First Minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond (above) has sought to assure the rest of the world that an independent Scotland would be another Norway—a wealthy mediator, peacekeeper and aid donor, says analyst Andrew Apostolou. But such soothing rhetoric obscures Scottish nationalists’ anti-American attitudes, hostility to Israel and ambivalence regarding the need for a united West, he writes for the Wall Street Journal:
The party’s reaction to 9/11 was instructive. Mike Russell, an SNP education spokesman, called for “clear proof of the guilt of Osama Bin Laden” which had “to be laid at the bar of world opinion and be seen to be conclusive.” He warned against “an unjust war that merely pitted the strong in righteous rage against the weak.”…
Still, the best illustration of the SNP’s worldview is its lack of sympathy for other small nations. The Scottish government treats the Iraq crisis as a “humanitarian situation,” not a strategic threat. Mr. Salmond is demanding “that the U.K. Government moves through the United Nations route and does not repeat the tragic mistakes of 11 years ago.”
“Under Mr. Salmond, an independent Scotland won’t be another Norway and not even another Finland. Instead, an independent Scotland will be a weak, neutral country with an anti-Western tilt, located on the British Isles and on NATO’s northern front,” Apostolou notes.
Salmond “has even talked of his admiration for the way Mr Putin has restored Russian pride – remarks that were made as Russian troops were moving into Crimea,” notes FT columnist Gideon Rachman.
“If the vote goes the wrong way on Thursday, the UK will break up. George Robertson, a proud Scot and a former head of Nato, was not exaggerating when he said that the ‘forces of darkness’ in the world would love that.”
A Yes vote for independence would be an economic mistake for Scotland and a geopolitical disaster for the west, senior US figures – including Alan Greenspan – tell the Financial Times as Washington wakes up to the chance that its closest ally could break up this week:
Having assumed for months that No would win comfortably, Washington has reacted with alarm to opinion polls showing that Thursday’s referendum is going down to the wire. “We have an interest in seeing the UK remain strong, robust and united,” said Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman.
“Like many Americans, and given that my name is Robert Bruce, I have an admiration for the Scots, their heritage, and their role in US and world history,” said Robert Zoellick, the former deputy secretary of state and World Bank president.
“But a break-up of the UK would be a diminution of Britain and a tragedy for the west just at a moment when the US needs strong partners. I strongly suspect it would not work out well for the Scots either,” said Zoellick (right), a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.
Medievalism over modernity
Once Britain has been reduced to its smaller parts, Flanders and Wallonia, Corsica, northern Italy, Catalonia, the Basque country and even Bavaria may follow. A European Union of 40-odd states? People will inevitably be tempted to ask, why not? Bret Stephens writes for the Wall Street Journal:
The better question to ask is: Why? Very occasionally, small countries can be great countries, boutique states with reputations for excellence like Switzerland, Singapore and Israel. More often, small countries are merely insignificant countries; petty in their politics and limited in their horizons. Think of Slovenia, Slovakia and soon, perhaps, Scotland.
And sometimes small countries are dangerous countries, because they are militarily aggressive (Serbia), or financially irresponsible (Greece), or inviting targets for outside meddlers (Cyprus, Moldova or the Baltics) or consumed by internal rivalries that overspill national borders (Bosnia) or in the grip of an illiberal leader (Hungary). It’s no accident that World War I started where it did: The incomprehensible squabbles of the periphery quickly become the tragedies of the core.
“Some Scots may imagine that by voting ‘Yes’ they are redeeming the memory of William Wallace,” Stephens writes. “Maybe. The other way of looking at it is as a vote for medievalism over modernity.”
The tragedy of Scottish nationalism is that, under the guise of self-government, it seems poised to strengthen arrangements which will in fact disempower most citizens and lead inevitably to disillusionment with a Scottish state and its values, Tom Gallagher wrote for the Journal of Democracy:
A system of national self-rule in which citizens have many ways to affect the political process looks to become even more elusive under a party proclaiming nationalism than it was in the past under that party’s various pro-British rivals. What may well await Scotland is an era of post-Unionism in which the Nationalists blast out the old patriotic “tunes of glory” while maintaining the very sorts of political arrangements that they once complained were reducing Scotland to subjugation.
For all Salmond’s talk of ‘international citizenship’, the nationalists’ claim that Scotland subsidises the rest of the UK is another way of saying that their compassion for the poor and disadvantaged ends at the border, notes Apostolou, a British historian who has managed human rights campaigns in the Middle East and has debated George Galloway on live tv:
For all the nationalists’ sniping and vitriol, the referendum demonstrates that the UK is a country to be proud of. Indeed, while the debate has exposed the unpleasantness of Scottish nationalism, it has also occasioned a growth in British pride that cuts across political parties and ethnic groups. ….With our country’s unity under threat, we appreciate how dear Britain is to us and what a remarkable place it is. As Adam Tomkins has written, ‘what other state would do this: would not only countenance its own peaceable break-up but would act so as to facilitate this?’ There are millions of people around the world who can only dream of being granted a vote on independence – just ask the Catalans and the Kurds. We are better, no matter how we stay together.