Scots reject independence by 10-point margin
Defying the predictions of pollsters, Scottish voters rejected independence by a comfortable 10-point margin yesterday. The many uncertainties surrounding currency, defense, and the economic consequences of a yes vote probably weighed heavily on those who counted themselves as uncertain or even mildly supportive of independence.
Glasgow, the largest city and host to a large working class and underclass, voted in favor of independence, but not by margins large enough to sway the margin. One of the key dreams of independence advocates was an even more comprehensive welfare state. While it would have been amusing to watch what would happen when the net subsidies from the rest of the UK ended and Scots had to pay for their own underclass, it probably would not have been pretty. The absence of left-leaning Scotland from the British parliament would have tipped the balance of power in the remaining UK heavily toward the conservatives and UKIP parties. Again, amusing, but the reality of a weakened and demoralized UK would have had many bad consequences.
Scotland has been promised increased autonomy should it vote no, and now the ball will be in Westminster’s court as it follows through on constitutional reform. Whatever further autonomy Scotland gains, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland can be expected to demand similar powers, pushing the United Kingdom in the direction of a federal system.
A number of commentators have made the point that agitation for independence in Scotland as well as many other places in Europe and elsewhere reflects anger with elites who are perceived as remote, uncaring, and out of touch with local wishes. These are views quite congenial to tea partiers and federalism advocates in the United States, where thee trend has been toward increased federal power and a diminished role for the states for the last century or more.
Another dimension to the move toward independence and regionalism affecting many western democracies is the denaturing of ethnic and national identities by multicultural elites, as noted by Jonathan Foreman in the Weekly Standard:
…arguably, the most important factor in the inappropriate calmness and inertia of the establishment has been its inability or unwillingness to talk about Britishness. The U.K.’s political class is so uncomfortable with overt expressions of patriotism, and so infected by the multiculturalist critique of British history as simply a narrative of racist, sexist, imperialist violence and exploitation, that it can neither promote nor fight for the union.
The EU is also driving the peoples of Europe into heightened awareness of their local identities precisely because it has watered down the concept of national identity:
…crises of national identity [are] provoked by the pooling of sovereignty in the European Union, by the euro’s problems, and by mass immigration, in particular from the Muslim world.
In my mind, the referendum result in Scotland is optimal. We are spared the possible chaos and weakening of a key ally that would have resulted from a yes victory, but the message has been received that it is better to keep government powers local as much as possible. We are likely to see increased agitation in places like Catalonia and Flanders for more autonomy if not secession.
In the United States, we have in our brilliant Constitution a method of reclaiming federalism from its current degraded state through an Article Five Convention, as well as through conventional political activity restoring the balance intended by our founders between sovereign states and the federal government that was intended to provide the limited and specific functions enumerated in the Constitution.