Why Did England Allow This Vote?
The thought they'd win big and silence the Scottish separatists. They were wrong.
Political scientist Barbara F. Walter asks, “What Was England Thinking?”
The vote this Thursday for Scottish independence is going to be close, closer than the signs indicate. That’s because many more people will vote “No” than are willing to admit to their neighbors. Still, the vote is too close to call and that makes the U.K. government ‘s decision to allow for the vote so puzzling. Either way, Westminster loses. If the Scots vote for independence, the U.K. loses a third of its territory and becomes a shell of its former self. If the Scots vote against independence, Westminster keeps the territory but with a much more nationalistic and divided population. Management 101 would have said that a vote should never have been allowed on an issue this risky and divisive.
So why did England agree to it? It agreed because it thought it would win by a large margin. A big no vote in Scotland would have silenced the separatists and given Westminster more bargaining power when negotiating with the Scots over such things as North Sea oil. But that’s not going to happen. Instead, the Scots will emerge from Thursday with more bargaining power to demand even greater autonomy even if the referendum is defeated.
Alas, this didn’t account for irrational nationalistic sentiment. My hunch is that it’ll prevail and that Scotland will become independent, making both themselves and the UK worse off in the process. And that it’ll have negative ripple effects throughout Europe, with other separatist movements (Catalonia, Flanders, etc.) getting renewed life.