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The stakes for next month’s Scottish independence referendum are high. If Scotland’s four million voters decide to leave the United Kingdom, it would dissolve a 300-year-old political union. It would also put the country in uncharted economic, political and strategic waters. Those in favor of independence say Scotland’s right to self rule is long overdue and that autonomy is key to a thriving economy and better social policies. Many voting “no” say Scotland is more secure within the U.K. but want greater financial and legal authority for the Scottish parliament. Diane and her guests discuss what’s at stake in the Scottish vote for independence.
- Fiona Hill Senior fellow and director, Center on the US and Europe at Brookings Institution.
- David Rennie Washington bureau chief, The Economist.
- Donnie Jack Scottish Affairs Counsellor for the Americas, Washington, D.C.
- James Naughtie Host of BBC's "Today Programme" and former chief political correspondent for The Guardian.
Campaign For Voters Ramps Up
The Electoral Commission, an independent regulator of elections and party and election finance established by the U.K. Parliament, has released a series of videos encouraging Scots to register as voters, and participate in the upcoming referendum.
In the video below, they walk voters, step by step, through the polling place.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Should Scotland be an independent country? That's the question Scottish voters will be asked to decide in just a few weeks and the campaign is heating up. Joining me to talk about arguments for and against Scottish independence from the United Kingdom and implications for the U.S. and the E.U., David Rennie of The Economist, Fiona Hill of the Brookings Institution, and Donnie Jack of the Scottish Affairs Office of the British Embassy here in Washington.
MS. DIANE REHMWe'll take your questions, comments throughout the hour. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And welcome to all of you.
MS. FIONA HILLThank you.
MR. DAVID RENNIEThank you.
MR. DONNIE JACKThank you.
REHMGood to have you here. Donnie Jack, talk about your government's argument for independence from Great Britain.
JACKWell, I think to understand fully where my government is coming from, Diane, we need to look at our history. Many people, particularly in the United States, use England as shorthand for United Kingdom. They don't do that maliciously, but it smacks of a misunderstanding of the historical context within which the United Kingdom was formed. So briefly, for your listeners, over 400 years ago, Elizabeth I died with no obvious heirs. The Throne of England passed to King James VI of Scotland, who became King James I of England.
JACKAnd that was what was known as the Union of the Crowns. So we had two separate kingdoms under a single ruler. A hundred years later, we then had the Acts of Union passed by the Scottish and the English Parliaments, where the parliaments merged. And that was the basis for the United Kingdom. But the important point to remember, Diane, is that within that merger, Scotland's unique identity was preserved. So we have a separate legal system, separate education system, a different church. And those distinctions were maintained throughout the duration of the United Kingdom.
JACKNow, if we fast-forward to 1999, 15 years ago, the new Scottish Parliament was established, which received a number of delegated, called devolved powers from the Westminster Parliament. And that meant that decisions affecting the people of Scotland were made in Edinburgh in the Scottish Parliament. But there were a number of exceptions to that -- a number of important exceptions to that.
JACKSuch as, social welfare, foreign affairs, defense, and importantly, taxation and economic policy.
REHMAnd those were made in...
JACKThose were all retained at -- in London at Westminster. So against that backdrop, my government is arguing that we've had 15 years of what is called devolution, a Scottish Parliament where decisions have impacted on the people of Scotland. It's a natural progression for us to consider full independence, i.e., total self-determination of everything that happens in Scotland and impacts on the Scottish people.
REHMAnd David Rennie, how do you see it?
RENNIEWell, I think the first thing to say is Scotland has every right to leave. If Scotland chooses to leave in this referendum, you know, we should do the best possible deal to be the best possible friends with Scotland. But I think it'd be just a bit -- a tremendous shame. I think Scotland has a great deal at the moment. I think it's the best of both worlds. They get to be part of the United Kingdom, part of the European Union. They have their separate identity. A bit on the personal level, like many, many Brits, I'm half English, half Scottish.
RENNIEIf you ask me to choose one of those two identities, I'd rather not. I find that tragic. But, you know, my grandparents fought in both world wars. One was Scottish, one was English. They didn't think they were fighting for England or Scotland. They thought they were fighting for Britain. And Britain actually meant something to them, something kind of credible. So I think there's a tremendous amount that could be lost.
RENNIEAlso, I come from The Economist news magazine. We take a kind of dry, dusty economic look at a lot of things. We just think that the numbers being offered to Scottish voters by Alex Salmond, the pro-independence leader of the Scottish government, they just don't add up. We look at Alex Salmond and Donnie's boss, and we see a nationalist, a populist, who is peddling a kind of message that everything that you don't like will change, everything that you do like won't change. And so kind of simultaneously, everything will change and nothing will change. And he's been quite sneaky over the years.
RENNIEThe, sort of, ten years ago his message was much simpler. It was, look at these fantastic, small, successful countries in the north of Europe. So he would point to Ireland. He points to Iceland. He pointed to the Swedes and Danes. Look at these countries, with kind of go-ahead, whizzy financial sectors, lots of banks. They're small, they're Nordic. He talked about the arc of prosperity. He said Scotland was going to leave the pound and join the euro. The problem is since then we've had a gigantic financial crash, as there was in this country.
