Thursday, December 28, 2006


Common Sense on Possible End of Union with Scotland

Yes, the picture shows the Articles of Union between England Wales and Scotland, from 1707. I'm moved to write about them following the good Guardianpiece by David Clark yesterday. His article brought some much needed realism and critical scrutiny to the idea that a Scotland independent of England would be to the advantage of both. He points out that any fracture of the union- as eagerly anticipated by the SNP in the wake of recent polls- is unlikely to bring benefit either side of the border. Much is made of the 'Celtic Tiger' comparison but Clark points out that Ireland, at 34% of GDP, has the second lowest level of public spending in the OECD, compared with Scotland's near 50%:

'No amount of oil money could bridge that gap. For Scotland to emulate Ireland's model would require an assault on public services far more brutal than anything inflicted by Margaret Thatcher.'

Clark goes on to suggest that potential investors would flee as soon as 'the reality of independence dawned'. Moreover, England is likely to remain Scotland's major export market by a mile whatever happens, and it would be foolish to impede this with additional barriers and regulatory frameworks. Furthermore, Scotland's voice would be 'diminished on the international stage'; outside the UK, Scotland's voice would be greatly marginalised.

Meanwhile, those south of the border who cheer on the SNP project merely mimic the Scots in their 'capacity for self pity'. Those English people who complain of the 'Scottish Raj' should appreciate that it's 'Middle England that calls the shots politically' and that Scotland's lower health levels justifies its higher share of UK public expenditure. England would lose out economically if an independent Scotland denied it energy and from the defence point of view if it lost its base for the Trident fleet. Finally, If Scotland left, would Wales, or even Northern Ireland be far behind?

Clark assets that an England shorn of its Celtic periphery would not carry so much clout in the EU or worldwide. I'm inclined to agree with his conclusion that:

There is almost nothing that Scotland can do separately that they cannot do better together as part of the UK. The case for the Union is strong.

The economic argument is compelling. I don't think, however, that Clark helps his case by generalising - Scots' "capacity for self-pity"? Surely nonsense.
Just starting out and want to learn. Thanks for the help.
- 0
spaghetti alla carbonara
I too believe that neither Scotland or England would benefit from a break in the Union.
However no union can really prosper when one half does not wish to be part of that union.
A Scotish prime minister, especially one in the name of Brown, would hasten the death of that union.
It might well be a case of being careful what one wishes for. But on the other hand, the march of the EU is possibly even more relentless than the march of the SNP. If the Eurocrats get their way, there won't be much left of the nation state in ten years' time. Scotland will be just another region, with its taxation, foreign policy and many other areas of life run by Brussels as much as it was ever run by Westminster. I put this to a disgruntled Scots nationalist who commented on my blog once. He dismissed it on the ground that Scotland's future in Europe was better left in the hands of the Scots themselves, which rather avoided the point I was making, namely that if the EU has its way then it will not be for either Scotland or London to decide who gets what.
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- p
spaghetti alla carbonara
I think nationalism of this kind contains quite a bit of self pity and over-stated grievance actually. I hear so many fellow Welshmen moaning and whingeing about the 'Sais'for all sorts of things which are in no way justified.
Interesting response, but perhaps a little unfair. The Scots' nationalist plight may not quite have the historical resonance of Northern Ireland or Palestine. But we shouldn't forget that, over three hundred years ago, Scotland was a sovereign country. Scottish independence is not a grand old militant struggle against an oppresive Westminster, but that doesn't mean we should dismiss these arguments as undue pleas of grievance.
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