Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Lesson of Scotland: Why Stay? Why Leave?

The Lesson of Scotland: Why Stay? Why Leave?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
September 22, 2014

Summary: The Scottish independence referendum made people realize that Scotland was part of the United Kingdom. If the two sides of the Taiwan Strait wish to resolve the issue of reunification vs. independence, they must first allow the ROC to perceive itself as part of China, under a "big roof concept of China." This is a matter of hearts and minds, This is fundamental problem that transcends the issue of reunification vs. independence referenda.

Full Text Below; 

The referendum on Scottish independence has presented the world with at least three major political revelations.

One. Britain is an advanced democracy. That is why the referendum process was so peaceful. It dealt skillfully with the sensitive issue of whether the nation should be divided. It represented a major achievement for democracy and human rights. Two. The no and yes camps were evenly matched. No matter which side won, the other side would lose. Would the referendum solve the problems the nation faced? Or would it merely deepen the nation's wounds? England and Scotland are both wounded, and Scotland is wounded within. This illustrates the limitations of reunification vs. independence referenda. Three. The referendum has forced the world to consider why a nation should remain either unified or be divided.

This year, two kinds of referenda have attracted global attention. The first was the Crimean referendum. The second was the Scottish referendum. The Crimean referendum dates back to March 1991, when the Soviet Union imploded. At that time, Ukraine and 15 republics passed referenda calling for independence from the Soviet Union. Now however, Crimea has approved a referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia. The Soviet Union imploded as a result of the communist dictatorship's political and economic incompetence. But the Crimean referendum reflects post-Soviet Russian factors, international power struggles, violence, and military intervention.

Britain was once an empire over which the sun never set. The United States won independence only after fighting a war with the mother country. Fifty-three nations of the British Commonwealth have become independent from the British Empire. But Scotland is not like them. King James I and King James VI of Scotland were the very same person. Today Queen Elizabeth II's mother is a Scotswoman. Scotland, England, and Wales are all part of the British Isles. The United Kingdom has a highly positive international image and status. The British Isles have no violent political or ideological disagreements. So why must Scotland demand independence? No wonder the previous Conservative government never expected independence to become an issue, one that would force British Prime Minister David Cameron to say that if Scotland became independent, it would amount to a "divorce." So why must Scotland be independent? Observers think the key is North Sea oil interests. They may well trump Scotland's membership in the United Kingdom.

As the Crimean and Scottish examples show, political unity vs. political independence often involve the collision of political and economic systems and their values. This was the case when the Soviet Union imploded. Independence sometimes involves national identity issues. This was the case for Crimea. It sometimes involves economic interests and greed. This was the case for North Sea oil and Scottish independence. One can achieve independence in many ways. One can rise up like the United States and fight a War of Independence. One can hold a public referendum like Quebec did with Canada, or Scotland did with Great Britain. The Spanish government by contrast, has no intention of recognizing Catalonia's independence referendum. Therefore the Scottish independence referendum has relatively narrow appeal. The belief is that oil interests dominate. But the government and the public displayed respect for democracy and civilized behavior during the process.

The Scottish independence referendum has had a powerful impact on cross-Strait thought. The gist of it is that cross-Strait relations are unlike relations between Scotland and the UK. This is correct, but incomplete. Scottish independence is not motivated by differences over political and economic systems or national identiy. It is motivated by dissatisfaction with social and economic policy. The pro-independence faction has even implied that following independence they would be willing to remain part of the British Commonwealth. Cross-Strait relations by contrast, are marked by vastly different political systems, values, beliefs, and lifestyles. On the economic side, Scotland wants to exclude the United Kingdom from the North Sea oil fields. Taiwan of course has no oil. It is also increasingly dependent on the Mainland economy. Today cross-Strait relations are based on economic benefit, but differences in political systems pose a bottleneck.

The biggest difference is that London is willing to abide by the outcome of a Scottish referendum. Beijing on the other hand, has consistently opposed any independence referendum. Even the United States has said that the United Kingdom and Scotland should remain unified. The United States would not want the two sides reunified on an unequal basis. But it has already stated its opposition to any Taiwan independence referendum. Given the international framework and cross-Strait situation, the two sides find themselves within a "no reunification, no Taiwan independence, no use of force" situation.

For 300 years Scotland has been part of the United Kingdom. Yet today it seeks independence from the United Kingdom. Beijing on the other hand, still does not recognize the Republic of China as part of China. It only recognizes Taiwan and the Mainland as part of one China. That is why it cannot persuade people on Taiwan to accept "one China."

Cross-Strait relations and Scotland-UK relations do have one thing in common. Whether they hold a referendum or not, the fundamental problem lies within peoples' hearts. Can the United Kingdom reassure the Scots that if they remain within the United Kingdom, they can maintain their honor and self-esteem? If it can, the people will arrive at their own decision about reunification vs. independence. By contrast, Beijing has long regarded Taiwan as a renegade province. Over the past 65 years, the Republic of China has created a civilization on Taiwan. Yet Beijing refuses to grant it political recognition. It refuses to recognize the Republic of China as a part of China. Yet it demands that the public on Taiwan recognize "one China." Under the circumstances, how can it expect the public on Taiwan to feel pride and self-esteem as part of "one China?"

The Scottish independence referendum made people realize that Scotland was part of the United Kingdom. If the two sides of the Taiwan Strait wish to resolve the issue of reunification vs. independence, they must first allow the ROC to perceive itself as part of China, under a "big roof concept of China." This is a matter of hearts and minds, This is fundamental problem that transcends the issue of reunification vs. independence referenda.

2014.09.22 02:18 am











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