Scotland

At the tail-end of the coming summer the Scots will vote in a referendum that will have a momentous impact on their politics. Depending on the outcome it could also affect politics in the rest of the United Kingdom too.

Should Scotland be an independent country? This is the question to be asked of voters in Scotland. In some ways, of course, Scotland already has an independent existence – in sport for instance. But the independence being questioned strikes at the integrity of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and a yes vote will make this country disappear. Great Britain is the name of the largest island in this north European archipelago – we would become the United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The flag would change too, and much beside.

This proposed divorce is a one-sided affair – the rest of the UK does not get asked whether they wish the current union to remain. Not all of the Scots get asked either – those resident, and on the electoral roll, north of the border are voting; Scots resident in the rest of the UK will have no say.

Some Tories are wishing for a yes vote in the belief that this will end Labour’s chances of winning another General Election. Aside from the wrong maths, this argument somewhat admits to their failure north of Watford Gap.

In 2003 I worked in West Lothian; a three month stint with BskyB. It was a weekly commute, by aeroplane except for the one occasion when I chose to drive. I like Scotland, and the Scots, and this has nothing to do with their politics. I also worked for more than two years in Newcastle upon Tyne. Once or twice I forayed across the border when there. What is blindingly obvious is that you move from England to Scotland nothing changes – at least when you cross Offa’s Dyke you start to see bi-lingual signs. Yes, the Scots have a distinct accent, but even this is a gradual change. A southerner on the Tyne and Wear Metro will struggle to understand some of the locals every bit as much as when strolling down Princes Street.

Whether driving or flying one does get a sense that this small island of ours, whilst full of contrasts, is also a singular place. English, Scots and Welsh are much alike, and a lot of DNA is shared. (I can claim Welsh and Irish ancestry – like many English, and some in my family also have a great deal of Scots in them). This separation, if it comes to that, will not rent asunder two entirely different races.

I also think that in a world increasingly dominated by economic giants, small getting smaller is not the way to go. Whilst the days of empire are comparatively recent, they are equally behind us. The UK may sit at number seven in a list of the biggest economies, but others are catching up. Making us deliberately smaller will bring our relegation closer.

Those Scots who want the divorce may not like being run by Old Etonians (and I have sympathy for that), but what happens if they get a Scots Parliament run by people they like not – is it Orkney independence next?

Many of the world’s nations have borders that arbitrary. The United Kingdom, certainly that bit that contains England and Scotland, has natural barriers – this island race is bounded by the sea. It is a border that makes sense. The line linking the River Tweed and the Solway Firth is entirely artificial.

I hope the polls are right, and that this referendum receives a huge no vote.

7 Responses to Scotland

  1. As someone living in the North East, I share your sentiments, but fear that for Scotland the best thing to do is to go independent – irrespective of whether the SNP can deliver all the obligations that it seeks to impose on the residual UK.

    Scotland (and only Scotland) is voting whether to *leave* the UK; it is not a vote “that the UK should split” – that would involve all of us and would be a very different question against a very different prospectus.

    Given that we (south of the border – no matter how Scottish our roots) have no vote, it is clearly unreasonable for an Independent Scotland to expect us to, for instance, enter into a currency union (in effect being lender of last resort to an “independent” Scottish Economy) – unless it is clearly in the Residual UK’s interests – and we have a vote on entering such a currency union.

    Spelling out the real prospectus will in some respect play into Salmond’s hands as he wants to play the “bullying card”. But if it is not spelt out we face the propsect of a “yes” vote and then a whole lot of Scots thinking they are entitled to everything in the White Paper “Scotland’s Future” (because they voted for it – and that’s democracy) and then feeling very peeved when residual UK declines to deliver (because we never voted for it – and that’s democracy).

    In the end will all the economic and administrative arguments count for nothing? How many Scots will sacrifice some prosperity, some alliances, and much convenience for the emotional benefit of “being free”? Principally free from Tories who come to Scotland to lecture and “bully”, from Tory Governments that they have not voted for in decades but also free from a remote bureaucracy that seems more interested in floods in Berkshire and wars in lands even further away, than in the quality of life of Scots. (A few Northumbrians, Cumbrians, Lancastrians and Tykes may wish they could join them.)

