Scottish Independence: Tell Me How This Ends

Scottish Independence Referendum, Scotland, Britain - 18 Sep 2014

In the words of David Petraeus shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003: Tell me how this ends. Scotland, you may be aware, is voting on the question of independence from the UK today. The polls show a tight race, with all of the passion on the pro-independence side. When the votes are tallied early Friday morning, the results may well end the political connection between Scotland and England that has been in existence since 1707.

Yet the unanswered questions about how an independent Scotland might actually function are innumerable. The Scottish National Party (SNP), which drives the independence movement, has invested a level of detailed planning in the post-independence aftermath that makes the U.S. post-war scheme for Iraq in 2003 look like the Schlieffen plan.

Among the problems: how will Scotland pay for the vast welfare state that currently subsists on wealth transfers from England to the north? How will its presumed anti-nuclear stance square with membership in NATO? What will its currency be, considering that the Westminster government has said it won’t want them on the pound anymore? SNP answers to these questions are characterized by their wild optimism and thoroughgoing vagueness. Better to be free of the Westminster yoke now, and work out the details of a more perfect social democracy later.