Just as in 1707 the debate on Scottish independence revolves around pounds and pence rather than national identity. I can’t work out whether this is a triumphant display of the continuity of Scottish pragmatism and penny-wariness down the centuries, or simply an indication of how compatible England and Scotland really are. Perhaps a bit of both.
The consequences of this ‘utilitarian’ approach is that all the actors in the debate imagine that their preferred constitutional outcome will achieve their policy goals. So some want independence because they think it will deliver a low-tax free-market Scotland, others that it will entrench a big-state high-spend model.
So everybody’s talking at cross purposes. What is worse, a lot of commentators have a pretty shaky grasp on what it is they want and what they want to avoid. For example, the dominant tendency in the political / media establishment in Scotland hankers after a Scandinavian style polity in contrast to the Tory ‘American’ slash and burn approach to society. For them the argument is whether devolution or independence is the best way to achieve this.
But, as I point out for Think Scotland this week, Tory social policy has been based on a Northern European / Scandinavian welfare state model for years now. This is now at last being implemented, but only in England. The Scottish public sector model has more in common with the old East Germany than modern Sweden.
So really, if you want a Nordic Scotland, you should vote Tory and for the Scottish Parliament to be abolished altogether!