What about Scotland? Will it vote to remain a part of the United Kingdom or go its own way? And, could this be a future for tribal nations?
Thursday’s vote — a simple “yes” or “no” — is the ultimate question and answer in democratic form. Should we be our own country?
Should we? Rarely do citizens get to vote “yes” or “no.” Most of human history is about the war that follows such outrageous demands. We spend lives trying to answer that a question, fought by those who are willing to die (and kill) to prove their authority.
That’s what’s remarkable about Scotland. This independence movement and the alternative (which is yet to be defined) is based on individual sovereignty expressed on a ballot. The draft constitution says elegantly: “In Scotland, the people are sovereign.”
I was in Aberdeen in 2009 for a conference on sovereignty and saw this movement first-hand. I talked to people who were enthusiastic about Scottish Gaelic being taught alongside English. There already was a sense of national purpose, rethinking what a country could and should be in the 21st century.
The notion of “devolution,” or returning power to Scotland, has been unfolding since a new Prime Minister, Tony Blair, fulfilled his election promise. The Scottish Act of 1998 provided the legislative structure. Blair told BBC that devolution would “show the whole of the United Kingdom that there is a better way that Britain can be governed, that we can bring power closer to the people, closer to the people's priorities and that we can give Scotland the ability to be a proud nation within the United Kingdom.”
A lot of folks hoped that would be that. Scotland would have “enough” power. Or to use that clunky phrase from American Indian law, be a “quasi sovereign.”
Not quite sovereign. And not quite free. (more…)