Can Secession Succeed?

November 22, 2023


The issue of regions looking for independence from their current nation states is in the news at the moment. From certain US states to Scotland and Catalonia the case is being made that they would be better to go it alone, but just how would this work out in practice, and how likely is it that these splits could actually go ahead?

Following the election of president Barack Obama  for a second term in the White House those unhappy with the result have been calling for secession. Petitions asking to leave the USA on the White House’s ‘We The People’ website have been filed by people from all 50 states in the union. The petitions from seven of the states have gained enough signatures to warrant a response from the Government.

The general consensus is that states cannot secede, but even if they could they would face considerable problems. One factor that has been pointed out by many commentators is that six out of the seven states petitioning for secession receive more in federal funding than they pay in tax . Alabama receives $1.71 from Washington for every dollar it sends, Louisiana $1.45 - the only exception is oil rich Texas.

Scotland, like Texas is blessed with ‘black gold’ and this is often cited as reason why it would be economically viable as its own nation. Unlike Texas however there is a process under way  that could credibly lead to Scotland becoming an independent country.

There will be a referendum on Scottish independence in 2015. This is actually earlier than Scottish nationalists had wanted, the reason for this being that polling is indicating that the vote would not be successful for them and that they would have liked more time to make the case for independence. Certainly there are some questions that remain to be answered.

The plan is that an independent Scotland would continue to use the pound as its currency. If this was the case then it would not have any control over the monetary policy being set by London. Another area of confusion is EU membership.

Whether or not an independent Scotland would automatically have member status in the European Union is something that has yet to be answered. There has been an assumption that it would qualify, but there have been those that have challenged this, the latest of whom is Hugo Swire MP of the Foreign Office.

EU membership of a hypothetical future nation state is also an issue for Catalonia. The northern Spanish region is set to vote on independence, and like Scotland there are many issues still to be resolved.

Catalonia is the most economically successful part of Spain, but there are fear that an independent Catalonia would be less attractive to multinationals. This would particularly be the case if they had to re-apply for EU membership.


CC 'Alan Bell' (Flickr)



















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