  2. Leaving the UK is splitting it, is it not? It cleaves Scotland from the three other nations.

    Both emotionally and economically I wish the union to remain.

    The idea that because the UK as a whole prefers the Tories from time to time is an argument for divorce is bad – will Surrey campaign for separation when the next Labour government is elected?

  3. The argument for better or worse, which I believe was codified in the Edinburgh agreement, was that if there was a yes vote the “UK” would continue and Scotland would be independent. (This is in contrast to the agreed splitting of Czechoslovakia into Slovakia and the Czech Republic).

    This is critical because when “Dave” agreed the Edinburgh agreement he made a choice with clear implications (which he may now regret)
    He chose:
    The vote is “that Scotland leaves the UK”, in which case:
    – The Scots will leave the EU and Sterling etc.
    – Salmond debates with Darling.
    – Only Scotland votes.
    he rejected:
    The vote is “that the UK be split”, in which case:
    – Scotland and rUK will both be successor nations
    – Salmond debates with Cameron (tickets available …)
    – All the UK Votes.

    Emotionally I think a “yes” vote will be a profound psychological shock to rUK – particularly England, and from a (whole) UK perspective (as well as a regional perspective) I want the union to remain.

    But, I think there is a large body of Scots who feel Scottish not British who are heartily fed up with “the British” – by which I think they mean a particular subset of “the English” based in the South East. I think if you have consistently voted against the political party that represents that elite but then had to suffer Heath / Thatcher / Major / Cameron – none of whom have shown any particular sensitivity for the concerns of Scotland (let alone large parts of the more remote (from London) bits of England) – you will want to “get away”. Salmond is tapping into this and Dave despite knowing the dangers is playing his game:
    – By refusing to pre-negotiate, he gave the SNP no option but to publish an “aspirational” prospectus rather than an “agreed” prospectus for independence. This drags the “better together” group into a negative campaign rubbishing all these aspirations – and opening up accusations of Westminster/City of London bullying.
    – Even though he tries not to get dragged into the debate (“this is Scotland’s decision”), he can’t resist sniping from the sidelines.

    in respect of other areas, if there was
    (1) a large geographically coherent area, with
    (2) a “national” identity, that
    (3) consistently voted for the Tories, I could understand that they would be sick of
    (4) having to suffer under Labour rule
    and might seek independence.

    However, “Surrey” does not meet all four of these criteria. (Arguably they only meet no 3.) “M25 London” suitably cleansed may in due course meet those criteria.

    If the North of England had a “national identity” they might be thinking along the same lines as the Scots. But we don’t, so we hang on to nurse.

  4. David Glover. Secretary. RAW 2012. says:

    Re the Union Jack.

    The King’s Colours or Great Union Flag of 1606 was the flag of the personal union of the united crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland.
    The Union Flag or Jack of 1801 was the flag of the political union of the united kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland.
    The 1606 and 1801 flags are virtually identical.

    The College of Arms has stated there would be no need to change the Union Flag after Scottish independence.[

  5. Presumably Salmond will shortly say that in that case Scotland wants to continue to use the Union Flag as the flag for the Social/Currency/Monarchy/EU membership Union?

  6. jayman says:

    we are pretty much screwed without Scotland in the union, our economy and our currency would decline overnight. Despite all the rhetoric from Cameron and the ‘no’ campaign I believe Alex Salmond has all the cards. Scotland has a mixed economy, a celebrated culture and identity and has a progressive liberal government. England has a volatile economy based on housing and banking, has little or no celebrated culture or identity and has a regressive conservative government that busies itself on uber-ideological retrograde policies and initiatives that further increase volatility in our economy and destroy what little culture and identity that has remained. Basically, the sad fact is that until Westminster makes itself reflective of the people and fit for purpose. Scotland’s probably better of on her own.

  7. Interesting view from south of the border. Sadly, I disagree 100%… my opinion here: politicoid.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/scottish-independence-for-the-common-man/

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