“Scotland likely to choose independence, foreign diplomats believe” Guardian


"Foreign diplomats believe Scotland is likely to vote for independence after a series of opinion polls have shown an increase in support for a yes vote in September's referendum. Sources in the diplomatic corps in Edinburgh, which is home to nearly 50 consulates and diplomatic missions, have told the Guardian they think the tide of opinion has shifted significantly in recent months, after a noticeable swing against David Cameron's government and the no campaign. One senior diplomat, who asked not to be named, said he had believed last year that a yes vote was unlikely, but had since changed his mind. In his view "it is now likely, but not certain" that Scotland would vote yes in September, he said."  Guardian


Well, well, I did not expect this.  It seemed to me until recently that the Scots would not have a sufficient sense of grievance against England to take such a step.  The difficulties involved in such a separation are likely to be significant.  Amng other things there would be assumption of a portion of the debt of the United Kingdom.  There will also be a necessary settlement of the question of ownership of North Sea petroleum assets. 

There are about five million Scots north of the border.  There are twenty million people of Scottish descent in the US.  There are many more in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  These are fairly small numbers compared to other ancestral groups such as the Scotch-Irish but nevertheless they are substantial.  Scotland's future matters to a lot of us. 

IMO, the future of the UK is not a major security concern for the United States.  The British armed forces are in the process of a build down to levels of force structure that will make them largely irrelevant in anything but politically symbolic action.  Scottish nationalists seem to intend to remain in the NATO alliance but that continuance would likely be insignificant from a strategic point of view.  The nuclear submarine base in Scotland was important in the context of the Cold War but that was then and this is now.

I understand from discussion with Englishmen that many of them would be quite willing to see the end of the union.  They believe that the Scots get more out of the present arrangment than is justified.  At the same time there are persistant rumors that the actual number of Scots who will vote for independence is greater than the percentages displayed in polling.

My Scots ancestors left for Ireland at the end of the seventeenth contury in the hope of escaping English rule.  Some things apparently do not change.  pl  


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52 Responses to “Scotland likely to choose independence, foreign diplomats believe” Guardian

  1. MartinJ says:

    Speaking as someone who is half English and half Scots this news disappoints me but doesn’t surprise me. The country that Cameron presides over is increasing London-centric. Investment is minimal in the towns and cities of northern England (and Scotland). A sense of divergence is also palpable in places such as Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester.
    Scotland, Wales and northern England traditionally depended on employment in the armed forces as a way out of poverty. That option is now largely absent. Instead of investing in military personnel successive governments have allocated a shrinking budget to the overpriced and largely useless Typhoon and retention of the Trident delivery system for our nuclear arsenal. Surely its only a matter of time before Britain’s continued membership of the Security Council’s P5 will be formally challenged.

  2. robt willmann says:

    Great! Time to separate. But many new details to deal with. And new expenses but without some expenses associated with Britain. At least the Scots, if they become independent, can figure out their own solution to societal issues.
    Next up … Ireland.

  3. Charles I says:

    Former NATO head George Robertson apparently disagrees w/r/t NATO or nuclear weapons.
    “Although any separation after the Sept. 18 referendum would be peaceful, it would trigger years of messy negotiations over the future of the British nuclear weapons program, North Sea oil reserves and the pound. Former NATO secretary general and British defense minister George Robertson said in a speech in Washington this past week that for the United Kingdom to “shatter this year would be cataclysmic.”

  4. Lord Curzon says:

    I believe it’s a tragedy that will have severe repercussions in the years to come. While Scotland may get more under the present arrangement than is their due, an independent Scotland is a chimera. Alex Salmon and his ilk are peddling emotion over living in a straightened economic reality that’ll see Scotland gasping, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said ‘no’ to a currency union, which means it would have to sign up to the EU – at which point economic independence goes out the window! The flight of capital from Scotland to the safe haven of the rest of the Union would be massive.
    Alternatively, perhaps EX JOINT WARRIOR currently ongoing is Cameron firing a warning shot across Salmon’s bows, a la Putin!

