I really am starting to worry about what the future holds for Scotland. Seriously. I can’t get a handle on what it is Salmond and his pals want to achieve. My position is fairly clear, one of extreme ambivalence; I have no desire to see the Union break up, but at the same time have no objection to seeing Scotland going it alone.
I find the whole thing fascinating from a constitutional point of view, and my opinion is that it isn’t a question of Scotland the plucky underdog casting off the chains of bonded servitude – let us not forget that the formation of the Union came about at the behest and under the reign of a man who was king of Scotland way before he became king of England – we are talking of a divorce. England’s status in this union is not one of master, as I see it England and Scotland are as equal as Kent and Surrey are in their relationship within the configuration of state. Scotland is not dependent on England, it is not a vassal state. Scotland does not have to ask England’s permission to do things, England cannot dictate to Scotland what she will do. Beyond cultural definitions there is no England and there is no Scotland, there is the United Kingdom only. This is why I find the whole thing so utterly fascinating.
After 300 years of union I can’t see how any division can be effected to the satisfaction of both parties. The cross-fertilisation between the two constituent parts is so far developed that it makes an equitable division almost impossible. Land is easy, sea less so. The division of people is almost impossible. Anybody who claims some racial purity along English or Scottish lines is deluded. We are the most mongrel of people, that is why we are so strong. Our ability and natural disposition to absorbing newcomers has given us qualities that has allowed us to achieve way beyond our means. Our openness to new ideas and methods has allowed us to steal a march on other more insular societies. Our language’s readiness to adopt new words and the resultant subtlety has aided its rise to the global language. In terms of governance, democracy, finance, engineering, sport, science, medicine. commerce, diplomacy, all of it, it is down to our (and God forgive me for trotting out such a cliche) strength through diversity.
When I talk about that diversity, it isn’t about the easily recognisable differences between the English and Scots, it is the fact that there is no difference between the English and Scots. That’ll have some English raging on St. George’s Day and some Scots furious that I would say such a thing. But I’m sorry, after 300 years there is no difference between the two. I’ve bad news for you; if you claim to be ‘pure’ Scottish, there’s an Englishman’s dick at play somewhere in there. If you claim to be ‘pure’ English, there’s a Scotsman’s dick involved too. Before that there will be Celtic, Roman, Norman, Viking, Angle, Saxon and other genetic material swimming round. After that there will be Flemish, German, Russian, Polish, West African, East African, Southern African, West Indian, Jewish, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and countless other genomes in effect. Our diversity is seamless.
Before the Union there was no prohibition of movement, the idea of the closed border, the passport and rights or exclusions of settlement and movement is a very recent one. We live on one island, if there is a base building block for these islands, we all share it. From an anthropological perspective it is also a fascinating study.
These high blown concepts are all very well, but the real meat of the matter comes down to the every day things, that is what quite rightly exercises people. This is where my thoughts turn from academic interest to real concern. On the face of it, it is a simple question with a simple answer. What does Salmond want for Scotland? Independence.
But what independence? Salmond’s ranting seems to become more childish and petulant every day. If you are a pro-independence person, you will no doubt believe that your country is governed from London. You’re right, it is. But you send people to argue for your little corner of Scotland, of the UK. As I do for my little corner of England, of the UK. More than that, you also have a Scottish parliament that has powers not available to England, a set up whereby MP’s representing constituents in Scotland file through and vote on legislation that has no impact on them. However, if you’re pro-independence, how do you square that with a system where your supposed leader is convinced that they will morph seamlessly into an independent nation state within the EU? You think London is dictatorial? Wait until you report directly to Brussels. You don’t have to wait, you do so already. London doesn’t act as a filter, occupying some middle ground between Brussels and Edinburgh. That is not independence.
More than that, Salmond is convinced that having been banging on about this for so long, the absolute best thing to do is to jump right aboard the sinking Euro tanker. He shouts down those from the Euro-machinery who state Scotland would have to re-apply, and the terms are not attractive. You’d have to accept the Euro, the Schengen treaty, all the social chapters. No opt out, no rebate, no influence, you’d be like Slovenia. Your economy would be hostage to the fortunes and ideas of the big boys in the single currency.
All Salmond does is shout that they are wrong. Well mate, I’ve news for you. Their club, their membership rules. You can’t turn up to someone else’s party and dictate music and buffet policy. If they say you ain’t in when you emerge from the divorce, then you ain’t in.
Today we see that having split from the UK (not from England) that the plan is to keep the Pound Sterling.
Are you mental? If Scotland splits, its economy will be moving a much different pace to that of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It will be subject to different stresses and strains, different requirements. You want to tie yourself to a currency that you will have no influence over, you will be utterly at the mercy of what the BoE decide to do, and the BoE will not be considering Scotland when they implement policy.
Salmond wants Scotland in the EU on current terms – it simply won’t happen. Salmond doesn’t want Scotland in the Euro – because not even he is that mad. Yet, he will happily usher in a circumstance where Scotland will be just as vulnerable as Greece or Cyprus.
The remainder of the UK will not give Scotland any say in the governance of the Pound. Why should they? We get no say over the currencies of Denmark or Sweden. Why? Because it isn’t ours. The Pound Sterling would not be yours.
Salmond merely stamps his feet and says the rump-UK would have to let them use it. Well, no they wouldn’t. Oh sure, you can use the currency, it happens elsewhere, especially with the US Dollar (East-Timor, Panama, El Salvador for example), but they’ve no say in its governance. It’s utter chaos.
Post ‘Yes’ vote, membership of the EU and adoption of the Pound Sterling is no independence.
What does Salmond want? My mind goes to a line spoken by Varys, the spymaster in the dramatisation of George R R Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ series of novels on TV last night. He was talking of Peter Baelish, ‘Littlefinger’, a man described as one of the most dangerous men in Westeros. ‘He would let the country burn just so he could be king of the ashes.’ Salmond would be bending the knee left, right and centre as soon as he got his way, telling himself he was the head of an independent state.
I have no problem with Scottish sovereignty, but please Scotland, I beg of you, make sure it IS sovereignty.