Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Scottish Independence Vote - Yin and Yang

Scotland votes yes or no on Independence on September 18.

The U.S. dog in this fight is economic.

Scottish influence on the United States has been huge from the birth of the USA. The American Constitution is based on that of the Scottish Presbyterian Church.

At least one-third of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish origin.

Scottish influence on American politics are mixed. They have both yin (unification for economic purposes) and yang (independent Scotland first, unconquered) elements.
  • Scotland always knew what it wanted from uniting with England - access to British markets. (Yin.)
  • Adam Smith, Scotsman and champion of free trade, mocked the short-sightedness of trade restrictions. (Yin.)
  • His pro-trade Wealth of Nations appeared the same year as the American Declaration of Independence. (Yin.)
  • Scotland, however, has been proud of its strong self-defense against English soldiers. (Yang.)
  • Scottish soldiers, early practitioners if guerrilla ("secret") warfare, drove back the successive attacks on them by Edward I and Edward II.  (Yang.)
  • The agreement of Scotland with Edward III to unite with Britain in 1707, yielding the two-flag Union Jack (minus until 1808 the second diagonal red cross of St. Patrick), was negotiated to ensure Scotland access to colonial markets. (Yin.)
The "Yes" for independence campaign taps into the yang of the Battle of Bannockburn and the Good Sir James Douglas and the chasing of British troops back to Yorkshire. It taps into "Braveheart" Wallace and the Declaration of Arbroath, which inspired the American version.

The "No" campaign taps into the yin of economic growth, of open markets. J.K. Rowling, a beneficiary of open trade and free movement between England and Scotland, has contributed substantially to the anti-independence, "Better Together" campaign. The root of the first three letters of economic is the Greek word for home (οἶκος, oikos).

It looks now as though the vote will be closer than expected one month ago. The pro-independence yang ("Yes") vote has been growing. Its emotional appeal is strong.

Despite the seeming momentum of yang in the polls, I expect that yin ("No") will win. Scotland's nomenklatura does not want to risk losing markets by voting "Yes". I think that is also the sensible vote. Save the macho stuff for the gym and the Highland Games.


After I posted the above I read the New York Times editorial on the subject. The Times does not take a position on the yes or no case, but notes that it is more than an economic issue. It concludes, based on what both sides are saying to the swing voters, that voting either way will have limited consequences.

I'm not so sure the consequences will be so limited.

The main position of the Times is that the votes in Scotland and Catalonia are possible only because of the European Union, and isn't it wonderful that Scotland has a chance to vote on this instead of having to defend one's independence by fighting (as in Scotland under Edward I and II, and in Ukraine today).

Update, September 7 - A poll shows the "yes" vote has pulled ahead, although by a statistically insignificant margin. In other words, it is a toss-up. Yin or yang?

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