March 3, 2014 7 Comments
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.