Saturday 31 May 2014

Would independence really help those living in poverty?

Like many Scots I was struck by the SNP poster depicting a little girl with scuffed shoes, dirty legs and a tattered skirt. The slogan ran “Let’s become independent, before 100,000 more children are living in poverty”.

The first thing that struck me was that no political party in Britain wants children to live in poverty, but that we have different ideas of how to make people in Britain better off. Some people think that raising taxes and public spending is the answer, while others think that focusing on policies that will lead to economic growth will benefit everyone. Most people nowadays, whether they are more or less left of centre or right of centre, accept that the key to prosperity and ending poverty is economic growth. There are differing viewpoints on how large the state share of GDP should be, but it’s a matter of degree. Some people on the right think it should ideally be around 30%, but accept that getting it down to the low 40s is more realistic, while some people on the left think it should be rather higher. But the amount you can vary this figure either up or down is limited without the risk of doing damage to the economy and anyway it can only happen slowly.  Once you get much above 50% it begins to seriously affect the economy’s capacity for growth. This in essence is the problem that M. Hollande faces together with the recessionary effect of being in a fixed exchange regime when France needs gradual currency devaluation. What this all means is that most politics is a lot of sound and fury about not very much.  There is a balance between economic growth and public spending. Lowering the state share of GDP will help growth, but potentially damage things we want governments to spend money on. For this reason, all political parties are really only debating about a couple of percentage points of state spending of GDP, somewhere in the low to mid-40s.

But the SNP claim that life would be different in an independent Scotland and that we could have a Scandinavian style economy which would eradicate poverty. Well let’s imagine that an independent Scotland raised public spending to the mid-50s % of GDP like Denmark or Finland? I strongly suspect this would damage economic growth in Scotland, but accept that we may suddenly turn into Finns and Danes who for some reason seem happy to work hard and not take advantage of their incredibly generous welfare state. If you think likewise, by all means vote for independence. But be aware you could equally end up like France. But anyway let’s imagine an independent Scotland following more or less Scandinavian socialist economic policies, while the UK follows free market capitalism. How would it be possible to maintain a currency union between such divergent economies? What would happen to the UK single market of goods and services on which 70% of Scotland’s trade depends? In reality if you want to maintain anything like the present economic relation between Scotland and the other parts of the UK it would be necessary to follow a broadly similar economic policy. So the scope for change in an independent Scotland is limited at best. Again we’re talking about those one or two percentage points of GDP.

What is poverty and how do you attempt to help people not to live in poverty? Well firstly it’s important to realise that in the UK poverty is defined as 60% of average income. Well average earnings in the UK are £26,500 so anyone earning less than £15,900 is living in poverty. Well there are a number of ways in which it would be possible to add 100,000 poor people to Scotland. One way would be if we had economic growth such that average earnings went up to £30,000 a year while the rate of increase for the poorer people was somewhat lower. Thus if I was earning £17,000 pounds a year I would now be poorer than if I had been earning £16,000 pounds earlier, for the poverty line would now be £18,000.

In Poland average earnings are rather less than Scotland. Many people earn only around £6000 pounds a year. What this means is that someone earning £12,000 pounds a year in Poland who moved to Scotland in order to earn £15,000 would be moving from wealth to poverty. Why would so many people want to do that? It’s fairly obvious that are making calculations about poverty in a different way.

We all know that there are people who live in real need in Scotland. But it is important to put this into perspective. Even by European standards there are far fewer genuinely poor people in Scotland than there are in Eastern Europe. I’ve walked down streets in provincial Russia where old ladies sell a few bulbs of garlic, where average earnings are £200 pounds a month and where there is no unemployment benefit whatsoever.  That is what poverty looks like and Russia is wealthy compared to most of the world.  

The concept of relative poverty is not really a measure of poverty at all. It’s a measure of inequality. Thus if everyone in Scotland earned £10,000 pounds a year and there was no variation in salary whatsoever we would have eradicated poverty in Scotland. Is that how the SNP want to help poor people after independence?

