The Scottish Independence debate and campaign has moved into the final 100 days. Exciting times ahead and the Academic Entrepreneur will look forward to coverage and writings from the perspective of, well, and academic entrepreneur, from one that values creativity and innovation, and believes in Drucker’s notion of the knowledge economy, and Florida’s theory of the creative economy as holding the greatest value for a future Scotland.
There is a lot of hoopla about but perhaps the biggest news of the week was the “intervention” as it is referred to from the President of the United States of America, Barak Obama. He remarked in the recent G7 meeting that he would like the UK to remain “strong, robust and united” but followed with the comment that it was really up to the people of Scotland to decide.
Although he might have formerly stated that the USA would remain neutral in the debate, the President has changed his mind. Why the “intervention” now, friends from the UK have asked? Well, I believe this is for about five reasons as I’ve outlined below.
First of all, the official US Government position was already expressed by Hilary Clinton, who stated that the USA would prefer the that the UK stay united. Basically, the US position is based on geopolitical power and militaristic position:
A) Ground Force Reduction: A stronger, larger military in the UK is better for the USA. Where are all the soldiers going to come from in the next big ground war? The UK gets a great deal of its supply of military personnel from Scotland. This has always been the case. Scotland has already taken an anti-war, peaceful stance and made it clear that it will not follow the USA into more wars of fancy. So the UK will have to rely on the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland to supply their armies. Do you think a bunch of UKIP-voting football fans are going to volunteer for the military and be willing to follow the USA into the next war? Highly unlikely. The UK does not have the military tradition of the draft as the US does either; and it’s not likely that a draft is going to be politically popular in the UK for the next war.
B) Deterrence: Moreover, the presence of the potential for a large ground force is a deterrent in and of itself. This is especially important in light of the renewed threat of Russia since the Ukrainian split. Such has changed the geopolitical landscape recently and could have motivated Obama to intervene. Europe, the EU, and its bordering states are not all peaches and cream afterall. But why were we thinking they were in the first place?
C) Nuclear Arms: Speaking of Russia, where will the UK keep trident missiles and house other basis? Nuclear weapons are handy in Scotland, which is geographically strategic location-wise in the North Sea. Should the UK’s nuclear weapons be removed, and the bases removed from Scotland as well, this presents not only a “pain” to the rUK (whose people don’t want nuclear weapons in their lochs either) but also come at a high cost in a time of military tension in Europe.
D. Security Council Membership. This is an issue that is not discussed much in the independence debate jargon but is very important I believe. It has more to do with politician’s egos than security itself. Currently, the UK has a permanent membership on the UN Security Council. To lose this would be a major blow to the stature of the UK, and of its powerful politicians that sit on the Council. They are no longer at the seat of power in the world. There is already political pressure that is questioning the UK’s permanent membership status as it is; the loss of Scotland and the downsizing of the UK in terms of its importance and military power would probably lead to its removal.
E) G7 Membership: The membership in the Group of Seven (G7) itself is also in question should Scotland leave and become independent. leaving a geographically halved rUK with a reduced population, strategic military location, and perhaps armaments should the people of rUK not wish to house nuclear weapons in their backyards. The G7 are the wealthiest 7 nations on the earth. A quick look at the data tells us that the UK is sitting at 6th now; a Scotland leave could move it to 9th or 10th behind Brazil and Russia in a few years. Thus it would drop from the G7. Again, not a big deal for the peoples of the land. But a HUGE issue for politicians and their egos. As my father always taught me, people do not enter politics for the money as the salaries are low. Rather, they are attracted to politics for power. This could be the straw that broke the camels back for Obama announced his position at the G7 meeting. The USA would rather have a United Kingdom as an ally at the G7 than a unreliable Brazil or an annoying and rebellious Russia.
These are what I believe are the main reasons at the forefront of the US Leader’s mind and why an intervention was made. It has been suggested that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, “asked” President Obama to make such comments. Obama has a lot of brand equity in Scotland has been my experience. In fact, this US President has a lot of brand equity in Europe overall. Moreover, as Professor of Scottish history Tom Devine of the University of Edinburgh said in a recent panel, the Scots are fond of the Americans and like to “stroke them”. It may just be that President Obama was asked to comment, so that the NO campaign can pick up a few of the undecided votes. However, my own opinion is that this is irrelevant, and that the case could have been made anyway. The US wants to signal to its foes, including Russia, and to its allies, that it has strong allies such as the UK. There is no doubt that the UK’s military will be weakened, at least for a time, with the loss of Scotland. Again, think supply of soldiers. Where are they going to come from in the rUK? Most likely, they will be outsourced and the public has picked up on this practice as of late and has deemed it quite questionable and politically adverse. So bottom line this is geopolitical posturing and has to do with might, deterrence, and a bit of ego thrown in to round it off. Enough said. There is nothing per se wrong with any of this (from the USA or UK Government’s standpoint): Let’s just be straightforward and honest about the reasons. We’d like to hear that from our governments. “Ego” can be situated as “National Pride” and the rest of it layed on the table as is, really.
