Let’s stay together

By Citizen Sane

I recognise I’m not the best-qualified person to talk about this. I’ve probably been to Scotland five, maybe six, times in my life. All visits but one were for work rather than pleasure. On every occasion I’ve only stayed in Edinburgh, apart from some fleeting visits to Glasgow and Dundee for meetings. There is, I think, some Scottish blood on my mum’s side of the family. Or maybe my dad’s. I forget. But really I’m about as English as you can get, by lineage and by character. Not just English, but southern English. Not just southern English, but from the London area.

I am, to quote from an episode of Blackadder, about as Scottish as the Queen of England’s tits. But I’m still extremely fond of Scotland, the Scottish people and value their place within the United Kingdom.

I was once rather keen on the idea of wholesale constitutional change. My wish list would have specified a codified constitution, a bill of rights, the establishment of a republic, proportional representation, an elected House of Lords and substantial devolution. Some of these, I am still in favour of. Others, not so much. These are not things to be meddled with lightly, on the basis that – despite its faults – our political system is one of the best in the world. We have a stable, peaceful, prosperous union of countries and a robust democratic polity rivalled only by a small number of other liberal democracies. Sometimes you need to remind yourself, bogged down as we all get by gripes and complaints with The System, that we are extraordinarily fortunate to live in the United Kingdom. To anyone who disputes this, I say: there are approximately 190 countries in the world – name more than, say, ten where you could enjoy similar personal, artistic or religious freedom, or a higher standard or living, or a lower level of corruption in public life, or greater opportunities or political stability or…. the list goes on.

Of course, somebody will point out A, B, or C as evidence that the UK is a declining state, or a corrupt tin pot country but they’re fooling nobody. Tell that to the billions of people who would no doubt swap their country for one like ours, or the tens of thousands who make it to our shores every year, for various reasons, all in search of a better life.

As it is no doubt apparent by now, I fervently hope that the No vote prevails in the Scottish independence referendum. The United Kingdom has, by and large, been an extraordinary success for centuries. I’m no flag waving ultra patriot, but it seems self-evident that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are far greater than the sum of their parts and it would be an egregious act of vandalism to breakup that successful union for what seems very narrow reasons – mostly predicated on a nationalism that is no less ugly or pointless or boring than any other. I don’t describe myself as an English national; I describe myself as British and other than stoking the coals of vestigial Scottish national pride, cannot see a single valid reason for voting for independence. It will not benefit the Scottish people, it will not benefit the rest of the UK.

Given the lack of a coherent economic plan, the ‘independence’ would be fatally compromised anyway: the proposal is for a currency union with rUK, which, even if this were to be agreed – and all the major parties and the Bank of England have rejected the idea – would immediately cede control of monetary policy and interest rates to what would now be a ‘foreign’ country. Longer term membership of the EU would have to be renegotiated and, in the event that Scotland decides to join the euro, independence would be watered down further still as economic policy transfers to Brussels and Frankfurt.

Scotland – with its population of just over five million people, representing just 8% of UK GDP, dependent on a highly variable income from oil, exposed to any future banking crisis due to its substantial financial sector – would become a third tier backwater nation in a much larger European union. So I have to ask: by what definition is this ‘independence’ and who benefits?

Vote NO, Scotland. For everyone’s sake, but especially yours.