The Celtic Model

The campaign for Scottish independence may be over, but Scotland’s questioning of its political identity is here to stay. Scottish voters have discovered a taste for politics and none more so than the first-time 16- and 17-year-old pupils, 80% of whom registered to vote. Their expectations will pose a serious challenge for future Scottish governments, whether secessionist or unionist.

North Sea oil and gas will eventually run out, and possibly sooner than later. Unlike Norway that has built up a huge national oil fund, the UK spent its potential nest egg cutting national borrowing and lowering taxes. A Scottish government with accrued devolved powers will need to look elsewhere to guarantee future prosperity for its people. The solution may well lie across the Irish Sea.

Ireland welcomed the result of the referendum. In today’s global economy, the country has no time for celtic solidarity, even as it prepares to commemorate the 1916 Rising and its eventual independence from Britain in 1921. Could Scotland emulate the “Celtic Tiger” that transformed in the space of five short years a backward economy into one of Europe’s most dynamic and prosperous ones?

One factor that turned Ireland’s economy around starting in 1995 was the number of young, well-educated workers entering the labour force, the result of decades of investment in higher education. That year, the Irish Exchequer began paying the tuition fees of Irish undergraduates. Scotland eventually scrapped tuition fees for its undergraduates in 2008.

In 2007, the recession hit Ireland hard. Seven years of austerity later, Ireland is experiencing a surge in economic activity and is ready to exit its EU bailout, gaining plaudits from the Financial Times for its endeavours. The Celtic Tiger may not yet be roaring, but it holds out hope for a Celtic Lion Rampant, Scottish style. Please take note, Quebec.

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