RENNIEAnd a lot of Scots have realized that actually being a small country with a giant banking sector doesn't feel so comfortable any more. I mean, look at the Irish. Look at the Icelandics. They nearly went completely bankrupt. So now he's no longer talking about the arc of prosperity. He doesn't talk a lot about Iceland anymore. He doesn't talk about joining the euro anymore. He's now saying, oh, we can keep the pound. The fact that the London government says you can't keep the pound -- he says, oh, and of course, you know, it'll be fine. When people say, what's your plan B? He says, oh, I don't need a plan B. It'll be fine.
RENNIEHe's asking the Scottish people to take a tremendous risk, tremendous amounts of uncertainty, and I don't see the gain.
REHMFiona Hill, tremendous risk, uncertainty -- how do you see it?
HILLWell, I think there's also a larger dimension here, Diane, that I think has really kind of come out in some of the things that both Donnie and David have said. When Donnie laid out the history of the United Kingdom, he could also have mentioned that the United Kingdom overall is made up of many different parts, not just of Scotland. The United Kingdom has a very diverse identity. There are also very strong cultural and historical identities in places like Wales, which is obvious but which did not get a separate parliament, but certainly has a very distinct identity of its own, both regionally and in terms of the emphasis on its language.
HILLThere's of course Ireland. Overall, before the division of Ireland during World War I, Ireland was also a constituent part in its entirety of the United Kingdom. And of course we know the history -- the troubled history of Ireland, the separation of the states, the creation of Southern Ireland into the Irish Republic, that we know today, of Ireland, which David has just mentioned. But Northern Island is also still a constituent part of the United Kingdom and also has a very distinct identity. And if you look across the whole of the country, there are all kinds of historic kingdoms in many respects that were absorbed into the United Kingdom from earlier stages.
HILLWhere I'm from in northern England, had a Prince Bishop that had a whole separate sense of identity for many years, up until the early 19th century. So you're actually dealing with a very complex and very diverse country that actually is having a crisis of governance overall. But Scotland actually has a very unique opportunity because of its history, because of these acts of union that Donnie talked about, to do something that other parts of the United Kingdom do not.
HILLThere's a great deal of dissatisfaction right now -- that I think is reflected in some of the things that we've been saying -- with the way the United Kingdom is governed, with London as a phenomenon which has become a global city grafted on in many respects to the rest of the United Kingdom. There are huge discrepancies in voting patterns and incomes and house prices and in mobility, education, you name it, across the country, that are not being captured by the system of governance as we currently have it.
HILLSo Scotland has an opportunity to leave. But there are other parts of the country that also are looking for a change in the way that the United Kingdom is governed.
REHMSo if the vote were taken today, Fiona, how do you think it would go?
HILLRight now, based on the polls, it looks like a very narrow no. But it's very hard to say because I think, as we, you know, would all agree, you know, people often don't make up their minds until they actually get into the voting booth.
REHMAnd the other question, what would the separation mean for both the U.S. and the E.U.?
HILLIn terms of the United States, I don't think the United States has made up its mind at all what this means. I think the United States, on the day after the referendum, will decide, as someone else has put it, whether it has one ally or two allies in the United Kingdom. Sometimes two is better than one, so perhaps the United States will, you know, embrace that. I think overall though, there is a great deal of concern about the security implications for the Transatlantic Alliance, for NATO and also in terms of the European Union. And I think David can really speak to this, given his background.
HILLThere's a lot of concern in the European Union about how they handle this particular outcome. Because a number of other countries are watching Scotland. Scotland is becoming a model, a trailblazer for other countries where there's a similar crisis of governance and where there are also historic precedents for other kingdoms or other separate entities. Spain is the most approximate example of this.
REHMFiona Hill is with the Brookings Institution. She's from northern England. Her family is from Scotland. David Rennie is Washington bureau chief for The Economist, he's half British, half Scottish. And Donnie Jack, he's Scottish affairs counselor for the Americas, which is part of the British Embassy here in Washington, and he is of course Scottish. We are going to take your calls soon. 800-433-8850. How much campaigning is going on right now in Scotland, Donnie?
JACKA tremendous amount, Diane. And that's one of the really encouraging things that I've seen across, you know, from 3,000 miles away. The whole referendum campaign has energized communities and individuals in a way which has been unseen before. Normally, in a general election, an election to the Scottish Parliament, you know, there is an intense period of activity by politicians. They go into local communities. But what I've seen on both sides of the campaign is that individuals within their own communities have been energized.
REHMWell, what about David Rennie's point that Alex Salmond is selling the Scottish people a bill of goods.
JACKWell, that's quite interesting. I did not, of course, agree with David's comment that the First Minister has been sneaky. It's important for your listeners to appreciate that as part of the Edinburgh Agreement, which allowed the referendum to take place, there was no pre-negotiations allowed.
