Sunday, 22 April 2012

Scotland, independence, Megrahi: some views from Washington DC

[An article headlined Scots breakaway is talk of Capitol Hill by Ben Borland in today’s edition of the Sunday Express contains the following:]

The Scottishindependence referendum is now a hot topic in the District of Columbia, from the corridors of power in the Senate and the Congress to the bars and coffee shops where talking politics is something close to an obsession.

And, just like it is at home in Scotland, opinion on the pros and cons of breaking up Britain appears to be sharply divided.

Many of the 11 million or so Americans with Scottish ancestry would love the “mother country” to throw offtheshacklesof Westminster,although their view can be inspired largely by Mel Gibson’s Braveheart and misty-eyed images of home.

A surprising number of Scottish Americans, however,aredead againstindependence – and for a wide variety of reasons.

Some say they simply do not understand why Scots would risk the end of the “special relationship” with Washington and give up the history and prestige that comes with being a member of the United Kingdom.

Others fear it would weaken the military power of America’s staunchest ally, especially if the SNP forces the removal of Trident nuclear missiles from the Clyde. 

Many more – especially in the South, where a high percentage of Scottish Americans live – are not impressed by the SNP’s liberal politics, which in US terms go way beyond even the extreme left-wing of the Democrats.

They cite the release of the Lockerbie bomber as Exhibit A of what would happen should the “socialists” at Holyrood be put in charge of foreign policy.

Privately, some Republican Members of Congress admit they would support Scottish independence because of a firm belief that “small government is always better than big government”. (...)

However, he [Congressman John Duncan, Republican, Tennessee] does not believe the biggest disputesofarbetweenHolyroodand Washington – over the compassionate release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi – has done any lasting damage.

He said: “It maybe hurt a bit at the time but so many other things have happened since then. Looking back now with 20/20 hindsight, people obviously thought the man was in much worse shape than he has turned out to be.”  (...)

Veteran attorney John Bellassai, vice president of the National Capital Tartan Day Committee, said: “The big issue for Americans is that we don’t understand why the Scots would want to leave the Union when they have been our closest allies for so long.

“David Cameron was here recently and he spoke very eloquently about the special relationship. The feeling among Scottish Americans, at least here in Washington, is why would you want to jeopardise that?”

Outside the Beltway, in the heartlands of America, he said the decision to free Megrahi had seriously damaged the SNP’s credibility.

“Ninety-nine per cent of Americans just don’t understand why a man who murdered 270 people, including 189 US citizens, was simply allowed to go free,” he said.

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