Lessons from 1995: Scotland's oil doesn't make it more like Alberta

Well, the infamous Scottish referendum is in the books, and the BBC reports no results yet (though "No" is winning with 54% in their pseudo exit polling)

Voting closed at 3pm Edmonton time, so it's officially too late for me (apart from a Tweet or two) to tell Scotland how they should have voted. It's over, it's done, there's nothing left but the crying.

Well, here it is Scotland: the choice you should have made and why, and apologies for those of you who chose wrong.

It's important to note that a couple of high profile Scotsmen did decide to pass on their referendum views over the past 24 hours: Andy Murray and Groundskeeper Willie. The Simpsons video is slightly sad for the primary fact that it encapsulates the "Yes" side's lunacy in a nutshell but seems unaware that it's doing so. (The Daily Mail calls it a "satirical clip" but I don't think it was intended as such at all). Willie is proud of a "Yes" vote for a Scotland "free of English shackles" but seems unaware of the elementary fact that Scotland pays far less into its union than they get back, and the only way the math works out is by wholly unrealistic ideas of how much oil the Brits will let them keep (and how much they have).

Andy Murray, on the other hand, seems only to support "Yes" because the "No" side were a bunch of meanies.

Come to think of it, many of the prominant "Yes" voices sure do provide a solid reason to vote "No" don't they? Let's temporarily forget the silly Braveheart-inspired reasons to vote Yes and look at two of the famous voices pronouncing it. Sean Connery has been campaigning from afar, and cannot vote on the referendum today. In fact, the old blowhard can't even visit the country to rally the troops!

Neil Connery told the Edinburgh Evening News: “There’s only a certain amount of days Sean can be in the country for tax reasons, so I know that he intends to use them wisely."
Re-read that bit above. Go ahead, I'll wait. Okay, you're back? Good. Did you notice the conflagration of "Yes" ideals in that single quote? Sean Connery doesn't live in Scotland, mostly because the taxes are so high. Yes, those same taxes that as per above aren't even high enough to maintain the bloated welfare state in Scotland are already enough to drive one of Scotland's medium-rich persons to the clutches of another nation. Just imagine how many more like Connery, with presumably even less emotional attachment to an Independent Scotland, will be anxious to leave as taxes climb higher to keep the poor voters happily electing a Salmond government. Then, add in the bigger caveat: apparently Connery has better things to do and doesn't want to burn up his precious Scotland tax-evading time promoting the "Yes" vote that he's apparently been a pusher for most of his adult life. What does that tell you about the "Yes" side? Among other issues, it's that ultimately economic reality catches up to even the most fervant Scottish Independence supporter.

Another famed "Yes" supporter is noted faggot Alan Cumming. Unlike Connery, Cumming at least could be bothered to pop into the country. Also unlike Connery, Cumming goes into more specific political claims of the "Yes" side (and unsurprisingly gets it horribly wrong):
"I've always voted Labour in the elections I have voted in in this country, that's because I believe in a good health service, a great education, and that should all be free," he continued. "Those things are under huge threat, as we all know."
"I believe if we don't vote Yes we're going to see a huge change in the amount of money Scotland's going to be given by the Westminster government," he said. "I really don't believe they're going to say 'vote No and we'll reward you' because all they have done is threaten and bully us up till now."
Obviously the second quote is just a bunch of pointless fearmongering, though maybe he's convinced that David Cameron will treat Scotland in the same manner he treated Hilary Lyon. Classic transference. The first quote, of course, is the money shot (stop masturbating, Alan, that isn't the context I meant). "I believe that everything should be free" is ignoring the harsh economic reality that it cannot (nor should not!) be free. Somebody is going to have to pay for that "good health service" and that "great education". Who is going to pay? The answer is, the newly minted scottish people: and oh Lord are they going to be paying a lot. As noted earlier, taxes are due to skyrocket, level of service is going to diminish, and that doesn't even factor in devaluation of currency or general economic malaise which would reduce income from even ever-higher taxation rates. If there's a good news story in there, it's that Cumming won't have to worry about paying: he and his fellow pillow biter don't live in Scotland either! It's amazing, always, how generous liberals are with other people's money. Meanwhile, Scottish voters scared of how David Cameron's slightest amount of economies are "threatening" public services may want to keep an eye on the massive overhaul that the Scottish welfare state would need to undergo to remain even slightly solvent in the wake of a "Yes" vote...not to mention pensions, or the share of the UK national debt an Independent Scotland would end up taking over. (Unsurprisingly, the "Yes" side has a bunch of unrealistic numbers they're pushing as the answer)

When looking at all of these issues, and how they are basically being airbrushed over by the "Yes" side, we come to the parallel that longtime Canadian Third Edge of the Sword readers will have surely spotted by now: the 1995 Queerbec referendum where they (narrowly) voted not to separate. Just like in Scotland, a peoples who defined themselves by being defeated by the English demanded to be separated from the country that was paying its freight. The parallels aren't perfect, of course: Scotland (generally) speaks the same language as their English "oppressors" [though, rapidly, the same language they are speaking is Pashto! -ed], and Scotland has oil. Other than that though, it's freaky-deaky how many parallels you can find.

