Scottish independence doesn't have to be a disaster

The world has been watching with great trepidation, fearing that the independence movement in Scotland could touch off a wave of break-away movements, from Catalonia, in Spain, to less well-known places in Europe. Indeed, some fear that Scottish succession could, ultimately, lead to dissolution of the European Union, as formerly independent countries, and regions, seek greater autonomy over the policies that affect both their political, and economic, lives.

Campaigners wave Scottish Saltires at a 'Yes' campaign rally in Glasgow, Scotland September 17, 2014.
Dylan Martinez | Reuters
Campaigners wave Scottish Saltires at a 'Yes' campaign rally in Glasgow, Scotland September 17, 2014.

But does Scottish independence have to be a calamity?

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Certainly, we have seen successes when breakaway republics achieve independence from imperial powers. Poland, with a well-designed economic plan, outperformed all of Eastern Europe, when it won its freedom from the collapsing Soviet Union, in 1989. Poland became the model for newfound independence … at first suffering an economic setback, but then growing quickly and impressively, a feat it has, largely, maintained some 25 years later.

Some might be overestimating the economic and political impact an independent Scotland would have on Great Britain.

Certainly, there would be short-term pain. The British pound would likely weaken further amid the political and economic uncertainties inherent in Scottish freedom. It has been more than 300 years since Scotland has been free, and its fortunes have been inextricably bound to the U.K. ever since.

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And no doubt, the Scots could face a painful period of readjustment. But Scotland does have a wide variety of economic options at hand, from North Sea oil, to a bustling tourism industry, to farming and fishing that produce some of the best edible goods in the world. (except Robert Burns' favorite meal, Haggis!)

The major hitch in the kilt is that the Scots greatly depend on Britain for economic aide and social services that it would have to fund on its own, if it, indeed, ends up on its own. Though, the Scots have proven to be quite resilient, from the time of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, to Alex Salmond, the Scottish leader who represents the modern version of his 14th century ancestors.

Quebec has tried and failed to secede from greater Canada. California has tried to divide itself into six separate states. Some in Texas are pushing for the Lone Star State to secede from the U.S. (Some have hinted they wouldn't mind all that much if Texas became its own country again. And remember, Texas was an independent country before it became a state.)

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The wailing and gnashing of teeth over Scottish independence will end soon, with 97 percent of Scottish citizens poised to vote in Thursday's referendum. The "no" votes seem to be ahead by a thread.

But if the "yes" vote carries the day, it might be a victory more like Poland's, than the cataclysmic event predicted by those who want to see an aging empire hold on to the last vestiges of imperial greatness.

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Commentary by Ron Insana, a CNBC and MSNBC contributor and the author of four books on Wall Street. He also delivers a daily podcast, "Insana Insights," and a long-form weekly version, both available on iTunes and at Follow him on Twitter @rinsana.