What matters is not so much relative poverty as the ability of poor people to buy the things that they want and to have a standard of living that enables them to eat well and enjoy the good things in life.  The best way to achieve this goal is for governments to have policies that lead to economic growth. With economic growth everyone benefits, both the rich and the poor. It's something of a paradox, but if through cutting the state share of GDP you raise economic growth beyond what it would have been, the poor will certainly benefit, not least because as the economy grows the share of resources dedicated to alleviating poverty will increase in value. The austerity of the past few years has been unpleasant for many, but it has worked. If we had failed to take the necessary steps towards prosperity, the economy would have continued to shrink which would have made everyone including the poor, poorer. The UK economy has low inflation and a good level of growth. We are very lucky indeed compared to France, Spain, Italy and many other European countries. We also made better choices than they made. There are challenges ahead and recovery is not yet completely secure.  But when a patient is beginning to rise from the sick bed you don’t amputate one of his legs. You certainly don’t do that if you live in that leg and hope to help the poor who live there with you. 

Saturday 24 May 2014

Independence movements like UKIP and the SNP are enemies of the EU project

Like many Scots I have mixed feelings about the EU, I’ve even in the past been somewhat sympathetic to some of the Eurosceptic arguments. I’m becoming more and more in favour of the EU however, and this has most to do with my reflecting on the arguments for and against Scottish independence.

What do I like about the EU? Well I like the fact that I am able to live and work in any EU country. I used to work at the University of Copenhagen. I sometimes wonder if it might not be nice to retire to one of the Canary Islands or Portugal. I rather like the fact that there’s passport free travel in the Schengen zone and on the whole wish that the UK was a part of this. It would make life easier for my Russian husband. It’s much easier to be able to use the same money in Spain and Germany.  The thing I like most about the EU however is the single market. This is the major achievement of EU integration. The fact that we have access to European labour markets is one of the main reasons why the UK economy is doing so well just now. People complaining about Poles coming here to work understand nothing about economics.

What don’t I like about the EU? Fundamentally I don’t like the fact that power rests with unelected officials or the European Commission. I don’t like the fact that unelected people, whether they be civil servants or judges, can tell democratically elected politicians what to do.  I don’t like the way the EU seems constantly to try to make everyone follow the same rules. Some of this is necessary no doubt, but some is petty and pointless. The thing I like least about the EU is their attempt to have monetary union without a political, fiscal and transfer union. For all the convenience for tourists like me it has been a disaster especially for southern Europe.

What sort of Europe would I like to see? I suspect that many people in Scotland would like to see an EU like the one we voted for all those years ago, a trading block of sovereign independent states. But this is not on offer, and really we’ve been kidding ourselves if we thought that it was ever on offer. It is even less on offer now. The structural problems in the Eurozone can be solved only by breakup or by much closer integration. There may have been a time when large, sovereign, independent states could maintain a currency union without a political, fiscal and transfer union, but that time has clearly passed. There may be any number of reasons for this. Perhaps the sheer speed of modern currency transactions and the way markets work today makes such currency unions undesirable. Really the reasons don’t matter. The Eurozone is an experiment in currency union without political union and the experiment has failed. This is one of the main reasons why Quebec has pretty much recognised that independence is off the agenda. They know that the rest of Canada would never agree to a currency union. It would be crazy for them to do so.

The breakup of the Eurozone could turn into a catastrophe that would make 2008 look like a blip. But anyway if the Eurozone were going to breakup, it would have done so by now. The EU then is going to move towards becoming a single nation state a United States of Europe (USE). It has no choice. It has been moving towards this goal anyway from the beginning. What I hope is that this USE comes to resemble the USA. The USA has a democratically elected president and bicameral parliament. Each state in the Union has considerable devolved power, but is neither independent nor sovereign. If that model existed in the EU, I would grab it with both hands. I would also recommend that the UK join such a USE. It would be stupid not to. I strongly suspect over the next 20 or 30 years that this will be the choice for semi-detached countries like the UK or Denmark. The choice will be between remaining an independent nation state and remaining in the EU.

In the 60s the French blocked the UK from joining the EU, correctly fearing that we would act as a hindrance to EU integration. Countries that focus too much on their independence and their sovereignty are always going to act as a block to the EU project. But they cannot possibly allow this now. Too much is at stake. Eventually for the Eurozone to work, each nation state will have to forget that it is independent and treat everyone in Europe as if they were a fellow citizen. Thus wealthy Germans are going to have to be willing to transfer money to impoverished Spaniards in exactly the same way that they transferred money from West Germany to East Germany.  If that doesn’t happen and happen rather soon the impoverished parts of Europe, including France, will not sit idly while they endure permanent recession and austerity. They will break the Eurozone no matter what the cost.