REHMAll right. We're going to have to take a short break here. We'll come back to that discussion. And we'll be taking your questions, comments. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about the vote that is coming up in just a few weeks to decide whether Scotland will remain part of Great Britain or separate and become an independent state. Donnie Jack, just before the break we were talking about the gentleman Alex Salmond who is certainly leading that movement and why you disagree with David Rennie's comments about him.
JACKYes, as I was saying before the break, Diane, part of the agreement for having the referendum was that the conditions were that there would be no pre-negotiations on what the outcome might be. So that meant that my government had to present its proposals for what an independent Scotland would look like. But they can't negotiate those proposals because the Westminster government says there will be no pre-negotiation until such time as the will of the people is known. And I understand that position.
JACKSo what David was alluding to was the proposals that my government has set out through the first minister, some of which have been fairly under attack in recent months. But there are no counter proposals because at the moment what we're hearing is that Westminster government says, no, no, no to all these proposals. But there is no negotiation yet.
REHMAll right. And joining us now from Edinburgh is Jim Naughtie. He is host of the BBC's Today Program. He's been covering the referendum for BBC radio. Thanks for joining us, Jim.
MR. JAMES NAUGHTIEDiane, very nice to be with you, as ever.
REHMTell me what you hear as the latest feeling going on.
NAUGHTIEOkay. I suppose I've got a slight advantage because I'm here. The last ten days, I should tell you, have been electric in the campaign. Donnie and David and Fiona are all right. It is a campaign that has energized the political community. I mean, not in its broadest sense people are engaged. There are meetings in town halls and social clubs and churches and what places up and down the country. It is a thunderingly good debate. And in many respects, although it has its sort of darkest side, you know, people chucking insults across the chasm, it's a fairly mature debate. And it's a serious debate.
NAUGHTIEI think what's happened in the last ten days what you need to know is that there was the first debate, televised debate, an American presidential style debate between Alex Salmond, the First Minister and Alistair Darling, former Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, was a Scottish MP but was Chancellor of the Exchequer in London and leads the no campaign on television. And it was a catastrophe for the first minister, as his people privately will happily -- well, not happily but they will admit. It was terrible for him.
NAUGHTIEHe is famed as being quick on his feet, a great debater, master of all the figures and everything and he just didn't pull it out of the bag on the night. Now, that doesn't settle the matter. Of course it doesn't. But the polls have widened. Fiona was saying, a narrow, no victory. Well, the polls, as they stand, gives the no side about a 20 percent lead, which in my lexicon isn't terribly narrow. Now I'm saying it'll stay like that to the end but the challenge now is for the yes side.
NAUGHTIEAnd the key thing -- Donnie was making the point, I mean, quite fairly about the Edinburgh agreement as Alex Salmond likes to call it. It makes it sound like the Treaty of Versailles. I mean, it's not that along. David Cameron, he sat down and they came to a political deal. You know, it was a good old fashioned negotiation which Alex Salmond is extremely good at. But it's not some great treaty.
NAUGHTIEAll it was was -- we'll discuss this later -- but the key thing here, Diane, is this, that I think that what the yes campaign of finding difficult at this junction, only six weeks to go, six weeks on Thursday, is the economic argument on two fronts. First of all, what is the currency going to be? Will there be a currency union with the rest of the UK and use the pound? All the main parties, Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats at Westminster have said there won't be. And Alex Salmond is saying to the population, don't you worry. They're bluffing. Trust me. Well, that's a big ask in an election.
NAUGHTIEThe second thing is that we were told by the finance secretary of Edinburgh and by the deputy first minister and by Alex Salmond that all the calculations about the setup cost of an independent state would be revealed. Well, they haven't been. They're not in the white paper. Alex Salmond says, well, it will cost about 200 million pounds, which as somebody pointed out is 20 percent of the cost of five miles of tram line in Edinburgh, which has been a public sector disaster by the way.
NAUGHTIEAnyway, and people are just leery. People's hearts may be saying -- a majority of people's hearts may well say, we quite like this, if we think it would work. Their heads at the moment are veering no. I'm not saying that won't change, but that's how things stand. Sorry for that being so long, but I've got it all in.
REHMNo, that's fine. I'm sure that...
NAUGHTIEI know you like it in full.
REHMI'm sure Donnie Jack would like to respond in some measure on questions of currency, on questions of cost of such a transition.
JACKWell, on the currency, the first minister, as Jim points out, in the debate which took place last week, he was pressed repeatedly for what -- his plan B. And he's been quite clear that, you know, his -- the preference is for us to be part of a currency union over the pound. You know, there was a council economic advisor set up, which included two Nobel laureates, including Professor Stiglitz from here and New York.
JACKAnd their advice was in the best interest of Scotland and the rest of the UK to have a currency union and not just a...
NAUGHTIEDonnie, just interrupt.
NAUGHTIEAn interesting question here, which I think people will be intrigued by, is that it's accepted of course by Westminster, by the British government, by the conceptive liberal democrat coalition that the sovereign will of the Scottish people will be accepted in that referendum. In other words, if they say no, it's no. If they say yes, it's yes.
