January 18, 2007

BIG IS BAD:

The best size for a nation may be a small one :The possibilities of Scottish independence are more clear cut now than 30 years ago (Adrian Hamilton, 18 January 2007, Independent)

With modern communications it is possible to centre businesses almost on anywhere where there is a combination of economic inducement, stable law and an educated workforce - all of which Scotland has.

Politics, too, has changed in favour of the smaller nation state. Although Scottish as well as English ministers make much of the issue of parliamentary democracy and the value of Scottish participation in a central Commons, the truth is that parliament is less and less the focus of national debate and the advantage of minority membership such as Scotland's are fading.

The decision to go to war is the most obvious example, of course. The debates were on the street and on the airwaves. But it's also true of the other debates which ministers keep telling us are the crucial questions of our time - pension, energy security, environmental protection, global warming, health priorities. In none of these cases could it be said that the public, or even the participants, looked first to parliament to see the issues aired or the policy options decided.

Parliament, in that sense, has become just the place where the details of legislation are decided and the more particular, the more parochial indeed, the stronger it is. On the bigger questions of war, the environment and world trade, the question moves up to the international sphere and different regional and global institutions to be debated. If the war ever had a real debate it was at the UN in New York rather than Westminster.

It may be, indeed, that the best size for a country today is the medium one, such as Ireland, large enough to support ambitions as a global player but small enough not to be burdened with the post-imperialist delusion of importance that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown seem to harbour.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 18, 2007 2:31 PM
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