In the first James Bond movie in 1962, Scottish actor Sean Connery – as James Bond – pushes arch-villain Dr. No into a reactor’s cooling vat where he boils to death. For the Scottish referendum tomorrow, Connery again hopes to vanquish ‘No’, being one of the very few celebrities who have come out to support the ‘Yes’ campaign.
For the time being, it remains unclear whether it will be “No” or Scottish Nationalists whom the ballots will favour; by all accounts, polls show that it’s too close to call, with “No” seeming to take the lead but “Yes” catching up in recent weeks. Even though Connery has indicated his support for the ‘yes’ campaign*, the bulk of media coverage seems to favour the “No”, or “Better together” campaign.
The James Bond parallel is probably a little off: there is neither an unequivocal villain in the Scottish case, nor a hero who is guaranteed to prevail tomorrow (for a more academic showdown, see the debate between Niall Ferguson and Sir Tom Devine). To allow a good grasp of the bigger picture, the library team has been following the debate on the referendum, especially in context of possible repercussions for the European Union.
In light of a looming secession, Westminster has mobilized its political heavyweights to campaign for Scotland to remain part of the UK. While Prime Minister Cameron reportedly left the public unimpressed with his efforts, Labour leader Ed Miliband had supported the government’s efforts – while holding them responsible for the conundrum. In response to a demand from newspaper The Daily Record, PM David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband signed a joint pledge to devolve more powers to Scotland. By now, many consider the upcoming vote as a win for Alex Salmond and his Scottish Nationalist Party either way, seeing that the British government has already made various fiscal concessions to curb the risk of Scottish secession. For whether the political campaign regarding the Scottish referendum has had an impact on voting behavior, take a look at this report by ScotCen.
The impact of the referendum, though, will be felt beyond the British Isles in Brussels as well. Indeed, Scots are said to be the more Euro-friendly portion of Brits, although arguably only marginally so according to Prof. M. Keating (see p. 13 in this article). In any case, most observers agree that Scottish independence could trigger events towards a British exit from the EU. Conversely, the EU might have to deal with complex questions of accession should Scotland become an independent country. There are competing theories – some claim it was a natural civic right for Scots to remain EU citizens, others argue that the newly formed country would have to undergo the regular accession procedure from a positivst perspective. For a legal view on the issue, see for instance this recent publication by Phoebus Athanassiou and Stéphanie Laulhé Shaelou in the Oxford Yearbook of European Law.
Lastly, and possibly the most poignant for certain other EU states, is the issue of contagion. The Scottish vote tomorrow could encourage secessionist movements elsewhere in Europe, from Catalonia to Sardinia and – although much less likely – even Bavaria, fuelling the debate around nation versus state. On a more theoretical note, pay a visit to nationalismproject.org for solid academic background on nations, states and nationalism. The site not only features the famous “Warwick Debate” on the origin of nations but also provides rigorous information of academic discourse that becomes increasingly relevant beyond the ivory tower. Whether Scotland’s nationalism is real or imagined, whether it is a nation in the first place and whether it will be able to attain statehood and recognition is then up for every individual and every nation or state, respectively, to determine.
We have compiled a Special Issue of our monthly Think Tank Review, dealing with the Scottish referendum and the issues listed above, it puts together the most relevant think tank publications on the issue over the past year, including perspectives from continental Europe and neighbouring states.
*though Connery will apparently not vote in the referendum