NAUGHTIEThe question, and I asked Alex Salmond this in a conversation that we had, a public conversation in Glasgow at a big meeting. Does he think that the 93, 94 percent, the people in the rest of the UK who would use a shared currency in the event of a yes vote, should be asked whether they think it's a good idea or not? Now when you ask him that directly he sort of says yes and then he gets all terribly vague.
NAUGHTIEI mean, you're representing the Scottish government and the British embassy in Washington. What is the position of the democratic right of the rest of the UK to talk about what happens to the currency afterwards given that most of them will use it in far greater numbers than Scots will? What's the answer?
JACKI would need to think about that, Jim.
REHMAll right. And David Rennie...
NAUGHTIEThat's exactly what the prime minister says and that's one of his problems.
RENNIEIt's kind of overdue. So Donnie Jack as a good Scottish Ambassador didn't like me calling Alex Salmond sneaky. Well, I say that in certain affection. Now, I reported on politicians for the last 20 years all around the world. Interviewing Alex Salmond is really fun. He's like -- I described him once as -- it's like interviewing -- he's got a cuddly and charming and remorse -- it's like sort of doing battle with a teddy bear driving a bulldozer, you know.
RENNIEAnd if you try and pin him down, he's a kind of...
NAUGHTIEI'd say he's a cross between Joe Biden and Chris Christie.
RENNIEYeah, he's a kind of dancing bear too. So if you try and pin him down on this currency stuff, he just kind of dances around. It's like, this is a really serious question.
RENNIEHis idea is that Scotland should be allowed to use the pound. Now what does that mean? It means that Scottish banks would have as a lender of last resort behind them, the Bank of England. It means that when Scotland goes to the money markets and borrows money and issues bonds and all those boring things, that somehow the British government and the Bank of England would stand behind those debts.
RENNIEBut we've seen this before. The euro, which I covered for some unhappy years, what was the disaster of the euro was countries sharing currencies but taking their own individual decisions about how much to tax and spend and borrow. And it doesn't work as a model. And the Bank of England is saying through the British government in London, we would not be standing behind Scottish banks or Scottish debt. And that is an unbelievable risk to...
REHMHold on a moment. Fiona, I know you wanted to add to that.
HILLYeah, I wanted to actually add something, which is a little bit more anecdotal, not quite at the level of the economists here. Because, you know, as you mentioned before -- my family straddled both sides of the border. So I grew up in Northern England but the bulk of my family from Scotland, we've been circling around the borders for 300 years. And what is very interesting is most of my family on the English side of the border get rid of their existing Scottish pounds as soon as they leave Scotland.
HILLAnd this just gets to kind of the point, you were asking kind of the question about what the rest of the United Kingdom think. You cannot actually take Scottish pounds, which are actually just simply have a different design on them, even though they're issued by the Bank of Scotland, into most shops in Northern England and certainly in London. And my sister who now lives in Europe finds that she can't change Scottish pounds when she goes back home to Madrid. So that's just a little kind of touch of the complexities already.
HILLAnd so what the question then will be, how that will be resolved when Scotland is totally independent and there is an independent perspective even more so on the currency than just the issuing of the bank notes is -- I think gets to the heart of that problem.
REHMGo ahead, Jim.
NAUGHTIEThe key question is a different one. If there were a currency union it would involve the Bank of England insisting that fiscal policy in Scotland would somehow coordinate with fiscal policies south of the border. Otherwise the currency wouldn't have the integrity. In other words, what the no sides say is that you would be taking sovereignty away with a yes vote and then you'd be handing it back in order to make a single currency work because unless the whole thing is unified, it's open to all kinds of problems. And that's why pejorative governments in Westminster say it wouldn't work.
NAUGHTIEI mean, the real difficulty here is I don't think that people in the street worry about the niceties of, you know, bond interest rates and all these things, which could affect two separate currencies if, for example, Scotland didn't get a shared currency and decided just to use the pound anyway, which (unintelligible) use pejoratively as the Panama solution, I mean, deliberately, insultingly.
NAUGHTIEThe difficulty is that they just think they don't know. And when people say, oh your pension will be affected, your mortgage will be affected, they're not so much worried about pound notes with London taxi drivers.
NAUGHTIEI've never had much difficulty. It so much better than it was 30 years ago. But I think they feel that as a kind of integrity of the currency which isn't there. And Alex Salmond's problem is that the chairman of the yes campaign, the former Labour MP Dennis Canavan, says that the idea of a shared currency is nonsense. But the former deputy leader of the party, Jim Sillars, an old enemy admittedly of Alex Salmond's, says it is, and I quote him, "beyond idiotic."
NAUGHTIESo there are a lot of voices in the SNP who say this is rubbish. And that makes it difficult for Alex Salmond to bring it home with the voters.
REHMAll right. Let's move on and talk about some other issues involved. And I know David Rennie wanted to bring up the question of nuclear agreements.
RENNIEThat's right. So at the moment, Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish government who wants to be independent, he says that one of the first things that would have to happen is if they vote to leave and Scotland becomes its own country, it does not want to be home to any nuclear weapons. Now what your listeners need to know is that Britain is a nuclear power with nuclear weapons but we only have submarine weapons. That's our entire nuclear deterrent. We don't have cruise missiles and plane base.