Queerbec Referendum: "Yes, you'll be able to keep your Canadian passports" (even though that would have to be negotiated with a host country that would be bitter, angry, and no longer incentivized to make concessions)
Scottish Referendum: Yep

Queerbec Referendum: "We'll keep the Canadian dollar" (technically Canada can't stop another country from using our money, but the Bank of Canada can play around on its monetary policy levers as much as it likes, even if it means starving every Frog in the province to death.
Scottish Referendum: Well what do we have here?

Queerbec Referendum: No no, the English lie, we pay into them!. (Hint: the Frogs are the ones who are lying)
Scottish Referendum: Totally different. These are Scottish people making this ludicrous claims

Queerbec Referendum: After a "Yes" vote we'll still be part of all the international agreements we were in before, from NAFTA to NATO to the United Nations. (sidebar: if you opposed such organizations, you were told that Quebec would proudly get to renegotiate them to have better terms, which compared with the first statement makes no sense whatsoever).
Scottish Referendum: Well, even Queerbec wouldn't have contemplated joining the European Union

Queerbec Referendum: Separate from Ottawa, we're all going to be rich! (Meanwhile, corporations run for the hills)
Scottish Referendum: Separate from London, we're all going to be rich! (Meanwhile, corporations run for the hills)

Queerbec Referendum: Forget the economic issues, this is all about IDENTITY IDENTITY IDENTITY!
Scottish Referendum: Just re-read the article linked to above.

So all in all, there are a lot of parallels (none of them particularly good for the "Yes" side) between Queerbec and Scotland. The general theme for both separatists movements, of course, is delusion. Quebecers actually think they pay into equalization. Scots actually believe that the Bank of England will be forced to make monetary policy to the benefit of citizens of another country which don't elect any of the politicians that the Bank of England is beholden to. Both wave the "culture" flag loud and hard, trying to elevate the heart over the head (the formulation used by the sovereigntistes).

Will England be negatively impacted by a Scottish "Yes"? Probably, at least at first: unlike what would have happened after the 1995 referendum it's very possible that the short term economic impacts on England are mild, and that the longer-term prospects are mild in the other way. Canada would have been more likely to be in a position of "wild swings": the economic costs and uncertainty would have been worse with a larger percentage of the population disappearing. Once realistic Queerbec debt evaluations were performed, however, and Canada found itself not siphoning equalization payments into a giant pit the economic fortunes of the two countries would have diverged wildly. Like Alberta (and Newfoundland) Scotland at least has oil while Queerbec has...maple trees? Just imagine how insane the early-2000s Alberta boom would have been without equalization payments, or with Ottawa having lower unfunded CPP liabilities (Queerbec is older than average). Unshackled of the burdens of supplying social services, two official languages, and full control over her own immigration policies, the federal government could have heralded over a new era of prosperity, while Queerbec floated ever further into backwater territory.

In England the situation isn't as clear: the Brits don't have the economic storm to weather as much, but they will lose a large chunk of the North Sea oil reserves. The bigger risk to the United Kingdom is loss of prestige: this is the sad last little wisps of the great BRITISH EMPIRE, a worldwide force so dominant clever bloggers treat it like names in Star Wars title crawls. American politicians still agonize over who "lost Vietnam" or "lost China", it remains to be seen if the stigma of "losing Scotland" similarly impacts David Cameron's Tories and/or Gordon Brown's Labour. Brown has recently dominated headlines as the fevered voice of "No": the voice that fellow Labour politician Alistair Darling was supposed to be, but spectacularly fell short on. Labour certainly seized the chance to be the defender of Britain that a weakling like Cameron couldn't have -- and seeing how the Scots are mired in far-left politics, it makes sense. Jean Charest, not Preston Manning, was the voice for "No" in 1995. Of course, Manning (or Harper?) could have had the more forceful addresses in the Brown style. What's French for Alistair Darling? Jean Charest. Regardless, despite the personal popularity of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland, the major UK parties seem to have dropped the ball. (Her Majesty has chimed in.) Part of the problem is that they don't know how to frame the issue. As Mark Steyn wrote:
The colonial oppressors in London appear to have been caught on the hop by what started emerging in the polls a couple of weeks back, and their response has been feeble. You can't beat something big with something small. An appeal to identity is primal. In response, the Westminster side has attempted to sell the UK as an administrative convenience. The "Yes" side cries: "Scots wa'hey! A nation reborn!" The "No" side rolls its eyes and sighs: "You hayseeds have no idea of how fiendishly complicated it's all going to be once you've stopped tossing your celebratory cabers and reeling your Independence Day Gay Gordons."
It would also be emblematic of Cameron's characteristically self-defeating cynicism. He will well deserve to be the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Whatever's Left. The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland is a bit of a lumpy name. The United Kingdom of Southern Britain and Northern Ireland? Maybe a few years hence the Scots and Irish can form the mirror state of the People's Republic of Southern Ireland and Northern Britain. Or maybe secession will prove contagious. London and the South-East might find it prudent to secede from the dependistans of Wales, Ulster and Northern England, and relaunch themselves as the Singapore of Europe. Indeed, it's not clear whether what remains would be entitled to call itself a "united kingdom". At its height, the UK was a union of three kingdoms - England, Scotland and Ireland - and with one-and-a-half of them gone what's left would be a union of a kingdom, a principality and a province, and, if there's a catchy name for that, they're keeping it under wraps.

