Declining Influence? How Might Scottish Independence Impact Scottish Influence?

Part 1 of an 11-part look at Scottish independence and its potential impact on Scottish influence

This series will discuss the issue of Scottish political, economic and cultural influence on the world and how it may be impacted should the Scottish people vote for independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And it will discuss it using real-world analysis, using common vernacular, in a relatable and practical manner, allowing the reader to use this information as part of the information necessary to make their own decision on the matter at hand—Scottish independence and their support or opposition to it.

I will, as much as possible, refrain from examining the other important issues that are part of the larger discussion on independence such as economics, health care, debt payments, nuclear weapons, ownership of the North Sea oil and gas, the BBC and college tuition in order to stay focused on the question of influence on the world stage.

This issue of influence, and especially influence within nation groups such as the UN, is important to understand, for those in Scotland who will have a say in the future status of Scotland in the world, and for those who are connected to Scotland culturally, economically, and politically, as this influence and ability to be heard in the world impacts how we do business, how we represent Scotland to the world, and how we promote Scotland as a great place to visit and do business with.

The Scottish National Party is the political party led by First Minister Alex Salmond and holds a majority in the Scottish Parliament. The party has campaigned for Scottish independence throughout most of its existence since it was formed in 1934, but was unable to add teeth to that espoused goal until the party won a majority in 2011[i], According to the SNP, Scottish independence would make Scotland more successful. It would give Scotland the ability to make its own decisions, and create an environment where Scotland’s existing and new private industries could grow more easily. Independence, the SNP claims, would also increase opportunities for young people, allowing them to stay in Scotland and take advantage of those opportunities rather than emigrate, and allow Scotland to focus on the priorities of the Scottish people such as better state pensions, free childcare, renewable energy, and a more peaceful and stable world. In short, Scottish independence would make Scotland a better place to live.[ii]

But, as Scotland moves towards this referendum on independence from the United Kingdom in 2014, many questions lie unanswered, including important ones related to international relations. As a native Scot, who now lives overseas, I will not be impacted domestically by Scottish independence, but the impacts of Scottish independence on the world political stage will have an impact on me as each nation, and that nation’s ideas, impact every other nation it interacts with in the “society of states” as espoused in the realist perspective on international relations[iii], whether the interaction be economic, political, cultural or any of the other many types of public and private interactions that take place across national borders and within groups of nations.

Some key questions that must be answered are, if Scotland becomes an independent nation, how does Scotland and the remaining elements of the UK interconnect with the EU, the UN and the G20? What positives and negatives will both countries face? And what will happen to the influence of the remaining states in the UK and Scotland in these, and other, important nation groups? We will examine these questions and more as we look to history, economics, national defense, diplomacy, and more within the scope of the relationships within the UK, the European Union, the United Nations, the G20, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the world.

And in the pursuit of clarity, the reader should understand that the current makeup of the United Kingdom is Great Britain (Scotland, England and Wales) and Northern Ireland. Should Scotland become an independent nation, the United Kingdom will include England, Wales and Northern Ireland. You should also know that many writers are referring to the referendum as being a vote on independence from England or Britain. These are technically incorrect statements, as the referendum is on independence from the United Kingdom; however, you will see as we look at history that independence from England or Britain may not be a concept alien to the debate, and may actually be more at the root of the issue.

Next week – A Historical Primer


[iii] Bull, Hedley (1977) The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (Columbia University Press)

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