IGS Conference Examines Scottish Referendum

ballot box scotland
ballot box scotland
October 13, 2014

Just a week after voters rejected a highly contentious proposal to declare independence from the UK, the Anglo-American Studies Program at IGS hosted a half-day conference focusing on the Scottish Independence Referendum and the Future of the Multiethnic Nation State. (A brief video of conference highlights is available on YouTube.)

Held September 26 in the IGS Library, the symposium featured two panels of experts from the US, UK and Canada, who spoke about the local and global effects of the Scottish independence referendum. Keynote Speaker David Laitin, the James T. Watkins IV and Elise V. Watkins Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, wrapped up the event with a discussion of the concept of private subversion. 

Professor Laitin’s keynote address reflected on the Scottish Referendum through an explanation of his theory of “private subversion of a public good.” Laitin used this concept to explain that the failure of the referendum was related to those who hypothetically publicly supported independence, but privately voted “no.”

“Voters in ... Scotland were willing to vote ‘yes’ as long as they felt confident the referendum would fail,” explained Laitin. “ … ‘What about the small costs I’ll have to pay? These are the small costs I’m going to pay, and I rather have the feeling of being a Scottish nationalist without having to pay the cost.’”

Terri Bimes, director of the Anglo-American Studies Program at IGS, stated that the conference was a “huge success.”

“Going into the September 18th referendum, we believed that the no vote would likely win, but thought the conference would be interesting regardless of the referendum outcome” commented Bimes, director of the Anglo-American Studies Program (AASP) at IGS. “It demonstrates that the AASP fulfills a real need on campus.”