  5. Charles I says:

    Thomas Home Dixon has just written on the economic situation as a driver of fracturing countries. While citing more authoritarian states as Turkey, Thailand Venezuela and Ukraine, in the last sentence below he makes one apt comment on political consequences of economic grievances more widely applicable.
    “The fundamental cause of all this unrest – in such a variety of societies – is likely slower global economic growth. The Institute for Economics and Peace notes that countries experiencing recession “have decreased in peace at a greater rate than the rest of the world.” The unrest is a downstream consequence of the recession of 2008 and 2009, which flipped the global economy into a persistent low-growth state, as countries, firms, and households around the world hunkered down and focused on paying off debt. Consistently high prices for oil and food have reinforced this stagnation.
    The political effects have been most dramatic in middle-income societies with corrupt authoritarian regimes, rapacious elites, wide economic inequality and small and economically insecure middle classes. In these fractured societies, stalled economies have dashed economic opportunity and deepened grievances – especially among cohorts of young people who have relatively good education but very few good jobs.”
    Plenty more of that ahead. “Intelligent” systems are going to oust many a thinking tech/financial service/accounting/legal professional as these functions are outsourced to computers. They are naturally being introduced in the most advanced economies first.

  6. William Herschel says:

    Whatever England was, it no longer is. In the two debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg, 69% of the English public polled by the Guardian and the Sun (read The New York Times and The Post) favored Farage. 69%. The British Isles are sick of globalization, multi-national corporations, European Union, and limitless immigration. Scotland wants out. I don’t blame them.

  7. oofda says:

    Can the Scots afford this? The Brits have already said that Scotland would not be on the Pound.
    On the other hand, it might be an opportunity for the Norwegians to come back!

  8. Fred says:

    I’m sure Vladimir Putin would be happy to send Foreign Minister Lavrov to Edinburgh to discuss an economic union. The Scotts could always propose leasing out that old Cold War submarine base. Think of the revenue that would generate.

  9. William Herschel,
    ‘Whatever England was, it no longer is.’
    You are partly right, and partly quite wrong. The kind of opinions that Farage professes are ones you could have heard in any public or saloon bar in the Home Counties for as long as I can remember.
    Among crucial things that have changed: in the past, people who held these opinions commonly felt a certain sense of intellectual inferiority confronted by people like Nick Clegg. Partly because of the way that opinion has shifted, partly because of his very considerable intellectual and political gifts, Farage gives such people a spokesman who can give as good as he gets.
    Another interesting element in Farage is that he a German wife, by whom he has two children.
    Traditionally, British Euroscepticism was a mixture of two quite different elements. One was Germanophobia, rooted in an unfortunate propensity of my countrymen to retreat into Second World War nostalgia; the other was a dislike of subordination to remote and unaccountable bureaucracies.
    For my own part, I have always hated and despised British Germanophobia — partly because I was fortunate enough to be influenced by two German Jewish refugees, who taught me about the many admirable aspects of German culture.
    However, I have increasing sympathy for the other ‘Eurosceptic’ strand, which thinks that European institutions are commonly run by the kind of ‘liberals’ who give ‘liberalism’ a bad name.

  10. Tyler says:

    The trend of the technocrats is towards more ‘unity’ at more and more distant levels of power.
    The trend of the people is that they want more local control and not to be ruled over by people thousands of miles away.
    This is a global conflict, and its going to be interesting how it all plays out.

  11. walrus says:

    When my son was teaching Sailing in Edinburgh a few years ago, people were spitting in the street in front of him because he was wearing a yacht club shirt with a crown embroidered on it. He had similar experiences in Ireland when it was discovered he had a British passport as well as Australian. The hatred is real.
    My own opinion, which is untested, is that the Scotch and Irish are sick of being lectured to and lorded over by Oxbridge educated snobs of all political persuasions.

  12. JohnH says:

    Didn’t I hear just last month that elections to break up countries were illegal under international law?
    Oh, right! That was Crimea. This is Scotland.
    Now where do Kosovo and South Sudan fit in?

