Our guide to all things British (and dispensational), Crawford Gribben, has addressed the question of Scottish independence in ways that should console American conservatives. It will mean smaller government and a setback for liberalism. (What really matters to me, though, is whether the BBC will continue to produce the kind of television, movies, and radio that — all about me — I have come to enjoy).
In this sense, the campaigns for and against Scottish independence have become political theatres of the absurd. English Conservatives campaign against a constitutional realignment that would give them a generational advantage over Labour, while the Scottish National Party’s campaign for independence would satisfy their raison d’être but raise profound questions as to what other policies might hold them together as a viable political force. Independence would, in a sense, separate the national conjoined twins, allowing each of them to go in the opposing directions signaled in the last general election: a strong swing to the right in England, counterbalanced by a solid return of Labour MPs from Scotland. There is no reason of substance for English Conservatives to campaign against Scottish independence. Their arguments that Scotland is the “poor man” of the union and a net gainer from the UK Treasury could, for example, be turned into an argument that independence would lead to greater English wealth. There would certainly be a substantial jobs boost if the naval shipyards were to move south. Much of the “No” campaign is driven by exactly the kind of banal nationalism it finds so disagreeable among Scots: supporting the 1707 union simply because it is there.
But nostalgia is a poor—and unpopular—political philosophy. Despite the recent petitions presented by celebrities in favor of the union, opinion polls have at times pointed to the enthusiasm of English voters for Scottish independence. In fact, some polls taken earlier in the campaign indicated that English voters were more in favor of Scottish independence than were the majority of Scots, while the most recent polls indicate that English voters are swinging to support the Union even as Scots are increasingly aligning themselves against it. Nevertheless, if English Conservatives could find a way to ignore the advice of pop stars and the Pope, they would have no reason to argue on behalf of a political union that no longer works to their strategic advantage. Scottish independence could mark the end of the British left as a viable political force.
The polls are close, but the money is on “no.”