Later this year, Scotland will vote on whether to stay in the United Kingdom or to leave and become an independent state. This may be of little importance to the ordinary Englishman in the street, but here are a few thoughts that Joe Public may be having.
One thing that rang alarm bells for the man in the street was when the Government declared they would honour the Scottish bit of the national debt. Hopefully this means that only the existing national debt will be covered, but this could look remarkably like the Government selling out the English taxpayer and agreeing to underwrite Scottish debt if, after independence, they do a Gordon Brown and spend money like a drunken sailor on shore leave. While they would be responsible for their current account, their debt might have an impact on Sterling, which would impact the remainder of the UK. The fact that the Scots agreed to this shows that, privately, they are not that sure about their economic strength after independence as they pretend to be in public.
On the subject of the national debt, Alex Salmond talked about agreeing a formula for the Scottish bit of it by looking at how the debt was incurred. Well how about this for a formula? My tongue in cheek proposal is that they take the sum of the national debt in 1997, when a Scot took over as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and subtract it from the national debt in 2010, when the Scots relinquished the Chancellorship, and the Scots pay the difference. This way, the Scots can assume responsibility for the mismanagement of the national economy by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling.
However, the thing that is totally baffling is the Scottish insistence that an independent Scotland will remain within the EU. If the same people that are making most of their laws now continue making most of their laws after independence, and the English still have significant economic control through Sterling, then what sort of independence is that? The high panjandrums of the EU say that an independent Scotland will not be an automatic EU member. This could be interpreted as saying that the EU will hold the Scottish feet to the fire if they want to be readmitted, and the Scots may find that their oil and gas becomes an EU “shared natural resource”, which is another way of saying that Scottish revenues will be appropriated by the EU to prop up the bankrupt countries of the Eurozone. The Schengen Protocol requires all new EU member states to sign up to Schengen, so, if Schengen is applied to Scotland, border controls between mainland Europe and Scotland will be abolished. This means that the English would have to fortify the English/Scottish border in order to keep out all the illegal immigrants that would flood into independent Scotland as a back door to England. Unfortunately, Hadrian’s Wall does not align with the present day border.
The pros and cons of Scottish independence can be argued till the cows come home, and just a few of the points have been raised here. Thinking with my head (or rather with my wallet!), if the Scottish demands on the English taxpayer’s purse cease, this can only be good for England. Labour governments in particular have lavished English largesse on the Scots, because Scottish Labour MPs keep British Labour governments in power. Maybe Scottish independence will mean that some English old folks can have free social care, and some English youngsters can have a free higher education. The loss of Scottish Labour MPs will also mean that we would be unlikely to have to suffer an English Labour government for quite some time. However, thinking with my heart, we have been in this national marriage for over three hundred years, and it has been one of the most successful unions ever. I would be sorry to see it end.