For everyone living in the U.K., we’ve all been aware that the big day has been approaching for years (indeed some have been waiting for it for 300 years) whilst for everyone overseas, if you didn’t know there was going to be a referendum in Scotland on thursday then you will soon.
As someone born just a few miles from the England-Scotland border and with as many Scottish relations as English relations, I thought I may as well alienate half of them by writing what I think about the situation.
I think it is all total nonsense and to be blunt, so do all the Scottish relations I have spoken too. At a time when most countries are joining together, it seems crazy that some Scottish separatists are trying to break up probably the most successful union of all time.
The vote on thursday is widely known as the Independence Referendum though in truth that word is emotionally charged. Scotland is an equal part of the United Kingdom. It cannot gain independence as the U.K. is already independent and has probably been the most successful nation in the last millennia, even more so for its relatively small size and population.
Listening to Scottish Nationalist Party propaganda it would be easy to believe that Scotland is a hugely depressed place and that all their problems are due to being oppressed by those awful English. The fact of the matter is that both England and Scotland came into a voluntary union with the King of Scotland becoming the King of England as well. It was a union of two equal nations, an almost bankrupt Scotland with a king and a rich but leaderless England. (That actually sounds a little familiar today).
In recent days we have heard Scottish Nationalists compare their position to being in Apartheid South Africa which must be why so many British Prime Ministers have been Scottish… just like all those famous Black Presidents before Nelson Mandela. Tony Blair may sound English but he is Scottish. His successor Gordon Brown is very Scottish indeed and the current Prime Minister David Cameron if English born has a very Scottish surname.
The nationalists have also been claiming that the NHS will soon be privatised or broken up which overlooks the facts that no-one has even thought of that or the fact the NHS as it is was a British invention and runs as well as it does due to the economy of scale that being in a country of 63 million people gives as opposed to just 5 million.
The TV news has shown for weeks that No supporters have been harassed and berated wherever they have gone. A term often used for those opposing Scottish separation is that of Quisling which in fact originates from a Norwegian term for Nazi collaborators. Imagine such a hateful word being used against any other ethnic group than English or Scots who want to stay in the U.K. There would be outrage.
People who have expressed an opinion that Scotland should vote no have been attacked on-line and their posters of support ripped off their own private property. Just a hint of the nasty part of nationalism the world over, something which the U.K. has always traditionally kept away from.
My university professor told me in my first week in International Politics that if a region can leave a country voluntarily without a war then it is probably not the sort of country you’d want to leave anyway. It is those nations such as Russia and China that kill their own citizens because they want a better life that are the ones people should really want to leave.
Personally I don’t know anyone who favours Scotland leaving the U.K. except for a few English who are fed up of having Scotland always moaning. Lots of other people seem to agree including President Obama, Hilary Clinton, the leaders of China, Australia and even The Pope. In any rational debate if such a broad range of people were all of the same opinion then you’d have to think they are onto something. Currently the only President supporting the break-up of the U.K. is that of North Korea which probably says a lot.
I’d feel rather sad if Scotland did vote to leave as I don’t see any difference between England and Scotland. The culture, countryside, the language, the people are almost identical. To be declared a foreigner in 30% of my homeland isn’t something anyone would particularly be happy about.
Of course there are big differences between the islands of Scotland and the middle of London but the remote parts of England have much more in common with the remote parts of Scotland than they do with London too. Likewise, the average person in a city like Glasgow probably has more in common with a city like Newcastle than they do with someone in the Scottish highlands. The real divide is between the poor and the rich, the haves and the have-nots, not a fictional racial difference based on artificial borders and thousands of years of petty wars and conflict.
The whole campaign seems to be about creating divisions where really there aren’t any. King James who unified the two nations himself put it that it would be crazy to have two separate nations on this one island and anyone who thought differently must be stupid. After over 300 years of unification, this must surely be more true than ever before. In fact the border between England and Scotland has changed by hundreds of miles both north and south over the millennia, what it is now is just a quirk of history with many Scots descendants living in England and many patriotic Scots in Scotland actually living in what at various times has been not at all Scottish territory.
It seems that with nearly 50% of the Scottish population on the brink of voting Yes that they are falling for some quasi emotional argument as there can be no sensible reason to leave the U.K. Scotland already has a devolved government with powers to remove the hated Bedroom tax that it has chosen not to do. Many recent years have seen funding of the NHS increase in England whilst the Scottish government declined to do so.
Scotland like England and the rest of the U.K. has a wealth of natural resources but particularly oil. Separatists claim around 90% of the UK oil which is Scottish will finance their economy and make them a small but wealthy nation, this despite the fact that oil is forecast to run out in most oilfields in the North Sea by 2050 and even the present revenues have been going down in the last few years.