  13. William Herschel says:

    The facts are on Farage’s side. He has abundant intellectual and political gifts, but he also has the facts. The 69% who said he won the debate are not sufficiently stupid to mistake their current state for bad when it is actually good. The notion that 69% of the English public are brainless barstool loudmouths is incorrect.

  14. turcopolier says:

    Presumably the UK government will accept the vote whatever it is. The queen, of course, will still be queen of Scotland. Curling parties at Balmoral will continue. The Scots are lucky. God did not create the UK or Canada for some special purpose of his/her own. All they need say after secession is “What we ask is to left alone.” pl

  15. jerseycityjoan says:

    The EU has been pretty negative about independence — they may well not admit Scotland. The two big banks up there may not stay.
    If independence means fewer jobs and less income and more dependency on the state by more needy people, is that acceptable to them? Is a separate Scotland able to provide the same social benefits as the UK? They will certainly lack the rich of London to tax.
    Obviously it is up to the them to decide. I cannot help but suspect that those who vote Yes assume the EU will back down, admit them and then subsidize them as they have Ireland.

  16. jerseycityjoan says:

    On the topic of NATO — By cutting its military forces so severely, the UK has thrown much more of its defense on to us by default. I assume Scotland will not attempt to have a real military, so their defense will on us too.
    Isn’t it time for NATO’s rules to mandate that countries must spend a certain percentage on defense or lose their NATO membership? Frankly in some ways the best thing we could do for them would be to leave NATO ourselves.

  17. charly says:

    Scotland is a big oil, gas & electricity (the expensive hydro kind and the cheap wind kind) exporter. Do you think that they can afford it?
    Not having the British Pound but a Scottish currency is likely beneficial for Scotland. Their imports from the rest of the UK are mostly in pounds but their exports to them is mostly energy and that is dollar based so having their own currency is good for the Scottish economy.

  18. charly says:

    The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said ‘no’ to a currency union but is that to get a no vote or because it is better for Britain to not have a currency union. My guess it is the former and they will change their mind after a yes vote. Politically that is easy to do by saying that the currency union is only temporarily. Also Denmark has their own currency and is of the same size. EU/EFTA makes claims of real independence obvious somewhat laughable but the same is true of the whole UK and independence. But Scotland would be obvious more independent under the EU than under Britain that is itself under the EU.
    ps. Why would there be capital flight, especially if most land in Scotland is not owned by Scots.

  19. tv says:

    Reminds me of the spirited discussions I had 13 years ago in Quebec City with separatist students.
    My point – and it applies even more to Scotland is that there was/is no long term economic viability.
    After the dwindling North Sea oil and gas drys up, what are Scotland’s exports?
    Whiskey and sweaters?
    Besides the oil and gas, Scotland lives off of English subsidies.
    And all three of the UK parties have been unified in saying that the pound out of bounds.
    “Yes” has an emotional – if immature – appeal.

  20. kao_hsien_chih says:

    The situation is not as straightforward as a clash between local vs. central authorities. In a sense, the possibility of Scottish secession from UK is driven by the expectation that the Scots could lean on the Eurocrats instead of London and get a better deal. This is partly what motivates the problems in Belgium as well and, in some sense, this is what troubles Ukraine and Russia also (since Ukraine’s geography and economic linkages to Russia should mean that they ought to maintain close ties to Russia, but the attendant political dependence does not make some in Ukraine happy–especially the Russophobic Galicians.)
    Will EU accept an independent Scotland as its member? I was thinking that that was a forgone conclusion, were Scotland to break free of London, but if there is any serious prospect that they might not make it into EU, then the analogue to the goings on in Ukraine becomes much more pertinent!

  21. Charles I says:

    We still have to shell out for part of the tours bill.

  22. steve says:

    For those interested, a good article on some of the financial implications for an independent Scotland, particularly since Cameron has ruled out Scotland continuing to use the British pound as its currency.

