According to a recent study* by Croatian academic Dr Jaroslav Tir of the University of Colorado’s Department of Political Science, an independent Scotland could be one of the most pacific nations in history.
It’s not that sort of pacific, Calmac ferries will not call at Tahiti en route to Rothesay. We’ll not be blessed with tropical sunshine, Gaugin paintings of Polynesian maidens, and hordes of Australians on weekend breaks. The kind of pacific that’s in store for us is even better – Scotland will be a country which is blessed by the prospect of peace, which will enjoy freedom from war, and experience exceptional democratic stability.
This good news, which Dr Tir delivered during a recent conference at Glasgow University, was completely drowned out by Project Fear’s insistence that iScotland will be unable to protect itself against rampant hordes of Russian cybercriminals, god-botherers with bombs, and Faroese trawlerboats. We’re defenceless against North Korea drilling a hole through the centre of the Earth and dropping a missile though it so it can nuke Hampden in revenge for the flag incident. We’ll be a little lost country, shivering alone in a big bad forest full of foreigners with dastardly ways.
Project Fear never stops to ask itself who we need to defend ourselves against, and why. In the James Bond universe of the No campaign, villains need no motive. They’ll act just like Westminster will after a No vote, apparently, and will punish us out of sheer spite.
In essence, Project Fear’s campaign boils down to “Vote No or we’ll kick your arse, and while we’re kicking your arse, these other baddies will kick your arse too – for no reason other than we’re all basterts.” It’s understandable that they’re finding it difficult to put a positive gloss on this. But if the basterts are going to kick our arses anyway, I’d rather take my chances with a Yes.
Despite the increasingly discredited and discreditable threats of Project Fear, Dr Tir’s work tells us that our chances of living a nice quiet life are rather better with a Yes vote. He has analysed the process of independence in many countries, and the factors that influence how peaceful the new state becomes.
What he discovered is that there is a correlation between the peacefulness of the country’s independence process and the likelihood of that country becoming involved in wars. The more peaceful the independence process, the less likely it is that the new state will be belligerent and prone to getting into artillery exchanges with its neighbours. A nation that becomes independent peacefully develops into a peaceful state.
The Scottish independence process is exceptionally peaceful. The worst that happens is that someone gets called a name, and even then the outrage is most often manufactured. It would appear that political violence in an independent Scotland will most likely consist of some politicians occasionally taking the huff over a supposed slight by some other politicians.
The rest of us can live with that quite easily, unless you’re one of those peculiar people who loses sleep over Alistair Carmichael saying he’s been called a nasty name. However unpleasant being called a name is for the sensitive Carmichael, it’s a whole lot less life threatening than invading Iraq.
The experience of living inside a goldfish bowl is very different from viewing it from the outside. For all the supposed bitterness and vitriol of the Scottish debate, the rest of the world holds us up as a model of how a nation can attain independence.
Those opposed to Catalan independence contrast the sober and issue based debate of Scotland’s pro-indy campaigners with the supposed “unreasoning passions and emotions” of Catalonia’s independentistas. Meanwhile the independentistas cite the Edinburgh Agreement and the legality of Scotland’s referendum as proof that the Scottish No campaign recognises the democratic legitimacy of a claim to national self-determination, even while being opposed to Scotland exercising its claim. Both sides point to Scotland and say, “See, they’re acting like grown ups and that’s how it’s supposed to be done.”
But we’re inside the goldfish bowl, so all Scots independentistas see is Westminster gobbling all the fishfood and Ian Davidson doing a jobbie in the watter. Whereas Project Fear sees independentistas as a voracious carp which is about to swallow their political careers whole. Which admittedly isn’t entirely incorrect.
But despite this, none of the fish in our bowlful of Loch Ness watter are killing each other. Our monsters are mythical. We’ve avoided cannibalism, headbutting, devouring our young. We’ve had no physical violence, not so much as a fin has been nibbled. Our piranhas are only metaphorical. As a nation, we need to give ourselves a bit more credit for this because it doesn’t happen very often. Our non-violent independence campaign is in itself proof of the democratic maturity of Scotland.
The other major issue determining how peaceful and stable a country is going to be is them next door. Countries which can’t agree with the neighbours over where the garden hedge is situated are countries which are likely to spend decades fighting over the petunias.
Here again, Scotland is exceptionally fortunate. If you’ve ever looked at a historical atlas, you’ll be struck by the ever changing kaleidescope of borders across Europe. From around the year 1000, Poland has waxed and waned, at times stretching across much of Eastern Europe, at other times wiped from the map. After WW2 it ended up pretty much where it started 1000 years earlier. It’s not just Poland. Across Europe borders came and went, populations ebbed and flowed. The end result was a whole lot of states which had claims on all or part of another country’s territory, and took a chainsaw to the hedge and trampled all over the neighbour’s vegetable plot.
Scotland’s sole land border has been one of the most stable and enduring in Europe. For the best part of the past 1000 years it’s been in more or less the same position, give or take Berwick. Although Scots have emigrated in their thousands, there are no solid blocks of Scottish people in some other land, calling to be “reunited” with the hameland. Scotland has no territorial claims, and no other state has any territorial claims upon Scotland.
What all this means is that Scotland is an exceptionally favoured country. It is a racing certainty that as an independent nation we will have few enemies, we will stay out of wars, our defence force will not sally from its barracks and overthrow the legitimate government, and the worst manifestation of political violence we’ll witness will be the weekly hurling of insults at Furst Meenister’s Questions.
The alternative we’re offered is the almost continual war of the United Kingdom, “punching above our weight” in military conflicts which have nothing to do with us, and seeing future generations of young Scots going off to die in foreign fields. And we still get Johann Lamont’s weekly sneerathon.
* Unfortunately Dr Tir’s original research doesn’t seem to be available online.
I’m afraid updates to this blog will be a bit erratic over the next week or so as my partner has been admitted to hospital for tests.