Scotland doesn’t yet know whether to choose independence or stay with the UK according to polls, but on Thursday this ancient land–known as Caledonia to Roman Emperors–will decide anyway. The vote for Scottish independence has financial markets worried. Alistair Darling who leads the “no” side (that’s no don’t leave, remain a part of Britain) estimates it could cost Scotland a million jobs and deliver risks that could make Scotland the next Greece or Spain financially. Prince Harry thinks Scotland should stay. His grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, won’t enter the fray (she’s also Queen of Scotland–at least till Friday) but did say the Scots should “think very carefully.”
It’s certain that voters, who’ve been galvanized by this giant issue, are thinking carefully–but do they have the information they need? Do they understand all the ramifications of independence? It’s unlikely–and not because they haven’t worked diligently to educate themselves on the issues, but because nobody actually knows. Given the complexities, it’s all speculation even when backed up by strong historical analogies. American economist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman (“risks are huge”) makes a powerful argument against Scottish independence, saying the currency problems alone could doom the move. But then independence advocates point to the same sort of issues American revolutionary leaders cited when the colonies declared independence back in 1776–that, in general, governmental autonomy is more fair to citizens. The world has changed since then, of course: no longer being part of a country that builds nuclear weapons wasn’t cited by Thomas Jefferson (as it is by Scotland’s independence advocates). Neither was getting to keep most of the money from its crude oil resources part of Jefferson’s complaint–Scotland provides the bulk of UK-produced crude. It’s not cynical, nor it is reductive, to say that the Scottish movement is about money (and security and national character). Pro-Independence leader Alex Salmond believes that on all these issues an independent Scotland will enjoy a brighter future. But no one really knows. Voters will try to figure out what’s best for them–with the information they have.