It should be obvious now that the slogan “independence in Europe” is at best a misunderstanding at worst a lie.  If Europe becomes the USE we would have a devolved parliament in Edinburgh and we would vote hopefully for a democratic president and parliament in Brussels. But we would not be independent, for sovereignty would be in Brussels, just as sovereignty in the USA is in Washington. Fundamentally this is no different from what we have now. We have devolution and we are going to get more of it if we vote no. Sovereignty, beyond mere flag waving, in the end is not on the agenda no matter which way we vote in the referendum. It’s becoming an archaic concept.

There are huge advantages of being in a union of states. The USA has such economies of scale that it would be wealthy even if it only traded with itself. A democratic union of states in the EU would likewise be massively advantageous economically and socially. It would bring living standards in southern Europe up to those in northern Europe. But the price that has to be paid for this is that the various parts of Europe give up nationalism. If you can’t work successfully in a four nation state like the UK how do you suppose you’re going to work in a 28 or more member state like the USE. If the Scots and the English cannot bear to live together in one nation state, how are we to live together with the peoples of Europe in one nation state? If you’re unwilling to transfer your wealth around the UK, what are you going to say when told that you must transfer it to Portugal or Greece? Nationalism is the enemy of EU integration. So long as people focus on resurrecting historical borders, they will not be looking towards a future when such borders are no more. People who understand the European project realise that it is not only unnecessary for a place like Bavaria to seek the independence it lost in 1871, it would also be futile and self-defeating. Secession is the opposite of what is required and for this reason, if for no other; the EU would look on an independent Scotland’s application with distaste as something unhelpful and not to be encouraged.

Scottish nationalists who really want independence as opposed to merely creating a border between Scotland and England realise that real independence is incompatible with EU membership. It is for this reason that many of them are just as much Eurosceptics as UKIP. This position at least has the virtue of being consistent and logical, but it ignores the merits of countries pooling their sovereignty and working together. The process by which the UK came together all those centuries ago is precisely the example that the EU needs to become a successful nation state. There too former enemies are putting aside their differences and finding what they have in common and pooling their sovereignty to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. They must find our focus on refighting medieval battles rather quaint. 

Saturday 17 May 2014

Scotland does not need independence to be a country

While debating with independence supporters I frequently come across confusion about words like “country” and “nation”. The confusion arises from the fact that words are frequently used in different senses. As always it is profitable to go to our most authoritative dictionary in order to seek clarity. An entry in the Oxford English dictionary for the word “country” is particularly useful:

“The territory or land of a nation; usually an independent state, or a region once independent and still distinct in race, language, institutions, or historical memories, as England, Scotland, and Ireland, in the United Kingdom, etc.
With political changes, what were originally distinct countries have become provinces or districts of one country, and vice versa; the modern tendency being to identify the term with the existing political condition.”

Scotland is a country, but in an unusual sense, because while most countries are independent nation states Scotland is part of an independent nation state, the UK.  The referendum on independence is about whether Scotland ought to become a nation state. You clearly cannot become what you already are.

When pointing out that Scotland is a country in an unusual sense am I in any sense being derogatory about Scotland? Not at all I’m simply pointing out that although we are fully and completely a country, we are not an independent country. It is not derogatory to point out something that independence supporters obviously recognise to be true.

The reason why Scotland is described as a country is because we once were an independent country and this fact has been retained in our collective memory and language. Certain other attributes that frequently go along with being an independent country were also retained, such as a distinct church, education system, football team and banknotes. Whereas some European countries became very centralised and attempted to abolish the distinctions between the formerly independent countries from which they were formed, we in the UK were fortunate to live in a country that was largely accepting of difference and happy to embrace it. Whereas governments in, for example, France did their best to make everyone French, following exactly the same laws and speaking exactly the same language, the UK was more liberal and more willing to allow historical distinctions to remain.  British governments did not set out to erase from the map and from memory the historical borders in the UK as happened in much of Europe. Thus the retention of the distinctions between the countries of this UK, far from this being a reason to leave Britain, is a reason to recognise the benefits of staying.

