Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Independent Scotland will be a blow to UK

By Ji Qiufeng (China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-17 07:50

Will Scotland become an independent country? We will know the answer to the question by this weekend. Although opinion polls show a high percent of Scottish people favoring a "yes" vote, the ultimate result of the referendum remains uncertain, especially because influential British political figures, including Prime Minister David Cameron and Labour Party chief Ed Miliband, have rushed to Scotland to rally support for a "no" vote.

Some observers believe that the effects of an independent Scotland would be hardly felt, because the Scottish people have not used (or intend to use) violence or other radical means to gain independence and the queen would remain the head of state of even an independent Scotland.

But such a view pertains to the Western world as a whole. For the United Kingdom, however, the effects of an independent Scotland would be long lasting. Also, it would give rise to some difficult questions. Since the Treaty of Union between England and Scotland was signed in 1707, Scotland has always been a key part of Great Britain and later the United Kingdom. If Scotland gains independence, the UK would lose one-tenth of its population and one-third of its land area, making it a country smaller than Uruguay.

Even the name of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would become an embarrassment, because a large part of Great Britain would be gone. The UK would be "neither great nor Britain nor united". Should then the UK change its name?

Worse than the psychological wound of Scotland's secession from the union will be the possible chain effect. Northern Ireland, another member state of the UK, has a long history of seeking independence, with Irish nationalists using violent means to get their demand. So, if Scotland gains independence through legal and peaceful means, would Northern Ireland follow the example?

The British Empire once covered one-fourth of the world. Although the empire declined after World War II, the UK remained one of the biggest global powers, kept its permanent seat in the UN Security Council and dared to stay out of the eurozone.

In many ways, the UK's comprehensive capability makes it second only to the United States. But after Scotland secedes, would the UK remain as confident, and would Germany, France, Italy and even the US continue to recognize its special position?

Answers to all these questions are clear, except that we have to wait for the referendum result.

The author is a professor of European studies at the School of International Relations, Nanjing University, Jiangsu province.

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