It is likely that 2021 will be a crucial year for the independence movement in Scotland. The tide has flowed strongly in its direction over the past 12 months, with polls consistently suggesting a majority in favor.
The relatively good success of Nicola Sturgeon in coping with Covid, continuing discomfort over Brexit, and antipathy toward the prime minister were all factors. This year’s momentum would be more difficult to sustain.
Vaccination will eliminate the Covid swirl, while the PM will use the pandemic to camouflage the detrimental effects of his Brexit contract. It is very amazing that the SNP has been in power for 13 years, but it has benefited from the lack of credible opposition. The SNP is frequently attacked by Unionist parties for its concern about obtaining a second referendum. Yet they have become more guilty lately of becoming obsessed with freedom.
To pick out a single distinctive agenda of either Scottish Labour or the Conservatives, one has to look very hard. Nonetheless, in 2021, the “time for a change” element could come into play. Moreover, the prime minister could literally throw up his hands in the aftermath of Covid and Brexit and wait for the independence movement to unravel itself and sink into the political doldrums.
The SNP definitely wants the much-discussed Plan B in that situation. The issue is that there are few blueprints to follow. Indeed, the Velvet Divorce of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993 is perhaps the only example of a peaceful breakup of a sovereign state in the post-war era. The history was far from identical to the current Scottish situation, although similar in certain respects.
With its population of five million, Slovakia definitely thought that it was playing its larger neighbor’s second fiddle. Slovakia was, in the Czech press, practically invisible. Have you ever tried to find Scottish soccer scores or results in the English editions? On the other hand, the Czechs were resentful of the Slovaks’ undue impact on national politics. Their anger is not unlike the memorable rant of Jeremy Paxman, “Down here we live under a kind of Scottish Raj.”
In 1989, the Slovak economy suffered from the fall of communism, especially the loss of the Soviet bloc’s weapons production.
Their Czech neighbors felt they were more industrious and therefore subsidized the Slovak economy, which was struggling. Perhaps similar to how in some English areas, the Barnett formula is presented. The path to the Velvet Divorce, however, was very distinct from the current situation and nationalist policy in Scotland. The division of Czechoslovakia did not require a plebiscite.
If there had been one, perhaps the majority would have been against it. Remarkably, each section went its own way after an agreement between their respective leaders, Vaclav Klaus and Vladimir Meciar. Initially, the Czechs were stunned, then philosophized, ‘If that is what you want.’
The absence of serious enmity between peoples meant that the separation, particularly compared to the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia, was largely amicable. When both entered the EU in 2004, the way was further paved.
Scottish independence opponents frequently build their arguments on the economy and especially the currency. But these problems were overcome with little apprehension by the Czechs and Slovaks. Both used their own version of the Czech koruna until 2009, when Slovakia formed its own central bank and adopted the euro. Koruna continues to be used in the Czech Republic. U.S. In 2019, Slovakia’s “remarkable democratic and economic progress,” was lauded by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while the OECD reported, “The economy is thriving; strong growth will continue.”
While Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom seem to be on separate roads, Ms. Sturgeon and Mr. Johnson are extremely unlikely to settle on a velvet divorce in the Czech style. In 2021, the independence movement, especially on economic and monetary issues, will need to win over the undecided. Perhaps the Slovak experience would prove that this is not as complicated as the unionists make it out to be.
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