Why on earth did the Scots, largely quiescent as part of Great Britain for three centuries, suddenly become the mouse that roared? It wasn't because they became besotted watching re-runs of Braveheart or Rob Roy, or even because they coveted more of a share of North Sea oil revenues. No, the Scots got sick and tired of Thatcherite policies imposed from London. Thanks to the partial form of federalism known as "devolution" provided by the Labour government of Tony Blair in 1997, Scotland got to keep such progressive policies as free higher education and an intact national health service, while the rest of the U.K. partly privatized the health service and began compelling young people to go into debt to finance college like their American cousins.
This week, the world reeled from a welter of cross currents. Though the "yes" vote on independence lost in the end, the Scottish referendum revealed a passionately dis-United Kingdom. Elsewhere, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in India, the other Asian giant, calling for a global economic alliance of the "world's factory and world's back office." On Wall Street, China's Alibaba launched what is expected to be the biggest market valuation of an IPO ever. Pope Francis, meanwhile, mused that we had already entered "a piecemeal WWIII." In an exclusive commentary for The WorldPost, former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown argues that the real quarrel of his fellow Scots is with the dislocations of globalization, not the Union. (continued)
The 20th century challenge was for Scotland to maintain its cultural identity while at the same time cooperating with the four nations of the U.K.. Now the challenge is even greater: to uphold cultural traditions and national identities in a world where there are no such things as nation-only solutions. By answering those who claim that independence can make a difference with policies that show interdependence can make the difference, Scotland can show the way forward by thinking big and not small.
Could Scotland be the pacemaker for nationalist breakaways in Spain, Belgium, Italy and Eastern Europe? And could it demonstrate, as victories for anti-immigrant parties did in last month's European elections, that even the most advanced industrial nations are not immune from nationalist or protectionist movements?