Small is beautiful


by Paul Henderson Scott

The economist, E.F.Schumacher, in his famous book, Small is Beautiful, said that he had been brought up with the theory that “in order to be prosperous a country had to be big, the bigger the better”.  As he studied the economies of the world he found that on the contrary most of the most prosperous countries, per head of the population, were very small and that many large ones were very poor indeed.  He remarked that smallness also had the advantages of “convenience, humanity and manageability”.

Schumacher’s conclusion is confirmed by statistics of countries by GDP per head.  In the European Union, for instance, the most prosperous is Luxembourg by a large margin.  It is also one of the smallest.  As it happens, I have visited Estonia and Slovenia several times in the last few years since they recovered their independence.  The obvious increase in their prosperity and sheer happiness has been very impressive.

The recovery of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 was, of course, an important step in the right direction but its powers are still very restricted.  Most powers are still reserved to the Westminster Parliament in which Scottish members are outnumbered ten to one.  They include taxation, foreign affairs, defence and even broadcasting.  Why then do many people apparently still want to hang on to the union?  Perhaps some of them are simply afraid of change; they want to cling on to the familiar.  Others may feel safer in the world by holding on to Big Brother.

The Union with England has deprived us of the proceeds of the oil in Scottish waters which would have made us, like Norway, one of the wealthiest of countries.  Also there is the danger and heavy cost of hanging onto a country with the illusion that it is still one of the Great Powers.  The English are an admirable people with many fine qualities, but this is a serious mistake.  It means, in effect, that they become a puppet of the United States and become involved in such disasters as the war in Iraq.  They also want to keep nuclear submarines on the Clyde and involve us in the dangers of that as well as paying a share of the heavy cost through our taxes.  In the modern world small countries are not only more prosperous, but less likely to become involved in dangerous international ventures.

As an independent country we shall have our own membership of the European Union, the United Nations and other international organisations.  At present in these bodies our interests are simply ignored when they differ from those of England.  As an independent country we shall be able to argue our own case.  In the majority of issues Scottish and English views may be very similar and we shall be able to support each other.  Scotland will no longer be a silent observer, but an active participant once again in international affairs.

Paul Henderson Scott is a writer, historian and literary critic.

Published with thanks to the Scottish Independence Convention{jcomments on}