside the U.K.) population of Scotland was 6.8%, versus 13.6% for England.

Immigrants born outside Western Europe consisted of 5.4% of the Scottish population, versus 11.3% in England.

May I ask why you're confident that Scottish opinion will remain relatively relaxed about immigration even should it reach English levels?

(I am not, of course, claiming that it wouldn't!)

345:

TIME TO DRAW A LINE, I THINK

In election campaigns, by custom & practice, the actual election day is "quiet".
I think, maybe, we should have a self-denying ordinance & start now?

Instead, I'm going to talk about Cameron & "The Westminster political elite" as seen during this campaign.

Their behaviour towrds the English & Welsh, over the past months has been disgraceful - lending support, in moral terms, at least to the complaining from Scots that "We didn't vote for Westminster & it is remote"
That has appeared in spades this past week or so.
A revival, rather than a putting-down of the Barnett Formula, disgracefully partial to the Scots & crapping all over the English & Welsh.
An oputright rejection of a federal solution (a.k.a. "An English Parliament")
Etc ad nuseam.

Old politics & smug politicians indeed.
A public display of "the Ruling Party"

Maybe Charlie can post on this subject on, say Saturday?
Because I'm as disgusted with the current guvmint as any SNP member, & no expectation that Labour would be any different or better, the Lem-0-Crats are a waste of space, & as for the the Greens anyone who actually believes in environmental issues, should on no account, ever vote for these Watermelons.

346:

We need a 'none of the above' option.

We need minimum standards of intelligence, probity and sanity to stand at all.

We need politicians forced to do what the public want, and in the service of the public, with lobbying from big business ('donations') recognised as a crime.

We need true democracy, rather than the democracy-lite of 'representatives'.

We need groupings form from like minded individuals, not accidents of geography.

We need .... better people.

Now the only trick is working out how you get there, given that the entire process has been subverted for a long time now and none of the turkeys will vote for christmas.

(Oh, and we need nationalism dumped down the cess pit of history, ahem)

347:

Or my neighbour & friend (the best neighbour I've had in 60+ years), is nominally muslim, but he drinks occasionally & has booze in his house.

Er, I know Muslim scholars who would conform to this description, well except for the "nominally" bit. Their interpretation of the Qu'ran (original Arabic text, not a translation) is that it says that "Muslims must not become intoxicated" rather than "Muslims must not drink alcohol".

348:

What do you think that UKIP and the nutter wing of the Conservative party would want to do at the Scottish border? I can't think of anything that would make sense, but maybe that's just me failing to get into their mindset.

(I don't think that (r)UK leaving the EU is actually a serious possibility. Currently various people have a license to run their mouths off. At some point the financial wing of the Conservative party will take the nutters to a quiet room and remind them who's boss.)

349:

I hope you're right about the likelihood of a British exit from the EU, I think you're probably right about the "non-nutters" in the Tory party wanting to put the brakes on. I fear however that between UKIPs success (in PR and "visibility" if not electorlal terms) and the commitment Cameron has already made to an In/Out referendum it could just happen...

As for what that would mean for the border between a non-EU member England and an EU member Scotland, I don't know, but, given that there would almost certainly be different entry and working rights for at least some categories then there is plenty of scope for things to get messily complicated. While I don't think it *likely* we'd see immigration checks and passport control at Hadrians Wall I think it's a real (if small) possibility, likewise for Ireland.

350:

Nutters are useful for pulling the media over to your side, but what I've read is that in the USA the tea party folk were funded originally by certain rich right wing reprobates, but they've backed off now that the overton window has been pulled to one side. This leaves the nutters still being nutters though, and it is taking a while for their organisation and anger to die, and it's not pretty.

351:

IF there is a referendum about leaving the EU - that relies on Callmedave being in charge come 2015, put his pledge into the manifesto, winning the election outright and so not hugely likely IMO but there's 8 months to go, so who knows...

Well all I'll say at this point is that while I'm told by the media (and would agree with what I've heard of the of vox pops and the Scottish voices here and elsewhere) that the populace have been energised and engaged by this campaign, the politicians and by and large the media have been incredibly poor. I hope that if there is a referendum the politicians and the media do a damn site better for that one than they've done for this referendum. I don't have high hopes: there's a lot of media that you know will be campaigning hard for a No vote before they start. Tory politicians will be campaigning all over the yes and no votes. It's going to be a mess of voices, shouting, lies, confused statistics and claims and counter-claims. Hell, it already is and that's before there's a real debate about it.

