Saturday 13 February 2021

The SNP argument is illogical


The argument for Scottish independence is fundamentally about Scotland being outnumbered. Westminster has 650 seats, but Scotland only elects 59 of them. For this reason, the UK can have a Conservative Government even if relatively few Scottish seats vote Conservative. Likewise, the UK electorate can vote to leave the EU even though a minority of Scots supported Brexit. But the idea that this is unfair or undemocratic is to assume that Scotland ought never to be outnumbered. But the only way that this could be achieved would be if Scotland had independence. The argument therefore is assuming what it is trying to prove. This is made clear from the fact that if Scotland achieved independence it would still be the case that some constituencies would not get the Government they voted for. The only way that no one could ever be outnumbered is if all Scottish constituencies in an independent Scotland voted for the same party. But this would be a one-party state.

The central Scottish nationalist argument is illogical and not merely illogical it is complaining about something the UK can do nothing about. Scotland has 59 seats at Westminster not because we are underrepresented. If anything, Scotland has more seats than we deserve according to population share. It takes more voters to elect a Conservative in England than an SNP member in Scotland. But fundamentally Scottish voters have the same chance to elect the MP of their choice as voters anywhere else in the UK. But the SNP ignore this for they are demanding that Scottish MPs should never be outnumbered. But this would only be possible if Scotland had 326 seats and the other parts of the UK had only 324. This is really what the SNP demand to have a veto over UK democracy amounts to.

The SNP would only be happy if the UK Government ignored the majority who voted for Brexit over the whole UK because Scotland voted against.  But what gives Scottish voters the right to veto a policy when a similar number of voters in 59 English constituencies lack that right. If Scotland could veto leaving the EU, then it could equally veto any other policy it disagreed with. But this isn’t majority rule, it’s the minority rule of a privileged elite (Scots) whose votes count for more than everyone else’s.

But even if we arranged the Westminster seats so that Scotland had half and could never be outvoted by anyone else, would the SNP be happy? No of course not. They would still want Scottish independence. But this shows that the argument is not about representation or being outvoted it’s about something else. But what?

This year Scotland is predicted to run a deficit of between 26 and 28%. Many SNP supporters deny this of course, but where do they suppose the money for furlough has come from? Do they think it has all come from Scottish taxpayers? In that case why didn’t the SNP refuse the money that has kept our businesses going and raise it themselves. The Scottish Parliament after all has the power to raise and lower taxes. Why didn’t the SNP refuse the vaccines bought by the British Government and the help of the British Army to administer them by saying thanks but no thanks we can manage on our own?

But given that money has come from the British Government to Scotland what positive benefit do Scottish nationalists suppose will arise from Scottish independence? Will the benefit be material? But how?

If Scotland receives more from the British Government than we raise in taxation and other revenues ourselves, i.e. we have a deficit, then Scotland cannot logically be better off financially after independence. We would first have to replace the money we lost from the British Government. To suppose that Scottish independence would make us better off is to suppose that some magical transformation would happen to the Scottish economy merely because Scotland was independent. But what could this transformation be?

Scotland might or might not be able to join the EU after independence but being in the EU doesn’t automatically make a country richer. There are lots of EU member states poorer than Scotland. Anyway, Scotland trades much more with the other parts of the UK than with the EU. The consequence of joining the EU would be to lower tariffs with the EU at the cost of raising them with the other parts of the UK. But how could this make us richer?

Leaving the UK would mean leaving the UK’s internal market, which allows us to live and work anywhere in Britain and which means we have the same standards and rules about goods and services everywhere. But how would doing this make us richer?

So too if we were part of the EU it might be impossible for Scotland to remain part of the Common Travel Area, which is incompatible with Schengen, which is a condition for joining the EU. But it is hard to imagine how erecting a hard border between England and Scotland would improve Scottish living standards.

Also, if Scotland left the UK’s monetary union and used the pound unofficially, we would have no say on Scottish monetary policy. The Bank of England would set interest rates expand or contract monetary policy without thinking about what Scotland needed, because Scotland would be a separate state. Scotland would not have its own monetary policy, because it would not have its own money.  It would be good if the SNP explained how this would make Scots better off.

Eventually it might be necessary for an independent Scotland to fulfil its promise on entering the EU to join the Euro. This would involve Scotland creating its own currency and subjecting it to the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II). But this might involve devaluation firstly against the pound and secondly against the Euro. Would this raise or lower the living standards of Scots with a mortgage?

A positive argument for independence would be that it would aid the Scottish economy and that this would allow a future Scottish Government to be fairer and more generous to Scottish voters. But if Scottish independence damaged the Scottish economy, Scots would neither have a higher standard of living after independence nor would we live in a fairer society. Taxes would have to rise, and public spending would have to decrease. But this would make poor Scots still poorer. There is nothing fair or just about independence if it caused this.

There is no positive argument for Scottish independence. The idea that a country with Scotland’s present economy would see an increase in its average standard of living by giving up the money that sustains us at present is preposterous. We are left merely with a grievance about Scots being outnumbered. You’re bigger than us and you don’t do what we tell you to do.

We are forced to conclude that the SNP want independence for purely nationalistic reasons. The idea that Scotland would be a socialist paradise without the English and the Tories turns out to be a ruse invented by the SNP to achieve their nationalist goals. The SNP only has one argument and one belief.

Scotland ought to be independent because then we would be a nation. But oddly they think Scotland already is a nation so we would gain something that we already have, which is almost as illogical as the argument about our being outnumbered.