Small World: A declaration of independence for Maine?

Henry Precht

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

As Scotland almost goes, so might also go Maine? That’s the line suggested by pundits who were way wrong on the Scots’ vote last week for independence from (almost not Great) Britain. Suppose it had turned out differently and Scotland had ended the union? What might have been the consequences hereabouts?

Maine, the press reports, has the highest percentage in the United States of citizens with Scottish ancestry. There seems little question that the November vote for governor here would have been transformed into a referendum for independence and which of the three gubernatorial candidates would be president of the new State of Maine. Before you doubters skip to the yard sale ads, consider the similarities:

Both Scotland and Maine are mostly surrounded by rock-bound coasts, providing a rich seafood diet and a source of offshore energy (at least potentially so for Maine). Neither has much productive farmland. Scotland sells fine whiskey; Maine tries to keep up with cider, but does better with maple syrup.

Although Mainers don’t wear skirts, they speak a tongue, which, like the Scots’, is almost incomprehensible to the rest of the nation. Both stand out for their tightfistedness and attractiveness for folks from away, whom the locals wish would just go away — after paying their bills, to be sure.

Having established the verisimilitude of the two, let of consider the consequences and prospects for a newly independent State of Maine:

First, Washington would be seized by panic that a sovereign state exists which has neither a mutual defense treaty with us nor a nuke-capable base for U.S. planes or ships. We can expect the negotiators to get right down to their task. As a sweetener, how about a $3 billion grant annually? No reason why a contiguous dependency should receive less than a distant one (Israel) for the same purpose. Of course, Mainers would have to work hard to be, at times, as ungrateful.

No doubt many in Washington would be worried by the threat of Maine wetbacks crossing the international border. Quickly, work would begin to erect a fence like the one in the Southwest. That would be an inconvenience for Maine sports fans; they would need a passport to attend a Red Sox game. But, hey, the Sea Dogs haven’t been doing badly.

One group that would be hurt by independence would be Maine’s elected representative in Washington. That’s an easy one. The new president could appoint them ambassadors and consuls general. (They’ve been down there so long it seems they’d rather live in the hot, crowded cities — although they might miss receiving the lobbyists’ generosity.)

It won’t be easy setting up the paraphernalia of an independent sovereign state. Choosing a flag, for example. Remembering the bickering over license plates, one wonders whether the national banner would feature a loon or a lobster and, if the latter, cooked?

Currency, pensions, debts and all sorts of financial conundrums would appear to pose a problem. But with the entire world is in such a mess, would any regime in Washington be looking for yet another problem, another adversary? Hardly. More likely the Feds would grumble, but cough up the bucks to keep the state afloat.

And there may be other sources of external help in the offing. After Scotland’s vote, we are likely to see heightened agitation in Spain as Catalonia demands independence. Belgium will not be far behind with Flemish and French speakers opting for separate ways. The north of Italy definitely and possible Sicily will be in the queue for independent seats in the United Nations. Kurdistan, Kashmir and other bits of India and Sri Lanka would want to stand alone — the list is endless. That would make Maine an attractive model. Mainers would happily welcome more recruits for independence — New Hampshire with its tax-free shopping and Vermont with its ancestral spirit of independence.

With so much fragmentation going on and odd chunks of territory raising their own flags, there would likely be a global division between the old, established nations and the new start-ups. The latter might well form their union or federation. In such case, Maine’s link with Scotland could be made tangible and enduring.

Before lining up for a celebratory parade, however, think of having to listen to all those school kids learning to play the bagpipes.

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

Please follow and like us: