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If the Scottish political mood is shifting back to a slender "No" majority at Thursday's independence referendum (as current polls suggest), angry nationalists should not blame the big Scottish banks for threatening to move to England. Nor should they rage at some hideous cabal of Westminster Tory and Labour bigwigs for spreading scare stories among wavering Scottish voters.

Blame for the erosion of a nationalist dream lies much further afield; the wreckers are working the rigs in Alberta, North Dakota and Texas. The collapse in the price of oil over the past two months is making a nonsense of Alex Salmond's project. The independent, low-tax and prosperous Scotland was predicated on a powerful rent from the North Sea but the global glut of crude oil would make Mr. Salmond's celtic tiger a threadbare beast.

The "oil curse" is working its dirty magic on Scotland, threatening the new petro-state with a still birth. Since the referendum campaign went into high gear in mid-summer, the value of a barrel of crude extracted in Scottish waters has fallen from $114 (U.S.) to $97. This withering of the vine rather spoils the nationalist vision of a bumper crop from the North Sea every year which would more than compensate for the loss of the U.K. Treasury subsidy to Scotland (the net public spending in Scotland after deducting non-oil Scottish tax receipts) worth some £16-billion or about £3,000 ($5,400) per head.

The Scottish Nationalist Party's (SNP) projections of oil revenues have been under attack for months. First, from the U.K. government's Office for Budget Responsibility, which produced oil revenue forecasts over the next five years that were £15-billion adrift from the Nationalist's in a medium-case scenario. More recently, Sir Ian Wood, a veteran Scottish oil service company boss, derided the SNP's estimate that there were 24 billion barrels left under the seabed, worth some £1.5-trillion, suggesting the prediction comprised proven, probable and possible reserves, as well as speculative exploration. His best estimate was 15 to 16 billion barrels.

Arguments about geology are overshadowed when presented with evidence of how a few weeks in the markets can rip apart a government's borrowing plans over the next six months. HMRC, the U.K. government's tax authority, recently revealed that the tax take for the North Sea in fiscal 2013/14 was £4.7-billion, down from the previous year's £6.1-billion. Even assuming that Scotland secures the maximum 91-per-cent share of North Sea oil and gas in a division of the spoils, it could find itself borrowing heavily to meet its welfare commitments.

These promises are very important – per head, Scotland spends more heavily than England on health, welfare and education – and it is a central plank of the SNP's campaign that an independent Scotland would better safeguard such benefits from a tax-cutting, privatizing Tory government in London.

The Scottish independence referendum has really little to do with being ethnically Scottish; it is about being socialist and to the political left of England. When Alex Salmond waves the Saltire, the Scottish flag, it is a political rebuke to the Labour Party because he knows that his voters and a majority of the Scottish people are the rank and file, the core vote without which the Labour party can never secure power in Westminster. It is those Scottish Labour voters who felt betrayed by Tony Blair's shift of Labour to the right and resented his embrace of the Tory voters of Middle England that are now attracted by the SNP.

For the English in their Tory heartlands, it seems incomprehensible. With Scottish prime ministers, Scottish captains of industry, Scottish banks, the Scottish voices all over the BBC and the annual drip-feed of cash from the Treasury, what more can the Scottish want?

The answer is that it is a different group of Scots who would vote to leave. It is those left behind: the low-skilled, the unemployed, those who didn't migrate to London and grab hold of the Empire ladder who are now in rebellion. And even if they fail to seize power on Thursday's ballot, the rebellion does not end. Another party of nationalist rebels who would fight for independence has been watching the upheaval in Scotland with great interest. It has a charismatic leader whose call for a better deal for ordinary English people is drawing huge support. It is called UKIP.