"Should Scotland be an independent country?" reads the referendum on which Scotland will vote Thursday. Voters have two choices -- yes or no.
Queen Elizabeth II went so far as to tell Scots on Sunday, "I hope people will think very carefully about the future." The queen was savvy to urge Scots to look ahead, not behind. The Scottish Parliament building opened in 2004 after the Scotland Act 1978 allowed for local control. It is a marvel of modern architecture located off Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Its open architecture and use of glass, oak and sycamore display a determination to root political power not in the moldy grandeur of nearby Holyrood Palace but in iconoclasm and steel. Sadly, from that futuristic perch, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has dredged up ancient grievances to push his country back in time -- before the 1707 Act of Union with England.
"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling has likened Scottish independence to an acrimonious divorce. Expect bitter battles over who gets custody over the pound, the banks, the royals. "I doubt that an independent Scotland will be able to bank on its ex-partners' fond memories of the old relationship once we've left," Rowling warned in June. She has donated more than $1.6 million to the Better Together "no" campaign.
Nonsense to that, the "yes" lobby counters. On Sky News recently, Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill argued that if the referendum passes, the usual social union, the currency and the monarchy will remain intact. If anything, he added, the 300-year peace, friendship and "cordial relationship" will emerge stronger.
Scotsman Jim Murphy, a member of the British Parliament, laughed at the idea there could be no hard feelings if Scotland votes "to make England a foreign country."
In June, President Barack Obama spoke against an "aye" vote when he spoke of America's "deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies that we will ever have, the United Kingdom, remains strong, robust, united and an effective partner." Obama should have used stronger language, as he will need a strong United Kingdom in the war (yes, war) against the Islamic State.
It can be no accident that a masked Islamic State henchman engaged in the brutal beheading of aid worker David Haines, a Briton and a Scotsman, as the big vote looms. MacAskill has told Sky News that a "yes" vote would bring the very liberal Scotland freedom from decisions made under the coalition government of conservative Prime Minister David Cameron -- that is, freedom from British defense spending and any wars into which the United Kingdom is drawn.
But it's not that easy to opt out of war when terrorists are willing to export it -- as MacAskill well should know. In 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270, including 11 Scots on the ground. A Scottish court found Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Baset al-Megrahi guilty. Al-Megrahi received a life sentence and was to be eligible for parole after 20 years, but he served a mere eight years in a Scottish prison. On the dubious ground that prostate cancer left al-Megrahi with less than three months to live, MacAskill granted him "compassionate" release in 2009. The son of the late Moammar Gadhafi flew the terrorist home to a hero's welcome on a tarmac in Tripoli, where Scotland's worst mass murderer lived until 2012. Salmond explained, "Sometimes someone has to break the cycle of retribution with an act of compassion." It's a shame his Scottish National Party doesn't feel the same way about Great Britain.