To “Falter” or to “Prosper?” Scotland’s Potential Independence Considered

On Sunday I was listening to the weekend edition of NPR News, and the topic of Scotland’s potential independence came up.  NPR decided to explore the story was through economics, but what I found interesting that NPR juxtaposed two completely opposing views.  The two articles were entitled, “Scotland Could Prosper Outside the United Kingdom,” and “An Independent Scotland Could Falter Economically.”  What do we believe?

According to the article posing secession as a beneficial economic step, Scotland is, as Fiona Hyslop, a member of the Scottish Parliament puts it, “relative to the UK,” in a very good economic place, bolstered by its oil and gas industries.  Yet Hyslop says that the distinction between England and Scotland would not necessarily have to cut one off from the other, for the currency would be shared, and social relationships between the Scottish and their friends and family in England would be maintained.  Additionally, no passport would suddenly be needed to travel from the UK into Scotland, as it is a member of the European Union.  The only thing, really, that Hyslop emphasizes would change with a Scottish secession would be the political bond between England and Scotland.  She believes that the Scottish have been inadequately represented in the government.  She wants “the people who live and work in Scotland” to be heard in government, instead of having “governments we [the Scottish] haven’t voted for controlling big issues.”  This stance is definitely a nationalist position, wanting to return to the “pre-1707” Scotland during which Scotland was seen as an equal power in Europe, for, right now, Hyslop remarks, “The union [between the UK and Scotland] was meant to be a parliament of equals, but it doesn’t sometimes feel like this from our position.”  (Source: http://www.npr.org/2014/04/27/307340604/scotland-could-prosper-outside-the-united-kingdom)

On the other hand, the article “An Indepenent Scotland Could Falter Economically” warns us of the economic risks secession would take, refuting many of the ideas Hyslop sets out in her interview in the previous article.  Ari Shapiro, who reports for NPR, has spent time in Glasgow to get a sense of the Scottish sentiment toward the potential secession.  Shapiro notes that Hyslop’s statement about currency and Scotland’s membership in the European Union is incorrect: the Scottish pound may not stay tied to the English pound, according to British finance minister George Osborne, and Scotland may have to wait to apply to become a member of the EU, according to European Union president Jose Manuel Barroso.  Additionally, Scottish pensioners would feel negative effects of secession, for the British pension they share currently is significantly satisfactory, as Shapiro found out in an interview with the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  Still, after speaking to residents of Scotland, Shapiro realizes that they share the same nationalist feeling as Hyslop, noting, “For them, it is more of a vote based on the heart than the head.”  (Source: http://www.npr.org/2014/04/27/307340611/an-independent-scotland-could-falter-economically).

I’m still pondering what exactly these two articles predict.  Clearly, nationalist thought and Scottish pride are widespread sentiments, but they beg the question of whether “the heart” is stronger than “the head” when the referendum actually comes around.  Is moving back to Hyslop’s pre-1707 past tempting enough for the Scottish people, or would they like to maintain their relatively comfortable economic status?  I’d be curious to know how pressing this issue of secession is in the everyday lives of the Scottish people.  Do we hear a more governmental/political leadership voice in these articles than we do of “the people?”  Do these “official” voices block out the true Scottish sentiment?