The Scottish go to the polls on Thursday to decide whether to remain part of the United Kingdom or disolve the 300-year-old union with Wales and Northern Ireland.
Like in a marriage, economics favor keeping the parties together -- after so much time the Scottish and English people have simply grown dependent on each other and separation would make them both poorer. But like in a divorce, it's often not financial considerations that hold the most sway -- it's emotion. Or another way for the Scottish to weight their decision: do they hate their partner more than they love their pocketbook?
The Czechs and Slovaks and the Sudanese and South Sudanese chose to go their separate ways. But one could argue none of these countries had much of a pocketbook to be worried about losing. Quebecers voted twice on whether to separate from the rest of Canada and twice concluded it wasn't worth the risk. Better a loveless marriage than the possibility of living in a basement apartment eating Mac & Cheese -- or poutine, as the case may be.
The Scottish face a similar dilemma. There's no love lost between them and the English, in theory. But in practice, the two nations are closely bound -- financially, culturally and biologically.
Recent genetic research, in fact, concludes -- to the probably dissatisfaction of the Irish, Welsh, Scottish and English -- that they are a single people that arrived from Spain about 16,000 years ago speaking a language related to Basque, with only minor additions from later invaders like Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans.
In other words, nationalist ideology has brainwashed the Scots and English -- as it brainwashes all of us -- that they're separate people but the truth is the similarities overwhelmingly outweigh the differences. The question for the Scottish on September 18 is whether those little differences matter enough.