Our friends in the north, Scotland, are about to vote. According to preliminary polls, approximately half of the population believes that Scotland – population 5 million, biggest export whiskey – is large enough, important enough and influential enough to stand solo on the world stage. To put the magnitude of this belief into context, it’s a claim never made by England, by far the largest constituent country of the UK (population 53 million). Or any of the country-unto-themselves United States, like Texas. Or countries with far more geographical, political, cultural, racial and ideological reason to want to split away from the Motherland, like New Zealand.
It’s enough to make one wonder, why?
The Scots are a proud people with a rich cultural heritage. I respect that. So does everyone else in the UK. So does everyone in the world. No one, anywhere, I don’t think, is trying to dilute let alone obliterate Scotland’s Scottishness. Certainly no one in the UK, where we’re frankly quite fond of the place. And that won’t alter, regardless of whether Scotland is part of the United Kingdom or not. It’s not an argument for or against independence.
Scotland also has a history of warring with England, and there is some residual dissatisfaction that the countries were united 300 years ago. Well you know what, Scotland – get over it. England has a history of warring with Scandinavia. And France. And Italy. And Wales. We’re not interested in that any more. It’s a history of war. That means, literally, that it’s o-v-a-h over. Braveheart might have felt he had a legitimate beef with England; the average young professional living in Glasgow today really seriously doesn’t. It’s a bit boring now.
But Scotland’s main arguments for independence are geopolitical ones. Scotland claims to be a Labour voting country, which thanks to its being lumped in with the much more Conservative England has often had to endure rule by a Conservative government. Scotland also claims to have vast energy resources that it’s unhappy having to share with the rest of the UK. Scotland for the Scots, rah rah. Interesting. Let’s discuss.
If you look at the political map of the UK, England does identify predominantly as Conservative; of course there have been plenty of Labour governments elected over time despite this. What’s also clear is that Scotland identifies predominantly as Liberal Democrat. Er, Scotland – we currently have a coalition government involving the Lib Dems. Which I think means this is the closest Scotland has ever got to the government it wants as a nation. Sorry, what was your point again?
Glasgow and Edinburgh identify as Labour, but they only make up about 20 per cent of the country’s population. Surely you’re not suggesting that the preference of Scotland’s south should dictate the politics of the whole country? Isn’t that a little bit like the preference of the UK’s south affecting the rest of the UK…? Just saying.
As to resources… The last I heard, Scotland has vast untapped oil reserves that no one knows about except apparently the Scottish guy I know on Facebook who mentioned it and all of his mates. Official data suggests Scotland’s oil reserves are already on the decline and will be all but depleted in 25 years’ time. The truth is probably somewhere in between, but the reality isn’t all that different: there’s enough oil to keep this generation happy, but your kids are a bit fucked. Nice.
But really, from this impartial outsider’s view, whether or not Scotland should vote for independence all boils down to currency. “Funnyman” Russell Brand recently suggested this was an issue about whose face was on the bank notes – and the same Facefriend I mentioned above actually quoted his typically ill-considered and provocative remarks as a pro-independence argument. That’s not even slightly the issue! The pound is a pretty strong currency. A vote for independence dooms Scotland to joining the Euro, a currency that for years has been at worst unstable and at best stagnant. Even the established European superpowers of France and Germany are currently in economic turmoil. Note the pound is wavering in world markets in the run up to the referendum. Note that the Euro is not simultaneously rallying in excitement at the prospect of Scotland joining the party.
There is one alternative to the Euro – Scotland could invent its own currency. But as not even the hardest pro-independence lobbyists think that’s an awesome idea, let’s just put that one quietly to bed. Shh. Walk away. Nothing to see here.
Russell Brand also suggested your mortgages would immediately be assumed by someone called Abdul. If Abdul is a banker in the City of London, maybe. Any financial dealings with a British bank would automatically become financial dealings with a foreign bank. Because England would be a foreign country. Take independence out of the equation, and how many of you would choose to move your money – your security now and in the future, and the security of your dependants – to a foreign country? More than 50 per cent…?
Also, when it comes to money, surely you want to look at what the financial sector is saying and doing. After all, money is their specialist subject. And what most of them are saying is that if Scotland votes for independence, they’ll leave Scotland. You don’t need to understand currency and markets all that well at all to know that that’s not a good sign.
Voting to join the Euro just so you could say screw you to the English would be like shooting yourself in the foot. And then the other foot, and then both arms, and then your head.
Our actions now don’t just affect our generation, but our children and our children’s children and many generations to come. Voting for independence may well give the young wealthy Scots of today an enhanced sense of national pride, but their retiring parents and their future children might well not thank them for it. Unless my Facefriend is right, of course, and there’s a never-ending supply of oil just waiting to be discovered the day after you vote for independence. But just to be clear, he’s quite fond of Scotland’s biggest export. And when it comes to Scottish independence, he quotes Russell Brand as an expert.
Government at a local level should be local; that’s how it works in every nation around the world. If Scotland’s government has been unduly restricted by the national government of the UK, then that’s worth correcting. No one wants that, for themselves or for anyone else. But that’s what devolution is about – giving more political freedom at the local level. And that’s what you’ve got. If it’s not working well enough, (bag)pipe up by all means and let’s sort it out. But Scotland isn’t big, and national independence isn’t clever.
Good luck on Thursday. It’s the 21st century. No one’s wants to stifle your national growth. And we genuinely hope you don’t end up stifling your own.