The Scottish Vote Is Neck-And-Neck

No has regained a slight lead:

Scotland VoteYouGov’s latest survey has No, on 52%, narrowly ahead of Yes, 48%, after excluding don’t knows. This is the first time No has gained ground since early August. Three previous polls over the past month had recorded successive four point increases in backing for independence. In early August Yes support stood at 39%; by last weekend it had climbed to 51%. …

A key reason for the renewed fears of independence is what might happen to people’s bank accounts. The biggest single advantage of the union cited by No voters is that the UK would have the resources to step in if Scotland faced another crisis of the kind that erupted in 2008.

Fraser Nelson focuses on the decline in support among the youngest voters:

You need to treat all Scottish polls with caution, due to the sample size and the fact that the turnout may be high enough to include people who polling companies don’t know exist. But YouGov found that the under-25s (the ones more likely to vote on the day, rather than by post) have switched form a 20-point lead for ‘yes’ to a 6-point lead for ‘no’ in under a week.

Now, 20pc of people born in Scotland have concluded that their future lies outside of Scotland. Being fully plugged into the network of the rest of the UK is an advantage: as a Scot in London I feel (and am treated) like a fellow countryman, not an immigrant. I have to say: it’s a good feeling, and one I’d certainly want to protect if I were a teenager mulling my future options.

Examining the coalitions for and against independence, Tom O’Grady argues that “the referendum has arguably ceased to be about independence at all”:

[T]he pro-independence coalition looks much like the types of groups that are rejecting conventional politics in Europe today more broadly. Younger and poorer voters show lower turnout in elections, are more likely to vote for anti-establishment fringe parties, and are scornful of traditional political elites. Overall, the Scottish National Party’s success has come partly from framing independence as a form of anti-establishment protest, as well as the sheer luck of holding a referendum that coincides with a Conservative government in the United Kingdom.

This means, though, that support for independence could ultimately prove fragile.

Adam Taylor profiles Alex Salmond, the leader of Scotland’s independence movement:

Salmond seems to divide opinion like few other politicians. He has substantial support, enough to be elected as first minister of Scotland, yet polls show almost as many are dissatisfied as satisfied with him. Strangely, women seem to have a particular problem with him: One recent poll from the Scottish paper Daily Record found that half of women surveyed saying his role makes them want to vote against independence. Salmond was described as “arrogant,” “ambitious” and “dishonest” by those polled.

Perhaps it’s logical that a man who espouses a radical plan would elicit both love and hate. But there’s an even bigger factor here: Salmond doesn’t just espouse a radical plan – he also promotes it very, very well.

Eric Posner approves of independence:

[W]hile it’s true that Scottish nationalists often make mystical arguments (as nationalists always do), the case for independence is based on serious policy considerations. Some Scots believe that independence would give Scotland sole ownership of valuable oil deposits off its coast in the North Sea. Although those resources may well be almost depleted, it is possible that advances in oil-extraction technology would enable Scotland to create an oil-financed welfare state like Norway’s.

More importantly, if Scotland were independent, Scots would control the whole array of policy instruments that Scotland now shares with the rest of the U.K.—above all, taxing and spending. The Scots would be able to govern themselves however they want—and that includes putting into place the more generous welfare state that the more right-leaning English public has denied them.

Though not against independence in principle, Megan McArdle has misgivings:

My basic position on this sort of thing is that if places want to be independent, they should be independent, unless the reason that they’re seeking independence is so they can have more freedom to oppress minority populations. Yet I can’t say this seems like a good idea, for reasons that my friend Alex Massie has ably outlined. Scotland is a net recipient of transfers from the U.K. government, so going it alone will probably require some belt tightening. The process of separating all the intertwined institutions, from banking to education, will be daunting.

But Justin Fox outlines how breaking off could be economically beneficial for Scotland:

What has made small countries so economically successful over the past few decades is less their smallness than the ways they’ve taken advantage of it. David Skilling, a former New Zealand government official and McKinsey consultant who now advises small-country governments and companies from a base in Singapore, has spent as much time thinking and writing about the strengths and weaknesses of small states as anybody. In a 2012 paper that should be required reading in Scotland, he lists two main characteristics of successful small states:

1. They’re cohesive, and thus able to make policy decisions quickly and stick with them.

2. They tend to make good policy decisions, in part because they’re very aware of the world around them and what it takes to compete in it.

Ilya Somin searches for historical parallels:

One relevant precedent is the experience of the “Velvet Divorce” between Slovakia and the Czech Republic, whose success is sometimes cited by Scottish independence advocates as a possible model for their own breakup with Britain. Like many Scottish nationalists, advocates of Slovak independence wanted to break away from their larger, richer, partner, in part so they could pursue more interventionist economic policies. But, with the loss of Czech subsidies, independent Slovakia ended up having to pursue much more free market-oriented policies than before, which led to impressive growth. The Czech Republic, freed from having to pay the subsidies, also pursued relatively free market policies, and both nations are among the great success stories of Eastern Europe.

Like Slovakia, an independent Scotland might adopt more free market policies out of necessity. And the rump UK (like the Czechs before it), might move in the same direction. The secession of Scotland would deprive the more interventionist Labor Party of 41 seats in the House of Commons, while costing the Conservatives only one. The center of gravity of British politics would, at least to some extent, move in a more pro-market direction, just as the Czech Republic’s did relative to those of united Czechoslovakia.

Jason Sorens watches the markets:

So far capital markets seem to be telling us that the economic costs of independence to Scotland would be significant but not catastrophic, and that they would be virtually nil to the rest of Britain. How much of those costs are due to the policies Scotland would implement after independence, rather than secession as such? It is difficult to know, but the differential returns to particular firms give us a clue. Transportation companies have closer links to the state, so a more statist policy regime might not hurt them. Financial companies might lose because of the lender of last resort issue (Scotland might not have a credible one). Energy and engineering companies might lose because nationalists want to tax oil heavily to fund social programs. Also, stricter environmental laws may hurt the electric utility SSE, which lost heavily on Monday.

Speculatively, then, capital markets seem to be telling us that the costs of secession as such are modest, but that the costs of dramatically different economic policies are substantial.

And Simon Lester doesn’t see what all the fuss is about:

In terms of war and peace, there have been no Mel Gibson sightings that I’m aware of. On trade, there may be some bureaucratic challenges, but it seems clear the goal is for Scotland to join the EU and be part of its large, single market. As for trade with the rest of the world, Scotland will take on the EU’s trade policy–which is not perfect of course–but has followed the trend toward liberalization that the rest of the world has pursued over the past few decades. In all likelihood, Scotland will continue to search for export markets for its whisky and allow the free flow of imports.

If Scottish independence meant it would become like North Korea, I’d be concerned. But it doesn’t seem like that’s the path it is on. With the exception of a few regions, we live in a highly integrated, peaceful world. Scottish independence would not change that.

Previous Dish on Scottish independence here.