  23. steve says:

    I’m a bit surprised at that.
    I have Irish cousins in both Dublin and suburban London. Both Ireland and Scotland have so many of their countrymen living in England that there never seemed to me to be much of a personal level animus.
    The two times I have been in Ireland, it didn’t appear to me that anyone gave a hoot that someone carried a UK passport–since many of their British acculturated relatives did.
    On a political, not personal, level of course there is some hostility.

  24. steve says:

    I think Nato should be looked at in more than a dollars and cents calculation as to what country pays how much.
    Nato is a market for the US arms industry, it is a huge bureaucracy employing thousands–beyond the actual numbers of an individual nation’s troop size, and it is an instrument of US foreign policy in many cases.
    I don’t really think there is much of a need for the “defense of Scotland”, really any more than there is for the defense of the Netherlands.
    Mutual defense may be Nato’s stated purpose, but it functions on far more levels than that.
    I agree beyond that, that Nato has outlived its original, core purpose, and its continued existence should be questioned.

  25. Grimgrin says:

    My family is of English Canadian extraction. On purely emotional grounds then, I am neither a particular fan of regional independence movements nor of the idea of the breakup of the UK. I will admit then, that I am biased in this discussion up front.
    Here’s the SNP’s white paper on an independent Scotland:
    It’s full of hand-waving and basically boils down to “Everything good that you like, we’ll keep for free, everything bad that you hate, we’ll get rid of. While cutting taxes for corporations and providing universal child care”. Between that, and Salmond’s support for “Fred Goodwin” or his earlier statements about an “Arc of Prosperity”, I tend to think the Scots are in for several years of severe pain if they separate.
    robt willmann: If there are still any people in the English government of the old “Perfidious Albion” mold they’ll get the idea of Northern Ireland being given the opportunity to join Scotland prior to any final settlement made part of negotiations.

  26. ALL: Can anyone produce a good map displaying [1] the modern border between England and Scotland; [2] Hadrians Wall; [3] the areas subject to the Danelaw in Scotland and England?
    Perhaps overlapping?
    Should modern Scotland be considered part of modern Scandinavia?

  27. crf says:

    I very much agree with Alex Salmond in calling Robertson’s comments apocalyptic nonsense.
    The Post article also just states as a fact that “Russia is waging a stiff challenge to western authority”. This is also nonsense. It’s fearsome to think people believe this stuff.

  28. crf says:

    NATO isn’t being threatened by Russia. Ukraine is not in NATO.
    Any war between a NATO member and Russia would probably escalate to a nuclear war which would annihilate most of humankind.
    The war NATO fought in Libya was an abomination. Clearly, most NATO members spend too much on defense if they feel comfortable wasting military power for no good reason, and at great risk of future reprisals of a terroristic nature.
    What you spend on defense, you can’t spend on other things. Things that might reduce the risk of conflict in the first place, for instance.

  29. jon says:

    I can understand the Scottish desire for independence. It’s very similar to many other groups and areas desire to govern themselves and emphasize their culture. Much as the Basques and Catalans in Spain feel. Or Quebec in Canada. Or the Welsh. Or the Irish, for that matter.
    But Scotland has it’s own Parliament now, and Devolution has provided a remarkable amount of autonomy. Scotland these days is remarkably Labor oriented, while the South of England seems solidly Tory, and Whitehall is busily dismantling the welfare state, with no change on the horizon.
    The Scots’ assumption that Britain won’t extract a price for the value of its assets and improvements seems optimistic. So does the assumption that Scotland will inherit North Sea petroleum resources, and that England will be a ready market at top price for any and all wind and other renewable energy exports. The Scots may not wind up nearly as affluent as they think they deserve to be.
    I don’t see a barrier or downside to Scotland joining the EU, with or without its own currency. The EU would rather have the Scots in than out.

  30. Fred says:

    So lots of people are imployed in overbudgeted military weapsons programs that are also heavily subsidized by the US taxpayer? So what. All those highly skilled people can put thier skills to work in some other economic endeavor. A war will mean many Americans dead and injured. For what – Ukraine? No thanks.

