Saturday 4 March 2017

A defence of the UK (summary)

My essay A defence of the UK is long and detailed. But the main arguments can be summarised as follows:


We must present arguments that are clear and true.

Scottish politics has only one issue and is tending towards the politics of Northern Ireland. Is there a case for a single Pro UK party so that we are united against the SNP?
The aim is to persuade moderate Scots. Leave the fundamentalist nationalists alone.
Scottish independence involves long term uncertainty and potential instability. It could lead to results that none of us can guess.

The structure of the essay involves listing ten disadvantages to independence, which at the same time show the advantages of staying in the UK. For campaigning to succeed it must involve a positive story about Britain while pointing out true disadvantages of Scottish independence. It must never be negative about Scotland as Scotland is a great place to live. But we have a perfect right to point out what is wrong with Scottish nationalism.


1. Deficit.

I describe what an economic deficit is and that Scotland has the largest in Europe. I explore why Scotland has a deficit and how being a part of the UK means that we don’t suffer the economic consequences.

I explore the ways in which an independent Scotland would need to act in order to reduce its deficit. It would need to massively cut public spending and raise taxes. But this would prove counterproductive as it would have the effect of inhibiting economic growth. The deficit alone makes the SNP’s desire for independence untenable at the moment.

2. Debt.

I show how having a deficit would inevitably lead to the Scottish economy being in debt. I then explain that it is likely that Scotland would have to take on a share of the former UK’s national debt. I use the word “former” as a way of pointing out that Scottish independence would mean that the UK would cease to exit.

A refusal to do take a share of the debt would mean that Scotland would have no share of the former UK’s assets and could expect no cooperation or friendly relations. I point out that whatever debt Scotland had we would have to pay a higher interest rate than the UK does at present.

3. Currency.

I make clear that the present circumstances of Brexit make it impossible for Scotland to retain pound sterling as part of a currency union. There would then be three alternatives. Scotland could use the pound unofficially, but this would make our financial services industry untenable. We could have our own Scottish pound or we could have the Euro. If Scotland were to join the EU we would have to promise to join the Euro. This would involve setting up a Scottish pound and central bank only to abolish it upon joining. If Scotland failed to join the Euro but pegged a Scottish pound against pound Sterling, it is worth remembering that pegs can break. I point out that all of these options would have potentially damaging real world consequences for ordinary Scots with mortgages which are at present denominated in pounds Sterling. The Euro would probably be the best option, but no option is better than our present arrangement, which can only be kept by our remaining a part of the UK.

4. Trade

Because the UK is leaving the EU, Scottish independence would now involve Scotland and the former UK ending up in different trade blocs. But we do the vast majority of our trade with other parts of the UK and relatively little with the EU. This means that an independent Scotland would potentially have to impose tariffs on goods and services from the other parts of the UK, which is our largest market. This is clearly economically illiterate. Moreover, if the former UK were able to come up with beneficial trade arrangements with other countries, like Australia and the USA these would not and could not apply to an independent Scotland.

5. Security

Scottish independence would involve the destruction of the British armed forces. They could no longer be called British if the UK broke up. They could no longer fly the flag that they have defended for centuries. Furthermore the UK’s nuclear deterrent would have nowhere to moor. Europe faces genuine threats from terrorism and Russian expansionism. Europeans are not going to look kindly on Scotland destroying one of the two serious armed forces in Europe. The UK has the best intelligence service in Europe, but we only fully share information with the so called “five eyes”. There is no guarantee that intelligence would be shared with an independent Scotland. Scottish independence would therefore make us less safe.

6. Border

The combination of the former UK being outside the EU while Scotland was a member makes it likely that a hard border would have to be established between England and Scotland. This is because Scotland would have to join the Schengen zone and would have to allow passport free travel between the EU and Scotland. Even if Schengen could somehow be avoided it is likely that some sort of border control would be necessary. People in the Republic of Ireland have recognised that border checks are inevitable if the UK is not in the EU’s Single Market or Customs Union.  

7. Loss of influence

Whatever happens we cannot change our geography or shared history. The other parts of the UK will always be vital to Scotland’s interest. At present we have influence as we send MPs to Westminster and Scots have often been Prime Ministers and Cabinet Ministers. Independence means the loss of all influence over the other parts of the UK.

8. Citizenship/Rights

While the UK was part of the EU it was possible to imagine that the EU would guarantee the rights of Scots in the former UK after independence. No such guarantee will exist now. The former UK would have a perfect right not to allow dual citizenship. Our rights therefore in the former UK would depend on whatever divorce agreement the former UK and Scotland could come to.

9. Partition

Nicola Sturgeon has set a dangerous precedent by arguing that Scotland should not be dragged out of the EU against its will. If parts of the Scotland voted to remain in the UK should they not be allowed to stay?  Shetland has already said that it would not wish to remain. Why can’t Aberdeenshire say the same?

10. Democracy

At present in Scotland there is no real challenge to SNP dominance. This dominance would probably continue after independence as it would leave opposition parties still weaker. Voting for independence therefore may lead to long term Sturgeon rule and she might become to Scotland what De Valera was to the Republic of Ireland or Salazar to Portugal.


Scottish independence would involve Scotland becoming a sovereign independent nation state and would probably eventually lead to the membership of the EU.

Scottish nationalists however think that Scotland already is sovereign and that it is a nation and a country. Nicola Sturgeon acts as if she already is a leader of an independent nation state. It’s not clear therefore what in their own eyes Scottish nationalists would be gaining. Is it really worth all the trouble just for a bit of flag waving?

The Scottish Parliament would gain control over matters which are at present reserved such as defence and foreign policy. Is independence really worth it so that we have our own policy on such matters? What would a Scottish foreign policy be? Would it matter? In practical terms and beyond the flag waving, independence might therefore disappoint.

It is probable that an independent Scotland would in time be given EU membership, but the path might not be straightforward. Any present EU member, such as Spain, could object and veto it. The EU could set whatever terms it chose to Scotland. What choice would Scotland have? We’d have to accept or else reject. Where would that leave us? Neither in the UK nor in the EU. Who would we trade with then?

But the EU anyway is looking ever more unstable. Is it worth risking leaving the UK in order to join an EU that might not have a long term future? If the EU does continue to exist it is likely that it will do so by becoming ever more united. The EU is on a path to becoming federal state. The parts of the EU are becoming less and less like nation states and more and more like regions. That anyway is the goal. Scotland would then be achieving “independence” only to put itself on a path to giving up both its independence and its sovereignty. The reality is that it in practical terms the Scottish Parliament would have more power and more independence by remaining a part of the UK than by leaving the UK and instead joining the EU.

There are huge disadvantages involved in Scotland leaving the UK, but the possible advantages of Scottish independence turn out on close inspection to be largely illusory. No rational Scot should vote for this, which leaves only the irrational.