A Scottish Yes vote, forcing the break-up of the UK, will remove Europe’s greatest military power for 500 years from the geopolitical arena. Disentangling the British military from Scotland will weaken the US’s foremost military ally. And British territory will become more vulnerable to attack, as Scotland takes time to develop an independent military capability and the British nuclear fleet is redeployed. Adversaries will capitalise on the vacuum created by the ensuing military and attention deficit, and the West’s ability to deter Russian aggression or to encourage Iran to the negotiating table will be significantly weakened. A state that is unable to maintain its own sovereign territory appears highly vulnerable. Scottish independence also runs the risk of creating a precedent for independence movements within the EU. Such a scenario, exacerbating the trend towards a two-tier Europe, will further weaken the West in economic and military terms. Dr Elizabeth Stephens is head of credit and political risk advisory at JLT.
A vote in favour of Scottish independence will not be geopolitically cataclysmic for the West, and it is astonishing that a person as serious as ex-Nato chief Lord Robertson would argue this. Is independence good for Scotland? There are rational arguments on both sides, and overheated rhetoric is expected. But to argue, as Robertson has, that Scotland’s choice will have a decisive impact on events in Ukraine, Syria, or the East China Sea is absurd. The outcome in Ukraine will depend on Europe’s long-term willingness to provide Kiev with the means to relieve its economic dependence on Moscow. The Syrian regime’s survival depends on the government’s ability to regain enough territorial control to mend the economy. Relations between China and Japan hinge on the willingness of their governments to manage inevitable frictions for the sake of mutually profitable commerce. No referendum in Scotland will prove decisive for any of these conflicts. Willis Sparks is a director in Eurasia Group’s macro practice.