A large number of small business have claimed they have been unable to support the No campaign due to behind the scenes pressure from the Scottish government and their being told that speaking out would mean they would never win any contracts again. This week many of the largest and most respectable supermarkets and chain stores have said that Independence would mean markedly higher prices for Scottish consumers. Oil experts have said the SNP claims on oil wealth are nonsensical and major banks have said they are all in the process of planning on moving their headquarters from Scotland to London and yet in every case the SNP leader Alex Salmond disputes there very respected opinions. Most of which to me with a slightly more than basic knowledge of economics seem to be very much common-sense.
Much talk has been made of which currency Scotland will use if it becomes independent. Originally the separatists wanted to use the Euro but then that currency collapsed at the same time as Scottish banks did… in fact Scotland would have become bankrupt if it were independent just a few years ago.
So now they want to use the British Pound but of course the government in London won’t let them do so with any say on economic policy. Why would any English government do so, certainly the 3 main parties agree they wouldn’t and it is doubtful that having put up with hateful abuse for years that English voters would want to help out Scotland in any way.
Not to fear say the Nationalists, the English will change their mind and if they don’t then they will use the Pound anyway like Panama uses the American Dollar. Obviously Panama is famous for its economic power in Wall Street! With all due respects to Panama, do you want to be Panama or the United States? Or in this case Scotland or the United Kingdom.
There are huge gaps in the proposed incomes and social expenditures which the SNP proclaim. To most neutral people that study them, they just don’t make sense and are little more than lies and wishful thinking.
There is nothing wrong at all with being an independent country and being poorer in almost every way but at least the nationalists should say this.
The SNP say not to worry as they will almost immediately join the European Union, this despite the fact that many leading figures in the EU have said this is unlikely or even impossible given their entry would have to be approved by the other member nations including the U.K. and nations such as Spain with their own separatists which have already said they would veto such a move.
Of course sometimes people in parts of Scotland end up with a government that is not their preferred choice, it’s called Democracy. Their are plenty in Scotland who didn’t vote for the SNP either but that is what they got. And yes, your population of 5 million is dwarfed by the other 58 million in the U.K. so sometimes you might not get what you want but then who does? If Scotland did become independent then inevitably those in the countryside and remote towns and villages would have grievances against the big cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. I bet somewhere like Nebraska doesn’t have as much power as California or New York. At least being in the U.K. does give influence, a country with the population of a small East-European nation doesn’t really have any. That’s not to say Scotland isn’t important, it is vital to the U.K and losing it would be like losing a brother or even like a body losing an arm. Everything from Dr Who to the British Olympics teams to the military, culture and our many inventions (estimated at 44% of all inventions ever) are all intertwined because unity brings strength. Much of the world is jealous of institutions like the BBC, NHS, Royal Mail and millions every year risk their lives to cross the world to enter the U.K.
The United Kingdom is one of the very most stable, safe, prosperous and important nations in the world despite being quite tiny. We are the only land in the world not have been invaded for almost 1,000 years. Scotland together with England, Wales and (Northern) Ireland gave more to the world than perhaps any other, many good and a few bad but together as the United Kingdom. It would be a shame after all the adversaries we faced and on this the 100th anniversary of WW1 that the country we all know and love ends not from the many foreign threats we have faced through time but from a lying and disingenuous opportunist named Alex Salmond.
Like all the best politicians, he is a great orator but he is selling a pack of lines. At his recent press conference on Thursday it fell into shambles with 2 or 3 journalists asking him to actually answer the question put to him, something he resolutely fails to do in Parliament and on television but this was the most blatant example I have seen any politician do on any subject.
There have always been an element of anti-English in a small section of the Scottish population and a similar though usually smaller less viscous anti Scottish feeling in England… though obviously not enough to stop all those from Scotland living and working in England, particularly the London area. I’m not someone who doesn’t like Scotland, I love Scotland. Much of my family is Scottish, I love Scotland as much as I love England. I always support Scottish sports teams, I have even supported some above England on occasion. To me breaking up the Union makes absolutely no sense at all and I find it hard to believe that your almost genetically identical country folk south of the border are so bad that despite all the above, you have to leave us.
You can be Scottish and British, with all the advantages it gives just as you can be Texan and American or a Queenslander and Australian. There are some good reasons for Scotland to be independent but there are countless more to remain in the U.K..
Just this morning Deutsche Bank issued a statement that reads “INDEPENDENCE would threaten a major economic crisis for Scotland and be regarded in history as being as great a mistake as the decisions that led to the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is incomprehensible why anyone would want to exit a successful economic and political union with a G5 country – a union which another part of Europe so desperately seeks to emulate – to go it alone for the benefit of what exactly?”
It is always easier to vote Yes and get carried along in the mood of romantic change and harder to stand out and say No, actually things are actually pretty good as they are. For those Scottish readers who disagree then that is fine. I’m truly happy if you are voting Yes for the right reasons (I haven’t heard any yet) but as someone who loves their country, warts and all, be it England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in one United Kingdom then I can only say Vote No, we’re Better Together.
Vote No on September 18th