Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Scottish Independence - Some Caveats

If I read the media right, there are some people in Scotland who assert that I have no right to be writing this piece at all.
They think that Scottish independence is Scotland’s business and nobody else’s.
Thus Alex Salmond told David Cameron to ‘butt out’ when he tried to influence the timing of the independence referendum.

Well, I don’t agree with Alex Salmond. To tell you the truth, I don’t even agree with David Cameron. I don’t think that we English people ought to have a say just in the timing of the referendum … I think we ought to have a vote!

Whether or not your daughter leaves home is not just an issue for your daughter, unless she is a totally selfish daughter. It involves such issues as the situation and wishes of her parents, and the economic position of the household. It is not always the ‘right thing’ for a daughter to leave home just because she wants to (e.g. what if she is 10?), and other people do have a say in that decision.
Similarly, the departure of Scotland from the Union will affect much more than just the people of Scotland. So it has to be a Union referendum – not only the English, but the people of Wales and Northern Ireland need to be asked what they think too.

The surprise you might get is that I would probably vote ‘yes’, not ‘no’. At the very least, I know as a father that there is no point in trying to keep your daughter at home against her will.


Show Me The Money!
Before I say any more, can I make it quite clear to everyone that I am not some Scot-hating Sassenach. For a long time, Barbara and I had a holiday home in Hawick, and I can tell you that it is one of the most beautiful and friendliest places on earth. We loved it there, and for a while contemplated retiring there. We met no anti-English racism. All the people we met there were kind, helpful and honest – and they seemed to have maintained an old-fashioned decency of morality which we have sadly jettisoned in many ways in England.

But, whilst we continue to allow the Scots to think of independence as some kind of sole Scottish inheritance-as-of-right, we do not do these wonderful people any favours. Because there will be a lot more to independence than Parliaments and flags.

My point is that nobody, least of all Alex Salmond and David Cameron, are talking about independence in nuts-and-bolts enough terms.

For a start, what is the financial deal? Things usually come down to money, and that is usually when things get nasty, so let’s talk about it before we decide to have a referendum. What exactly would the financial deal include?

The Scots have a feeling that they pour £_billions into the English economy in oil revenues, and that they will be quids-in upon independence. Equally, if you talk to any Englishman, he will tell you that he believes the Barnett Formula allocates £_billions to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so they will be quids-in if the Scots get independence. I read one article which calculated that it would end up about even-stevens. But I don’t know, and before we go any further, we need to know. It will do nobody any good, for instance, if independence plunges either Scotland or England into a sovereign debt crisis, because the two economies are so fully integrated.

Independence = Disentanglement
Having said that, independence will involve some disentangling of all sorts of things which we take for granted although, at the end of the day, I suspect that we need not get too paranoid about this side of independence.

The government side of things, let’s face it, is almost wholly separated already. Indeed, there will be a good deal of satisfaction in England when the 40 Scottish MPs are given their marching orders; there is a grumbling resentment that the Scots vote on our business, but we don’t get to vote on theirs, and it will save a bit of money into the bargain.

There may be some confusion as firms try to disentangle which tax they pay in Scotland, and what they pay in England; there will certainly be some economic shift as they try to take account of differences in the tax systems to minimise their tax liability. Expect a bit of a wrangle over who owns the Bank of Scotland! And many Scottish firms will get one hell of a shock when the UK government closes down all its government offices, naval bases etc., and relocates them to Newcastle.

However, in this world of global capitalism, I won’t have to take all my money out of HBOS and put it into some English bank; that’s not how the economic world works nowadays.

Border Crossings
I do have a bit of a worry about the borders. Will they be able to stay wide open as they are at the moment? Somebody who is familiar with the situation of the borders of Eire and Northern Ireland will be able to say better than I – though I know that they are certainly more open there than they used to be.

Nevertheless, I know that the Scots would intend to increase the duty on alcohol (a policy with which I thoroughly agree). But if Scotland was to be an independent country with much higher duties, would you not get a massive smuggling problem; are the Scots not going to want some kind of effective barrier? Nobody is suggesting that it would be like Checkpoint Charlie, but is there not going to have to be some kind of border control at places like Carter Bar?

Again, we need to know before we go rushing into independence.

Status
Above all, has anybody thought about what’s going to happen to the people? What about all those English living in Scotland? What about all those Scots living in England?