352:

sigh

Hadrian's Wall is not the border between England and Scotland, if it were I would have a vote in the referendum as a resident of Newcastle upon Tyne.

You need to move you proposed border posts about 100 miles north, unless it's the west coast in which case I suppose they'd be a few miles south of me.

353:

Having walked along substantial portions of one and gone backwards and forwards across the other quite a few times I do actually know (roughly) where both the Scottish border and Hadrians Wall are and am aware that two are not congruent. The symbolic value of the wall in popular culture and the whimsical idea of rebuilding it with border controls were simply too too much for me to resist though.

I know, I've let you down, I've let OGH down, and most of all I've let myself down...

354:

"intelligence & sanity"/
[ HORSE LAUGH ]
Incidentally, there is another face to nationalism, that of aspiring for your country to be best & good ...
We have seen no sign of that since T Blair took us into Iraq, unfortunately.

Paws
IIRC SOME interpretations of the "recital" specifically forbis "wine" (which would have been red win in 622 CE) - & not agood idea to drink in desert conditions.
Usual problem with fixed"holy" texts ... unforseen circumstances arise, which the original writer could not forsee, which then traps everyone.

355:

Various posters on Brexit ...
I was a fervent suppporter of EU membership from before I could vote, ( I am now 68) until about 3 years back.
Now, I support exit, because of the corporate business corruption rampant at the highest levels, affecting everyday people. [ Do you want a lsist? ]
I do not like UKIP's immigration policy, but something has got to be done to break the Beige & the smug & the disdain & contempt with which we are treated.
Any alternative solutions will at least, be looked at sympathetically.

356:

Greg, my point was that some devout (if liberal) and scholarly Muslims do not find their faith and alcohol in any way incompatible, so I'd steer clear of using descriptors like "nominal" just because some of an individual's actions do not conform with the popular stereotype.

357:

Incidentally, there is another face to nationalism, that of aspiring for your country to be best & good ...

Yes, and if you perceive that your country has been dragged into an illegal war by a lying toad who wants to cozy up to the POTUS, and get the chance to extract your country from the relationship that resulted in them being dragged into that war, isn't that trying to do your best for your country to be "best and good"?

358:

And in the US, some of the rich donors to the Tea Party and like causes are, in some respect, nutters themselves. (Among other things, there were borderline lunatic Presidential candidates in the Republican primaries last cycle who lasted far longer than they would have otherwise because each was being sponsored by a single rich donor, who clearly wouldn't have minded seeing them in office.) Also, at the State and Congressional level, the lunatics remain lunatics once in office, and are usually under the impression that they got there on the strength of their views, and not the strength of the donors' checkbooks. So, when the donors try to pull them away from the nuttiness, they're not inclined to go.

And what are the donors, even the sane ones, going to do? Fund Democrats (the weak, washed-out shadow remnants of the American left)? To date, that's been a bridge too far for them to go...

359:

Meanwhile, for anyone who needs to laugh about this, John Oliver's hilarious take on the independence referendum is (I hear) finally available on the net to viewers in the UK:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YkLPxQp_y0

Thesis summary: both sides have mounted ineffective campaigns that deserve to lose, but as an Englishman, on purely sentimental grounds, Oliver wants a continued Union, even if he has to eat haggis while listening to bagpipes to get it...

360:

"if [bad things then] get the chance to extract your country from the relationship that resulted in them being dragged into that war, isn't that trying to do your best for your country to be "best and good"?"

(a) The country's (UK!) PM ignored the biggest political demo in UK history to go into that war. (The Scotland First Minister could do the same should he feel likewise.)
(b) Scotexit does not extract the UK from "that relationship".
(c) It is unclear that Scotexit would remove even Scotland from such poisonous relationships.

