Scotch Salmond

The title is in the imperative mood.

I was once a member of the SNP (in 1975, shortly after I first got the vote, and lived in Scotland). The English attitude, always conflating “England” and “Britain” was as condescending and irritating then as it is now.

These days I identify first and foremost as a Londoner with English heritage. I have family links to Scotland and love it dearly, and despite my youthful aspirations I now fervently hope that Scots will vote no in September.

But I’m still not sure that were I living in Scotland I would do so. Independence is an appealing prospect. A Nordic Scotland, fat on oil wealth, pursuing its own destiny free of the Tory lairds….

Let’s start with the non-arguments against independence, and dismiss them. First, the pound. If England doesn’t want a currency union, there’s no way Scotland can make it join one; and for lots of political reasons England doesn’t. But that doesn’t matter. Scotland could do what Ireland did from 1928 to 1979: shadow sterling with its own pound pegged at parity to sterling. It would constrain Scots fiscal policy just as tightly as a currency union and create no problems for the banks – who would behave as if there were a currency union. The only overhead is that Scotland would need actively to manage its currency, and its fiscal policy, and its balance of payments, to maintain parity. In a currency union, it would need to do the same, differently.

Second, the EU. Mr Barroso is in danger of sounding like a travelling Scot – which is to say, repetitive. He is almost certainly wrong.Whether Scotland could inherit its share of UK membership is an issue that will probably be decided by the European courts – and it seems to me that the arguments, which I won’t rehearse, favour Scotland. In any case, the EU needs a solution to the problem of secession by regions of its member states. Would Mr Barroso be making such a fuss if Czechoslovakia split after its accession rather than ten years earlier? Of course not; the EU would have bent over backwards to keep both the Czech Republic and Slovakia in. It is also, of course, just as arguable that the UK’s membership should also stop, because it will be a different nation (The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland) rather than The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland which joined in 1973. Barroso has his political agenda, but I think the law, practicality and the politics are against him.

So, two non-arguments filling the headlines dismissed.

As a Londoner, I desperately want Scotland to stay in the UK because of the electoral arithmetic; the reactionary conservatism of most of my countrymen isn’t shared by most of us in London. But that’s a good argument for Scottish independence, because Scots will never again be subject to English Tory laws like the poll tax. No, we few English progressives shouldn’t have to rely on Scots support; we must make our own case and win it.

So why would I, eventually, vote “No” – were I to live in Scotland? Because I think that there are better ways to build a better Scotland than creating a new nation state.

Nation states have had their day, and small nations are mice for big cat corporations to toy with . Ireland is in hock to Apple and Amazon; Scotland will be in hock to Donald Trump and BP, which will become its paymaster.

There are three politicians of the present generation who outshine the rest. They are Alex Salmond, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. Their talent and their appeal is obvious, but we should always beware the smooth-talking demagogues. Independence gives Salmond and his friends an even shinier new toy to play with. But these demagogues will quail against the corporations; to deal with these big cats of the modern world you need powerful nations with powerful legal systems and a strong civil service.

Scotland as a place, as an idea, as a nation, will fare better without the political constructs of independence. Independence can’t bring the freedom that Scots want and deserve; the liberty that goes with it is a chimaera. But a newly-confident Scotland, enjoying the fruits of devo-max which will be the inevitable result of a No, can forge a new nation without the bonds of statehood, and so can we Londoners. In fact we’re already doing it, but that’s another story.


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