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It's Not About the Money

Why Scotland Might Just Say Yes to Independence

Manpreet Sing Makkar -- active in the Yes campaign -- poses for a photograph in Edinburgh, July 16, 2014. Paul Hackett / Courtesy Reuters

Debates over national independence are seldom rational. Since they deal with what may happen in the future, each side must convince voters that it is the better soothsayer. In the political battle over Scottish independence, which will come to a popular vote on September 18, two competing visions are clashing hard.

The “No” camp, which goes by the slogan “Better Together,” has run a campaign that focuses primarily on the costs of separation, which are hard to price but estimable. The “Yes” campaign’s response has been to dismiss such concerns as “fear-mongering,” highlighting instead how much better Scotland would fare after independence. In so doing, the Yes camp has rested its case on a counterfactual that can never be proven, seemingly a weaker hand to play.

Yet the key nationalist claims are not without merit. First, since the 1980s, Scotland has overwhelmingly voted for the Labour and the Scottish National

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