Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Scottish Independence ?

Today is the 300th anniversary of the ratification of the Act of Union, which united the Parliaments of Scotland and England, and created the Kingdom of Great Britain. As every fan of Mel Gibson's dramatic but rather fictional film Braveheart could tell you, the unity of the two crowns was procured by the English at gunpoint (plus a Royal marriage or three). Now, lots of Scots, and not a few English, would like to undo the union and create an independent Scotland.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair says that Scottish Independence would be "crazy." The cynic in me says that if it's "crazy," it must be bound to happen. More seriously (?) Prime Minister Blair says that "separation is a retreat into an old-fashioned view of the world that would be bizarre in the 21st Century."
This sounds so much like the first President Bush's "Chicken Kiev" speech in which the President denounced "suicidal nationalism" and pronounced the choice between Gorbachev's USSR and "independence-minded" leaders in the USSR a false one: thus pouring cold water on the aspirations of Ukranians wanting out of the Soviet Union. Workaday practical politicans such as the first President Bush and Prime Minister Blair distrust mere emotional and cultural totems like nationalism: considering them, at bottom, as effects of nonproductive and dangerous romanticism. Amazing how often movements driven by emotions trip-up "practical" leaders.
I'm an Anglophile, and the diminished state of modern Britain is rather melancholy for me to contemplate. Still, I'm also a Southerner, with an instinctive sympathy for secessionists. In consequence, it's hard for me to decide who to root for here. If the Scots want independence, probably they should have it, although I can see the "crazy" argument too. The Scottish National Party (SNP) -- the vehicle of the pro-independence faction -- is going all-out to win the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May. You can bet your last Queen's shilling (if you still have one) that the Labour Party, which depends on Scottish votes to keep its majority, together with the UK's chattering classes, will go all out to see that cooler heads prevail in May, and my guess would be that there is just enough time for this to happen.
Still, Tony Blair saying independence is "crazy" is possibly a good sign for the SNP.

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