Saturday 9 October 2021

No independence at any time


Lorna Slater, coleader of the Scottish Greens thinks that Scottish independence is inevitable and if there were a referendum tomorrow Yes would win. What Slater appears to be unaware of is that if there were ever to be a second referendum on independence the question would obviously not have a Yes/No answer. The precedent of the EU referendum makes that clear. While support for independence is around 50% on the 2014 question it falls considerably if the question is reworded as “Should Scotland leave the UK or remain part of the UK”. Would the SNP/Greens win a referendum on that question tomorrow? That would be much less likely.

But we are not going to have a referendum tomorrow. We would only have a referendum after a reasonably long campaign that explored all of the issues involved. The questions that the SNP was unable to answer in 2014 still await a convincing solution. Even so it was much easier to come up with an argument for independence with both the UK and Scotland in the EU. Brexit has changed everything and neither the SNP nor the Greens have an answer to the issue of a hard regulatory border between Scotland and England, nor to Scottish goods having to pay tariffs to enter the English market. Whatever power Scotland generates by wind, unfortunately has to go through England if it is to be sold to anyone else.

We learned in 2014 that a lot of Scots may desire independence with their hearts, but that a majority of us won’t vote for it if we conclude with our heads that it will make us poorer. Everything that has happened since, from the decline in oil, to our dependence on the Treasury to fund furlough, tells us that independence would at least initially make us poorer. The nominal deficit that Scotland runs, would immediately become real if we left the UK.

If Slater and Sturgeon believe that Scotland does not need Treasury money allocated each year according to the Barnett formula, why don’t they give it up and raise all Scottish revenue by means of Scottish taxes? If Scotland can’t give up this money now, how could it sensibly give it up when leaving the UK. The idea that Scotland is merely getting back what we pay in, doesn’t fit with the Scottish Government’s own figures. If you are a GERS denier, you might as well be a climate change denier too.

It may be that Scottish hearts would win over Scottish minds in a referendum campaign. Nationalism appeals to the emotions such that it can cause some people to lose contact with reason. But that was not our experience in 2014. Since then, some older No voters to the delight of the SNP have died, while the SNP has succeeded with its “Curriculum for independence” in turning quite a lot of school children into nationalists. This leads both Sturgeon and Slater to conclude that time is on their side. We’d win tomorrow thinks Slater, but we’d win with even more certainty years from now.

But each of us evolves politically as we grow older, apart that is from Sturgeon who believes exactly what she believed when she was 16. When we start working and having to pay bills, mortgages and bring up children, our ideas change. It doesn’t seem quite such a good idea if the SNP want to increase public spending without limit. We realise that the free things we are supposedly given come from our taxes. We begin to worry that our little boy might come home from school one day as a little girl. Flag waving and separation from our neighbours begins to look less desirable, especially if it would make us poorer.

Most importantly for those concerned about climate change and the world moving away from using fossil fuels, it isn’t at all obvious that Scottish independence would help.

Climate knows no boundaries. It matters very little indeed even if Scotland burned no fossil fuels whatsoever. If the UK burns 1% of the world’s fossil fuels, then Scotland must be burning rather less than 0.1%. Slater says she wants independence to do all the things the UK prevents her from doing. But it is hardly going to make much difference even if she could turn Scotland into a pre industrial society living in crannogs. So long as India and China keep burning coal it will not help if we paint ourselves blue and chew on raw carrots because we have given up cookers.

The only way giving up fossil fuels will make a difference is if everyone in the world does so. But this will require international agreement. Scotland would have very little influence on the world stage after independence. It wouldn’t increase as Slater thinks. We might be one among 28 in the EU with no more say than other small countries like Slovakia. The EU would have a common policy on the environment and Scotland would be expected to agree to it.

Glasgow is going to hold the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference shortly, but it is only being held in Scotland because the UK is a member of the UN and has a fairly important voice internationally. If Scotland had voted Yes in 2014, there is zero chance that COP26 would be taking place here. So how would independence have increased our influence?

Ceasing to use fossil fuels is going to take a vast amount of political energy and money. But if Scotland voted for independence both Scotland and the former UK would need for years to devote most of their political energy to the divorce. Scotland after independence would need to devote its political energy to joining the EU and to finding a way to reduce our deficit. But this would make us less able to afford the very expensive changes such as increasing insulation for homes and building a network suitable for electric cars. People concerned about climate change should vote for anyone but the Scottish Greens or the SNP.

If preserving the environment required secession, we should expect every European Green party to be in favour of breaking up their own country. But German Greens don’t want independence for Saxony and French Greens don’t want independence for Burgundy. So clearly it is not necessary. If Lorna Slater was so in favour of independence movements it is a wonder she did not move to Quebec and campaign for the breakup of Canada. I find it distasteful that she chose to move here in order to break up my country.

No country in the world would allow immigration of people who wished to destroy it. If immigrants from the United States to Canada were trying to make Canada a part of the USA, the Canadians would no doubt stop them coming at all. Well likewise if Canadians typically came to UK to break it up, the Government would reasonably stop them doing so.

Lorna Slater came to Scotland when she was 25 and no doubt liked how it was. If she hadn’t liked it, she could have stayed at home or gone elsewhere. At some point she must have chosen to live here.  She would have been granted leave to remain by the UK. She may even have made pledged her loyalty to the UK. But at any rate she took advantage of the hospitality the UK gives to people who move here. Obviously, everything she has done politically since then is legal. She has the right to do it. But I personally find it rather ungrateful behaviour.

If I had moved to Canada when I was 25 and spent my life campaigning to destroy it, I could imagine Canadians looking at my actions and wondering whether it would not have been better if I had been prevented from coming there. To campaign to break up someone else’s country while leaving your own intact, is the behaviour of a hypocrite. Even if it is legal, it is morally indefensible.

If she loves the EU so much, why didn’t she campaign for the North American Union ruled from Washington? But no one in North America would accept that, would they? Not even Slater.

There won’t be an independence referendum tomorrow. We have just discovered that neither the Greens nor the SNP have a mandate for one, in which case there may never be one. Those people who campaigned for Quebec to be independent must have thought it was inevitable when they came so close in 1995. I wonder which way Slater voted. Someone should ask her. But now there is nothing inevitable about it all about Quebec’s independence. Indeed, it is unlikely.

So too with Scottish independence. Support for it increases and falls, but until and unless people like Slater come up with convincing arguments which address the real problems of separation, then we must be forced to conclude that they are mere opportunists who got on a bandwagon because it pays well, but are making no more contribution to dealing with climate change than a green Canadian moose.