Referendum in Scotland and Separatist Trend in Europe
Natalia MEDEN | 23.09.2014 | OPINION

Referendum in Scotland and Separatist Trend in Europe

Alex Salmond is to step down as first minister of Scotland and as leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) after voters rejected independence in Thursday's (September 18) referendum. What kind of a person is he, the man who leads the Scottish nationalists? Is he a loser or a just someone who happened to be ahead of the times? Time will tell. It’s not right to call the referendum historic and believe Scotland will always be part of Great Britain. The prevailing majority of young people voted for independence while elder people wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom. (1)

Jane Urquhart, a Scottish MP, recalls the surge of Scottish nationalism that started 20-30 years ago. Those days many British, not the Scots only, realized the national identity is fading away as years go by. (2) Anthony Giddensis a British sociologist who is known for his theory of structuration and his holistic view of modern societies. He is considered to be one of the most prominent modern researchers, the author of at least 34 books, published in at least 29 languages, issuing on average more than one book every year. The scholar believes that the trend to acquire regional autonomy or independence, for instance in Scotland, Quebec or the Basque country, is an element of globalization that weakens national states. The Scottish referendum showed that the powers that be are capable of convincing the society that it is expedient to preserve the existing order. The Scots living abroad were barred from taking part in the referendum. This right was extended only to those who live in Scotland, including the Irish, the English, the Welsh and immigrants. No doubt the decision to keep away the Scots living in other countries significantly weakened the independence movement. The 10-15% of swing voters had come under intensive campaign on the part of the government before going to polls. Their votes decided the outcome of plebiscite.

The Scots were promised more rights within the United Kingdom though full-fledged autonomy was not an option offered to the voters. British Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to live up to commitments to Scotland made ahead of the independence vote, including plans for new powers on tax, spending and welfare. Cameron says the new plans will be agreed by November, with draft legislation by January. "We will ensure that those commitments are honored in full," the Prime Minister said on September 19, the next day after the vote. According to him, this requires that people in other parts of the United Kingdom to have more rights to govern their own affairs, particularly in England. "I've long believed that a crucial part of this debate that's missing is England. ... The question of English votes for English laws, the so called West Lothian question, requires a definitive answer,” he said.

Before going to polls the Scottish voters had also been influenced by Washington and Brussels. A newly independent Scotland would bring on an onslaught of economic, cultural, and geopolitical troubles. Economists predicted the deterioration of Scotland’s economic plight with living standards going down. The capitals were supposed to flee with unemployment rising and local companies going bankrupt. (3) Joseph Stiglitz is s an American economist and a professor at Columbia University. He is a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and the John Bates Clark Medal. He is also a former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank and a former member and Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. Mr.Stiglitz believes that independence has a price to pay. According to him, going alone Scotland would risk a decline in standards of living and a fall in GDP. Cutbacks in UK public support to education and health could force Scotland to face a set of unpalatable choices - even with Scotland having considerable discretion over what it spends its money on. (4) The military poured oil on fire predicting that the independence of Scotland would weaken the defensive capability of all the British Isles. (5) Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister and leader of the “yes” movement, has repeatedly rejected suggestions that the United Kingdom be permitted to keep its nuclear fleet afloat on the Clyde. In fact, expelling the Trident Program from Scottish waters has long been a mainstay of the Scottish nationalist cause, an objective Salmond planned to achieve by 2020. The UK military warned that removing the nuclear submarines would come at a substantial price for Scotland and the United Kingdom, both literally and figuratively. The Faslane naval base employs more than 6,000 people and is the largest single-site employer in Scotland. Many of the employed are highly-skilled, well-paid workers. The removal itself comes with a £25 billion price tag. There was no concrete plan for what would become of the submarines and the nuclear warheads (and who will front the bill) should Scotland vote yes. There were also rumors spread around that is case of “Yes” vote people would no longer be able to use bank cards.

The referendum result was a great relief for Western politicians. One can understand David Cameron who risked his political career. The United States is happy because the secession would weaken the most reliable ally. The European Union has actually no reason for joy. London takes an independent stance inside the European Union hindering the process of integration while Scotland is known to be pro-EU expressing strong support for euro and the membership. The reaction of EU leaders like Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission and Martin Schulz, a German politician and President of the European Parliament, testifies to the fact that Europe is dependent on the United States.

In Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed the referendum results (the Atlantic solidarity always prevails) though on the sidelines they say Belin is not really interested in the unionists’ victory. The partition of Great Britain would boost the Germany’s influence and slow down the rapprochement between Paris and London which is viewed in Berlin as kind of rebirth of Entente Cordiale.

The public opinion in Germany predominantly supported the idea of Scotland’s independence. That’s what the Internet posts show. Of course, there were different opinions voiced. For instance, some asked why should we support the partition of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia and oppose the secession of Scotland at the very same time? There are small states in Europe that are the legacy of the past. Should they be sacrificed to the idea of European unity? Scotland should be given a chance. There is some discontent felt with the haughty Englishmen fueled by the scoops about eavesdropping and the role the UK played cooperation in the clandestine activities with the United States.