Whatever happens, the result, as in Quebec, seems likely to be close enough that even a "defeat" for Mr Salmond would keep the issue in play as a permanent and destabilizing feature of British politics, especially if a majority of young Scots vote "yes". Mr Cameron would deserve to be reviled as the man who broke the Union: He had a much easier hand to play than Lloyd George did in 1922, and he bungled it.
The Steyn point about keeping separatism "in play" is worth noting. Scots may be unaware of this, but the 1995 referendum was the second one: there was one in 1980 as well. There was talk of another referendum in the mid-2000s and another again just a couple years ago. Like sodomite marriage or closing the Edmonton airport, "Yes" just keeps trying until they win, and only then do they declare that "the issue has been settled". Until then, "Yes" is always uniquely pushed as "the way to settle this once and for all". So even if you are opposed to an Independent Scotland, ask yourself how you can stop it. Sadly, the excellent reasons for voting "No" above may come into play again later. I'm afraid on this one I don't have an easy answer for you.

What could have worked, perhaps better than nothing, is avoiding the same problem that was faced when the issue was poofter weddings, or murdering babies, or cowards closing airports: speak out early, speak out loud, and use the same weapons of identity on your side that your opponents do. Enter, naturally, the UKIP. The UKIP's Bryan A. J. Parry issued a tepid support for the "Yes" side that wasn't endorsed by the actual party. Would a strong UKIP statement in support of a British identity been a better foil for the SNP's pro-Scottish promotions? Possibly, sure: Jean Charest was offering a very very watered down and wishy-washy Canadianism, but it was at least an identity. What's the "British" identity now? Football and chippy shacks as both England and Scotland slowly coast into a socialist malaise, and the Muslims slowly turn the physical landscape into their own, a land nobody would recognize? Replace football with hockey, chippy shacks with beer, and Muslim hoards into actual Southeast Asians (not the kind that Fleet Street refers to)...yep, you got it: you're looking at the Chretien/Charest/Trudeau vision of "Canada": a cultural nullity that excites nobody. Could a UKIP be instrumental in forcing a British identity onto both English and Scottish residents, allowing them common ground and a reason to vote No? If No wins, it will be barely, so the lesson here would be ready for the next referendum.

If you want another parallel between Queerbec and Scotland, consider this...here's Steyn again:
None of this will happen in Scotland or Wales tomorrow. But one day an unpopular Government in London will provoke the election of a hostile legislature in Cardiff or Edinburgh, determined to exercise its powers to the limit and shrewd enough to use its toytown parliament as a launchpad towards the real thing.

In my native Canada, Quebec City is home to a provincial legislature, but it is known as the National Assembly; they refuse to let the Lieutenant-Governor, the Queen's representative, read the speech at the Opening of the Assembly. It's not hard to imagine similar slights from a Scottish Parliament: most of those elected will be openly contemptuous or at best boorishly indifferent to their Sovereign. If you provide structures that enable a region to pretend to be a nation state, eventually it starts to become one. Thus, Quebec now has its own immigration policy: if you are a British subject and you wish to emigrate to Montreal, the Federal Government in Ottawa will have no say in the matter.
It also works as a parallel between the Red Indian and the Canadian government. As an aside, this is another Scottish parallel that (for now!) isn't applicable: further ethnic sub-partition within the newly independent country. But back to the imitation governments, Canada has experimented with giving Red Indian tribes (towns) "self-government" with little to no benefit. Just like Scotland with the UK on steroids, there are now demands for inquiries into why girls who become hookers meet with bad ends, and endless complaints for more money.

This cynical bit of realism ties into the final note about Scottish Independence: I mentioned earlier that if Scotland votes yes today, they're looking at negotiations with a British peoples who may be more than a little unhappy about their rejection. There's long been a "don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out" attitude here in Alberta (with this blog being a fervent champion of it) with respect to the Endless Separating Frog Show, and such an attitude was widely considered to spread, like with any jilted lover, across the "we are your bestest friends forever" crowd in the Rest of Canada. Has there been such an outcry in England to cause such an outpouring of sympathy/support/revulsion?

The answer to that question, more than anything, may determine Scotland's future over the next 25 years more than the referendum.