Saturday, 9 July 2016

Scottish independence is a dead issue

I woke up one morning in Spain to find that Britain had voted to leave the EU. I got a shock. I was certain that Brexit would lose. I reacted to the news with some pleasure, but also some nervousness. It would probably have been better for me financially if we’d voted to remain. This is at least the case in the short term. Although I campaigned hard for Leave, I would have reacted to a Remain vote with a certain amount of relief. As I said right at the beginning of the campaign there are good arguments for staying in the EU and there are good arguments for leaving. It was always a question of balancing the pros and the cons.

I have had to follow events from afar, catching headlines on newspaper stands and snippets of news on the BBC. But I think that sometimes helps. Firstly it is necessary to delete all the noise. From the perspective of the world outside Britain it matters not one jot who leads the Labour Party right now. All this turmoil is very interesting to us, but it won’t matter five years from now. Likewise the backstabbing in the Conservative Party will not matter much even by September. My first choice for Tory Party leader was Boris. He’s intelligent and a great communicator. His flaw is that he sometimes lacks judgement. My second choice would have been Gove. He’s by far the most intelligent Brexiteer, but has little charisma and likewise has shown a lack of judgement recently. I fear that he allowed the Cameroons to sway him. Third choice is Theresa May. Her flaw is that she is a Eurosceptic who didn’t have the courage of her convictions. She quietly campaigned for Remain because she thought they’d win. But she’d probably do a pretty fair job of uniting the Tory Party and she’d be able to make the tough choices that will need to be made in the future. Long term too it won’t matter very much who leads the Tories.

The UK faces a number of long term issues that are important. It’s time everyone focussed on these rather than the minutiae of political talent contests. The most important issue that we face is the question of whether or not we are a fully functioning democracy. There have been some disgraceful demonstrations against the result. Sorry folks, this is just wrong. Unfortunately it has become a bit of a habit recently. Every time we have an election or a referendum, those who lost complain and try to overturn the result. This is quite simply anti-democratic. It needs to stop.

It is vital that the UK actually does leave the EU, because that is what the electorate voted for. There can be no attempts to stop this by using the Scottish Parliament or the UK Parliament or some obscure law or other. If the UK does not leave the EU, then we do not have a democracy. Simple as that.

I have no great fear now about life outside the EU. Project Fear II has turned out to have been grossly exaggerated. The pound has fallen, which makes things rather more expensive when we’re on holiday, but it will massively help the UK economy. Everyone in the world is trying to devalue their currency. The worst position of all is to have an overvalued currency. The markets are going up and down, but that doesn’t massively worry me as from the perspective of five or ten years a few weeks of turbulence will likewise be just noise. Everyone who is important wants the post-Brexit world to work. We will end up with more or less free trade with the EU and we will regain some control over our laws and our borders.

There was quite a lot of noise likewise from the Scottish nationalists in the days after the vote. But they found out very quickly that from an international perspective Scotland is a region of the UK in the same way that Catalonia is a region of Spain and Saxony is a region of Germany. Many Scots may not like this, even some of those who voted No during Indyref, but this is because they are not following through on the logic of the position. Scotland is called a country and a nation and there is nothing wrong with that, but Scotland is not a sovereign nation state. It therefore matters not one little bit that Scotland voted to remain while the UK didn’t. In any nation state there will be parts that disagree with the whole. If that were grounds for secession, then no nation state could long endure. Nicola Sturgeon’s complaint is exactly the same as if Texas voted to secede because it didn’t vote for Obama. Only a few rednecks in cowboy boots think that way. Again it is anti-democratic and it is wrong. We had a free and fair referendum on independence less than two years ago. The SNP lost. Get over it.

Will there be a second independence referendum? I think not. No-one in the EU wants to encourage sub-nation nationalism. There are too many parts of the EU member states which would love to secede too. The whole of the continent is made up of places that once were independent and might likewise dream of being a nation again. It is for this reason that the most powerful people in the EU are going to refuse to negotiate separately with Scotland. When the UK leaves the EU therefore, Scotland will go with it.

Let’s imagine the SNP tried to have a second referendum. When would they have it? Would they have it before the UK has finished leaving the EU or after? But how could we in Scotland possibly know whether we wanted to leave the UK until we knew what sort of deal the UK gets from the EU? Moreover can you imagine the chaos of the UK negotiating to leave the EU while Scotland at the same time was negotiating to leave the UK? So it is clear that in order for Scotland to join the EU, we would first have to be outside of the EU. We would then have to apply to join. But the conditions for joining the EU are that a country has its own currency and agrees to be part of Schengen and join the Euro. No matter how angry some Scots are at the moment I can’t see many of them voting for that. Do you fancy changing the value of your house first into Scottish Poonds and then into Euros? 

The whole SNP indyref argument was that life would be pretty much the same after independence. We do more trade with the other parts of the UK than with the whole of the EU put together. Much more. Why would you want to leave one trading block (the UK) with which you do most of your trade to join another (the EU) with which you do very little? This would massively change all of our lives. Brexit will be disruptive enough without adding further uncertainty.

Many Scots don’t much like the UK and many don’t feel very British. This is a serious problem that UK politicians need to address. But self-interest will tell the vast majority of Scots that we have to remain in the UK. This is not least because we are subsidised by the UK to the extent of billions of pounds every year. In any second indyref campaign it would become abundantly clear that Scottish independence would mean huge public spending cuts and tax rises. This wouldn’t be scaremongering or Project Fear III, it would be simple arithmetic.

Voting for Brexit has annoyed many Scottish nationalists, but when they calm down they will realise that it makes Scottish independence much harder. If Scotland were in the EU while the UK were not there would be a chasm between England and Scotland where once there had been only a border that no-one much noticed. Some Scots would be dancing for joy at digging such a moat, but the vast majority would not. It is for this reason I think that Nicola Sturgeon knows that she would lose a second referendum. She will squeal, but in the end she will do nothing. 

