Standing on Hadrian’s Wall some 30 years ago, I was in awe of efforts by the Romans almost 2,000 years ago to keep back the hordes of barbarians, now known primarily as Scots.
Hadrian’s Wall is about 75 miles long, stretching across northern England from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. Its location is at the narrowest part of Great Britain, describing a country at this point no wider than a drive from Vancouver to Chilliwack.
While not actually the border between England and Scotland, the wall does at one point come within a kilometre of what is recognized as the official divisional line between the two.
On Thursday, Hadrian’s Wall may again become symbolic as the equivalent of an international border if the Scots vote for independence and establishment of a nation state.
Buoyed by thoughts of vast riches flowing from existing oil supplies, though apparently on the decline, politicians promoting nationhood are proposing a Norway-like economy where even the poorest would be able to buy a bottle of Scotland’s most famous export – single malt Scotch.
However, much of the potential nation’s economic strength actually lies in investment and commercial institutions, which have declared their intention to exit the northern half of the British Isles should independence occur.
Which camp will sway the outcome of the vote on Thursday is anyone’s guess at this point.
Should Scotland succeed in becoming an independent country, it is still a place that would lure me back to its haunting highlands, its misty lakes, crumbling castles and redheaded girls with a sexy brogue.
I managed a day’s skiing, in a downpour, in the Highland resort of Aviemore, and petted the ski hill’s resident reindeer, better known on this side of the water as a caribou.
What is a concern with Scottish independence however, is that it may spur a resurgence of support in Quebec for its own nationhood.
Back in the mid-1990s, Canada faced a crisis that portended the actual fragmentation of the entire nation. Unlike Scotland, which can clearly and cleanly separate from the rest of the UK without affecting other “states,” Quebec’s separation would isolate the Maritime provinces from the rest of Canada.
And since they, like the Highlanders, have major ports, offshore oil and proximity to other powerful nations, it would only be a matter of time that they calved off from Canada to become an independent state.
So too are the western provinces blessed with riches: oil, food production, ports and huge export markets to the south and west.
In the end, all might work. But in the interim, our economies would collapse, taxation would be volatile, and our social safety nets chaotic.
I recall being so concerned about the potential in 1995 for a “yes” vote for sovereignty in Quebec causing financial turmoil and ultimately Canada’s breakup, that I considered moving, though to where was never determined.
Fortunately, common sense prevailed, and with the narrowest of margins our nation survived the sovereignists.
Yet despite the decision to stay within Canada, there is still a strong undercurrent of separatism within Quebec waiting only for a stimulant – Scottish independence – to promote a resurgence.
Funny how a “No” has become “maybe later” while a “Yes” seems to be forever.