I note that Nicola Sturgeon has announced a bill in Holyrood to use Brexit as a pretext to hold another referendum on Scottish independence.
I go up to Scotland several times a year for family reasons and receive a number of reciprocal visits. I am therefore often exposed to Scottish points of view on the Union, be it the UK or the EU. Normally I accept that discretion is the better part of valour and bite my tongue or find a more circumspect way to give my opinion – though sometimes I just can’t help myself. That only 10 people showed up to the UKIP leadership hustings in Scotland sadly doesn’t surprise me.
The notion that the Welsh are anti-English is largely a figment of the English imagination. Of course there are some boneheads, there is a regional identity and rivalry, just like between English regions and, if you go around telling people that their language and culture is a silly waste of time, then you’re bound to get their backs up. That said, I live in the most cosmopolitan place in Wales. You do get a “not-one-of-us” attitude in the Valleys, West Wales and some workplaces. Even so, that’s more of a class and localsy thing.
Scotland is different. The grouse-shooting set aside, anti-Englishness is a current running all the way through Scottish identity, culture, politics and media, even when it’s presented as just playful rivalry. “Not English” seems so integral to Scottish identity that, without the English to define themselves in opposition to, they night be quite sure who they were.
This has of course been going for centuries. It became turbocharged when Margaret Thatcher used Scotland as a testing ground for the poll tax. Now with the SNP in the ascendancy north of the border and England and Wales voting for Brexit, Sturgeon & Co are stirring up these old sentiments to the toxic max.
Don’t get me wrong, the Scots I meet are always very pleasant and welcoming, though I sometimes sense an elephant in the room: a “we’re-going-out-of-our-way-to-be-polite-to-you-even-though-you’re-English” vibe. Then there are the conversations like “Brexit’s going to be so terrible, all our friends are going to try to get Irish citizenship.”
… and the papers … Like the headline in the Herald (one of their uniformly nationalist, left-of-centre and Remoaner media outlets they have up there) in August reporting how Nicola Sturgeon fears Brexit vote has fueled racism. This is of course another story about how the Leave campaign were responsible for a fictitious spike in “hate” crime because they dared to debate immigration, not how about how Sturgeon is shamelessly exploiting Brexit to push for separatism, stoking anti-Englishness in the process. I try to ignore it until someone points it out to me, telling me how right she is.
The irony of the Scottish Remain vote is that, to a certain extent it was driven by a similar sentiment to that which drove the Leave vote in England & Wales – a rejection of a remote political class by people who feel left behind by the system. The great contradiction of course of the SNP’s position is that they’re supposed to want independence for Scotland but are desperate to remain subject to an undemocratic European superstate. The point, I am informed, is the Scots trust Brussels more than they trust Westminster.
Sturgeon continues to willfully mislead the Scots that Scotland can somehow remain in the EU when the rest of the UK leaves. The rules are quite clear. They explained this to her in Brussels when she went there immediately after the referendum and they refused to discuss the matter with her. If Scotland declared independence, they could not stay in the EU – not unless the EU agreed this as a special case, which is unlikely as countries like Spain and France don’t want to encourage their own separatist groups. Scotland would have to apply to join the EU. They would not have an opt-out from using the Euro. They would have to maintain a hard border with England, along with a tariff wall against their biggest trading partner.
Independence would expose Scotland’s poor financial state. A Taxpayers’ Alliance report last week states their fiscal deficit last year was 9.5% of Scottish GDP, over twice the UK deficit,and higher than any other member of the EU, including Greece. Spending per head is 20% higher, equivalent to around 6% of Scotland’s GDP. This is only sustained by the continuing subsidy from English taxpayers via the Barnett Formula. North Sea oil revenues can’t get them out of this hole. Since its peak in 1999, production has fallen by two thirds and revenues have collapsed by over 99% in the last 5 years. To become and EU member, an independent Scotland would be forced to tackle its deficit. It would be subject to the rule that any deficit over 3% of GDP is deemed excessive, requiring an agreed programme of fiscal retrenchment. To fill the gap they would have to raise the basic rate of income tax to 39p or raise VAT to 40% – or make savage spending cuts.
So Scotland is currently getting a pretty good deal out of the hated English and independence from the UK would be a disaster for them. What’s more they would be stagnating inside a failing EU, while we would be flourishing trading freely with the rest of the world. If I lived in Scotland I’d be very worried by Sturgeon’s talk of independence. In fact, I’d be planning my escape before it becomes a basket case. Fortunately I don’t live in Scotland.
Now I’m well aware of UKIP’s policy: “The clue is in the name. We’re the United Kingdom Independence Party,” as Mr Helmer put it in one of his emails. This is one area where I differ from traditional right-wingers. I’m not emotionally attached to the union. I’d quite happily cut loose an ungrateful drain on the UK’s public purse. I’m anti-Trident, so I don’t care about having somewhere to park our nukes. What’s more, without Scotland, it’ll be very difficult for Labour ever to win another majority in Westminster. (That said, in their current state, they’re very unlikely to win another election anyway.)
And another thing… All this talk about economic disaster for an independent Scotland. Isn’t this similar to what the Remaniacs told us?That the UK could not possibly survive outside the EU… We chose instead to Believe in Britain – so let’s believe in Scotland!
I’m all for Scottish independence – and the sooner the better please. Don’t hold us back by trying to sabotage Brexit.
The Scots, I suspect, are cannier than that though. They didn’t support independence last time they were given the opportunity and, despite electing lots of troublesome SNP MPs, I suspect they would back away from the exit door a second time. So I guess we just keep bumping along together.
One last thought … The SNP lost their referendum and went on to virtually sweep the board at the next general election.
We won ours …