Scotland is accurately described as a country because we were once independent, but formerly independent countries are not hard to find in Europe and thus have an equal claim to seeking independence as Scotland does. The kingdoms of Bavaria and Sicily were independent nation states long after Scotland ceased to be independent and could equally accurately be described as countries or nations if that is how the people living there chose to use their language.  Moreover Scotland too was once made up of independent countries. The Kingdom of Strathclyde (450 AD-1093 AD) stretched across the present border into Cumbria. The Kingdom of Dál Riata (circa 500 AD-839 AD) stretched across the sea into present day Northern Ireland. The Kingdom of Northumbria (653 AD-954 AD) likewise stretched across a present day border all the way from Edinburgh to York. Each of these formerly independent countries has as great a claim to independence as does Scotland (843 AD-1707). It is entirely arbitrary to pick one historical boundary rather than another.
Too many nationalists glide from the idea that Scotland is a country to the statement that we ought to be an independent country. But this clearly does not follow. If it did, then anywhere that once was independent ought to be so again, which would mean that we should not be seeking independence for Scotland, but for those former countries that once made up Scotland. It is purely an accident of history and linguistics that we don’t generally describe Strathclyde as a country. You cannot base a claim to independence on something so flimsy; otherwise I might as well justify the independence of Fife on the grounds that it is called a Kingdom.

Through the progression of history the United Kingdom has become a nation state. People who are from that nation state are called British. The borders of the UK came about through a process of unification, but so did the borders of Scotland, so did the borders of nearly every European country that is not tiny. There is as much justification to oppose the process by which the UK came together as to oppose the process by which Scotland came together. It was the same process and is common to most of Europe. Scotland united with England because we shared the same island and came to share the same language. This process didn’t happen overnight in 1707, but rather began with the process by which Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Normans and Romans gradually changed the whole of Ancient Britain from being a Celtic speaking land to being an English speaking nation. To regret that process, is to regret the very language with which we speak and the people who we are.

There is a Kantian principle in ethics that I rather like:
“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.”

If Scotland should be independent because we once were, then this must be applied universally. But this would mean that everywhere in Europe that once was independent should be so again. The point of Kant’s law is that people should ask themselves “What if everyone did this?” If the answer would be undesirable generally, then I ought not to act that way myself. But does anyone seriously think it would be beneficial for Europe to return to a collection of tiny states? Historical progress has come about through unification not through separation. If that were not so, we would remain warring tribes in the Dark ages. The EU is attempting to take that progress further by gradually unifying Europe still more closely. There are great challenges ahead to create a fully democratic EU, but we are not going to get anywhere if we go against the tide of history. 

Saturday 10 May 2014

On the difference between a Scottish and British identity

For many people living in Scotland the statement “I’m Scottish” is straightforward and clear cut.  Some Scots maintain that this is their only identity and reject the idea that they are British. Many other Scots are willing to accept that they are both Scottish and British. There is probably a correlation between people who think of themselves as exclusively Scottish and people who intend to vote “Yes” in the independence referendum. But there are, no doubt, also some Scots who feel exclusively Scottish who recognise the benefits of Scotland remaining in the UK. After all, a person doesn’t have to feel particularly European in order to recognise the benefits of the EU. Likewise there will be some Scots who feel partly British who don’t wish Scotland to remain in the UK. Perhaps even Alex Salmond may be one of them.

Identity is a complex matter even for those of us who were born in Scotland and have lived here all our lives. But imagine how much more complex it must be for someone who arrived here from somewhere else relatively recently.  I was thinking about this recently when I came across a comment from someone with an Asian background who found it easier to describe himself as British rather than Scottish. Without doubt there are many people of Asian descent who are happy to describe themselves as English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish. It’s perfectly reasonable that they should do so. But it’s quite clear that some people who are descended from those who arrived from overseas find it easier to describe themselves as British. Why should this be so? What does it mean to say I am British? Fundamentally it means that I am a British citizen.  The word for people who come from the nation state called the UK is “British” as “United Kingdomer” never took off. It’s for this reason that it always struck me as odd for a Scot to say “I’m not British” as if he was unaware of the nation state where he lived. If you have a UK passport you are by definition British in the same way that if you have a passport from Germany you are a German.  It would be absurd for such a person to say I’m a Saxon; I’m not a German, even if he was in favour of independence for Saxony.

But let’s look at the difference between having a Scottish identity and having a British identity. If a Scot goes to live in England he would usually continue still to think of himself as Scottish. Often his children would continue to think of themselves as Scots even if they were born in England. We tend to use words like “English” and “Scottish” to describe where we were born and who are parents are. Someone may have moved to Scotland from England when he was a small child and lived in Scotland all his adult life, but many Scots would still think of him as English, either because his accent was English, or because of where he was born, or because of where his parents were born. The person who moved to Scotland as a small child may agree or disagree with this assessment, but even if he felt partly Scottish he would be unlikely to feel it in quite the same way as someone who can trace his ancestry back to a clan living amongst the mist and the heather, wearing plaid and speaking Gaelic.  We tend even if unconsciously to associate Scottishness or Englishness with where a person was born and bred, while Britishness is more a matter of citizenship. I think it’s for this reason that some people who were not born and bred in Scotland often prefer to describe themselves as British.

