We mostly kept our pixels dark and our newsprint dry as Scotland's referendum on independence from the United Kingdom approached. In our lone editorial, two weeks ago, we noted that Americans who take strong stands on other people's secession movements, no matter their opinion, invite accusations of hypocrisy: Declaring our own independence 238 years ago did work for us colonials. Yet our nation took umbrage when the divorce-minded Confederate States of America attempted much the same ploy.
But now that the Scots have had their say, electing to keep their more-than-wee populace (5.3 million) within the U.K., we'll call it a bonny good decision. For all the bluster of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, a less noisy but more shrewd majority prevailed Thursday, 55 percent to 45 percent. So Scotland will keep its ties to the Westminster government in London at least until the next campaign for Scottish independence — sure to mobilize at some date uncertain.
Our generous reason for applauding Thursday's vote is that a stand-alone Scotland would be an insignificant player, easily buffeted, on the world stage. And at home, as its North Sea oil revenues shrink, it would be a country eventually unable to afford the expanded European welfare state that secessionists want. Yes, Scotland is more liberal than England; in many ways it aspires to be Scandinavian. Unfortunately, though, much of Scotland has more in common with what used to be called America's Rust Belt: Like many among us, Scotland doesn't have the resources to fulfill all of its dreams.
Our selfish reason for applauding is that the U.K., the most reliable ally the U.S. has (OK, the Aussies also compete in this space), would be much the weaker if Scotland walked away. Imagine America's wounded stature internationally if it lost 8 percent of its populace and nearly one-third of its territory. There's urgency to this point as the Obama administration tries to marshal a coalition to exterminate the Islamic State — the latest but not the last coalition in which a globally minded and globally respected U.K. will be a crucial component. The campaign for Scottish independence has been a distraction for Prime Minister David Cameron's government. As Americans, we'd rather have Cameron focused on defeating Iraqi militants than on defeating Glasgow separatists.
We'll close with congratulations to both sides in Scotland's debate: The squabble was (mostly) civilized, and on Friday the losers spoke of their future efforts at independence, not of rebellion or sabotage. So to aye and nae voters alike, we'll borrow from the vernacular:
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