Scottish independence: Starting afresh could lead to economic miracles

Like Japan post-WW2, it's time for Scotland to radically break away from the status-quo

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The Independent Online

After the horrors of the Second World War, Japan's economy rose like a phoenix from the flames and, by the 1980s, had become the second largest in the world. The underlying reasons for this are many and complex but it does demonstrate the unbelievable power of starting afresh. Where nothing is off the table for change and you can redesign everything from first principles, there lie extraordinary opportunities. Scotland has just such an opportunity now.

Dr W Edwards Deming, heralded as the inspiration that led to the Japanese post-war economic miracle and Demi-God of the Japanese automotive industry, famously conducted a simple experiment for the executives attending his education programmes known as “The Red Bead Experiment”.

Delegates played the role of workers targeted at getting a number of red beads onto a plate from a tub full of mixed red and white beads. They were given a process. The angle to hold the tub. The speed to pour the beads and so on. Some succeeded and were “promoted”.

Others failed and were “sacked”. Some who had previously been successful often failed and were “demoted”. Of course, success was random. The system of obtaining red beads was fundamentally flawed and did not allow any possibility for consistency of success. The conclusion? 94 per cent of failures are due to the system. Cracking a whip with employees will serve no purpose when the system isn’t set up to deliver what you want. He taught this to the Japanese and they embraced it with great effect.

The problems faced by the UK government are similarly systemic in nature. With an electorate addicted to the fallacy that we still have an empire, every opportunity is taken to prove that it is still a “high-roller” on the world stage. In an attempt to win their favour, the two political monopolies are driven towards the centre ground by market research and opinion polls instead of the political ideologies that they purport to represent.

Voting has become an undemocratic decision on a change of management than anything remotely to do with policy. Little wonder voter turnout continues to decline.


The only opportunity that remains anywhere in the UK for systemic change in the foreseeable future is the Scottish Independence Referendum. Indeed, it is the biggest opportunity anywhere in the world since the global economic crisis of 2007/8 to start afresh like post-WWII Japan. We in Scotland are in an escape-pod on a doomed craft and are being given the opportunity to use it.

It is understandable that UK coming into the discussion this late in the day would lead the uninitiated to badge it as rampant patriotism, Braveheart, the Scots hating the English or whatever shallow agenda springs to mind. Such assumptions often lead to badge pro-independence as some ill thought through, parochial cause or simply a protest vote of the present party in power.

In fact, the reverse is true. You will find in most cases Yes voters having taken a far more cerebral approach than their No counterparts. They are people who have looked in detail at what both options really mean. Because getting to Yes involves a journey. Everyone is a No to begin with. No is a default position. It represents the status-quo.

This group of voters seldom have considered that the bigger risk is changing nothing. That the direction of travel of the status-quo is towards catastrophe. Of course, there are risks on both sides. But one conclusion to this referendum brings risks with control and the other without.

For most Yes voters this is a well thought through choice not just based on the implications of the referendum itself, but is also a choice of the type of person they want to be and, by virtue of which, the type of culture they want to perpetuate that will become the environment for their children’s future.

Like post-WWII Japan, Scotland now faces a huge opportunity to be the world’s most fit-for-purpose country. But we are not just leaving UK behind. It is the firm belief of many of us that the only hope for systemic reform in the rest of the UK is that we make a huge success of this separation. After Friday that is our responsibility. We won’t waste it, and we promise to deliver in the interests of everyone on these islands.

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