Scots debate independence Sep 1, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 47 • By SARA LODGE
If at first you don’t secede, try, try again. This might be the motto of Alex Salmond’s Scottish National party, which since 1934 has been advocating the proposition that Scotland should be an independent country, governed not from London but from Edinburgh and able to make its own policy decisions about defense, immigration, taxation, and spending. On September 18, Scots will finally face a referendum about their future. Do they wish to continue to be part of the United Kingdom or to go it alone under their own flag—the blue and white saltire—into a new Caledonian era? The timing of the vote is itself highly political. This year is the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn (1314), a battle at which the Scots famously won a victory over the English. It serves as a reminder of history, and that throughout the period when Scotland and England have had a united government—1707 to the present—there have been those who felt nostalgic for Scotland’s previous 800 years of sovereignty and viewed the union as a shotgun marriage, an uneasy and unequal yoking of nations whose interests and whose cultural and political values are not identical. Now Alex Salmond wants a divorce.
It is not clear whether he will get one. All surveys to date have suggested that the majority of Scottish residents intend to vote against independence; but the numbers are sufficiently close to create uncertainty. In a recent opinion poll, 51 percent of those questioned said they would vote No, 38 percent said they would vote Yes, and 11 percent remained undecided. The fence on which this last group sits is heavily patrolled, and as the referendum approaches, the rhetoric on both sides is becoming louder and more defiant. I will be voting myself in September, and since I have not yet made up my own mind, now seems a good moment to weigh the arguments on both sides.
The major political parties in Westminster have backed a “Better Together” campaign, calling for Scotland to retain membership in a United Kingdom that is greater than the sum of its parts. Their chief arguments are economic and pragmatic. They invoke the realpolitik of Britain’s position and influence as a global power. They cite statistics showing that Scots gain under the present U.K. formula for allocation of public expenditure, with spending of $20,440 per person, distinctly above the U.K. average of $18,288. Scotland’s relatively remote Highland regions, which require public services but have a low population paying taxes, might justify such higher expenditures, but pro-unionists warn that an independent Scotland, severed from the financial power of London, would have to dig deep into its sporran to obtain the revenue to cover such largesse.
Scotland’s population is an aging one—more so than that of southern regions that are more attractive to new immigrants—and proportionally more Scots are in public sector jobs than their English counterparts. How, ask the anti-independence forces, would a country disproportionately dependent for its income on North Sea oil manage as those oilfields decline and eventually cease production over the next 30 to 40 years? They point also to the high costs of setting up separate, new administrative structures and warn that England would refuse to maintain a currency union with its neighbor. Do Scots really want to lose the pound sterling, the Bank of England as lender of last resort, and the U.K. Treasury to draw on should their big banks fail, as happened to the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Halifax Bank of Scotland in the 2008 financial crash? Ireland, once cited as an example of Celtic Tiger economic growth, suffered so harshly in the wake of the banking crisis—when the European Commission pressed it to guarantee liability for all the bonds it had issued, an obligation it could not afford—that the country had to be bailed out by the International Monetary Fund.
The new indoor theater at Shakespeare’s GlobeJun 30, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 40 • By SARA LODGE
There is a new reason to visit London. It is wooden, but lively. Old, but new. Shadowy, but luminous. The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse is a reconstruction of what an indoor theater might have looked and felt like around 1600, when Shakespeare was 36 and at the height of his career as an actor, theatrical entrepreneur, and dramatist.
Celebrating the art (and life) of Thomas Bewick. May 12, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 33 • By SARA LODGE
When we first meet Jane Eyre in Charlotte Brontë’s classic novel, she is hiding behind the curtains reading a forbidden book that transports her to the polar tundra:
The English version of civility. Feb 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 23 • By SARA LODGE
Two truths tend to strike people around middle age: Money buys less than it once did, and manners are in decline.
Victorian women detectives in life and literature.Dec 2, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 12 • By SARA LODGE
The investigator is chasing a suspect, who has just disappeared through a secret trapdoor. Breathlessly, the private dick follows the masked figure down a ladder into a dark passageway: It turns out to lead from the Belgravia mansion into the vault of a nearby bank. Our hero can see the thief in the act of grabbing the gold and making off—but the trapdoor closes behind the crook, leaving the detective unable to leave the crime scene and about to be apprehended by security guards.
Oh, to be in Holland, now that August’s there . . . Aug 12, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 45 • By SARA LODGE
As my plane drops toward Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, I can see what look like multiple alternative runways: broad pink, blue, and yellow strips that turn the fields around the coast into the flags of an imaginary nation. They are bands of flowers—tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils—and the plane rushes towards them like an overstimulated bee.
The Chelsea Flower Show celebrates its centennial. Jun 17, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 38 • By SARA LODGE
In his short story “The Occasional Garden,” Saki pinpoints a subject dear to the British heart, but also key to its social anxieties. Elinor Rapsley is about to receive a lunch visit from a woman whom she detests, Gwenda Pottingdon. Gwenda’s garden is the envy of the neighborhood; Elinor’s is a barren wasteland. Gwenda is coming on purpose to crow over Elinor’s pathetic pansies while describing her own rare and sumptuous roses.
The elder brother of Charles I, in pictures and memory.Feb 4, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 20 • By SARA LODGE
Henry IX is one of the most interesting monarchs Britain never had.
‘You’re at the Transylvania station at a quarter to four . . .’ Apr 5, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 28 • By SARA LODGE
Transylvania has, for centuries, conjured images of wildness and danger.
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