It's a real possibility now, after all.
In June 2014, the Scottish government will mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, a decisive and significant victory for Robert the Bruce and the forces of independence over King Edward II of England. July and August will see Glasgow host the Commonwealth Games, and in September Gleneagles in Perthshire will stage the Ryder Cup. And, at the conclusion of this festival of history and sport, Scotland will go to the polls to vote in a referendum on whether to secede from the United Kingdom.
The Scottish National Party (SNP), currently in the majority in the Scottish Parliament, has been campaigning for independence and social democracy since its inception in 1934. Nevertheless, and even given the patriotic fervor bound to envelope Scotland in 2014, its leader and First Minister Alex Salmond faces an uphill battle to persuade a majority of Scots that severing its ties to London will be good for them. Polling data on a straight yes-or-no question indicates that support for independence fluctuates between 25 and 40 percent.
Can Scotland become a viable nation-state? To answer that question, we need to establish what an independent Scotland might look like. In many areas, including health care, education, and the law, Scotland has had control over its own affairs since devolution in 1998. Scotland maintains its own universal health-care system, NHS Scotland, which is more generous in some ways than its counterpart in England and Wales. There are no charges for prescription drugs in Scotland, for example. Care for the elderly is free. And the SNP continues to oppose any role for the private sector in the NHS.