'Baffled' Niall Ferguson attacks idea of Scottish independence

Yet another  well-known Scottish ex-pat has joined the ranks of the doubters over Scotland declaring its  independence from England.  

Writing in the  New York Times under the heading  “Scots Must Vote Nae,”  Niall Ferguson insists that the economic risks are “glaring” and calls it “ a terrible idea.”

“ What currency will Scotland use? The pound? The euro? No one knows. What share of North Sea oil revenues will go to Edinburgh? What about Scotland’s share of Britain’s enormous national debt?”

Ferguson, an internationally famed author now a history professor at Harvard, says that  to the millions of Americans whose surnames testify to their Scottish or Scotch-Irish ancestry, “the idea that Scotland might be about to become an independent country is baffling.

“Born in Glasgow, but having spent most of my life in England and America, I am rather baffled, too. From the moment in 2012 when a deal was done to hold a referendum on the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” the opinion polls have shown a consistent and comfortable lead for the Better Together, or No, campaign. But the past two weeks have seen a surge of support for the pro-independence Yes campaign. What is going on?”

Ferguson, writing from Glasgow says this is not a belated revolt by England’s last colony. Scotland and England were originally united as equals, he says.

 Like the English and the Welsh, the Scots are British, says Ferguson.

 “Indeed, it was James VI who, on becoming James I of England, adopted the appellation “Great Britain” to reconcile his new English subjects to having a Scotsman as king.”

Ferguson tells how Scottish comedian Stanley Baxter once played a prisoner of war in a film in which a German prison guard yelled at him, “English swine!” Mr. Baxter, pale with rage, replied, “Scottish swine!”

After Scotland regained its own Parliament in 1999, Ferguson asks, “So much power has already been devolved to Edinburgh that you may well ask why half of adult Scots feel the need for outright independence.”

“Whatever the S.N.P. may say, a yes vote on Thursday would have grave economic consequences, and not just for Scotland. Investment has already stalled. Big companies based in Scotland, notably the pensions giant Standard Life, have warned of relocating to England. Jobs would definitely be lost. 

“The recent steep decline in the pound shows that the financial world hates the whole idea.”

The economic arguments against independence seem not to be working — and may even be backfiring, he says.

“ I think I know why. Telling a Scot, “You can’t do this — if you do, terrible things will happen to you,” has been a losing negotiating strategy since time immemorial. “If you went into a Glasgow pub tonight and said to the average Glaswegian, “If you down that beer, you’ll get your head kicked in,” he would react by draining his glass to the dregs and telling the barman, “Same again.”

So what kind of appeal can be made to stop the Anglo-Scottish divorce? The answer may be an appeal to Scotland’s long history of cosmopolitanism.

Petty nationalism is just un-Scottish, wrote Ferguson.

“All over Continental Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, nationalism was what ambitious hacks espoused to advance themselves. Scotland was the exception. May it stay that way.”

Many comments to the NYT on the Ferguson article disagreed with him..

One correspondent  wrote, “It’s no surprise to find this opinion in the New York Times, that great toady and boot-licker of the powerful. “

Another said, “When America split from the crown, one could attribute that to petty nationalism as well. What would the world be like if we never split?…

Another said all the ‘no’ vote had was  fearmongering. “ How pathetic.” 

“it’s a bit like the spouse that doesn’t want the divorce and screams, “You’ll never make it on your own!” Who is going to stay in that marriage?”




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