Which of the four following groups will come out as a sure winner if the Yes forces win the Scottish Independence ballot?
a) Life in the Alpha Centauri star system; b) The Scottish people; c) The Klingons; d) Alex Salmond. (The answer, for the impatient, is near the end of the text).
Let me say, at the outset, I do not care which way the vote for Scottish independence goes next Thursday, September 18, 2014. But I do have a strong curiousity as to why such a vote is even being held. I admit to being baffled. Been looking for the human tragedy that is Scotland, that provides the fuel for revolt or, at the very least, agitation for change. I’ve looked for the hate literature on British sites and come across Jock, Schemie, Thistle Arse, and other fairly tame insults; couldn’t find any “dirty Scot,” “death to the Scots,” “Scot pig,” or other really hateful language; surprisingly, Scottish prisons don’t seem exceptionally packed with the local Haggis eaters.
Of course, I thought, it must be the poverty, through which being part of the UK has dragged the benighted Scotsman. But no, outside of Greater London, Scotland’s people are wealthier than most other regions of the UK.
So, what is it that drives Alex Salmond and his minions to flights of rhetorical fantasy in their quest for Scottish independence? Perhaps, yes, just perhaps, he doesn’t see any downside in the adventure to which he is inviting an otherwise prosperous, well-liked and happy (maybe cheerfully dour) people. How can this be possible? No risk and only huge economic benefits. Am I missing something here? Of course, a bet that has no possible loss and only delicious gain is irresistible. Indeed, it would be misleading to call it a bet. The usual term is “too-good-to-be-true.”
Depending on North Sea oil may not be such a brilliant strategy, as it is rapidly being depleted and this decline is expected to continue no matter how much hope is being invested in technological innovation to reverse the trend; as for increased government employment to help with standards of living, the higher the ratio of public sector to private employment grows so will the prosperity per person decline, and not because there is anything intrinsically wrong with government jobs or, indeed, government itself, it’s just that government isn’t in the business of making stuff, which is what creates jobs and prosperity.
How many ambitious institutions, like the Church and political parties or striving, aspiring individuals have we ever heard say “although this change I am proposing will be great for me, it could be bad for everyone else, but I’m asking you to take the chance….?” Exactly zero. The line we’ve all heard over and over again is now familiar to everyone: “Trust me, I am doing this for you and we will all benefit.” If you don’t have the time to really think about whether the Promised Land is really around the next corner, then trusting Alex is really attractive. What is conveniently glossed over and forgotten is the entire generation Moses wasted in the desert on the way to paradise, while he was enjoying the usual perks as the top dog.
So, for those who are still struggling to figure out who would be the sure winner in a Yes vote, the answer is ‘d’, Alex Salmond. It may also be the case that the Scottish people and less so, the aliens, will reap some benefits but that is harder to see. The Scottish people are already doing well on all key measures – social, economic and political – so it is very difficult to see how the principle of reversion to the mean (everything eventually gets pulled back to the average), of which we are all prisoners, could possibly make an already above average group even better off.
Good luck to the Scots on their fateful day, and fondest wishes for a happy and prosperous post referendum life.