RENNIEAll of it is based on these four submarines. And the idea is, at any moment of time there is a British nuclear submarine with nuclear weapons somewhere under the oceans. We don't know where, and they can only park in one place. There are these fantastically useful deep sea locks on the west coast of Scotland. There's one lock where they keep nuclear weapons. And then a couple of miles away there's a lock where they can park the submarines.
RENNIEThey're deep, they're safe, they're stealthy. You can get out of them straight into the North Atlantic without being seen. They're such good places to park nuclear submarines that the American Navy also rests up and parks its nuclear submarines there. If Scotland evicts the Royal Navy and those nuclear submarines from those deep sea locks, there isn't, without a tremendous amount of expense, anywhere else to park our nuclear deterrent.
RENNIEAnd I was on a trip as bureau chief of the Washington -- the Washington bureau chief, I was just on a trip with the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel until yesterday. I was sitting, talking to his admirals and generals around a table at one point on the trip. I raised this with them. They are extremely alarmed about this nuclear ally Britain and where they would put their deterrent.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." How do you respond to that, Donnie Jack?
JACKWell, the position of the government is that they don't want nuclear weapons in Scotland. And if it is a yes vote, it doesn't make sense for nuclear weapons to be stored in Scotland, which will become a separate country from the rest of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom wouldn't want that.
NAUGHTIEBut it's very important to put in the point here that Alex Salmond's policy, I mean, over the heads of a large number of people in his party, but his policy now is to apply for membership of NATO, of course a nuclear alliance. He points out perfectly fairly that a lot of countries in NATO don't have nuclear weapons on their soil, Nordic countries for example. But of course they weren't coming in on the same bases that they were already home.
NAUGHTIENot just to the (word?) submarines, as David has pointed out very accurately, but also to a whole network of listening bases which are very, very important and are part of the NATO frontline. Whether you like that or not, they're there in Scotland. Now, the difficulty is that the SNP will have an un-nuclear Scotland. Well, it wouldn’t be an un-nuclear Scotland.
NAUGHTIEIf they wanted to get rid of the bases on the (word?) , which David just described, that's find. That's a policy they could take. They would have difficulty negotiating it with NATO, I think, but there we are. Now the cost of that would be billions. And the really huge argument about who would pay, Scottish taxpayers, the rest of UK taxpayers or others but the government of Scotland, after the yes vote, would have to accept that nuclear submarines still patrolled in Scottish waters as a member of NATO.
NAUGHTIEAnd I think there's some -- well, we used the word sneaky earlier on -- I mean, leisure demand, whatever it is. I mean, I think, Donnie, you would have to accept that although the submarines wouldn't have their permanent home, there would still be petro stations for them there. There would still be weapons going through Scottish waters. And that's something that SNP ministers, in my experience, get very dodgy about because they don't like to admit that some of their supporters who believe that it would be a non-nuclear Scotland as members of NATO, it wouldn't be.
REHMAll right. Fiona.
HILLYeah, there's a couple of dimensions to this. One is also jobs related to those installations, which I'm sure both Donnie and David would point to. I mean, you have a situation there where were several thousand Scottish jobs tied up one way or another around the (word?) and the nuclear submarine site. And then of course all of their dependents. And in many respects that's one of the issues that has been playing out in and around Glasgow as part of the no campaign that's being pushed by the Scottish Labour Party. They've certainly been emphasizing that in their door-to-door campaigning and talks to people about the issue of jobs which haven't really come up in this context.
HILLThe other thing, as Jim is saying here, is this puts Scotland already in the same dilemma as Germany. When, as you recall, after the Fukushima nuclear accident, Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany and her team decided that Germany would go non-nuclear in terms of its power generation. That has proved enormously difficult. It's put more emphasis on Russian energy to Germany, which has become obviously a major issue over the last several months. And it's also caused cascading problems inside of the German economy.
HILLAnd of course Germany is also importing electricity from France, which is a nuclear power-generating country. So they've got exactly the same dilemmas by not thinking through all the second and third order consequences.
REHMAnd the basic question I have, Donnie Jack, is, is Scotland economically capable of supporting itself if the vote should go yes now?
JACKYes. All the commentators I think would agree with that, that Scotland could be -- an independent Scotland could be economically viable, yes.
RENNIEWell, I mean, of course, the worse thing in the world is for people like me who want to preserve this union, to sort of patronize Scotland and say, don't be so silly. Of course you can't make it on your own. The question to us, the kind of reasonable sober question to us is, would Scotland be better off? And it wouldn't.
RENNIESo some of the calculations, again Alex Salmond does these very kind of sneaky calculations. One of his calculations is that Scotland would have oil revenues because, of course, there is still -- it's two-thirds used, but there's a third of the sort of (unintelligible) . He's calculating it at $110 a barrel. That's an incredibly optimistic number. If that goes down, big problem.
