Nevertheless, let me try to explain why Scotland is
not – and is highly unlikely to become – a Scandinavian country.
Scottish history offers proof that even the most failed state can be fixed –
by uniting with a richer and more tranquil neighbour. For most of the early
modern period, the Scots kingdom was Europe’s Afghanistan. In the Highlands
and the Hebrides, feudal warlords ruled over an utterly impoverished
populace in conditions of lawlessness and internecine clan conflict. In the
Lowlands, religious zealots who fantasised about a Calvinist theocracy –
government by the godly Elect – prohibited dancing, drinking and drama. John
Knox and his ilk were the Taliban of the Reformation. Witches were burnt in
large numbers in Scotland, not in England. ...................
The Union of the Parliaments in 1707 turned “Scotlanistan” into the Silicon
Valley of 18th-century Europe, with Glasgow University as Stanford. The
Union was a success partly because it sublimated these bitter Scottish
divisions in a larger United Kingdom, while at the same time launching the
country on an extraordinary economic boom that only really ran out of steam
in the Sixties.
As in every heavy industrial economy, Scotland’s coalmines, steelworks and
shipyards were bound to be shuttered or shrunk in our time. Pittsburgh,
Essen and Turin did not fare much better than Glasgow. Yet somehow the story
took root that Scotland’s economic restructuring was all the fault of the
arch-bampot Margaret Thatcher. And then came Alex Salmond with his fairy
tale that an independent Scotland could become a Scandinavian paradise.
Hardly any Yes voter appears aware that Sweden turned away from egalitarianism
long ago. None of them seems to ever have bought an eye-poppingly expensive
drink in Norway, much less seen a Danish tax bill.
The reality is that, as an independent country, Scotland would be far more
likely to revert to its pre-1707 bad habits than to morph magically into
“Scandland”. For this debate on independence has opened some old rifts and
created some new ones, too."