Vital Signs

The End of the United Kingdom?

Of course Scotland won’t leave the United Kingdom.  That was the conventional wisdom when the referendum on Scottish independence was announced two years ago.  But today no one is quite certain what the outcome will be.  The referendum is scheduled for September 18, and polls indicate that a majority of Scots favor staying in the United Kingdom, but there is also a large number of undecided voters.  The campaign for independence has been picking up momentum since the start of the year.  About the only thing both sides agree on is that the result could still go either way.

The case for staying in the United Kingdom seems clear cut.  Scotland is already mostly self-governing, but she enjoys the benefits of being part of a major world power.  If they leave, Scots face an uncertain future as one of Europe’s many small countries.  In the face of such compelling arguments, why is the outcome of the referendum still uncertain?

The campaign for independence—known as “Yes Scotland”—owes its growing popularity both to its own excellent strategy and to stumbling by its opponents.  The campaign to stay in the United Kingdom goes by the sunny, optimistic name of “Better Together.”  However, its tactics seem mostly to consist of reminding Scots of the financial losses they will suffer if they leave and the dangers of an uncertain...

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