Looking back over five hectic years since the referendum, it’s surprising how little our lives have changed. Post gets collected from the same red boxes, the Beeb is where it always was on the dial and pensions get paid like clockwork. It’s at the macro/global level that most has changed. Interest rates did rise at first from uncertainty but Scots paying their £128bn share of the UK debt faster. This, together with capable financial stewardship and sharing the pound as a petrocurrency has us back on Aaa (same as the USA and Denmark).
Relations with England improved as soon as an unrepentant Cameron marginally won the 2015 election. England voted to leave the EU just after the Scots concluded negotiations to stay and cross-border business boomed. Threatening to chase their trawlers out of home waters was what persuaded the Spanish to withdraw their threatened veto. Scotland lobbied for 2017’s CFP review and an agreement with Iceland, which has eliminated discards, reviving both pelagic and demersal fisheries.
Despite committing to the Euro and Schengen, the Scots negotiated the logical opt-out from the latter to be consistent with England and Eire. Trains, cars and lorries still roll unimpeded through Berwick as they have always done. Closer links with Scandonavia have developed new ferry and air links (in part due to the removal of air passenger duty) and even membership of the Nordic Council. And, free of English immigration strictures, Scottish tourism and food and drink industries have both surged on the backs of new workers settling here.
While it took 15 years for Scotland to grow by 250,000, that has been repeated in five, giving a population of 5.5m This has added some £12bn to the economy and boosted government revenue by £2bn because the great majority of immigrants were of working age. Despite oil prices falling initially due to extensive fracking production in the States, the 2017 Whittier earthquake halted further development and prices have recovered to top $100 again.
The greatest problems emerged partitioning the British state. Leaving England heavy military hardware (aircraft carriers, heavy tanks, nuclear weapons, etc.) was easier but disentangling UK-loyal personnel had to rely on individual choice. Sharing HMRC, DVLA and embassies on a temporary basis needs a long-term solution as does HMNB Clyde once England decides if it can afford Trident.
Since deployed to post Assad/ISIS Syria, the Black Watch has used unorthodox ‘soft-cap’ engagement, combining kickabouts with no-nonsense policing. Scotland’s new membership of OPEC has given ‘back channels’ to the Arab world but Jocks from Lochee connect with Aleppo’s poor faster than Brits carrying baggage of Empire ever could.
Perhaps the greatest compliment to us so far has been the English Parliament introducing legislation based on our 2015 One Society Act (hammered out with Labour to support a minority SNP government) that is already done reversing the growth of inequalities suffered in the final years of Union.
(Printed as my Op Ed column this week in East Lothian Courier)