REHMAll right. When we come back after a short break, we will open the phones, hear what you have to say, hear your questions. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we're back as we talk about the vote on Scottish independence, which comes up in about six weeks. Here is an email from Andrew, who clearly is Scottish. He says, "As an American of Scottish descent, if I voted with my heart I would vote for independence. If I voted with my mind, I would vote for staying in the Union. It's a tough choice." Jim Naughtie, you are Scottish by descent. How would you vote with your heart? How would you vote with your mind?
NAUGHTIEYour colleagues in the studio will be well aware, Diane, that that is a question which I would answer in fear of my life. I work for the BBC. I have no view. Let me say this, you raise a very interesting point here. I happen to live in Edinburgh and London, which many people do. There's a terrible acronym that people use now. Where called WILLIEs, work in London, live in Edinburgh. But anyway, there we are. There is a head and a heart collision here with a lot of people, I think.
NAUGHTIEInevitably because both play a part. I mean people are wondering about their children, about jobs, about pensions, about mortgages. They're also thinking about the integrity of their country, its fabulous, rich history, its sense of itself, its cultural identity, which is enormously important to most Scots, in, you know, to some degree. I think it's a terribly important point -- and Fiona's raised this already. I mean her ancestors, I assume, were stealing sheep across the border.
NAUGHTIESuch as the main -- it's the main activity in that part of…
HILLAnd, yes, and droving them backwards and forwards, you know.
NAUGHTIEI should say the main activity 300 years ago. It doesn't happen now. But look, every single Scottish family -- I think I can say that without fear of contradiction -- is a cross-border family. You know, people have traveled -- and of course to the Americas, to the antipodes, you know, to Africa, throughout the generations. But particularly in the United Kingdom, everybody crosses the border in some way.
NAUGHTIENow, for some people that means that they want to hold thing together because it is a kind of glue that is very, very important to them. For others it doesn't matter. And they say, for example, if you talk to Alex Salmond, he says, "Look, after this all over and we have a yes vote and we have independence, we will have the friendliest relationship imaginable. I will still," he says -- he said this to me on many occasions, "I will still call myself British. Although, you know, I will be in an independent Scotland."
NAUGHTIENow, a lot of people think you can't do that. He thinks you can. I think personally there would be huge difficulties. The question is, is it worth it. Of course it could be…
NAUGHTIE…it could be worth it, but, you know, there's a lot of history to be overcome there.
RENNIEAnd this goes to the heart of the question about sort of voting with your heart. So one of the big problems I think Alex Salmond has -- I think he's out of date. I think that his view of British identity is born as a politician who came of age in 1970. So when I interviewed him, his whole pitch is that -- I mean he wouldn't put it in quite these terms -- but essentially that the British identity is this kind of old, moth-eaten, pith helmet and Red Coats, imperialists, kind of Victorian identity.
RENNIEAnd that if you can strip that kind of imperial clutter away, then you'll have the stout yeoman hearts of Scotland, making best friends with the stout yeoman hearts of England. And this will be a kind of grand new union. The problem is that things have changed. If you actually look at who consider themselves most sort of British, it's things like Pakistani-British, Asian-British, Black-British, African-British. They talk about a hyphenated identity. And the Scottish identity and particularly the English identity is not nearly so open to new British immigrants.
RENNIEYou don't talk about people calling Pakistani-English. And they worry about the English identity, as a kind of -- as actually a sort of nationalist identity. And I think Salmond doesn't have an answer to that question.
HILLI agree with David here. I mean, just, you know, from the kind of perspective of once you get outside of London and travel around the rest of the country, you see a lot of discomfort on people's part about the sudden shooting up in reaction, in many respects, to what's happening in Scotland of the flag of England, of the flag of St. George. A lot of people will comment that they've never seen that before.
HILLI mean, my family, for example, said they saw the George flag flying in, you know, neighborhoods before, but they're seeing that as something, as reaction, a more particularist form of Englishness that's also emerging that people are feeling excluded from.
REHMAll right. I want to open the phones now. Let's go to Doug, in Chesterfield, S.C. Hi, you're on the air.
DOUGHey, how you doing?
DOUGAll right. Well, I thought William Wallace got a raw deal, but I'm curious about the type of vote. Is it a simple majority of the Scottish people or…
DOUGAll right. By the way, my last name is MacFarland.
REHMThanks for calling. Here's an interesting question from an emailer, Lori, who says, "What ramifications would a no vote have on Scottish on identity and pride, on confidence in themselves as a nation?" Donnie Jack, how do you answer that?
JACKThat's a really interesting question. I think that the whole debate has reenergized the discussion as to what Scottishness means and what it means for us to be Scots. And has reenergized the pride in our nation. If it is a no vote, then I think obviously there may be a dent to that. But it's important to realize that as part -- if it is a no vote, the Westminster government has said that further powers will be devolved to the Scottish parliament. So the Scotland that we see today in 2014 will not be the same either way in 2015 and beyond. So there'll be a reenergizing, I think, post-referendum.
REHMJim Naughtie, do you agree?
