World View: Scotland Faces Reality as Independence Referendum Approaches

This morning's key headlines from
  • Scotland faces reality as independence referendum approaches
  • Venezuela expels three American diplomats after anti-government protests
  • United Nations accuses North Korea of 'unspeakable atrocities'

Scotland faces reality as independence referendum approaches

On September 18, Scotland will have a referendum on the question, "Should Scotland be an independent country?" If the vote is "yes" then nobody knows for sure what will happen next. During the last ten days, two major issues have arisen to threaten the viability of an "independent" Scotland:

  • Britain's Finance Minister George Osborne said that the UK would be unwilling to enter a currency union with Scotland, presumably meaning that Scotland would have to create its own currency.
  • Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, said that it would not be automatic that Scotland would belong to the European Union, and that in fact there would be a long process requiring the approval of all 28 countries.

In the worst case scenario, Scotland would be an independent entity completely on its own, like nearby Iceland and Norway.

If the UK continues to refuse a currency union with an independent Scotland, then Scotland will have three major choices:

  • Just continue using the British pound sterling as before, in the same way that Panama uses the US dollar as a currency and Montenegro uses the euro.
  • Issue a new Scotland pound currency and peg it to the British pound.
  • Try to join the eurozone, but once again, this would be a lengthy process.

Ten years ago, when talk of Scottish independence began, these choices seemed a lot easier. Since then, there's been a major financial crisis which has split southern countries like Greece and Italy against the northern countries like France and Germany. Even seemingly solid Ireland has been in trouble. An independent Scotland, whether in the eurozone or a currency union with the UK, might just end up being another crisis.

It's not at all clear that an independent Scotland could become part of the European Union. Spain in particular is fighting its own internal battle with its Catalonia region seeking independence, and supporting Scotland might encourage Catalonia to fight harder for independence.

The English and the Scots are as different as Irish Protestants and Catholics, or as Sunni and Shia Syrians. Scotland and England have gone through a number of periods of unity and disunity for hundreds of years.

The Battle of Bannockburn, on June 24, 1314, was a great victory for Scottish forces against superior English forces. It was the climax of the First War of Scottish Independence, and established Scotland as an independent nation. Scotland and England fought against each other in a number of subsequent wars, including the War of the Roses (1459-87), and the Armada war with Spain (1588). The most explosive war that followed Scottish independence was the English Civil War (1640-49), that climaxed with the beheading of the English King in 1649. There followed a generational Recovery Era when Britain had no King, but was actually ruled by a military dictator, Oliver Cromwell, bringing Scotland under English control, until a new King was crowned in 1661. During the generational Awakening era in the 1660s and 1670s, Scotland began demonstrating against English control, culminating in the Awakening era climax, the so-called "Glorious Revolution" of 1689, making the Scottish Parliament independent once again. In 1701, the next generational Crisis war began, the War of the Spanish Succession, which allied Scotland and France against England. Miraculously, England defeated the French army in the Battle of Blenheim in 1704, and then again in the explosive and tumultuous climactic Battle of Malplaquet in 1709. After France's defeat at Blenheim, Scotland was finally brought to heel, and England and Scotland signed the "Acts of Union" between the two countries, under a single king or queen, forming the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707.

It's now been 700 years since the Battle of Bannockburn, and the question of Scotland's independence is rising again. Polls indicate that the Scots themselves are slightly opposed to independence. BBC and Scotsman

United Nations accuses North Korea of 'unspeakable atrocities'

A United Nations panel has accused North Korea of crimes against humanity, including systematic extermination, torture, rape, forced abortions, starvation, arbitrary detention, executions, and prison camps. The police and security forces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea systematically employ violence and punishments that amount to gross human rights violations in order to create a climate of fear that pre-empts any challenge to the current system of government and to the ideology underpinning it. The institutions and officials involved are not held accountable.

The U.N. recommends prosecution of the country's top leaders by the International Criminal Court. This will never happen, of course, because China will veto any such attempt in the Security Council. BBC

Venezuela expels three American diplomats after anti-government protests

Venezuela on Monday gave three U.S. diplomats 48 hours to leave the country, accusing them of conspiring against the government to incite large, violent, anti-government protests.

Venezuela has the highest level of inflation in the world, 56%. There's a huge crime wave, but 90% of the cases are never solved. Despite its oil reserves, there are shortages of electricity. There are shortages of most everything else, even toothpaste and toilet paper. Last year, President Nicolás Maduro announced a new Vice-Ministry for the Supreme Social Happiness, whose purpose was to coordinate anti-poverty programs, but apparently it hasn't succeeded.

It seems likely that the disastrous economy is behind the new wave of anti-government protests, which has led to three deaths in clashes with police. Nonetheless, the Maduro government blames the protests on the United States. According to Foreign Minister Elias Jaua:

They have been visiting universities with the pretext of granting visas.

But that is a cover for making contacts with (student) leaders to offer them training and financing to create youth groups that generate violence.

In November, Maduro accused the United States of orchestrating a "massive attack" against the Twitter accounts "of Bolivarian patriots and Venezuelan Chavistas." The world Bolivarian alludes to Simón Bolivar, the 19th century founder of Venezuela. The word "Chavista" alludes to Maduro's late predecessor, Hugo Chávez. When Chávez was dying of cancer, he accused the United States of giving him cancer by poisoning him. Reuters and Latin American Herald Tribune

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