We are lucky that Scotland is a reasonably tolerant country. Both sides of the independence debate are committed to a multicultural Scotland. I’ve long maintained that the SNP deserve great credit for making it clear that Scottish citizenship would be open to anyone and everyone who is a British citizen living in Scotland today. It is this that makes them civic nationalists. However if Scotland did become independent, what would happen to the identity of those who on the census form feel unable to tick a box which includes the word Scottish, but prefer to tick a box with the word British? There must be many people living in Scotland who think of themselves as, for example, Asian British who must be wondering what would happen to my identity in an independent Scotland, who must be concerned about the hostility with which some independence supporters use the word “British”.

At the moment Scottish identity is a little bit too exclusive. It’s important that people living in Scotland must be made to feel that they can be Scottish even if they were not born and bred here. If Scotland becomes an independent country, then Scottishness must be as inclusive as possible. Come to think of it, if Scotland remains part of the UK it would be better if Scottishness could become as inclusive as possible. But whatever happens in the referendum it will take time to make Scottishness a more inclusive identity and acceptance from everyone born and bred here that our identity is for everyone who shares our country. Until then I suspect many people from elsewhere will continue to find Britishness the more inclusive identity.

My feeling of Britishness is because I think of my nation state as the UK. It has nothing whatsoever to do with geography. When someone from Northern Ireland says “I’m British” he is describing his identity and his citizenship, he is not mistakenly supposing that he lives on the island of Great Britain. Meaning is use and no one, but a few nationalists, I think rather insincerely, use the word “British” geographically and no one really thinks such usage would survive independence.

My feeling of Scottishness is different, because although I think of Scotland as my country and my nation, I don’t think of it as my nation state. I don’t want Scotland to become my nation state, because I’m happy for it to remain my nation. Scotland being my nation is not worse than it being my nation state, it’s not inferior but it is different.  Indeed if Scotland became a nation state I would regret the loss of my nation. I would regret the loss of the Scotland I have always known. 

Saturday 3 May 2014

Independence and the choice about citizenship

My Russian husband (Petr) was granted leave to remain this week. For complicated reasons I had to keep my maiden name and anyway his surname is scarcely pronounceable. We travelled all the way down to Glasgow, sat around for a few hours in an office in Govan and then came all the way back again. But it was a great relief for him to get his permanent residency. It was only later on the way back that we reflected on the conversation that took place when they said that his application had been successful. We were told that his residency was permanent so long as he didn't live outside of the UK for more than two years and that he could apply for UK citizenship in a year, but that this would mean him having to give up his Russian passport. He asked me what would happen if Scotland became independent. I told him I simply did not know. He hadn't taken much interest in the referendum on the whole, though he had read a few of my articles, checking over grammar and punctuation. At first he kept telling me that there was no chance that Scotland would vote yes and that I was wasting my time worrying about something that wasn't going to happen. But lately as polls have been narrowing, he’s begun asking me more frequently about the referendum. 

I know that our situation is relatively unusual and I don't expect any particular sympathy for a problem that is not shared by many other Scots, but we both have begun to realise that independence might mean that we would have to leave Scotland. My husband has leave to remain in the UK, but if Scotland were not in the UK he would not have leave to remain in Scotland. It might be possible for him to obtain leave to remain in Scotland, but would that mean having to go through this exhaustive and expensive process all over again? Moreover would I have to be a Scottish citizen in order for my husband to be granted leave to remain? The problem is that I already have a passport and I neither want nor need another. It strikes me as morally a little dubious to campaign for the continuance of the UK and then to obtain a Scottish passport. I'm not saying that I would definitely not accept one. We'll have to await events. But I feel it is more consistent and anyway I prefer to keep only the one that I have. This might make me a foreigner in the land of my birth, but I feel that I would rather live this way if Scotland becomes independent. 

The problem anyway is that if Petr lives for two years in an independent Scotland he would lose his right to remain in the UK. If that were going to happen, we would probably have to move. There may be ways for us to remain in Scotland. We both work here in higher education and it is probable that a future Scottish Government would look favourably on cases such as ours, but there is a worrying uncertainty, just as we thought everything was settled.

