My Scotland is essentially Edinburgh; in 1976 I was spending a summer in the UK working on the factory floor of a company in Oxford my dad was representing in Italy and where he had managed to find me a summer job. I jumped at the opportunity, also because my to-be-wife was spending her summer in London and I thought I would get to see her often (little I knew then about the extortionate fares of British Rail).
I was having a generally fine time, friending the other kids in the workshop and learning the secrets of the english liquid lunch. One day, for no reason I can recall, I got up thinking I should spend the final week of my holiday in Scotland; in fact I had figured I could convince my fiance to come along, but that did not play out and I ended going alone.
On the way (and it is a LONG way by bus) some girl headed for the festival I knew nothing about (!) advised that I should seek shelter at the Pollock Halls of Residence, a student residency that rented rooms to traveling students during the summer: rates were surprisingly cheap for such a nice place, but they only rented single nights, meaning you had to renew your stay at reception every morning.
I loved every single minute of my stay in Edinburgh, even though my sightseeing revolved a lot around climbing a small hill whose name I forgot and contemplating the city from there; I was joined in this solitary pastime by Bill, a bloke from Washington, D.C. who was supposed to be on the look for his ancestors or something. We ended up consuming generous servings of what is perhaps Scotland’s finest product (no, not haggis) and brooding over all kinds of big picture issues; I think we solved quite a few of humankind’s problems, but unfortunately we lacked a secretary to take notes and all that wisdom is now forever lost.
That being the corpus of my experience, you’d be justified in thinking I know jack shit about Scotland.
However today’s vote has been likened to a number of similar secessionist drives, including the one regarding Northern Italy, the fictitious country of Padania. Padania is really the dual situation of Scotland: it is a rich region but there is really no tradition or past history of independence. True, it was an austrian dominion, but the oneness of Italy is certainly not dictated by the turbulent Middle Ages and Renaissance, but rather its ancient past of Rome.
A seceding Padania, economically speaking, would be a powerhouse of manufacturing, finance, fashion and technology, while retaining some of the world’s most popular tourist destinations like Venezia, accounting for over half of Italy’s 2 trillion GDP. Rome’s government is among the least efficient in Europe and the tax burden is ridiculously imbalanced to the detriment of the Northern part of the country.
How comes such a compelling case never gained enough popular support to get as far as Scotland is today?
Letting alone history (semi-fratricidal massacres and betrayals are as common in Italy’s history as they are in Britain’s) I think the reason is that, despite their inefficiency and corruption, but thanks to their innate practicality, mainstream italian politicians are not waving the Tricolore anymore but are (to different extents, of course) waving the blue-starred banner of Europe.
English politicians instead refused to give up the pound or to join Schengen, losing no opportunity to undermine the progress of the EU, proudly defending a sovereignty that smacks a bit of the leftovers of the British Empire; their backwards posture is perhaps seen as a thing of the past, while there is a future dream of larger and larger unions of free-moving, free-enterprising peoples.
Had british (or shall I call it english?) policy embraced the new world with more conviction, perhaps it would have undermined the anti-english rhetoric of the Yes campaign as Scotland would be then seceding from the EU, instead of what’s left of the British Empire.