  31. john stack says:

    A balance sheet can not be used to decide Scottish Independence. The most important things in our life have no scientific measure or monetary value. Pride, patriotism, Freedom, love, loyalty, trust, feeling, friendship, joy, peace,
    If you prefer to be a pampered poodle instead of a proud crowing cock you are not fit to vote real Scots into English control. Eyes must be raised from the trough to a National identity and destiny. Being born in Scotland does not make you a proud true Scot. It is choice of loyalty not accident of birth. Do you have a passionate desire for Scottish independence ? Are you a Scot ?. Same answer.
    When Scots see their National Flag fly around the world they will never give it back. What value Pride? What price a Scottish soul. Good Proud Englishmen would die for ENGLAND. Scots have the same love for SCOTLAND.
    If England thinks they can be stronger with Scotland behind them then how much stronger will they be as free nations standing shoulder to shoulder as free people.
    The media are largely anti Scottish independence. The English are experienced, manipulative, colonisers. They have been on the case for a long time, know all the tricks, and it would be amazing if they had not succeeded. They will threaten, ridicule, divide, separate, control the media, and dangerously flatter.
    If Scottish spirit is buried it will be buried alive. Artists, Poets, thinkers, Leaders and people like Alex Salmond and brave people will think the unthinkable with renewed vigour. Seeds must be sown and nourished. Only a few patriots are needed to keep the flame alive. Treat them well for they hold your dreams.
    Hopefully the Scots have not been fully, shamefully, pacified and domesticated
    There are unconquered Scots with an unbreakable strength, gallant courage, unshakable purpose as belonged to Wallace and his MEN. The seed of freedom again ripen in young mens hearts .
    People in Scotland are overwhelmingly against trident and the only way to get rid of it is Scottish independence.
    North Sea oil production is going into a period of decline but with care and new technology Scotland, with one tenth the needs of the UK, will with absolute certainty remain an oil exporter for decades to come. Redraw the territorial line horizontally from Scotland to include the Oil/Gas in Scotland. If England exits the EU, staying in would be a good strategy for Scotland.
    The fear of Masonic, Protestant, Scottish Nationalist control could drive many minorities to feel safer in Governance with outside control. The compromise necessary will have to be a comfortable, better, place for ¾ million Catholics and Muslims, Colonists, Immigrants, Fearful people, and to remove the racism and bigotery that is there.
    You totally misunderstand Scottish patriotism. It is not about hatred of England. There is very much to admire about them. Just step back and look. The more you step back the better they look. Step back 300 miles (London to Edinburgh) and roll back 300 years of assimilation and they look perfect

  32. steve says:

    I don’t disagree with your points at all.
    I was characterizing the impediments to changing or abolishing Nato, together with the “benefits” that accrue to certain sectors beyond the inequity of particular nations’ dollars and cents spent.
    I wasn’t celebrating Nato or its expanded role at all.

  33. Tyler says:

    I’m speaking more in a general sense. Catalonia comes to mind as another “rebellious” province, along with the other countries tired of participating in the grand secular experiment of the EU.

  34. Tyler says:

    You had me until you started talking about a safe place for immigrants and joining the EU.
    Why vote for independence just to hand your country over to Pakis and gypsies or lay down and grovel for privilege of Brussels’ boot on your neck?

  35. charly says:

    In Quebec you have a large segment of people (the English speakers etc.) that would want a re-unification with Canada after the split. There is not such a group in Scotland. The question of Scottish independence is much more a question of money and power. The Scottish people would have more power being an independent part of the EU than a being part of the British EU. Then there is money but it is rare for people to see them self as the leaches and i don’t even think that that is the case in Scotland.
    ps. Saying besides the oil Scotland lives of subsidies is like saying Silicon Valley lives of subsidies outside the high tech industry.

  36. ISL says:

    Having lived a number of years in Independent Ireland, no-sole that I met ever hoisted a pint to rejoin the UK.
    A good argument would be made that if Scotland’s currency depreciated (Scotland, be wise, dont join the EU and adopt a Germany optimized economic policy!!!), and it offered favorable terms for investment, quite a few of the new industries would relocate.
    john stack, right on, somethings cannot be priced.

