Towering in gallant fame,
Scotland my mountain hame,
High may your proud standards gloriously wave,
Land of my high endeavour,
Land of the shining river,
Land of my heart for ever, Scotland the brave.
I’ll meet her at the shore,
Playin the pipes for her,
Dressed in a kilt and a tam o’shanter too.
Drums in my heart are drummin,
I hear the bagpipes hummin,
My Bonnie Lassie’s comin, comin to me,
If these lyrics are not familiar to you, you might recognize this tune;
This week’s The Economist, a British publication which styles itself as a newspaper but whose format is more what we would call a magazine, has an interesting and rather provocative cover on its U.K. edition for this week of April 14th -20th, 2012. It shows a map of Scotland intended as a pan of the Scottish independence movement. That cause has recently gathered some energy with the election of First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond who has recently stated his desire to hold a referendum on the matter sometime in 2012. The cover labels the country as “Skintland” and the major cities as Edinborrow and Glasgone. The regions are the Highinterestlands, the Grumpians, and the Loanlands. All these parodies are intended to be predictive of the dire economic straits the country would be in if it became a nation independent of the rest of Britain. Needless to say, this cover raised quite a few hackles, particularly those of Mr. Salmond, who was highly offended.
The articles discussing the prospect of independence inside the magazine are more thoughtful than inflammatory, however, and set forth the pros and cons in a balanced manner. They nevertheless conclude that for Scotland to go its own way as a fully independent nation, even as a member of the Commonwealth like Canada and Australia, would be bad idea economically. It appears to be mainly a matter of ethnic or sectional pride, though individuals of Scottish descent reside in every part of the U.K. Great Britain has been great as much because of Scotland as England, and the benefits have been reciprocal. The Queen herself has at least as much Scottish ancestry as English (Salmond reportedly wants to keep the monarch as Queen (or King) of Scotland, as the monarchs were prior to the Act of Union in 1707).
The Scots have a reputation as an ornery bunch. Kind of like Texans. The Lone Star State ‘s culture was greatly influenced by the original English-speaking settlers, who were mainly of Scots-Irish descent. Those folks, often incorrectly termed “Scotch-Irish,” were lowland and borderland Protestant Scots who were lured to settle in northern Ireland by Oliver Cromwell, who dispossessed the native Gaelic Irish in a pacification attempt. Many didn’t like it there, and emigrated to the American colonies, quite a few ending up in Tennessee and Texas.
Last year, one of the more extreme reactions of some Texas politicians to the perceived triumph of oligarchical collectivism in Washington’s brave new world was talk of secession. That prospect makes about as much practical sense as that of today’s Scots separating from the rest of Britain – that is to say, almost none. The economy of scale of a commercially and politically unified nation that permitted free trade within its vast borders is what produced America’s standard of living – where the most obvious health problem for the poor is obesity, not starvation. Likewise, subsequent to the unification of Scotland with England and Wales in the 18th Century is when the Empire really took off economically. If Scotland wants to become an economic backwater with plenty of pride and not much else, that’s what independence will bring, as it would to our Lone Star State. Fortunately, there is hardly any chance of that happening. Not in the homeland of Adam Smith, or in Texas, wherein reside some of his most faithful heirs.