Following an unprecedented turnout in the nations referendum vote, 55% of Scottish voters opted this week to remain members of the United Kingdom. The vote comes on the heels of a prolonged push for greater political autonomy and economic independence from Scottish nationalists; however, the votes ultimate result should serve as a bellwether for other nations with independence aspirations, such as Puerto Rico.
As voters took to the polls in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and other towns throughout Scotland, the potential for independent development juxtaposed with the risk of autonomous vulnerability were at stake. On one hand, pro-independence advocates centered their arguments on the potential for greater economic development on the basis of a fully independent legislature–one that would make more prudent economic decisions that better represented the desires of the average Scottish citizen, without the supposed inhibitions placed on the territory by England.
Further, advocates emphasized the fact that an independent Scotland could thrive on the merits of its own industry and resourcesfocusing especially on the countrys vast oil reserves.
However, those opposed to independence warned of the tremendous risks that could arise from such a momentous change to the status quo. Amongst their greatest concerns were the uncertainty involving an independent Scottish currency and the overall trade void that would be left upon a shattered relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom.
As the “Financial Times” succinctly noted in an editorial, the Scottish referendum was particularly unique from a historical perspective due to the fact that, there is little precedent for a hitherto stable modern democracy splitting apart in peacetime, in the middle of an economic recovery.”
Ultimately, Scotlands decision to remain tied to the union offers some valuable lessons to nations like Puerto Rico that live in uniquely ambiguous and semi-autonomous states of political existence. Currently, the Caribbean territory is mired in a highly misrepresentative political arrangement with the United States, whereby the island lacks any form of true representation in the countrys national legislature. Puerto Ricos lone delegate in the House of Representative is nothing more than a spokesman, as he doesnt have a vote in official matters.
So while federal statutes still carry the weight of the law in the territory, Puerto Ricans have no sway when it comes to influencing the making of these laws. Meanwhile, however, from an economic vantage point Puerto Rico is undoubtedly dependent on the United States as its main commercial partner and catalyst for economic growth following the Great Recession. Hence, taking current circumstances into account, the debate in Puerto Rico shouldnt center on independence, but statehood instead.
As the 51st state in the union, Puerto Ricos population of approximately 3.8 million would make it the 25th most populous state, resulting in either 6 or 7 Congressmen in Washington, as well as two U.S. Senators to represent the islands interests. Furthermore, inclusion as a state wouldnt jeopardize the territorys already established and vital economic ties with the other fifty states.
In that light, Scotlands failed referendum should serve as a testament to the established merits of inclusion and the incalculable risks of exclusion. Despite being an ocean away, Scotlands lesson could prove valuable for Boricuas in the not-too-distant future.