Saturday, December 15, 2012

More Thoughts on Scottish Nationalism

A couple of weeks ago, I stirred up some controversy with a post about Scottish Nationalism and the upcoming 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Never one to shy away from controversy, here are some more reasons why I'm skeptical about what's known 'round these parts as the "Yes Campaign".

  • The Security Implications of Scottish independence: RUSI has some items discussing the security implications of a "yes" vote. I haven't had a chance to review them yet; I suggested to CN Homeboy that he ought to write on that topic for his dissertation, but I imagine he'll probably write something about the Special Air Service. (I think he may need an intervention for his obsession with special forces units, but whatever.)
  • Ferry strike dates are announced: Remember when I took the ferry to Orkney? Well, the ferry company Caledonian MacBrayne (which later formed a company called NorthLink Ferries Ltd. to run the services to Orkney and Shetland) lost the 2012 bid to Serco Group. A company previously known for its management of prisons, Serco has a reputation for bidding low on contracts and then eliminating staff and reducing services once they've received the contract. Serco announced a few months ago that they intended to cut positions and reduce sailings - precisely what Orcadians had been wary of. As I understand it from following the story on Radio Orkney's daily program and Facebook page, the Scottish Government awarded the bid without much (any?) consultation from the Orkney Islands Council or the Shetland Islands Council, and Serco's actions once awarded the contract seem to be entirely consistent with the reservations that Orcadians expressed when the contract was awarded earlier this year. Now the employees are going on strike over these issues, and the Scottish Transport Minister's response is that this is "disappointing".
  • First Aberdeen bus pay strike ballot: 'Yes' vote of 90% announced: I'll admit up front that I'm not sure who handles this action, the Scottish Government in Holyrood, or the Aberdeen City Council. Either way, I don't enjoy the prospect of being consigned to foot travel all across the city in December because politicians can't sort something like this out. At the moment, the strike is on hold after "productive" talks took place on Tuesday, but that's not really a super awesome worry to have hanging over my head for the next three or four weeks. And this comes amid a ScotRail workers' strike that's also scheduled for the Christmas holiday.
  • North Sea oil production 'will rise but then decline': Following up on a point from the last post, a big part of the economic argument for Scottish independence appears to be based upon the North Sea's energy resources, but as the article states, there are indications that those resources may already be on the verge of diminishing in the next few years. And, as noted before, most petroleum-producing states are already trying, with varying levels of success, to diversify out of that market because it's not seen as a stable source of long-term economic growth. As I've mentioned previously, I would be very reticent about voting "yes" for a proposition whose long-term prosperity is based upon such short-term strengths. What happens when the energy resources run out? Does Scotland then go crawling back to England (and presumably Wales and Northern Ireland) with cap in hand?
  • Abdelbaset al Megrahi: Another foreign policy item I omitted from my last discussion was the Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill's decision in August 2009 to release Abdelbaset al Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie Bomber, on "compassionate grounds" due to al Megrahi's terminal prostate cancer. This decision was made contrary to the wishes of the Scottish electorate specifically, was disapproved of by the British people generally, and sharply criticized by the American government and people. Some also believe that the decision had more to do with securing Libyan oil contracts than it did with al Megrahi's medical condition. I can't speak to that. What I can say is that the Scottish Government's most prominent foreign policy move has been met with disdain locally and condemnation internationally, and that doesn't bolster the SNP's claims to foreign policy competence.

    I'd imagine that I'll come up with more of these over the next few months. I'll reiterate that I'm trying to remain fair about this, but so far the best anyone's been able to come up with has been about the equivalent of telling me I have Yankee cooties, so I'm still pretty skeptical. I'm far more encouraged by the Better Together campaign, which I was introduced to by a Facebook post from E on the night of the One Pub Crawl to Rule Them All. The Better Together campaign seems a lot more mature and cogent... But, I suppose the Yes Campaign has a year and some change to convince the rest of the Scots, and possibly even outsiders like me, that they actually know what they're doing and have a good chance of making the whole thing work. I suppose we'll see.
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