Only a few days before the people of Scotland vote on independence from the UK.
They have my sympathy. From my vantage point in South East Asia, it seems to me that our cousins north of the border have no more information now about what independence would mean than they had when this whole campaign started. From the Nationalist (“Yes”) side, they have appeals to Scottish pride and tradition, and statements about how Westminster is squandering the oil money; while from the Union (“No”) side they have veiled threats about currency and economic meltdown. But very few facts on which to base a rational decision.
The 1707 Act of Union glued England and Scotland together. It was supposed to end hundreds of years of bloodshed between the two countries, and was pushed through at a time of hardship for the Scots following the disaster of the Darien Scheme – a ‘get rich quick’ scam based on Panamanian trade, which wiped out a huge proportion of Scottish capital. From the English side, it was meant to secure a Protestant succession in perpetuity: Albion would give Scotland a financial bailout and access to colonial markets, and in return there would be no more Catholic kings.
So much for history.
Frankly, I don’t care how the vote goes. It won’t stop me – an Englishman from the North East – from celebrating Burns Night or from buying whisky. It won’t stop me having Scottish friends (with whom, btw, I generally have more in common than I do with those soft, wimpy Southerners). My general opinion is that nobody should belong to a club in which they no longer want to be a member. But what of the Scottish people who want to be part of the UK, but instead find themselves citizens of a new country? (An acquaintance of mine has a girlfriend who hails from the Crimea. He jokes that recently he went to bed with a Ukrainian and woke up beside a Russian.)
So how will the vote go?
If I want to find out how any event is likely to pan out, I always ignore the ‘experts’ and commentators, and instead have a look at the William Hill betting odds. These guys are pretty shrewd, and their business depends on their getting things right (usually). They currently think there is a two in five chance of the Scots voting for independence.
I might put a tenner on it. It’s a better return than the Bank of England is offering.