NAUGHTIEIt's a terribly important point that Donnie's just made. The Westminster party isn't, you know, obviously we have to take this in trust. But if they're (unintelligible) about the promising of extra powers, what that means -- and without going into boring details -- what it does mean is permanent changes, effectively, in the way Westminster governs the whole of the U.K.
NAUGHTIESo after this vote is over, whatever the result -- obviously, if it's a yes vote, it's an extraordinary period of working out what happened. But even if there is a no vote, the whole way the U.K. operates changes in all kinds of ways from Westminster. So it's going to be quite a constitutional innovation either way. There's just one other little point. There's a piece of very salient research that's come out just in the last few days.
NAUGHTIEThe Social Attitude Survey, which is a very respected, independent way of looking at what people think. All kinds of findings in the latest one. For example, a very interesting one is the huge gender gap in the voting intention. Many, many more women suspicious of a yes vote than men, which is intriguing. People have different explanations. But there's just one thing I want to point to with respect to what Donnie said -- and I agree with a lot of what he said.
NAUGHTIEAnd it's this, that when you ask people questions which have been asked over many years, so that they can be compared with past answers, on how they see themselves primarily, do they see themselves as solely Scottish, solely British, or Scottish and British? You know, what -- how do they self-identify nationally? What's interesting is that consequence of this argument -- I think we can assume -- many more people are willing to say, "I regard myself as both. As Scottish and I'm terribly proud of that, but also as British."
NAUGHTIEThey sort of want to make the point. And I think that it's not quite clear what the outcome of a no vote would be. I mean I think people might start to think about dual identity more. Some would be very, very upset by that vote, clear. Of course they would be. Some would be very, very pleased. A lot of people in the middle I think would start to think about a long-term meaning.
NAUGHTIEBecause, just to come back to the point that Donnie made and others -- and both David and Fiona have made -- and this is a really serious debate. It's touching people in their hearts and in their minds.
RENNIEI mean the big picture here is, you know, I was just in India last week with Chuck Hagel. You stand in a country of a billion people like India, and you look at Scotland wants to split apart. You know, I consider myself English, Scottish, British and European. Why are we heading to smaller and smaller units? That is not the direction of this new century of globalization, global movement, tremendous immigration. London, my home city, fantastically excited world city with all these hyphenated British people.
RENNIEAnd I really worry that -- I mean one of the points that Alex Salmond doesn't like to admit is his best allies in the House of Commons in Westminster are the far right of the Conservative Party. The kind of M.P.s whose other dream is to get out of the European Union. There are far right M.P.s in the Conservative Party who say let Scotland go. Fantastic news. Lots of Scottish M.P.s will disappear. That'll make is easier for us to win elections in the future. England will be nice on its own. All those hordes of left-wing Scots will be out of here and then we can leave the European Union. I think that'd be a tragedy.
HILLIn many respects, what David has just said actually puts his finger on why, however, this phenomenon is taking place. Because in this period of very fast globalization, especially where you have phenomenon of London, which is frankly like having New York drop down to the edge of the United Kingdom and it's one of the great mega-global cities -- is that people lose a sense of themselves, though -- identity.
HILLAnd what Donnie has been describing, what Jim is also describing, is people trying to unpack who they are and how they fit in. And you're seeing this, not just in Scotland. You're seeing this, as I said, you know, with the appearance of these English flags, of the St. George flag all over the place -- of people trying to find hybrid identities for themselves as minorities, of actually not so much minorities now, but of Pakistani or Kenyan or other immigrants into the United Kingdom and trying to figure out what that identity is.
RENNIEBut let's be clear, no Pakistani family would fly the English flag. Unfortunately…
HILLThey absolutely would not, no.
RENNIE…unhappily the English flag has a kind of faint tinge of the Confederate flag here.
RENNIEIt's a flag of grievance.
HILLAnd that's what I wanted to bring out as well. Because what we are seeing now in reaction to, you know, others trying to forge these identities, is these much more particularistic exclusionary identities, which of course we've seen in evidence in the rise of the U.K. Independence Party, which is also very anti-E.U. And this is actually one of the elements that I think David was trying to touch on when he says he has a European identity.
HILLOne of the very distinct things about Scotland is Scotland has always historically had very close associations with the rest of Europe. It's a fact. It's part of its history. And it's become a defining element also in this search for an independent Scotland, the fear that the United Kingdom might, at some point in the next two years, actually also pull itself out of the European Union.
NAUGHTIE(unintelligible) your point, Fiona, but it's important not to push it too far. A UKIP M.P. was elected -- and there are only six seats in Scotland. They were elected across, not by constituency, in the Euro elections in May, a UKIP member was elected. I think the idea that Euroscepticism, opposition to the European Union and all its works, is a kind of English phenomenon which, you know, is much more muted in Scotland.
NAUGHTIEI think the language is quite different. I think there isn't anything like the jingoistic, perhaps anaphoric language that you get commonly about the European Union south of the border to such an extent in Scotland, but if you look at the polls on the question of attitudes to Brussels, it's not that different. And I think people can talk about the trade in claret from Bordeaux to Edinburgh in the 18th century to they're blue in the face. And it's a wonderful story, and the old alliance with France and all the rest of it.
NAUGHTIEAnd all that's true in our history. I'm good to see some -- I'm going to see the first of trilogy of plays tonight in Edinburgh about the beginning of the Stewart dynasty in the 15th century. And it's a wonderful story about Europeans. But let's not get started on that.
NAUGHTIEScotland's almost as Eurosceptic as anyone.
REHMExactly. And we've had several emails to this effect, "Why is this a Scottish vote alone on something that affects all of the kingdom Great Britain and Northern Ireland? Shouldn't all Britons have a stay in this?" David Rennie?
RENNIEWell, one of the unhappiest opinion polls I've seen is the growing number of English who would like Scotland to leave. And I think that's a vote of grievance. And, again, Alex Salmond is being sneaky here. He's got this vote. He has also changed the voting age so that 16-year-olds get to vote in this election because the polling shows that they're quite keen on the idea of a new country. And why not? In no other election can 16-year-olds vote in the U.K. But just in this one.
NAUGHTIE(unintelligible) shows the opposite. It's a bit of a problem for the first minister. All the polls and surveys done of young voters suggest there's a no majority. Now, I was surprised by that. I am surprised by it. And I could tell you, so is Mr. Salmond.
RENNIEWe should talk about the European Union, because that's something that has come up quite a lot. I used to cover Brussels for five years. One of the things that people say to sound clever -- but it's actually wrong -- is that the European Union is full of countries -- particularly Spain, for example -- who are very concerned about their own regions breaking away. And they're so concerned about their own regions breaking away that they might somehow veto Scotland rejoining the E.U. under its own flag.
RENNIENow, I think that that's just political fantasy because let's not forget the government in London has said that it would work with Scotland if the Scots vote to leave and would help them do, you know, help them become a success story. So to say that the Spaniards or the Germans or the Belgians, whoever, would veto, you have to believe that they would be tougher on the new Scotland than the government in London. That's a political fantasy I think.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Spruce Pine, N.C. Hi, Gary.
GARYYes. Hello, Diane. I had the privilege of living in Scotland when I was young. And something that, even at that time was a bit of contention was that the Stone of Scone, which was a very sacred object to the Scots and where their monarchs were coronated sitting on, was moved to London when, I believe, James became the king of England. And it now resides in England. And the English do not want to give it back to the Scots. So if Scotland becomes…
NAUGHTIEOh, no. It's back.
REHMNo, no. Apparently that's not correct.
HILLIt's in Edinburgh Castle.
JACKIt's in Edinburgh Castle.
HILLI saw it there in June. It's definitely there.
JACKIt's been there for a number of years.
REHMSo it's gone back.
RENNIEIt moved back, yeah.
REHMAll right. I'm glad we could answer that question. Let's take one more quick call from Joe, in St. Louis, Mo. You're on the air.
JOEGood morning to all of you.
JOEIt's a pleasure to listen you. You've had a very good program today.
JOEMy question to the British argument is what do they have to gain, one way or another, if England wants to be -- or Scotland wants to be independent, or Northern Ireland for that matter to be united with the south of Ireland? Because, you know, the British, they have commonwealth countries all over the world. I mean, look at -- we got Canada, they're part of England. New Zealand, Australia. So what difference would it be if Scotland does the same thing with their own government and that's what the people want?
REHMAll right. Fiona?
HILLWell, I think that's actually one of the points that is being raised as part of the yes campaign, that the -- of course, one of the questions initially in the whole campaign was what happens to the queen and the royal family. Well, of course…
REHMAnd Balmoral Castle.
HILLThat's right. And as Donnie here has pointed out, obviously the very first form of union was the union of the crowns. And that will remain.
HILLThe queen will remain the symbol. And, in fact, you know, as we've seen over the years with the British commonwealth, there's been a surprising reluctance of many of the countries who've been part of the British commonwealth to basically get rid of the royal family. So, I mean, that has become part of the elements of the discussion here. But I think the -- it's the political aspects of this which are very different.
RENNIEI think all three of us around this table agree…
REHMHold on, hold on, Jim. Go ahead, Donnie (sic).
RENNIEI just, I think…
RENNIE…all three of us around this table agree that the sky would not fall in if Scotland became independent. Personally, it would be a great shame. And I think that one of the big problems is, so Scotland would -- Scotland has an older population. It's aging faster. It's a less productive population. The North Sea oil is running out. Those are the kind of serious, sober kind of things that they need to think about.
RENNIEAnd also, finally, Jim -- Alex Salmond, the independence leader, pro-independence leader, he has a very sub-status view of the way that the government interacts with the economy. And essentially his basic pitch is the levers of power that create jobs and growth or government levers of power, if you put honest Scottish hands on those levers, Scotland will zoom forward, as opposed to kind of malevolent English hands. My magazine, "The Economist," much more free market than his, we think he's exaggerating the levers of power.
REHMDavid Rennie, Donnie Jack, Fiona Hill, and Jim Naughtie, what a wonderful conversation. We'll watch that space. Thank you all.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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