Let me nail my colours to the mast. I’m not Scottish, but I’m in favour of the union. I’m diverting slightly from my usual tack by posting about something that will be out of date in a few months. But the overriding sentiment is to point out how I see this as quite possibly the most ill-thought-out political manouvre since Baldrick first uttered the words “My Lord, I have a cunning plan”.
Don’t get me wrong. Part of me wishes they would vote ‘yes’ and take their bloody whining with them. I’m sick of hearing how rough a deal they think they get with respect to their perceived junior position within the union, while they get a great deal on student fees and free prescriptions.
A ‘yes’ vote would be politically interesting, for sure. I’d watch, with great interest, how they untangled themselves from the baggage-laden marriage to the rest of the UK. Our flag would have to change of course and new designs have already been mooted. At the sober end of the scale, we simply have the Union Flag with the blue removed. At the other end of the scale we have more migraine-inducing confusions that seem more at home in Dr. Who’s wardrobe than on a flagpole.
So, apart from looking kind of clownish on a piece of cloth, what else is wrong with going for a split?
They want to keep the pound. Sorry. No. If you’re going to bugger off, you’re going to bugger off. You can’t get a divorce but continue to pop over to watch the telly. If you want to leave, you have to make it a clean break. But this part of the proposal (no pun intended) seems to have been glossed over. Since the Queen would, I’m assuming, cease to be Head of State, you can’t continue to have her head on the currency. I admit I just assumed that, so I’m open to correction if I’m wrong. But still, if you’re an independent country, you can’t continue to use a currency that could affect the economy of someone else’s country (ours). So Scotland wouldn’t have a currency. Where is it going to get one from? Thin air? Trees?
We’ll have to give them their share of the national debt. Good for us. Bad for them. They want to keep their share of resources (oil, gas) as well as shipbuilding, so they have to take the rough with the smooth. If they want out, they have to take some of the debt with them. Assuming they won’t have a currency with which to pay it off, this might be something of a problem. Of course, they could borrow money from someone (might be us), but this would be a loan. Loans have interest. That would add to whatever debt they inherit and that part of the debt would be completely theirs. What would their credit rating be? Anyone fancy buying a Scottish Government Bond?
Not all of the Scots get to vote. I consider this to be unfair. At least let the Scots who are anywhere in the UK vote. Think of what could happen to them if Scotland does become independent. They’ll suddenly be displaced, wherever they may be, without passports. And since they won’t have a currency with which to buy new passports (or even print them), they’ll be without valid documentation in a foreign land. Will this make them illegal immigrants? Do we put them in detention centres and deport them? Okay, I’ll admit I got a bit carried away there. But I’m just trying to hammer home the idea that the consequences of independence haven’t been thought out enough to be having such a significant vote so soon. (Although, privately, I wonder whether my St. Andrews degree will be affected. Probably okay there).
Scotland seems to assume they would be a member of the EU. How is that going to happen? Clearly (at least clearly to me) the idea here is to get the Euro as the currency if they can’t have Sterling, thereby having a ‘currency plan B’. But an independent Scotland would need to apply to the EU as a separate country. From the EU’s point of view, this must look like a singularly bad investment. The EU will see a penniless country with a disproportionate debt that it has next to no hope of paying off, probably expecting the rest of the EU to prop it up. <cough>Greece</cough> <cough>Ireland</cough>
Of course, if the EU does agree to prop them up, that means the existing member states will be called upon to do so. That would include us, meaning we’ll be helping to pay the very share of the debt we privately agreed was theirs to pay. Bad for us. I must make a mental note to rethink my understanding of the word ‘irony’ when I next have a free moment.
Mind you, this might not be a problem if Scottish independence causes us to get ejected from the EU (because, technically, a smaller UK would be a different country and might have to reapply, itself). And since a sizeable portion of the population wants out of the EU anyway, we might not bother.
Actually, that last paragraph caused me to wonder – if Scotland leaves, the United Kingdom won’t exactly be united any more. Does that mean we won’t be able to call ourselves the UK? Will we simply become the K?
I guess this could shortly become a very interesting time in the history of the union. Of course it could be as forgotten as the vote on proportional representation. Or it could be the start of a new chapter entirely. But hopefully I’ve made it clear, admittedly in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, that breaking up the union requires a fair bit of planning and agreement. It might be better to leave things as they are. It would be simpler and far cheaper. Not that I advocate one should hang around in an unhealthy relationship. But who’s saying this relationship is unhealthy? Last time I checked, this union was just fine. If anything, Scotland is getting a pretty good deal. I’m open to arguments as to why it’s not, but I can’t see them myself. This is just about one politician who wants to hold a referendum. But I really don’t think he’s thought this one through.