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Scotland The Sovereign

BRITAIN-SCOTLAND-POLITICS-REFERENDUMBack in 2008 while vacationing in Perth, Scotland, I attended a town hall dance with my buddy Denis Munro. Denis, an ex city planner, is Perth born and bred — you’d be hard pressed to find a more patriotic Scot. He’s an affable figure who can’t walk a block down the High Street without someone stopping him to chat. We arrived late that particular evening and were still there when the event concluded at midnight, observing the stragglers on the dance floor from the balcony above. Two men in kilts approached one another, shaking with one hand and holding a whisky nightcap in the other. “Nationalists ..” Denis observed somewhat suspiciously. “FREEEEEEEEDOM!!” they both bellowed in unison, hands still clenched as one. “Oh Christ,” Denis said, momentarily lowering his forehead to his hand.

Back then the Scottish Nationalist Party or “SNP” was still considered a bit of a fringe movement prone to extreme ideas and late night Braveheart screenings. But there will be nothing fringe-like to the proceedings tomorrow when Scotland votes on a referendum to make it an independent nation. The initiative had been running well behind in the polls for the past two years but has since made up ground and is now too close to call. Some attribute this momentum to warnings from English neighbors to the south about grave consequences should the ‘Yes’ campaign succeed. As Niall Ferguson observed in last weekend’s New York Times “telling a Scot that he can’t do something has been a losing argument since time immemorial.” This sentiment is echoed by Perth’s SNP Parliament member Pete Wishart, who writes on his blog :

This is a nation that is becoming emboldened. That believes in the multitude of possibilities that is open to it. A nation that won’t be ‘telt’ by others over what it can get or what we may be allowed. Which refuses to believe that it is not good enough, that utterly rejects that it would uniquely fail. That now shouts down those who would even hint that we are somehow ‘too wee, too poor or too stupid’ to succeed as an independent nation.”

You have to admire Pete’s spunk. Nobody’s telling his countrymen that they’re “too wee” to go it alone; a fine argument for breaking off from the rest of the U.K.  Still, it’s difficult to believe that there isn’t a shred of doubt in even the most ardent Nationalist’s heart about the possibility of losing the Pound Sterling. SNP leader Alex Salmond’s assurance that “they’re not going to do that” is about as comforting as manager Ian Faith in “Spinal Tap” telling the band not to sweat losing the Boston gig because “it isn’t a big college town.” That there aren’t more double-takes among supporters hearing this promise isn’t surprising. People hear what they want to hear, particularly while in the grips of emotional fervor.

Tomorrow should be interesting regardless of where the vote falls. If the polls are even close to being right then Scotland will be a nation divided. Where there’s a logical argument I tend to side with my pal Denis, a “No” supporter whose wit and intellect are unmatched in the local Greyfriar’s pub. (It doesn’t hurt that he’s the only patron in there nursing an orange juice.) But I’m an American and as such don’t have a dog in this fight. My British citizenship is void in this matter as one must be a Scottish resident to vote. Part of me — more than likely the Scottish half — is curious to see what happens if they pull the trigger. No doubt there will be plenty of shouts of “FREEEEDOM!” to go around, followed by what could potentially be the worst hangover of the last three hundred years.

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