Abraham Lincoln would have enjoyed a stay at Edinburgh Castle.

Abe Lincoln Would Tell Scots to Vote 'Nae'

Mark Gilbert is a Bloomberg View columnist and writes editorials on economics, finance and politics. He was London bureau chief for Bloomberg News and is the author of “Complicit: How Greed and Collusion Made the Credit Crisis Unstoppable.”
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I sympathize with liberationist Scots going to the polls today, lured by the siren song of independence after 307 years of being shackled to a U.K. government that has offered indifference, hostility and, lately, bribery. Nevertheless, I hope the "Better Together" campaign prevails when the results are announced early tomorrow.

I worry that a vote for independence would leave the rest of us Brits fretting for years about the financial fate of our estranged friends in the North; even the most ardent nationalist has to accept that the nascent nation would be worse off economically.

QuickTake Scottish Independence

I worry thatthe fundamental decency of the campaign, as noted by my colleague Leonid Bershidsky, would offer a sharp contrast to the bloody negotiations over assets and liabilities attending separation; even the most amicable of divorces can stumble over money, and the negotiations over oil and debt could turn nasty.

I worry, too, that Scottish ambitions for membership in the European Union would be dashed by a veto from Spain, which faces its own separatist battles in Catalonia and the Basque Country. "I've no sympathy at all for these processes," Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said yesterday. "They're bad for the state in question and for the whole of the European Union."

Historic events bring to mind historic figures; and U.S. President Abraham Lincoln's 1861 inaugural address, delivered almost exactly at the halfway mark between now and the beginning of Scotland's alliance with England via the 1707 Acts of Union, is pertinent. His remarks were directed at the south of the U.S.; they could apply equally to Scotland:

Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other, but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends?

The U.K. government has acknowledged that it needs to make relations more satisfactory, and the promise of maximum devolution is welcome, albeit belated. Staying within the U.K. but with increased sovereignty over taxes and spending, offers the best of all worlds for Scotland. The alternative -- divorced from the U.K., barred from the EU, hostage to the fortunes of global oil prices -- suggests a future uncertain at best and miserable at worst.

So, please, Scotland, vote against independence; we really are better together.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Mark Gilbert at magilbert@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
James Greiff at jgreiff@bloomberg.net