WHY ELSE SHOULD THE USA BE CONCERNED ABOUT AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND? THE FIVE SUCKS
However, there are other reasons for the USA to fear an Independent Scotland, and these might be economic instead of military. These are probably not being though of or discussed however. The Academic Entrepreneur refers to these as the “Five Sucks”.
F) Higher Education and Research: Scotland’s universities are positioned to be world leaders and the USA currently has leadership in this category, overall. Currently this is a core competitive advantage held by the USA. Improved university and research policy and resourcing of the universities in Scotland might result in attracting more and better researchers. Do we hear a sucking sound? This would lead to “research suck” and increase the level of brain drain in the USA overall;
G) Entrepreneurship: A new Scotland with the right policies (including liberal immigration) as discussed in the Scotland Series in this blog would attract entrepreneurs from all over the world including more than a few good promising ones from the USA (such would thus pose (“entrepreneur suck”) and more brain drain from the USA, and further retard its inward migration of entrepreneurs from other lands, already an issue with current immigration policy and the lack of a good Startup Visa;
H) Flight of Capital: A new Scotland with keen innovation, immigration and entrepreneurial policies could attract more venture capital and entrepreneurial risk capital investment from the USA. We have already seen this phenomenon occur starting with Edinburgh-based Skyscanner’s recent investment from Sequoia Capital, which in the author’s humble opinion is THE BEST venture capital fund in the USA. With the right policies and programmes in place, this would become a trend rather than an outlier; moreover, also discussed in other writings on this blog, an Independent Scotland would have the opportunity to enact policies and programmes that could greatly increase the supply of venture capital it its own country. This would cause further entrepreneur suck as discussed in “B” above; let’s consider this “entrepreneurial risk capital suck”;
I) Flight of Creatives. Policy and programmes well implemented by a new Scotland would attract creatives from all over the world in greater force, including those from the USA. This is also a threat (“creative suck”) and perhaps the most detrimental, although the one that also would elicit nothing less that apathy from policymakers as its effects are subtle and slow. Moreover, the political class has rarely given a rat’s hoot about the creative class in the history of the world, except when it comes time to round them up first to pave the way for an authoritarian regime.
J) Technology Innovation: The combined effect of the above could produce more technological innovation in Scotland and potentially take it to leadership in the world in this regard. This is not a far-fetched dream with the USA already showing signs of losing its dominance in this field. China is of course and up-and-coming concern for the US in this regard, but an English-speaking country is a different matter. Its products could be instantly more competitive than that of the USA, and the access to Europe as a major market is a huge advantage. Already for instance we see US-based medical devices companies starting their growth in Europe because of stringent FDA regulations. It’s only a matter of time when we see firms set up more R & D basis in Europe and even move their entire teams and corporate HQs there as Europe becomes the first market to capture strategically and the US lags as a second. This is “tech suck”;
The Five Sucks should be of concern to the United States but are probably not top-of-mind at this time. This is partly because we take entrepreneurship and innovation for granted. It is also because politicians don’t pay much attention to places where they don’t get votes and to things that are difficult to explain to the masses in short, easy quips such as “They Hate us for our Freedoms”.
Alex Salmond remarked in response to the President’s remarks that the US will now have “two friends instead of just one should the UK be split into Scotland and rUK”. Play the cards right and one of those pieces could be particularly competitive economically and might become a new “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” should it have the balls to vote YES. Albeit on a smaller scale, it will be a “pain in the side” just like other Arc of Prosperity States such as Finland and Sweden with their mobile hardware and software innovation; Denmark with its renewable innovation; and Norway with its nationalized North Sea Oil, which is a model the politicians would rather you not compare to Venezuela’s. Those in power in the USA would rather not bring attention to any new models of oil nationalization, or semi-nationalization. An English-speaking country that promoted and boasted about such could stir up trouble amongst the masses at home, and that wouldn’t be good for the oil companies who run the show.
Say, could oil company influence have anything to do with all of this? Nah, let’s not go there. Can’t be for there is no precedent for that, Doctor.
Without the UK as a whole and together, carrying out “American-style” wars and their unquestionable effectiveness will much more difficult in the future. How then will the Axis of Evil be dealt with?
Is Noam Chomsky’s position on independence logical, or is it really just a failing of his intution? We have a little insight now on what might be behind that stance.