I’m going to go out on a limb – based on exit polls – and call the Scottish independence referendum for the “No” side. That seems to me like the right call for the Scots to have made.
Gordon Brown’s speech – in effect, defending the Union in the name of the Scottish Enlightenment of Hume and Adam Smith – reminds me how queasy nationalism makes me, even when it’s not explicitly racist.
Self-determination is a just demand for oppressed nations, but take away the oppression and the case gets pretty weak. And yes, that argues against the American Revolution, except insofar as it was republican and anti-aristocratic rather than merely separatist. (After all, part of what the colonists wanted was a free hand against the Native Americans.)
Brown made a strong case that independence would be a practical disaster for Scotland. What he didn’t say is that it would also help cement David Cameron’s Tories in office. So I’m glad the referendum failed: assuming that is, that it did fail.
Still, we Reality-Basers are so relentlessly fair-minded that we astonish ourselves.
So here, with a blistering dissent, is Robert Burns, given voice by Steeleye Span:
And here’s Alistair McDonald, with more traditional interpretation.
For those who have not chosen to waste perfectly useful neuronal connections learning British history, the background of Burns’s satire is as follows: After the Stuart succession to the English throne had united the crowns in 1603, there remained strong resistance – at first, more on the English than on the Scottish side – against uniting the two kingdoms and creating a common citizenship and a single Parliament. So they remained two kingdoms under one king, with the possibility that sometime in the future the English and the Scots might again have different kings, and resume their centuries-long history of constant border raiding and occasional war.
Perfecting the union became a central point of royal policy after the Revolution of 1688, with the constant threat of a Jacobite Scotland concentrating minds wonderfully on both sides of the border. But the Scottish Parliament was unalterably opposed, and managed to stymie all such moves until the Darien fiasco of 1707, when a hare-brained scheme to make Scotland a colonial power in Central America crashed and burned, leaving the Scottish state bankrupt. At that point the English government offered a bailout on the condition of full Union, and the proposal duly passed.
Thus the force of Burns’s complaint that the Scots had been “bought and sold for English gold.” Still, given the actual political history of independent Scotland (pretty much the court of the Borgias with claymores instead of stilettos), it seems unfair of Burns to write as if all of the rogues were on one side of the question.