Size Doesn't Matter

Why Scotland Won't Be Europe's Last Region to Seek Independence

Yes campaign placards are displayed on a fence on the Isle of Lewis in Outer Hebrides, September 12, 2014. Cathal McNaughton / Courtesy Reuters

On September 18, the people of Scotland will decide whether they wish to remain in the United Kingdom. As the referendum approaches, public attention has focused mostly on the implications of the vote for the future of Scotland and the United Kingdom. Given Scotland’s central role in creating the United Kingdom over 300 years ago, that’s only natural.

But the outcome of the vote, in many ways, is less important than its broader political context -- specifically, the festering governance crisis in the United Kingdom and the European Union. The Scottish referendum will likely affect the evolution of this broader crisis, but will not resolve it. To understand why, one first needs to understand the nature of the problem, which results from two intersecting political issues: the status of London in the United Kingdom, and the status of large diverse countries such as the United Kingdom in the European Union.


When Scots complain about England, they really mean politicians in the seat of government in Westminster, and London and the southern parts of England, which have grown increasingly large, expensive, and detached -- economically and culturally -- from the rest of the country. The United Kingdom’s political and financial power is heavily concentrated in and around London, as are employment opportunities. The United Kingdom’s infrastructure is far more developed in the south than in the north or in Scotland and Wales, with residents of those regions lacking easy access to other parts of the country, including London. The economic differences are clearly visible in everyday life. As the capital buzzes day and night, villages and towns elsewhere in the country seem deserted, even during the daytime.

For the people of Scotland, London may seem like another country. Indeed it feels foreign to many of the residents of England as well, including in the Midlands and the North. Large swathes of rural and northern England are as convinced as Scotland that politicians in London do

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