The problem of citizenship though is quite tricky, not merely for people with Russian husbands. The expectation is that everyone who is now a British citizen in Scotland would have the right to retain that citizenship in the event of Scottish independence. This means that Scots who chose to have Scottish passports could also keep their British passports. This right would also be passed onto their children, though not to their grandchildren. Grandchildren seem a long way away, but it's worth remembering that a child born in Scotland after March 2016 would not have the right to pass on British citizenship. So within 20 years or so children would be being born in Scotland who would no longer be British (apart from the geographical sense if that's how you think the word "British" is normally used!). Its worth remembering that twenty years from now is the same sort of distance back as 1994, when Forest Gump came out, which doesn't seem so very long ago to me. 

It should be noted however that although dual nationality would most likely be offered after independence it cannot be guaranteed. Just as my husband was told that in order to become a UK citizen he would have to renounce his Russian citizenship, so either the Scottish or UK governments could decide that dual nationality was inconsistent with their interests. This is unlikely to occur, but there are no guarantees about what governments that have yet to be elected might decide. It should be hoped, of course, that common sense would prevail, but what if negotiations between the Scottish and UK governments reached an impasse or became fraught, angry and if either government felt less than inclined to cooperate with the other. For instance if Scotland refused to share part of the UK's national debt owing to the UK's refusal to enter into a currency union, it would be very hard to predict what would happen next and what course any further negotiations, if any, might take. So it is certainly possible that Scots might be faced with a choice of taking a Scottish passport or keeping their British one. After all my Irish grandfather faced just such a choice in the 1940s. He had been born in Ireland when it was still part of Britain, but now had to choose which passport he wanted to keep. 

I imagine that many independence supporters anyway would not wish to retain their British passports. It strikes me as hypocritical to campaign for Scotland to leave the UK on the basis that everyone would retain their British citizenship. 

The next few years are rather intriguing with regard not only to Scotland's relationship with Britain, but also our relationship with the EU. The reason this is crucial is that while few of us will ever live or work on the continent, owing to the need to speak a foreign language, many of us have and will live and work in the other parts of the UK. What matters most of all is not so much Scotland's EU status, but that we have the same status as our English speaking neighbours. There are two intriguing uncertainties here. We don't know for sure if an independent Scotland will gain easy access to EU membership. Vast amounts have been written about this, but it will remain uncertain until negotiations begin and end. The fact that the UK would have a veto would make the independence negotiations rather delicate if Scotland carried out certain threats. But not only do we not know if Scotland will get into the EU, we also don't know if the UK will remain. It all depends on the next UK general election and on a EU referendum that is probably too close to call. But one thing is certain, if Scotland leaves the UK, it is more likely that the UK will leave the EU. Not only would it make a Tory government in Westminster more likely, but the fact that Scotland is generally more in favour of the EU than many people south of the border would clearly help the eurosceptics there. The Scottish europhile votes that would no longer be taking part in the referendum on EU membership might just have made the difference. 

But what happens if the UK votes to leave the EU? The problem then would be the basis on which Scottish citizens, who lacked British citizenship, would have the right to live and work and receive all sorts of benefits in the UK. It couldn't be on the basis of both places being members of the EU, for even if Scotland were a member, by this point the UK would have left. Well then could it be on the basis of the UK's being a part of EFTA like Norway, Iceland and Switzerland? But what if the UK decided to negotiate its own free trade relationship with the rest of Europe and chose not to allow free movement of labour. I can think of a party that's doing rather well at the moment, with a leader who likes pints and cigarettes, that might choose to take such a line. Oh but they'd never stop us Scots living and working and getting benefits in England, I can imagine a nationalist saying? Look at how they always gave those rights to the people in Eire. Well I agree I find it hard to believe that we would lose those sort of rights, but then I find it hard to believe that we might vote for independence. Surely common sense would prevail. Let's all hope it would. But again it would all be a matter for negotiation between the UK and Scottish governments and if these go badly enough, then all bets are off. 

When I sat in a room in Govan with a number of nervous couples speaking a multitude of languages I realised how important my citizenship was. It's the basis on which my husband lives with me. I wouldn't give it up for anything. It allows me to travel pretty much where I want and gives me rights that many people in the world are very keen to have. I saw the relief on the faces of the couples as they were told that they could remain in Britain and I wondered why is it that the whole world seems so desperately keen to come to the UK except us Scots a fair proportion of whom rather perversely are doing all they can to leave.