If you voted for Remain yet support the UK don’t let the SNP use your Remain vote to suggest that you support them. Above all don’t let the SNP talk about Scotland as if we already were an independent nation state. We are not. We voted against that idea quite recently. It is no more undemocratic if a part of a nation state doesn’t get what it voted for than if a constituency votes for a different party than the one that ends up in government. It is however undemocratic for people like the SNP continually to make threats when they lose. But don’t worry. That’s two referendums they’ve lost. They’ll not win a third. Scottish independence is a dead issue. 


  1. > This is not least because we are subsidised by the UK

    Hold on. If Scotland is not a nation. How can we be 'subsidised' by the UK. There can be no subsidy in a truly unified nation. The idea is as ludicrous as the heart 'subsidising' the limbs with blood in a human body.

    1. As a region, we are subsidised by the other regions of the UK. This is an inescapable fact. It needn't be an issue, however. This is the way countries work. It only becomes a problem when you try to break up a country.

      The EU would not subsidise us to the same extent. They would demand our current 9% deficit is reduced to 3%. That means massive spending cuts.

    2. Subsidy is a loaded term. The extra funding to offset the costs of a more rural and colder environment help to make everyone more equal across the UK. That's a good thing.

    3. It is a good thing. But if we became independent it would have to end. We would need to tax more and spend less - making people in Scotland materially worse off than those in England. The EU would demand we run a tight ship - no more spending beyond our means. Schools / police / NHS / welfare - all would suffer. Business would flee south to escape the tax increases, lowering tax receipts and making further spending cuts necessary.

      The people of Scotland are currently wrapped in cotton wool compared to what we would face if independent. The twisted part of me hopes we go for it - just so I can watch people suffering for their stupidity.

  2. Another very good article Effie and logically pretty flawless. But yessers don't do logic. Scotland may yet inflict huge damage on itself and the UK simply because "they English bastarts goat a bigger say thin us!!!".

    In a way I hope Teresa May agrees on some kind of compromise e.g. the Norway model. This retains single market access and renders the whole argument moot.

  3. Very good Effie thanks. I do find your liking for Boarus inexplicable, but spot on about indy

  4. Ultimately, your argument boils down as usual to 'The UK is a nation state and Scotland is not.' True. But the UK is a fairly unusual nation state, in that it is a union between two previously-existing nation states, each of which, over the course of time, had separately unified. Now, it stands to reason that a Union is only successful while its component parts by and large agree on the best route forward...and Brexit has pointed up, fairly graphically (and democratically) that they do not.

    It is therefore a hopeful sophistry to suggest that somehow this crack can be painted over by the exercise of a UK-wide mandate, and that roses will thereafter bloom all around. It is to ignore both the history and politics of the last thousand years - as if they no longer mattered. And that is usually ill-advised.

    Joyce was alive to this..."and what if that nightmare gave you a back-kick?"

    1. Pretty much every nation on earth came together from smaller nations joining together and pooling resources. A map of Britain from about 800 AD is a veritable jigsaw of different kingdoms. Now there is one. That is human evolution at work. Nationalists propose throwing that progress into reverse - making us smaller, weaker, more divided and more vulnerable.

      The difference in the brexit referendum voting patterns between Scotland and England is not due to significantly differing cultures. Quite simply, England has endured mass immigration on a different order of magnitude to Scotland. If you could flip Great Britain upside down and flood the Highlands, Moray and Aberdeenshire to the same extent with economic migrants and bogus asylum seekers, then I daresay they would have voted in a similar way.

    2. Well - 'human evolution at work' is a curious way to explain the history of polities. Are you suggesting that the city states of Greece or Italy, the Delian league, the Holy Roman Empire, Byzantium, or Kampuchea in year zero were in some way part of that 'evolution'? Presumably so...
      And of course, while your assertion that had Scotland 'endured' mass immigration, we would have voted differently may or may not be true - I would point out that the EU referendum results show little correlation between proportion of immigrants and vote results (eg London).

    3. The city states of Greece and Italy no longer exist - they joined together to form Greece and Italy. Most people would consider that progress. And as far as I know no Italian is seriously arguing that the medieval states be recreated.

      London is an extremely wealthy city - and has probably now reached the point where the ethnic minority + white liberal votes are sufficient to outvote everybody else. So it is something of a special case.

  5. Excellent blog Effie and pretty accurate. Unfortunately for all Scots, the Scottish Nazi Party don't do economics and as a result would rather separate and be ruled by the 27 EU Nations than by a UK government in London. The SNP MP's are probably the most uneducated, ignorant , inept bunch of chancers you are ever likely to meet and have done nothing but instigate hate and anti English rhetoric since they started . Hopefully they will be a lot less prominent after the next election , as a lot of people are totally pissed off with them and their cult.

    1. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries we witnessed a relentless expansion of democracy to the point of universal suffrage. But I think there is now a very valid argument in favour of rolling that back a bit - not on grounds of sex, class or wealth - but on grounds of education and understanding. I need to study for a license to drive - why doesn't the same argument apply for being able to determine the country's future?

      It would seriously curb the power of intellectually bankrupt parties like the SNP.

    2. So, maybe women shouldn't have the vote, on the grounds they should confine their little heads to looking beautiful and pleasing their menfolk??? Honestly, Aldo - where on Earth does this argument of yours lead...?

    3. A bit of a leap there kininvie. All I'm suggesting is that a minimum standard of education be reached before you can vote. It makes complete sense when you think about it.

      Britain is now tearing itself apart due to too much democracy. I wouldn't allow a thick, ignorant, volatile person to operate on me - why would you want such a person having a say in the running of the country?