Back in the 1964 presidential campaign (which I remember well), Barry Goldwater took considerable flak from the left for almost everything he said.

One example was an intentionally provocative comment (Goldwater was never short on those) that the nation would be better off if the liberal Northeast were “cut off and left to float out to sea.”

Lyndon Johnson’s campaign immediately produced a commercial that showed a saw blade literally cutting the East Coast off a map of the U.S. and dropping it into the ocean, and a good time was had by all.

But when Thursday rolls around, it’s possible that Scotland, a part of the United Kingdom for 307 years, may decide to take a metaphorical (but nonetheless effective) hacksaw to its own border with England.

Until very recently, polls said Scottish sentiment strongly favored remaining a part of the UK. Some recent surveys, however, are showing an essentially even split, sending shivers down spines not only in London, but across Europe.

My car’s bumper carries a small saltire (the modern Scottish flag, a white X-shaped St. Andrew’s Cross on a blue field) symbolic of my ancestry, so I have an interest in the question.


Indeed, visiting Edinburgh some years ago, I saw no Union Jacks — just Scottish flags flying all over the city.

And Scotland is a country whose unofficial national anthem, Flower of Scotland, harks back 800 years to the days of William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and legendary victories over the English: “But we can still rise now/And be the nation again/That stood against him/Proud Edward’s army/And sent him homeward/Tae think again.”

Still, why should Americans care? Without Scotland’s fewer than 6 million residents, the UK still would have nearly 59 million people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

And predictions for the effect on the Scottish economy are all over the map, with some pointing to the successful separation of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia shortly after the collapse of the Warsaw Pact as an example of how division can boost prosperity — given the right policy choices.

As John Fund noted on National Review Online this week, “Back then, Czechs viewed the Slovaks as more statist and slower to seize economic opportunities than they were. But today, both countries have shown remarkable improvement in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom; and last year, Slovakia’s economy grew by 2.1 percent — three and a half times faster than it’s grown in the Czech Republic.”

Scotland is a stronghold of the left-leaning Labor Party and the openly socialist Scottish National Party (of Scotland’s 59 seats in the 650-seat U.K. Parliament, 58 are held by Labor, the center-left Liberal Democrats and the SNP). Will an independent Scotland be forced, by giving up the UK’s subsidies, to face similar economic realities?


Fund notes, “A recent white paper produced by the Scottish government proposes cuts in corporate tax rates to attract business as well as a more skill-based immigration system as new policies to set in place after independence.”

That was echoed by Jeremy Warner, assistant editor of Britain’s Daily Telegraph, who wrote recently, “Scotland would eventually be forced into a more severe form of fiscal austerity than currently applied, giving the lie to (SNP leader) Alex Salmond’s promise of a sort of welfare nirvana for all Scots once free of the Westminster yoke.”

Scotland has limited home rule now, and its own Parliament, which would gain full control over national affairs if the “yes” vote prevails.

The real impact, however, would be felt in Westminster, where the subtraction of Scotland’s 59 votes would turn a current Conservative deficit into a 20-seat majority, although formal separation may not occur until after the next general election.

Down the road, those missing seats would have a major impact not only on Britain’s domestic and foreign policies, but on its affiliation with the European Union.

Public opinion is shifting on the link to Europe already, as the pro-separation United Kingdom Independence Party is steadily gaining strength.


As Warner noted, “For the rest of the UK, losing relatively pro-EU Scotland would further raise the chances of eventually leaving the EU from odds on to that of a virtual certainty,” he added.

And Fund sees cross-Atlantic ties improving: “The departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union would be hailed by pro-freedom conservatives and would lead to a government friendlier to U.S. markets and interests.”

Conservatives of a certain age could find it amusing if it turned out that you can indeed saw off your most left-wing region — if its citizens want to. Then we could watch them discover the full impact of having to pay all the bills themselves.

Could it be enough to turn Scotland the socialist welfare state into Scotland the Brave again?

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. Email at: [email protected]

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