Splitsville

In the 4 September issue of this paper, while honoring the late Judge Paul Vortmann, it was stated that, “If not for a favorable ruling in Judge Vortmann’s courtroom on July 29, the Valley Voice would have been turfed out onto the street.” Only after publication did I realize the implications of this statement, and I would like now to clarify it: at no time was the paper in danger of losing its Montgomery Square tenancy on Main Street in Downtown Visalia. Our landlord there, William Martin, is a nice man and a friend of the paper–and we’re very happy to be located where we are. My wife and I have been landlords ourselves now for 20 years–we know the game–and Mr. Martin is a straight shooter.

The July 29 case is a matter of public record. Here, though, I will not comment upon the courtroom proceedings except to say that the experience was akin to enduring an unsavory divorce hearing.

Rather like what the English must be feeling right about now as they look northward across their border with Scotland–which votes today whether or not to continue as part of the United Kingdom. Something tells me the Scots will vote for independence, although I have no particular reason to think so. Something about British Prime Minister David Cameron’s insisting that the ever-brewing question of independence be resolved by a yes/no referendum tells me he has rubbed the Scots wrong when the Scottish National Party leader, Alex Salmond, sought only a greater autonomy for the Scottish Parliament. They have been hitched for 307 years–a long marriage by any standard. Opinion, apparently, is too close to call–but one thing is clear: If Scotland votes to separate itself, Britain would certainly become less than Great. I have no idea how it would reinterpret itself, though I am fairly confident that Mediocre Britain would not be up for consideration. I suppose it could still refer to itself as the United Kingdom–Northern Ireland and Wales remaining in the fold–but the English must then surely feel as if at least some degree of grandeur will have journeyed from their shoreline.

Because the status quo hosts no questions–it is what it is–let’s assume, at least for this column, that the Scots will vote to go on their own. The questions then become legion.

What of the famous Union Jack? Would England keep it, for tradition’s sake, or fashion a new flag? And what would they call it–the Truncated Chuck? The Reduced Bruce?

As a reduced power, Britain would have to decide if it could afford to maintain its nuclear submarines, currently based in Scotland, and the only platform from which Britain might actually launch nuclear missiles. Scotland professes a desire to be nuclear-free. How low, at least militarily, would our closest ally be willing to slide?

In the British Labor Party, two-thirds of its parliamentary seats are held by Scots. Their removal would render that party electorally inviable in a truncated Britain. Would this spell the end for the age-old Labor/Tory joust–or would Britain just automatically become a much more conservative country overnight?

The Scottish are famously, if stereotypically, frugal–like Jack Benny, only speaking with a burr. But what are they going to use as currency? Independence leaders claim they will keep the pound sterling, though the British seem disinclined to allow this.

Would Scotland join the 18-nation Eurozone, or forge its own coin? And what would they call it? Scotland’s economy relies primarily on financial services and oil production, so perhaps the new currency could be called the Petro. But oil and gas revenues have been declining since 1999–down to 4.7 billion pounds during fiscal 2013-2014 from 6.1 billion pounds the previous year–and an independent Scotland might not be able to secure lifeline loans from the London-based Bank of England, indeed any English bank, in dire financial times. To that end, two of Scotland’s largest banks–the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group–have declared their intention to relocate to England so as to insure their ability to borrow. Still, without a Scottish electorate, the Bank of England would feel no pressure to rescue any failing Scottish bank. The Scottish government is more liberal regarding economic and public policies than the British government–but how liberal could the Scottish government appear to its own electorate if forced to implement austerity policies?

There remains the question of language. English was made official after the 1707 Act of Union, but the Scots also speak Scots, a Germanic-based language–and they do so in two dialects, Lallans and Doric, according to which part of Scotland the speaker hails from. Scottish Gaelic is spoken as well–it was, in fact, the official language before English replaced it. What will they settle on if they do decide to go it alone?

And if Scotland leaves Great Britain, what is to prevent Wales from following? I’m not going to touch on Northern Ireland–there should, simply, be an Ireland. But what of the Shetland and Orkney Islands? What about the Hebrides, Inner and Outer?

The Isles of Man and Wight? Too, let’s not forget about the Channel Islands, Guernsey and Jersey. With whom do they each fit–or do they also spin off into independence? Lastly, might we witness the Balkanization of this sceptered isle? Beats me!

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