The Germans are proud of themselves. Separatism is on the rise in Europe but look at stable Germany. It’s not only a success of the federal state pattern, but the economic might of the country. It was not a federal state structure that got together the divided parts of the country but rather Otto von Bismarck whose policy facilitated the rise of nationalism by the end of XIX-beginning of XX centuries. I’d like to express an opinion that goes against the tide, if I may. National-socialism was the driving force behind the successful unification of the nation: fascists greatly reduced the powers of self-rule organs – the legacy of Weimar Republic, introduced the institute of statgalter (local rulers) and did away with regional parliaments (langtag).

By and large Germans are right: today a federal state structure is the best choice for national states. The separatist sentiments are not as strong in Bavaria as in Scotland. The Bavaria Party is the only local political force to support the secession. And it’s not taken seriously. Bavaria has greater population and economy than Scotland. By the way, the both have the same flag colors: blue and white.

The great Bavarians -Albrecht Dürer, a German painter, engraver, printmaker, mathematician and theorist at the days of Renaissance, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen,a German physicist who won the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901, and Richard Georg Strauss, a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras – are world-wide known Germans. The same way Robert Burns, a poet and lyricist, Adam Smith, a moral philosopher and a pioneer of political economy and Walter Scott, a historical novelist, playwright, and poet, enjoy international fame as British. Bavaria has solid ground to substantiate its claim to independence. As an independent state entity it is older than Germany. The history of Bavaria stretches from its earliest settlement and its formation as a stem duchy in the 6th century through its inclusion in the Holy Roman Empires to its status as an independent kingdom and finally as a large Bundesland (state) of the modern Federal Rrepublic. Bavaria was a prosperous state by the time Scotland lost its independence. After the Napoleonic wars it became a kingdom adding Swabian and Franconian lands. It was part of Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation as an entity with special status with independent post service, the excise tax on beer and an independent army. Bavarian regiments fought on the battlefield during the First World War.

After the WWII Bavaria boasted vibrant economic prosperity. Munich became the second capital of Germany and a symbol of German economic miracle. But Bavarians never forgot they had national identity. In the 1970s Germany was hit by protests against the use of nuclear energy. At this time Bavarian politicians called for construction of nuclear stations in their land to make it free from energy dependence on other parts of Germany. Bavaria has no minerals, the coal mines are situated in the heart and west of the country, the northern part of Germany – Lower Saxony - accounts for 90% of gas production. Bavaria strives for energy independence. After the Fukushima tragedy Germany has decided to phase out nuclear energy. Bavaria applies efforts to switch over to renewables. The wind, sun and biofuel energy sources are to be used for the purpose. The federal government offers Bavaria energy coming from the north. Bavaria is not too much concerned over the energy dependence on other regions but rather by high-voltage lines that do not match with the landscape. With all respect for federal state structure Berlin is not prone to letting German lands acquire independence. In 2002 southern lands led by Bavaria wanted to rescind the “solidarity tax” in favor of eastern lands (former East Germany). The motion was stopped and made null and void by the Federal Constitutional Court.

Today Bavaria wants more rights within the federal state. In his Bayern Kann es Auch Allein (roughly translatedas Bavaria Can Also Go It) Wilfried Scharnagl that saw light in 2010. Scharnagl was the right hand man of Franz Josef Strauss, the late CSU leader and long-time governor of Bavaria who is still venerated by the party (6). He is also known for his famous phrase: “Bavaria is our Heimat, Germany is our Vaterland (Fatherland) and Europe is our future“. Heimat is a German word with no English equivalent that denotes the relationship of a human being towards a certain spatial social unit. With all the support for federal state structure of a contemporary country is Germany ready to apply this hard-and-fast rule beyond the European Union’s boundaries, for instance in Ukraine? Or may be Germany agrees with the fact that it is the United States who calls all the shots there?

Endnotes:

173% of the voters who have reached the age of 65 years old and older voted against secession while 71% of the 16017 year-old young people supported the idea of independence.

2Tom Daun. Poets, Pipers and Patriots. Deutschlandradio Kultur, 07.09.2014.

3 Warum die Unabhaengigkeit der Wirtschaft schadet. - Welt, 15.09.2014.

4Joseph Stiglitz: There is no basis for this scaremongering. - Herardscotland, 14.09.2014.

5Kopf-an-Kopf Rennen in Schottland – viele Unentschlosseneю- Reuters, 17.September 2014.

6Franz Josef Strauss (German: Franz Josef Strauß) 6 September 1915 – 3 October 1988) was a German politician. He was the chairman of the Christian Social Union, member of the federal cabinet in different positions and long-time minister-president of the state of Bavaria. During his political career Strauss was a controversial figure. In 1945 he was translator and right hand to First Lieutenant in the American military secret service CIC, Ernest F. Hauser. As a younger man, he served in several positions in the federal cabinet , and had some brushes with scandal during this time: the Spiegel row after Strauss had the editor-in-chief of a news magazine jailed for 103 days under false pretenses, as well as the Lockheed bribery scandals after a Lockheed lobbyist stated that the corporation had bribed Strauss to the tune of $10 million to obtain a defence contract for the F-104 Starfighters in 1961.After the 1969 federal elections, West Germany's conservative alliance found itself out of power for the first time since the founding of the Federal Republic. At this time, Strauss became more identified with the regional politics of Bavaria. While he ran for the chancellorship as the candidate of the CDU/CSU in1980 , for the rest of his life Strauss never again held federal office. From 1978 until his death in 1988, he was the head of the Bavarian government. His last two decades were also marked by a fierce rivalry with CDU chairman Helmut Kohl. 

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