Opinion

Why Scottish independence would be good for Scotland and the rest of Britain

Breaking free from Great Britain could be a win for everyone

The most striking result of the British general election was the Scottish National Party's sweep of Scotland's seats in Parliament. The SNP took all but one that the Labour Party had commanded in the region, traditionally one of its strongholds. This has renewed fears that the Scottish independence movement still has a lot of steam, despite the recent referendum in which Scots voted to remain in the United Kingdom. The advent of what amounts to a one-party state suggests that independence may be inevitable.

To which I say...good!

As I wrote during the referendum campaign, separatist movements like Scotland's deserve to win simply because national elites have done so much to invite secession. Out of cosmopolitan fear of appearing backward or provincial, they have refused to give their people any reason, beyond their wallets, to want to be part of their country, let alone be proud of it.

Scottish independence would be a wake-up call to national elites all around the world. I doubt they'll heed it. But they need one anyway.

Another reason for Scotland to go independent is that it would be good for both Scotland and what remains of Great Britain.

On the Scottish side, the country has a golden opportunity to "go Ireland": to combine its small size and English-speaking population with low taxes, which will attract swathes of international investment and allow its economy to grow like gangbusters. Nowadays the Irish model doesn't look so hot given Ireland's tremendous crash and recession, but that was due to a combination of factors — its adoption of the euro, the government's wrongheaded decision to assume the liabilities of all Irish banks — that had nothing to do with Ireland's underlying economic policy. This policy has now delivered a pretty good recovery, considering all that Ireland was facing.

Now, the Scots probably won't do that. Absurdly, they want the euro. And the Scots, by and large, tend to be socialists. But the point is that independence offers them an option that would be denied them if they stayed in the union.

What's more, even though I don't like the Scots' socialism, shouldn't they be able to, well, make their own mistakes? Scottish nationalists keep saying the country's oil reserves will allow it to become a Norwegian-style paradise, with all public services free and high quality. Sober-minded anti-nationalists point out that Scotland's oil reserves just aren't that big anymore, and that the math doesn't work that way. Fair enough — but why not let the Scots find that out on their own like grown-ups?

On the other side, Scottish independence would also transform the rest of the U.K.'s politics. As has been noted, Scotland's idiosyncratic political culture has dragged the median of British politics to the left. The U.K. without Scotland would be a much more conservative place, and much more amenable to free market economics. With London at its core, and with a much more conservative culture, the new U.K. could become a kind of European super-Hong Kong or super-Singapore.

What's more, just as the example of Hong Kong pushed China eventually to liberalize, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, this could have an impact way beyond England, eventually goading the rest of Europe's aging, bloated welfare state to reform.

In other words, Scottish independence would be good for Scotland, good for the rest of the U.K., and good for Europe. What's not to like?

Stand up with me and sing, "Flower of Scotland!"

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