Indirectly connected to the latter is this piece on the present position of Alex Salmond within the larger Union picture and how the looming "austerity" may alter it:
It is too soon to know just how austerity will play out in Scotland, and Mr Salmond’s ability to defy gravity should never be underrated. But he came to power to effect a revolution, to sweep Scotland, generous welfare state and all, to independence. That outcome, never more than possible, now looks highly improbable. Secession sentiment took a knock when Whitehall had to bail out Scotland’s big banks. Now budget cuts look set to erase much of the social spending that set Scotland proudly apart from the rest of Britain. In the resulting resentment Labour is likely to flourish, and Scotland to provide the party with a platform for national recovery, as it did in the 1980s. It remains to be seen whether Mr Salmond’s landing will be a soft one.
Labour’s (undeserved) Scottish renaissance has been a developing theme on here and other blogs but how the nationalist parties in not only Scotland, but also N.Ireland and Wales deal with that inevitable "austerity" which will follow the cuts in public services and bureaucracy is something that publicly they (the nats) are keeping quiet on.
The fundamental and uncomfortable truth is that the three economies (and to a lesser extent, that of a large part of N.England) are public-sector driven. Factor in "the pots of money" "thrown at public services" and their "supercharged welfare state", a second fundamental and uncomfortable truth is that economic dependence has made the separation of N.Ireland, Scotland or Wales from the Union a financial impossibility. Nationalists, paradoxically, have increased dependence on Westminster by pork-barrelling their own part of the United Kingdom.
Remove the pork-barrel and the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and Sinn Fein are left in a quandary. Logically everyone knows that the public-sector and welfare dependency has stunted potential economic growth in Scotland, N.Ireland and Wales. Logically, everyone knows an attempt to change that state of affairs will cause a great deal of a short-term pain and unpopularity at the ballot box. Logically everyone (Unionist, nationalist and constitutional apathetic) knows that economies built on the minimum of state involvement are the long-term solution to building their own country’s prosperity, whether that country is within or without the United Kingdom
Dealing with the second truism has been taken out of the hands of the administrations in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh. Their economies are going to be changed, whether they like it or not and Westminster, not they, will be taking the the blame. How the various nationalist parties react to this may determine the future road of the Union Debate.
Plaid Cymru and Sinn Fein, I suspect, will stick to their safe, ideological economic orthodoxies- it's the state's (not the wider economy's) job to provide, even if that state happens to be the hated British one. The SNP and SDLP, however, if they have the balls, can push their followers and the wider populace out of the comfort-zone and start looking to how economies such as Slovenia and Estonia have developed to their present position (clue: it wasn't by a top heavy public sector). Balls will be needed because it will involve re-education at a time when the more simplistic, populist approach followed by the Deficit Deniers of Labour and others will be reaping a higher electoral benefit. But long-term, if they are to have any hope whatsoever of convincing their respective electorate that independence/unity with Dublin would be feasible, they will need to be proactive in taking advantage of the restructuring brought about by "austerity".
If (against my expectations) they do and modern, entrepreneurial thrusting economies evolve where does that then leave Unionists in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales?
Having to greatly up their game. Relying on the fact that only the UK can guarantee pensions and other social benefits is the present effective, although defensive, strategy... but if that was no longer the case, then what?