Better Together? Aye, Right

Now that the independence debate has broken out of the ghetto of late-night-current-affairs  programmes and heated up and with the UK Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet weighing in—along with CEO’s of major Scottish companies—it’s a good time to look at the case being presented why Scotland would benefit from the rather unusual position of being run by another country, rather than joining the 200+ countries of the world who define their own destiny.

There is a whole page on the Better Together website labelled “The Positive Case”. We will assume it is not just a front for HM Treasury, keen to suck another £165,000,000,000 out of us to avoid more taxes. The “Case” is repeated here in full below (whether it is indeed positive we leave the reader to judge)—but adding a commentary of balancing statements. Better Together is hereby enjoined to disprove these disprovals.

“We love Scotland. We are ambitious for Scotland’s people and Scotland’s possibilities. Our case is not that Scotland could not survive as a separate country – it is that there’s a better choice for our future.

“A strong Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom gives us the best of both worlds: real decision making power here in Scotland, as well as a key role in a strong and secure UK. Now and in the future Scotland is stronger as part of the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom is stronger with Scotland as a partner.”

Billy Connolly called Holyrood “A pretendy parliament”. That is being a little harsh as it does control half of public disbursement in Scotland—but NONE of the revenue income. This is a weak setup if you want either efficiency or responsible accountability.

“In the UK the BBC and the Bank of England were founded by Scotsmen. The NHS was founded by a Welshman. The State Pension system was founded by an Englishman. Partners in these islands. Working together, better together.

“We are proud that we fought together to defeat fascism, and worked together to build a welfare state. But the case we make is about what’s best for Scotland’s future.

The same Scotsman who founded the Bank of England also led us into the Darien Disaster but no-one disputes the glorious history we have shared over hundreds of years. Canada, Australia and New Zealand fought fascism just as hard as we did but were independent. Where we do agree is that this is all “about what’s best for Scotland’s future“.

Prosperity

“Times are really tough at home and really turbulent internationally. In the future Scotland’s prosperity will be strengthened by keeping the British connection. We need more growth, more jobs, and more prosperity in Scotland. We don’t need uncertainty, instability, and barriers for our businesses.

Someone should tell that to UKIP and the Eurosceptic wing of the Tories, whose “Little-Englander” myopia that alienates European friends could be got shot of with independence.

“In these tough and turbulent times, the size, strength and stability of the UK economy is a huge advantage for Scotland’s businesses. Scotland’s largest market is the rest of the UK. The UK is the world’s oldest and most successful single market and the UK has the oldest and most successful currency – the pound.

“Scottish businesses are increasingly having to win orders against smart, efficient and productive firms in foreign markets. These competitive challenges will only get tougher in the years ahead. The UK is better placed than a separate Scotland or England to help our businesses find and win new orders across the world.

That business is tough is a surprise to no-one. £24.3bn in Scotland’s exports go to rUK while £32.4bn are imported. Of the £23.1bn exported outside UK, only £10.5bn go to Europe so far. Scotland balance of £47.4bn exports vs imports of £53.7bn give a trade balance of -£6.3bn. Growing exports and lowering trade imbalance is a desirable goal.

The equivalent figure for the UK is -£119bn (-£77bn with EU & -£42bn with RoW). Scotland’s per head imbalance is 2/3rds of England’s (£1,200 vs £1,889) and therefore more sustainable. Having direct influence on EU trade talks would offer a market of 500m people with 10 times the opportunity from staying in the UK. If being with ‘big Britain’ makes sense then being with bigger EU with our own voice makes ten times more sense.

Security

“In an uncertain world Scotland’s security will be strengthened as part of the United Kingdom. The British Armed Forces that protect us are the best in the world. In Scotland we are proud of the Forces and proud of the vital contribution that Scotland makes to them. As part of the UK we have real clout in the UN Security Council, NATO, the EU, and we have Embassies around the world.

Such ‘clout’ is delusional and displays a strange understanding of ‘protection’. The UK’s residual colonial tendencies have interfered in too many other countries from Senegal to Iraq to Afghanistan. Claiming a too-horrendous-to-be-used nuclear arsenal as a force for peace flies in the face of peaceful intent. The only part of Ireland to have been a blood bath since 1922 is the part the UK hung on to. In fact, Irish, Danish and Norwegian soldiers have won praise and friends around the globe by being peacekeepers—a force for good on request. None of those countries have suffered terrorist attacks.

More to the point, Scottish armed forces would resurrect Scottish regiments, giving them more appropriate support forces under a £2bn defence budget than the present depleted off-balance travesty (nearest ocean-going ship in Portsmouth), for which the MoD charges us twice as much: £4bn.

Interdependence

“As Scots we believe there’s nowhere better, but we understand there’s something bigger. By contributing to and benefiting from the multi-national, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural United Kingdom of the years ahead, Scotland’s society and culture will be enriched.

If the UK government were not slapping on immigration restraints to placate UKIP and their own small-minded backwoodsmen, Scotland might receive more of the infusion of new people it needs from England, Poland, etc that has boosted its economy. We are not full up; England sees the Channel as a moat. Scots are already a model of multiculturalism but London is ignoring our experience and fixating on pulling up drawbridges.

“Hundreds of thousands of Scots and English have made their homes in each other’s nation. Half of us have English neighbours.  Hundreds of thousands of Scots were born in England. This interdependence – the coming together of family, friends, ideas, institutions and identities – is a strength not a weakness, and is an ideal worth celebrating. The truth is we’re better together.”

We lose none of that with independence. We already share an open border with independent Eire—and have done for 92 years. There are 2 million Brits living happily all over Europe but outside of Britain. And if Better Together truly “are ambitious for Scotland’s people and Scotland’s possibilities” they might consider rewriting the whole piece looking to a future towards which we are all headed and not mired in nostalgia for our shared past.

We all prosper from friendly relations with neighbours; it is desperate stuff to scaremonger about barriers at Berwick when there are none at Dundalk or, for that matter, none at Baarle-Hertog.

Belgian/Dutch border at Baarle-Hertog bisects a café.

Belgian/Dutch border at Baarle-Hertog bisects a café.

“Our case is that Scotland is stronger now and will be stronger in the future – economically, politically, and socially – as a partner in the United Kingdom.”

Scots do want to be England’s partner and close friend. But, for that to work in the way Better Together claims, London needs to get out of the habit of light-fingering our resources and running Scotland as if it were just another one of its provinces.

About davidsberry

Local councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Stood for the Scottish Parliament 2011; lost by 151 votes.
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