  37. Many thanks! Few in the USA understand the political implications of the opening of the Arctic. It drives the Chinese leadership crazy that they may have to go to the moon and seize control to offset the perks provided by the opening of the Arctic. They have, however, been given observer status at their request on key Arctic Commissions and organization.
    BTW icebreakers will still be essential in the Arctic the next four decades. The US Congress has declined to build a third icebreaker. The other two need major repairs and servicing.

  38. Tyler! Perhaps like Israel the Scots will create a “right to return” for the Scottish diaspora!

  39. charly says:

    Catalonia and the Basque don’t want to leave the EU

  40. Imagine says:

    actually, we have a massive revolution in A.I. teed up for about four years into the future, spearheaded by IBM’s Watson, but Google will help as well. IBM is taking on doctors; this is humanity’s last/best hope to cut the price of medical care / the Medicare entitlement in half, and save America’s national debt. I don’t see effective real-life autonomous humanoid Terminators until around nine-to-seventeen years in the future. Coupled with the current venality and moral collapse in our political system, this latter will cause huge destabilization (large-scale invasions, etc). I honestly don’t know how people will make livings. Sweden just cut back to a six-hour day; most people spend their life’s time watching TV, doing Facebook, surfing the Internet, or chatting. (Scotland will follow Ireland as a successful tax haven in the near term, but people still have to do SOMEthing.) The A.I. revolution will continue, exponentially, for the next couple of decades. It’s a critical question–how will people bring valuable good to the universe [= get paid] five or ten years into the future?

  41. Imagine says:

    My bagpipe teacher was for Free Scotland in 1975. Some things are a long time coming. Freedom does seem to have more intangibles for the Scots than people realize.

  42. steve says:

    As an independent nation, it will be free to make those decisions on its own, as it should be.

  43. Lord Curzon says:

    Hahahaha! Indeed.

  44. Lord Curzon says:

    Charly, Osborne is not joking about this. It has nothing to do with trying to change people’s minds, but everything to do with hard economic reality. The markets would look at a small country trying to forge a currency union with England and the speculation on the first day alone would be on the scale of Soros busting the Bank of England on Black Wednesday. Walking away from the UK’s debt, as Salmon is threatening to do, would then insure international lenders imposing draconian interest rates which would then impact the Scottish economy severely. At which point, the money will start to move south…

  45. Charles I says:

    I just don’t know. I’ve got no kids, at 55 I’m just gonna hide out in the boonies gardening and fishing and blowing snow til I die.

  46. Charles I says:

    Always great to control one’s currency til somebody takes a run at it til the IMF pops in to privatize things in order to socialize the losses.

  47. Charles I says:

    Our own ice breaker and arctic naval, port and other manly defense expansion plans, all loudly announced with yearly frosty foto-ops for a decade now, have all been quietly shelved, put on hold, funding envelope indefinitely extended(my favorite.)
    The actual procurement of each bit of kit announced by our posturing Conservatives be it helicopters, rescue helicopters, naval ships of all types, army trucks, JF 35’s have each and every one so far produced only scandals, lies, fiascoes, resets and Bart Simpsonesque choruses of “I didn’t do it” from our so far irresponsible government.
    Completion of our first “gravel highway” to our Arctic coast by 2017 was giddily announced by Dear Leader hisself earlier this year.

  48. Thanks Charles I! As the first generation CUMMING in my line born in the states I follow Canadian history and events closely. I even like some Canadian TV series [I don’t have a TV. I found the series INTELLIGENCE of particular interest.
    Wonder if the story of Canada closing the border in WWI to prevent draft evaders from fleeing to the USA written up anywhere?

  49. steve says:

    I had thought the Dempster Highway went all the way to the coast. Guess not.

  50. Tyler says:

    Like we the people are allowed to decide about turning our country into Mexico Notre?

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