THE parallels are far from perfect, but consider the economic story of the Slovak Republic, whose experiences offer us a glimpse of Scotlandâs alternatives.
The Slovaks voted to secede from Czechoslovakia. Its population of five million is almost identical to Scotland. Its self-image seems to be akin to the Scottish mirage. They think of themselves as warrior highlanders. In fact they live in their urban sprawl with Greater Bratislava dominant, just as Glasgow is.
Like Scotland, it has long had a near one-party state. If rivals emerged they were co-opted by the Stalinist apparatus. The Slovaks had a fixation about heavy industry, subsidising it as much as Scotland did Ravenscraig and others.
The first ten years of independence were a fiasco. Tighter regulation followed higher tax. Further levies invited further controls. The Bratislava method was a model of how to ruin an economy already frail after the generation of Soviet influence.
Yet now the Slovaks have performed a highly successful U-turn. They voted out their old-fashioned leadership and have swung towards low taxation and light regulation. The result is a dynamic economy so successful it is alarming the European Commission. The men in Brussels are demanding controls be reimposed.
It has a flat rate tax of no more than 19 p