Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Scotland: Keep the best of both worlds and stay
I'm half Scottish but do not have a vote. I'm not alone, as C4's Jon Snow pointed out we could see the break up of the UK caused by just 2.5% of the population voting against it.
The debate has been incredibly depressing for the amount of misinformation coming from the likes of Alex Salmond and the SNP.
It's hard to take Salmond's accusation of the dirty politics of Westminster seriously given his behaviour. To business he promises low taxes while to the left wing higher spending, then his currency pledges are fantasies and oil forecasts unbelievable. Against those that question him there are bullying tactics to silence including personalising the debate and the squashing of reports in Holyrood's parliamentary committees.
There are real issues to address like the currency and EU to which Salmond et al's only reply is Scotland will be able to do what ever it wants despite these two issues being reliant on externals. Currency union with the pound is incredibly unlikely, ruled out by all concerned with a single voice, which leaves Scotland with the choices of having its own currency or using an external one (pound or Euro most likely) without political control.
In either case there would have to be a period of many years building up reserves and higher interest rates, at a time when North Sea oil is flagging and jobs would be heading south of the new border. There is a strong likelihood of austerity to the level of Greece with high unemployment - the complete opposite of the social agenda we hear so much of.
The attitude to the English has become borderline racist - at times crossing the line. If there is to be a divorce it will not be a clean one, and Scotland shouldn't feel it could avoid paying its share of the national debt without strong push back. The description of the pound as an asset rather than a financial instrument is again a sign of misleading statements.
It really doesn't seem like the right time to be increasing tribalism and reducing the ability to have flexibility of identity. To be part of the UK means you can be Scottish, English, Welsh, British or many other variants, including Glaswegian or Londoner. That flexibility, the openness is a true asset, and the venom aimed at the English by many Yes campaigners is truly worrying.
And is Westminster so horrific that its worth paying any price to get away? Seriously? When I travel round the world I return with a new outlook. In Italy, Spain and Greece there is really high unemployment and stagnant economies, France has flatlined, the US has political grid-lock and dominance of lobbyists, while others are totalitarian or corrupt or controlled by the military.
In the UK within days of election of a hung parliament we had a stable coalition, economic policies making the UK the fastest growing country in the G7, lower unemployment than Europe, free at point of access national health service and one of the highest levels of support for international aid and development. Yes there are flaws, things I disagree with, sometimes strongly, but that is democracy: each decision will leave some voters unhappy. In three of the four last elections Scotland has got the party it wanted in control in Westminster - that's a higher ratio than for many, including me! 100% of control and approval is unrealistic.
I hear much talk of Scotland being transformed into Denmark, but again there are rose tinted glasses on. Ask the Greenlanders about what they think of Denmark (as I did) and the answer is its a colonial occupier. And Copenhagen has much less diversity and openness than London. Then there's Sweden with the rise of the far right and bankrupt Iceland.
The yes debate seems flawed on so many levels. If the SNP said that there would be 10 years of hardship, unemployment, austerity etc. during which Scotland has its own (devaluing) currency followed by the option to join the EU we could have a proper debate, but the current argument is more fantasy than fact.
And the alternative is so positive. Scotland shares values, history and people with the rest of the UK, and devolution allows the best of both worlds.
Scotland is already a nation with its own parliament, legal system, flag, culture, sports teams etc but doesn't have to duplicate institutions such as embassies and can share the currency with proper political oversight.
I like the fact that the UK gives the flexibility to be Scottish, English, British and a Londoner. I like the fact that the wonderful highlands and islands are part of my country.
It would be tragic and highly destructive (in particular to Scotland) to end a union that brings so many benefits and gives Scotland the best of both worlds.
Please vote no.