The Scottish Independence movement will come to a crucial referendum vote on September 18th, as Scots answer either “Yes” or “No” to the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” This vote offers an interesting character study of a country that is trying to ensure its voice in an ever globalizing world.

Scotland isn’t alone in balancing greater independence with the advantages of belonging to a world power like the UK. Indeed, this is a question that countries and territories all over the world have grappled with, and it will likely continue be a thorny issue as the world becomes increasingly defined by globalization and interconnected economies.

The example of Scotland is significant for the European Union, especially because it is in many ways a radical departure from the traditional path to secession.

The Scottish Independence movement will come to a crucial referendum vote on September 18th, as Scots answer either “Yes” or “No” to the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?” This vote offers an interesting character study of a country that is trying to ensure its voice in an ever globalizing world.

Scotland isn’t alone in balancing greater independence with the advantages of belonging to a world power like the UK. Indeed, this is a question that countries and territories all over the world have grappled with, and it will likely continue be a thorny issue as the world becomes increasingly defined by globalization and interconnected economies.

The example of Scotland is significant for the European Union, especially because it is in many ways a radical departure from the traditional path to secession. Historically, the secession option arises when a region is repressed economically, has unfair or non-existent government representation, or has such a vast cultural difference from the majority that it is simply not possible to remain with the whole. But to many, Scotland doesn’t seem to fit these criteria, instead enjoying economic opportunity, access to high levels of public capital, and financial stability due to its political relationship with Great Britain.

As part of the UK, Scotland enjoys access to the 3rd largest economy in the world – especially important given that 65 percent of its goods are exported to other regions of the Kingdom. Businesses have the advantage of dealing in a common currency and having unrestricted access to workers from all parts of the realm. And Scottish citizens receive on average £1400 more per person from the central government in the form of social programs like education, hospitals, and infrastructure buildup.

This means that if separation is to occur, Scotland will be the wealthiest country ever to voluntarily secede. So why then are nationalists in Scotland pushing for this dramatic break with their current political arrangement?

Pro-separation leaders have cited many reasons for independence. The most obvious reason is a greater control in governance for matters that effect Scotland and Scotland alone. An independent Scotland would be able to voice its own opinions in the United Nations, NATO, and the European Union. The country would also be free to fully realize the benefits of its renewable energy potential. To many supporters, independence would lead to a cultural awakening for Scotland, and a resurgence of national pride on the world stage. The question then becomes: which of these benefits are more likely to be achieved outside of union with the UK?

The Yes Campaign’s plan for secession, while calling for major reform, does include keeping the British pound, and remaining a common travel area with the UK. Alex Salmond, the leader of the Yes campaign, bases his pitch on the promise of stability, in particular claiming that Scotland will be able to rejoin the European Union without a hiccup. As Adam Tomkins points out in a recent Financial Times op-ed, “when [Mr. Salmond] talks about an independent Scotland acceding to membership of the EU, he does so as if Edinburgh will magically inherit the same terms of membership as those currently enjoyed by the UK: with an opt-out from the euro and from the Schengen free-movement era, and with a share of the UK’s budget rebate. Such terms have been accorded to no recent accession state.”

Yet many observers worry that such a move could create a dangerous precedent for other EU countries that have struggled with breakaway domestic independence movements, from Spain to Belgium. Likely foreseeing some of these issues, Jose Manuel Barroso, the outgoing president of the European Commission, has commented that an independent Scotland joining the EU would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible.”

In some ways, the concept of cultural identity has superseded traditional borders, even as the world has become ever more closely knit together. The ability to trade goods and information has surpassed the need for a people to only be defined by the place where they grew up, which ironically can lead to greater instability when it comes to matters ethnic or national identity.

In this sense, Scottish secessionists are not incorrect to want to protect Scottish culture – but these concerns must be balanced with the country’s long term welfare. And there are indications that an independent Scotland would immediately face fiscal turmoil. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a hypothetical Scottish government would almost immediately have to find an additional £3 to £10 billion of revenue, through spending cuts or tax increases, in order to be on a sustainable path.

On September 18th, the world will see how Scottish citizens weigh these competing concerns – national identity and self-determination versus the very real economic and political advantages of union with the United Kingdom. The result could hold wide-reaching ramifications for the future of nationalism in the EU.