Understanding Scottish Independence: for Americans
It seems like a lot of Americans don’t understand the relationship between the UK and Scotland. Let me tell you a story to try to help you understand.
Imagine that Canada has a terrible disaster of some kind. They’re completely bankrupt. They can barely feed themselves. Maybe it was a huge meteor strike or something. Anyway, Canada is kind of lowkey screwed.
So America decides to help their little brother to the north. They offer to bail out Canada, as long as Canada joins the US, and the ten provinces and three territories of Canada become 13 new states.
For a while things are pretty okay. Canadian currency becomes American currency and every Canadian dollar is valued exactly like American dollars. The Canadian capitol in Ottawa is shut down, and Canada sends their representatives and senators to Washington DC. The old provinces can still collect state tax, but all the federal taxes get sent off to the IRS, and the Canadians get Federal funding the same as other states.
Not all Canadians are happy about the arrangement. They feel like their identity as Canadians is lost. It seems like there are more and more barbeque joints and fewer and fewer Tim Horton’s as time goes by. They want to still be Canadians, but everyone now calls them Americans. After all, they’re all from North America, right?
The problems start to arise when it comes to governing. The Americans draft a bill in congress that cuts all funding for French language education and television. The Canadians are incensed! They are told, “You have representatives in Congress. Just tell them to vote against it!”
They do, but there are only 26 Canadian Senators and 50 Canadian Representatives in Congress, while there are 100 Senators and 435 Representatives from the US. Even when Alaska and Minnesota vote with Canada, there are not nearly enough votes, so they lose all of their Federal funding for French tv and education.
That ends up just being the start. The US cuts funding for the Canadian socialised medicine and welfare programs. They decide it’s not fair for them to get better healthcare and welfare protection than the other states. They’re told that if they want to keep those things they’ll have to raise the money from their own state budgets and state taxes. But they have restrictions on how much they can raise in state tax, so services are strained.
There are little problems here and there as well. Whenever Canadians go down to the original states, the locals refuse to take their Canadian money or give them a hard time, even though it is legal US currency.
Most of the former members of the Canadian national hockey team are recruited into the US olympic hockey team. They do really well in the early rounds, and headlines scream “USA! USA!” When the Canadians point out that every player on the team is Canadian, the Americans scoff and say, “Quit being so nationalistic. We’re all Americans.” The team loses in the final to Russia. The headlines scream, “American Bid for Gold Destroyed by Incompetent Canadians.”
Canada is rich in oil and other natural resources, which are now owned by the US government. With so much land and so few people, per capita they contribute more money to the US budget than they get back in Federal spending. They ask to get more of it back to pay for healthcare and education, but they are outnumbered in congress as usual.
Socially, Canadians are just different. The Canadian states legalise gay marriage across the former Canada with little fuss and the only protests came from the south. They have strict firearm restrictions and they resent that Americans keep bringing in guns.
A war breaks out in Europe. Planeloads and boatloads of European refugees pour into North America from Britain, France, and Spain. The President immediately reacts and calls for restrictions on refugees, claiming that there is no space for them, and they’re too dangerous. Meanwhile, Canada wants to welcome as many refugees as possible. There is plenty of space in Canada, they love welcoming new cultures, and they want to help. Unfortunately, immigration is not a state-level power, so they are banned from accepting refugees.
The US decides to increase their military spending and starts wars all over the world, as usual. Canada pays their share and then some. Americans start to feel uncomfortable with all the nuclear stockpiles in the country, but they refuse to get rid of them. Instead, they park their entire store of nukes just outside Toronto. Not a single Canadian voted to approve the move.
Things start to break down. The Canadians have long recovered from their original crisis, and it just seems like they no longer have any power to govern themselves. They are socially far more liberal than the original states, but their votes don’t mean anything in Congress, so they are constantly saddled with an extremely conservative government.
They’ve been an independent country before. They know it’s possible. If they broke out of the US, they could bring back socialised medicine and welfare and the French language. They could spend more on health and education and less on the constant wars. They could make the Americans take their nukes back, so that they aren’t endangering their largest city.
The Americans don’t understand. “Your population is so small! You’re part of the greatest country in the world! You’ll never have that kind of global clout if you leave us.”
But the Canadians don’t want global power. They just want to take care of themselves and be Canadian again.
So that’s basically what the relationship between Scotland and England is like. Scotland doesn’t want an Empire like England does. We just want to take care of ourselves on our own terms. Our priorities and values are just fundamentally different.