On Scotland, Britain and the UK – the referendum


I have been trying to resist succumbing to writing about the referendum on Scotland’s future taking place on the 18th September, but given the number of people in Sri Lanka, Samoa and Bangladesh who have asked me for my thoughts in recent weeks, I cannot resist jotting down a few reflections.  Fundamentally, I think it would be a real shame were Scotland to leave Great Britain, but if that’s what the majority of Scots want, then it’s their choice!  Both Scotland and England will be the weaker for it, but I have absolutely no doubt that the net effect on Scotland’s life and economy will be very much worse than will be the impact on England and Wales.  So, if the Scots who are allowed to vote do indeed vote to leave Great Britain, then good riddance to them!

Edinburgh view small

The following seem to be relevant points:

  • The Scots and the English, along with the Welsh, have all contributed together to the rich diversity of Britain over many centuries, and the creation of independent countries would, without doubt, reduce the richness of such interaction to the detriment of all.
  • The campaign by those wanting independence has been strong on emotion, and weak on economic rigour; those in favour of keeping the two countries together have been much stronger on the economic arguments, and weaker on the emotion.  I have always thought that it might just be that the emotion wins.
  • Those in favour of a “yes” vote have done all they can to rig the elections in their favour!  I’m amazed that they were allowed to get away with lowering the voting age to include everyone above 16, thereby seeking to increase their share of the vote on the assumption that more young people will vote in favour of independence!
  • Given that the vote has implications for everyone who lives in Great Britain, I feel quite strongly that everyone should have been allowed to vote, and not just those Scots living in Scotland.  However, I’m not sure how this would have affected the result!  I suspect that many English people have become rather fed up with the Scots as the campaign has worn on, and would actually have voted to kick them out!
  • Another ploy to increase the share of the “yes” vote has undoubtedly been to restrict those eligible to vote mainly to people living in Scotland.  What about all of the Scots living in England or Wales?  Again, I assume that because they live in another part of Britain, many of these would want to keep Britain united.
  • The statement about who will be allowed to become a Scottish citizen on independence is not exactly clear and straightforward!  Many of us living in Britain have multiple ancestors, and have as much right to be called Scottish as English, Welsh or Irish!
  • I’m amused that England and Scotland actually came together in the form of a personal union when James VI of Scotland also came to rule England as James I on the death of Queen Elizabeth without issue in 1603. In one sense, therefore, if Scotland leaves, those of us in England can at last claim we have overthrown the incompetent and corrupt Scottish kings!
  • Scots should think very carefully about the viability of their proposed state.  With only around 5.3 million people, compared with England’s more than 56 million, it is hard to see how the Scots will find a large enough market to provide the spending power and tax revenue to enable the country to prosper.
  • I find many of the assertions of those supporting the “yes” campaign to be based on rather dubious evidence or logic.  To take but three examples, the uncertainty over what its currency will be (especially since England has said no to their use of the pound), the likelihood of being accepted into the European Union (especially since countries like Spain that do not want “nationalities” such as Catalunya also to gain independence will refuse permission), and declining revenues from North Sea oik and gas, all seem to make it very uncertain that Scots will continue to prosper as an independent state.
  • I think it was a very retrograde step for the current British government to make so many offers for further powers to be given to the Scottish Government were they to vote to remain by a small margin within Britain. To my mind, these have gone too far, and will eventually lead to further fragmentation of Britain.  Underlying my view here is simply the belief that the cultural richness of Britain has been very heavily influenced by so many good things from people living in all of its different regions that to cut one of these off will be detrimental to those living elsewhere.  We have much more to gain from being together, than from living separately.  Furthermore, such additional benefits will in turn undoubtedly lead to other parts of Britain, such as Wales, Cornwall, Yorkshire and the Revolutionary Workers Republic of Virginia Water, seeking yet further powers, that will yet further fragment our integral island.
  • My hunch is also that Scotland, given its size, will be relatively insignificant on the global stage in the future, and will not actually be able much to influence international agendas.  Perhaps, though, this is what the Scots who vote in favour actually want: to be nobodies.  To be sure, fragmented, the rest of Britain will be weakened, but it seems likely that England will indeed remain a relatively much more dominant player on the international stage.

There is so much more that I could write.  Like many, I had hoped and thought that the “yes” vote would have been weaker than it appears to be, and that the rich diversity of Britain would be maintained through a strong “no”vote.  The likely outcome of the vote, though, would now seem to be too close to call.  I will indeed feel sad should those Scots permitted to vote do indeed selfishly decide for independence, but at the same time I hope to live long enough to be quietly happy when most of them live to regret such a decision!

2 Comments

Filed under Commonwealth

2 responses to “On Scotland, Britain and the UK – the referendum

  1. Brian Garbutt

    Tim,
    Excellent article, couldn’t agree more with your sentiments, I have forwarded your column onto some of my Scottish colleagues here in Australia.

    Regards,

    Brian Garbutt,

    Melbourne.

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