Another view on Scottish Independence

by Ray_North on November 26, 2013

imagesAs the other Celt who writes on these pages, I wanted to offer an alternative viewpoint to the one held and espoused today so eloquently by my mate Charlie East-West.

Before I start, let me say how much sympathy I have for the notion of Scottish Independence. The idea of being a young person in a young country suddenly freed from the shackles of a union that has always been essentially conservative and Conservative and as such at odds with the will of the people of Scotland, is utterly exhilarating.

I get that. And that is why, if the people of Scotland do vote ‘yes’ – then a part of me will be extremely excited for them, and all of me will wish them nothing but success, because I like the Scottish people (apart from the copper who arrested me for no reason in Edinburgh once, but that’s another story), and I love Scotland (well the limited parts of it I have seen). But, if the people of Scotland decide to go it on their own, I will also be very sad and also fairly concerned for their future. As a Welshman living in Wales, I will also be extremely fearful for my own nation’s future, but that is a different matter and I’ll only touch on that in these few paragraphs.

In a nutshell though, if I was living in Scotland I would probably vote ‘No’.

And here’s why.

First, I would be asking myself, what would I actually be getting. Now, I haven’t read the whole of the White Paper – but the impressions that I am getting is that, yes, Scotland would be free to call itself and independent nation, and that is fundamental to the desire of the nationalists, but, in actual fact, there is much that would actually remain the same – the Queen would still be head of state, so no Republican Elysium then; the Armed Forces would still be controlled by the UK, so, ultimately, no right to have power over an independent army; Scotland would stay in NATO, and though it would get rid of Trident, would support the UK’s position on the UN Security Council, which, as it is dependent upon UK having an independent nuclear option, means that Trident wouldn’t be far away.

Then, there is the issue of Sterling, and this is where the people of Scotland should have the biggest concerns – the White Paper states that an Independent Scotland would retain Sterling within a monetary zone with the rest of the UK, which is different from a previous incarnation of the SNP, in which the aim was to join the Euro. Of course, Alex Salmond is the canniest politician in these fair isles, and he knows that joining the Euro would be a vote loser, he also knows that setting up a currency in the current climate would lead to derision from every corner, so the compromise position is that of a monetary union within the UK – which, if it is going to work, means that Scotland will have to cede much of its monetary and economic policy to the Treasury. So, the independent Scotland would have its interest rates and great swathes of its fiscal policy determined by the Westminster that it is so anxious to get away from. And, the Westminster of a post-independent-Scotland, would not be the same beast as it is now, no, once Scotland goes, it takes away a great number of Labour MPs and pretty much ensures a natural Conservative majority in the House of Commons, so, suddenly an independent Scotland, which will almost certainly be progressive in its political make-up will have much of its economic policy determined by a right-wing government in the old-land.

But, the Independence campaigners state that Scotland will be able to set its own tax rates and in particular corporation tax – well don’t bet on that, any Chancellor of the UK Exchequer worth his salt is going to ensure that part of an agreement for monetary union includes forms of tax harmonisation to ensure that those North of the border don’t shaft us that are left down here.

The Independence lobby also put a lot of emphasis on North Sea Oil Revenues, but, having oil does not necessarily mean automatic economic success, of course it doesn’t, if it did, then the UK would have enjoyed greater economic success over the last three decades (though I concede that the North Sea Oil Revenues were completely squandered by Thatcher and haven’t been used particularly wisely by subsequent government’s either); whilst, of course, there is no guarantee that oil prices and oil reserves will last for too much longer – and an independent country isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for ever.

Perhaps the most compelling arguments put forward by the nationalists is the most honest one – the one in which they say, alright, an Independent Scotland is a bit of a risk, but it’s a fuck sight better than having to put up with years of a Tory government that none of us voted for. I get that. I also get the fear that exists in many Scottish men and women that after the next election they will wake up with a majority Tory Government and David Cameron as their Prime Minister.

But, my instinct turns me away from this argument – the Britain is crap so let’s leave argument, leaves me a little bit cold, I’m instinctively an internationalist, I believe in people working together I believe in trying to take on the existing orthodoxies and vested interests and defeating them, rather than picking up my bat and ball and walking away. The people of Scotland will be condemning the people of England and Wales (Northern Ireland slightly different) to eternal Tory rule if they walk away, and, though that is not going to be the most popular argument that could be proffered by the No campaign, it is an important one to me, because my politics are about inclusivity and are instinctively against nationalism.

As I said, when I started this pieces, I can see why many Scotsmen and women are attracted to the idea of getting out of the UK, I can see how this proud people are sick and tired of being governed by a group of spineless privileged individuals whose aims and ideals are fundamentally opposed to their own – I get all of that.

But, my impassioned plea would be, stay with us, and let’s work together to make Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland a better place for everyone.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Charlie_East_West November 26, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Effectively, Salmond’s vision for Scotland is pretty close to Devo Max (keeping Sterling and Bank of England) – He should just say as much – as that is what most people in Scotland want. Paradoxically, the No campaign want Devo Max – so, could it be that both sides are just fighting a battle of misplaced agendas?

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George_East November 26, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Two points:

1. Monetary policy wouldn’t be controlled by Westminster. It would be controlled by the Bank of England which is a very different proposition. Indeed there is so far as I can see considerable sense in it (far more than there would be in joining the Euro or launching its own currency).

2. Labour won majorities in England and Wales in 1997 and 2001, so it is certainly not certain to result in Tory majorities. More difficult for the left to win, yes but far from impossible.

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Charlie_East_West November 27, 2013 at 7:51 am

We have all written and argued within this website about trying to find an opportunity to change/remove/end the neoliberal orthodoxy. Scotland has an open goal to do just that.

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Eddie Kaye November 27, 2013 at 9:18 am

Thanks Ray. Devo Max being a happy halfway house aside – your piece is an excellent ‘heart says yes, head says wait a minute’ summary. I would love for Scotland to be able to assert itself against a right wing government totally detatched from the core values of Scottish society. I would like to see an EU strong enough and democratic enough to welcome and support an independent Scotland. On the other hand, we will need the Scottish seats to stand any chance of waiving good bye the the Tory shambles in 2015. I am also afraid that in one sense it could make no difference to Scotland’s values becoming the norm north of the border, and it would leave the rest of us at the mercy of the Tories.

Full independence was a Nationalist pipe dream, I am sceptical as to whether Salmond and the SDP can really deliver what Scotland needs within the scope of what is now on offer.

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Mike Killingworth November 28, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Wonderful Freudian slip in the last-but-one line of Eddie’s comment…

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Ray_North November 28, 2013 at 8:58 pm

Yes, I noticed that as well – Owen, Rodgers and Williams to take over Scotland!

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