A Vote Against Inequality?

Katie Engelhart views the Scottish vote as a manifestation “of the increasingly hot debate about rising global inequality and what we should do about it”:

Scotland’s pro-independence movement differs from similar movements in places like Catalonia, Kurdistan, and eastern Ukraine in that it does not revolve around hard identifiers like language, religion, and ethnicity (or Russian military backing). What divides Scotland and England is a vocal lilt and a legacy of 14th-century clan warfare—seemingly surmountable obstacles to keeping a country together. As a result, Scottish nationalists have taken to claiming that London is to blame for all of Scotland’s economic ills. They contend that, with independence, Scotland can strike a different kind of compromise with its citizens. They argue that a vote for independence is a vote against inequality.

Reporting from Scotland, Noah Caldwell heard over and over again “the belief that Scots are fairer, more caring and more egalitarian than the rest of the United Kingdom”:

Initially a bemusing, inconsequential assertion, after enough repetition I realized it was a fundamental motivator for Yes voters, and therefore key to understanding independence. Since Scottish nationalism isn’t an outright ethnic, religious or linguistic movement, it relies heavily on socio-cultural definitions of “Scottishness”—namely, a shared egalitarianism. It’s the bedrock of the country’s liberal politics. It’s why First Minister Alex Salmond believes Scotland will be the next Denmark or Norway. Its roots, however, are hard to pin down, and even harder for Scots to explain to a panting American journalist on a beat-up retro road bike. It is, essentially, a living, breathing myth.

Gordon Brown connects to push for Scottish independence to globalization:

Globalization comes down, in practical terms, to the shift from the national sourcing of goods and services to their global sourcing, and from a reliance on national flows of capital to global flows, and it is matched by our ability to communicate easily and instantaneously beyond old borders and around the world.

And secessionist groups may be on the rise not in spite of these global forces — but because of them. In the years of the Industrial Revolution, people turned to political nationalism to cushion their regions against the uneven, inequitable patterns of growth. Now, people who see themselves as victims of change are turning back to — and organizing their politics around — old loyalties and traditional identities. They seek to insulate themselves against what appears like an unstoppable juggernaut of economic disruption and social dislocation. But because change seem to threatens to sweep aside long-established customs, values and ways of life, political nationalism becomes a credible vehicle for their response.