Most of the fury seems to be about the spoof map, rather than the article itself. The article itself is about the economics of independence. This blog post discusses the article plus a post by Gerry Hassan who argues against the article, and also places the Skintland map in context.
The economics are complex. I have no idea if the economic conclusions in The Economist are correct or not, and the more you look into it, the more complicated it becomes.
I’m also confused when I see various arguments about whether small countries are viable or not. Looking at the world, some small countries do well, and others don’t. The same can be said about large countries. I don’t think size really matters in many respects, though as international businesses become larger and larger, and global economics become ever more interconnected, smaller countries are obviously more at the mercy of multinationals and high finance.
Should Scotland become independent, I expect that little would change, economically, for a few years. Scotland might do a wee bit better, economically, or it might do a wee bit worse. There would obviously be some capital loss, due to uncertainty, and there would be some new investments and initiatives resulting in new industry. There won’t be any wonderfully miraculous changes resulting in rapid wealth growth for everyone in Scotland.
And the fact that very little would likely change, economically, scares me the most, because that is when things may well get nasty. If Scotland becomes independent, it will be because a majority of those who vote in the Referendum vote for independence, and that will mean that there are many people who will have great expectations of fast improvement under a new government.
When things don’t rapidly improve, those people will start to ask why. Why am I still living in a wee flat and don’t have much/any more money? Why are my nephews still looking for work? Why am I having to work longer before I get a pension? Why does the health service seem to be the same as before. Etc.
Who’s fault is it that I am not now much better off? I was expecting much more, now that we’re independent.
When people start asking those questions, whoever is in power will likely say “It’s not our fault!” That’s because politicians of every kind never say “Actually, it is our fault”. So, whoever is in power will say that it’s someone elses fault.
“We got a bum deal!” “We had to take on too much debt.” Or whatever. And where will the finger be pointed? At the English, of course.
Does that matter? Well, there will be a lot of frustration. Frustration can quickly turn to bitterness and worse. This won’t worry English people living in England too much (except that a few beatings will quickly reduce tourism), but English people living in Scotland may well feel themselves threatened. You then get much more capital outflow. And population outflow as well. And then what? The economic situation gets worse due to this outflow. So, who’s fault is it now? What other groups of non-Scots living in Scotland can be identified? Muslims, perhaps? Poles? It must be the fault of someone else, we will be told, and not whoever is in power.
Alex Salmond is a respected and clever politician. Did you see what he said about The Economist? He said “It will rue the day” it printed the ‘sneering’ front-page article.
Can you imagine what might happen when those people who are more anonymous and much less respected, not so clever and less educated than Alex Salmond start to think about who should ‘rue the day‘ that Scotland is not doing as well as they expected it would?