The subject of Scottish independence is creating some interesting ripples in the blogosphere today.
Stuart Dickson at Independence blog argues that Scotland is falling behind economically compared to many of its neighbours which are independent states, including Ireland.
Shuggy points out that while Ireland became independent as far back as 1921, its prosperity really only dates to the 1990s. Gareth at the Campaign for an English Parliament weblog also accuses Stuart of a leap of faith.
My view is that independence was a necessary but not a sufficient condition for Irish prosperity.
The fact is the conservatism of many Irish politicians meant that for a long time they followed pre-independence policies. These had been designed to maintain social cohesion and reconcile the Irish to the British state rather than to achieve economic growth.
(A good book on this is Tom Garvin’s Preventing the Future: Why Ireland Was so Poor for so Long)
This really changed only in the 1960s, and the results only came through in the 1990s. in the meantime, Ireland suffered years of mass emigration (my parents were among the many who came to England.)
That population decline began in the 19th Century, and I would argue it as probably related to Ireland’s absorption into the expanding UK economy under the Act of Union. It is now being dramatically reversed.
I suspect Scotland is in the same position as Ireland in the 19th Century, in that higher level of public spending is aimed at reconciling people to the Union rather than economic growth.
Although, I suppose Scottish Nationalists could argue on the basis of oil revenue that they are actually losing out.
I would argue that both Scotland and England lose out from economic distortions which are designed to prop up the Union rather than achieve sustainable growth in either country.
I think it would be a mistake for the English and the Scots to be played off against each other, competing for the patronage of the central UK state. Instead nationalists from both countries should be allies in trying to recover control of their own destinies.
In some ways, I think the real case for Scottish independence is more an economic liberal one, than a socialist one.
It will involve hard choices but independence may be the only way for Scotland to emulate Ireland and reverse its population decline.