The independence debate offers a wealth of testable hypotheses for the academic economist. The topics run the gamut from monetary policy to resource management to pain and simple standard of living.
Pundits have noted that Scotland is the wealthiest of the four UK countries in GDP per capita. How might that change if the UK banks make good on their threats to make haste for London? How would other trade fare--manufactures, tourism, haggis? Could free education make Scottish human capital the world's envy? Could protective tariffs, more nimble export policy, fine shortbread and finer Scotch whisky make the citizens more money? Would oil help the welfare state survive in a country with declining fertility rates? Would fertility change or immigration make up the difference?
Who gets the rights to all that North Sea oil, anyway? This could be a fascinating study in bargaining power, modeling a Scottish delegation sitting with a rest-of-UK bunch, hashing out the terms of trade and ownership of plots. Economic theory tells us that the result will be commensurate with bargaining power--and that each party can and will bring as much power as possible. England and Scotland will bring the best lawyers, centuries of legal history, and standing contracts to the table. They will each find every reason to get as much of the pie as they can--so the theory predicts. Will GDP or population correlate with the proportion each country can slice off, or will our predictions be as off as Tory national security policy?
And what about the issue of currency? Evidence the Euro, we economists still can't get this one right, and we need data! Would Scotland stay on the pound sterling? How could the Bank of England manage its interest rate for the UK with 5 million bank accounts up north acting as dead weight? Would a new currency help stimulate a nascent nation, and would global markets give it a high or low value?
And from there, the tangent questions are endless! How quickly can the SNP form national bodies of international trade, export-import banks, Scottish embassies in foreign lands? Will the SNP ever take the Euro plunge? How will major cities and border towns change shape and structure under a new political landscape? And will the conservatives still want to Brexit without their Scottish lads to gussy up the GDP? We'll have to find out! And then we could say so much more about Cornwall, Catalonia, the Basque region, Quebec, even Texas! We haven't had an opportunity like this since >cough< East Timor.
With all this interesting stuff about economics, it can be hard to forget that's not the only reason to go your own way. Obviously, there are much more personal reasons to exercise self-determination. Years of chronic disregard by the UK parliament, a tyranny of the English majority that easily outweighs Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland by a population over 3.5 times all three put together, and a cultural undercurrent of disdain running between the two nations is enough to make anyone want to shout "Aye!" in frustration and hope for a different future.
Nevertheless, if you're on the fence and those reasons haven't persuaded you, then perhaps pity the poor economist. It has been two well over 200 years since Thomas Paine penned his economic rationale, Common Sense, for US independence from King George III. We can test how much our theories have improved in centuries' time.