Greg Tingey wrote (ok, so I'm replying to 2 comments not 1)
"I support [BR]exit, because of the corporate business corruption rampant at the highest levels"

Frankly, any corruption in the UK is not best laid at the feet of remote bureaucrats (who have little if any direct power) but of the self-serving hypocrites in the UK. Who are not going to be removed by BRexit!

"I do not like UKIP's immigration policy, but something has got to be done"

And BRexit is something, therefore it must be done.

I apologise for continuing the derailment from the Scottish question, but as a denizen of the multiverse I do find the proposed splitups and revised immigration policies to be quite disheartening. I would have thought (?) that the human race needed more integration and tolerance rather than fractionation and xenophobia.

Cheers,

361:

ADMINISTRATIVE NOTE:

We are now less than 24 hours away from the polls opening.

I will close comments on this thread tomorrow morning.

I will create a new blog entry for continuing the discussion from a different perspective ("what happens next?") after the polls close.

The only thing that seems certain right now is that unless the referendum delivers a conclusive defeat to the independence campaign -- which none of the opinion polls currently suggest is likely -- British politics as a whole will spend some time taking stock and catching up next week; either to grapple with the fact that a member country doesn't want to belong to the UK any more, or with the hard question of how to defuse the pressure that led to a worryingly close-run battle lest the pressure continue to rise until it blows again, whether in 5 years, 10, or 20.

362:

Frankly, any corruption in the UK is not best laid at the feet of remote bureaucrats (who have little if any direct power) but of the self-serving hypocrites in the UK. Who are not going to be removed by BRexit!

With respect, "Yes" voters are fully aware that they can't remove the self-serving hypocrites from the UK. They want instead to remove themselves from the UK's self-serving hypocrites.

363:

"Hadrian's Wall is not the border between England and Scotland, if it were I would have a vote in the referendum as a resident of Newcastle upon Tyne."

It'd make things so much simpler; all that would be needed is to regarrison the Wall :)

364:


That sounds Sensible.

I have now watched so much News Media Stuff from Scotland, addressing England’s RULERS, who are hunkered down in the London City State - which they carry with them even when they visit the Provinces that exist in the Howling Wilderness that is the Place North of Birmingham - that I feel almost first generation Scots rather than Third Generation Highland Scots.

Have you noticed how...ALIEN? London LOOKS these days in the news media’s photo backgrounds and intro pieces to NEWS pieces on multi Channel T.V.?

Anyway so much stuff on the news that my Scottish ancestry - nonvoting - rears and I'm tempted to address Lady friend as 'HEN ‘...this having carefully checked to ensure that there are no book sized throwing objects within her arm range.

I'll be cheered when it’s all over save that whatever the result is wont be Over...even when the referee declares that it's Over!

As with, perhaps the Canadian permanent running referendum...at random from a Google search...

" TORONTO — QUEBEC'S newly sworn-in premier says Quebec can separate from Canada, but no part of Quebec can declare itself independent of the province.

Refusing to acknowledge the inherent contradiction in his stand, Lucien Bouchard justifies his position by saying: ''Canada is divisible because it is not a real country.''

The leader of the separatist Parti Quebecois was reacting to news of divisive movements within Quebec. English speakers in the Montreal area, who voted to stay within Canada in the Oct. 30 referendum on Quebec sovereignty, are talking of staying in Canada by separating from Quebec. And Cree and Inuit Indians in the northern half of Quebec do not want to be part of an independent Quebec, whose basis for being is the French language and its ''distinct'' culture. "


http://www.csmonitor.com/1996/0131/31071.html

Ho ...Hum, by ancestry on my Mother’s side I am a Highlands and Islands Scot and I must say that I resent all of that Low Land Scots Stealing MY share of the OIL money!

Not that I'm at all resentful, but, MY share of the Boodle would be well worth having. Just saying.

Just think of all the High Tech Shinny Stuff I could buy. And then there are the Books!

365:

We - UP Here on, and near the WALLs garrison - are Doing our best but...You DO realise how long it has been since The Emperor has paid US?

Don't mean to sound ungrateful but ..Send Money! And Socks ..very cold up here/down here when compared to the rest of the Empire

“Romans wore socks with sandals, new British dig suggests Britons may be famous for their lack of fashion sense and Italians for their style. But it appears we may have inherited one of our biggest
sartorial crimes from the Romans. “

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/7964516/Romans-wore-socks-with-sandals-new-British-dig-suggests.html

366:

Actually I'd like to apologise for jumping down your throat like that, after several weeks of seeing the same old Hadrian's wall comment trotted out, even by supposedly knowledgeable commentators in the press, it was beginning to niggle. It has at times felt like a large stretch of the country some of them have been trying to "protect" was being ignored.

367:

Hugging the POTUS is the least of Blairs corruptions ..

" £7m-a-year Tony Blair tells tyrant: This is how you gloss over a massacre "

" Mr Blair offered 500 words to insert into the speech, and hand-wrote at the bottom of the letter: “With very best wishes. I look forward to seeing you in London! Yours ever, Tony Blair.”

Mr Blair’s firm has raked in tens of millions of pounds advising countries around the world including Mongolia, Albania and Kuwait.

But a spokeswoman for Mr Blair denied he profits personally from the lucrative deal with Kazakhstan.

She said the contract with Tony Blair Associates is to provide advice on government reform, rather than PR.

She said: “While Tony Blair has always made it clear there are real challenges for Kazakhstan over issues of human rights and political reform, and that these have to be dealt with, nonetheless, the country has made huge progress over the past 20 years.

“The letter was simply making these points, namely that the events of Zhanaozen were indeed tragic and they had to be confronted in any speech, not ignored.” .."

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/7m-a-year-tony-blair-tells-tyrant-4100264#ixzz3DbEsW1hH

And Blair and his associates are on-going, " The former Prime Minister whose premiership was tarnished by the Iraq war has been honoured in the GQ Men of the Year awards for his charitable work

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tony-blair-named-philanthropist-year-4155082#ixzz3DbFEY3US

368:

Last comment on weirdness in polling data:

On the one hand, polls *still* show something like 10% undecided. (I'm looking at a list of recent polls with a median around there, with outliers as low as 5% and as high as 23%.)

On the other hand, everyone is expecting colossal turnout, with something like 97% of the population registered, and most of those expected to turn out. So, that "undecided" group includes a whole lot of people who are expected to turn out and vote.

Maybe these people really are all undecided, but it seems to me likely that most of them are, at the very least, leaning strongly one way or the other, and just don't want to tell the pollsters about it. Which means that there's a real chance declared undecideds could break overwhelmingly one way or the other, leading to a result that makes a mockery of the polls.

So, I'm expecting one side to have a fairly significant victory. I just have no idea which.

369:

It's one of the inanities of this campaign that the implication is "we can ditch the self-serving, incompetent, corrupt politicians by jumping ship from the UK".

What on earth gave them that idea?

All the while you have lawyers, economists, pol sci types getting paid by rich pimps to get elected to political posts in a system that can safely ignore democracy for 4 years; nothing changes.

And as has been pointed out, the SNP has certain similarities with the republican party in that it's tied to religious nutters as well.

Jumping from a foundering ship to a foundering life raft with a dirty great hole in it - captained by the same idiots that put the ship on the rocks - isn't a smart move.

370:

Please grow up?
I am a lifelong resident of the Little Village (London)
The picture you paint is at least 150% false.
Please stop it?

Unless, of course you are posting in heavy-handed irony - at this point it is diifcult to distinguish, err ....

Oh your subsequent post at # 366 would be sickening, if some of us didn't know already, thanks to "Private Eye"

Applause to Charlie for # 360
Can we PLEASE address the problem we are saddled with, whether Scotland stays in the Union or not ...
The incomptence & corruption of our leaders.
{ Hint: Today's "Private Eye" reminds us of Salmond's disgusting cosying up to Citizen Kane Murdoch, euw .... )
And the institutionalsied corruption in places like Rotherham, where the police were only too plainly bought or bribed or silenced & I don't actually care which combination of the above it was.
It has got to stop.

371:

You mean basically how can we stop Britain being so shit? That's worth a thread by itself.

372:

Stop squabbling.

All of you.

373:

OK, fed up now.

I am closing comments on this thread.

A new thread will open on Friday, for discussing the results, and "what happens now".

Until then, I'm going to be nose-down rewriting a Laundry Files novel and/or chilling and ignoring the news inasmuch as that's possible.

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