Again, I suspect that the likes of Alex Salmond have this dewy-eyed romantic notion of independence where everything is going to go on exactly as before EXCEPT that Scotland will be a self-determining free nation as well.

But it just cannot happen like that. Independence will change the status of the people of the two nations viz-a-viz each other. Perhaps exceptions will be written into the protocols of independence, but I don’t see any reason why they should. If the Scots want to be independent in a separate country, then let them be independent in a separate country!

Are we just going to assume on independence day that every Scot living in the UK is an Englishman? I suspect that the Scots living in the UK may have something to say about that! But what is the alternative but to treat Scottish people living in the UK as foreign nationals … as immigrants?

This will have a MASSIVE effect on Scottish people living in the UK. Until Scotland is allowed to join the EU (which is far from a foregone conclusion), Scottish people will be equivalent to immigrants into England from such as Sierra Leone and India – they will have to tot up a points score of qualifications and experience to prove that they will benefit this country when they arrive (and if they cannot, they will not be allowed in). If they want to become a UK citizen, they will have to take a test about life in the UK, and prove they can speak English!

Even should Scotland join the EU, Scottish nationals would find themselves in the same classification as Polish plumbers and Ukrainian waitresses.
So would similar questions about them start cropping up in the Daily Mail?
If a Scottish national is out of work and on benefits, should he and his family not be required to return to Scotland?
And would we start seeing ‘English jobs for English people’ campaigns?

Of course, exactly the same would start kicking off in Scotland; why should the Scots look after English nationals in their free old people’s homes?

Has Alex Salmond REALLY begun to think what effect independence would have upon Scottish ex-pats living in England?

Conclusion
Goodness knows what other issues independence will turn up that I haven’t thought of. In a world where everything is about reducing impediments and integrating systems, who knows what chaos a sudden against-the-flow decision to create a massive new barrier might trip?

Again, as I say, everything might turn out to be eminently sortable, but these issues need exploring before we, as citizens of the United Kingdom, as is our democratic right, turn out to vote on whether we wish to see our United Kingdom dissolved.


11 comments:

  1. First time on your Blog.
    Ok. I'll give you a little history of myself then get down to answering some of your questions.

    I am Scottish living in England (for 30 odd years) and have an English daughter and English grandkids and I support independence. I'm glad to see that you are not one of the many little Englanders, but are an Englishman who has some decent questions to ask. I'll try and answer them for you.

    "I think we ought to have a vote"

    If you were resident in Scotland and were on the voting register you would have a vote. I am resident in England and do not have a vote. Answer this question and your answer will answer your own question. If the UK decided it has had enough of the EU and decided to hold a referendum do you think that the Germans, the French, Spanish, Belgians etc. should have the right to vote in your referendum?

    "Whether or not your daughter leaves home is not just an issue for your daughter, It involves such issues as the situation and wishes of her parents"

    a) I could understand if you took the example of a married couple. Scotland is no daughter of anyone. This is a union not a parent/daughter relationship.
    b) If you or your wife decided that the marriage was not working and one of you wanted a divorce do you think the other partner has the right to stop the other from leaving?

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  2. "had a holiday home in Hawick"

    I had a friend from there [sadly now passed away] and I would agree with everything you have said about the area and the people.

    "What exactly would the financial deal include?"

    Good question but that will have to be negotiated after the referendum up to the moment of independence.

    "The Scots have a feeling that they pour £_billions into the English economy in oil revenues"

    http://gedguy-roehampton.blogspot.com/2011/12/scottish-barrels-of-oil.html

    I am not saying this is right but I have posted this on many websites and blogs and no one has been able to tell me if this is true or false. Maybe you can. Keeping in mind that is just the oil, you have to take into account Scotland's gas and the forth largest export in the UK which is whisky. There are many other incomes that we have but have been unable to find out as the treasury don't want to release the figures; for obvious reasons. getting figures from the treasury is like trying to get blood out of a stone.

    "when the 40 Scottish MPs are given their marching orders; there is a grumbling resentment that the Scots vote on our business"

    I couldn't agree with you any more on this subject. I will point out that the SNP MPs have never voted on purely English, Welsh and/or NI policies. You can check up on Hansard.

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  3. "when the UK government closes down all its government offices, naval bases etc."

    The Scottish government will need its own government offices and naval bases so that won't have as much of an impact as what you think. The shock will be on the English side when you have to take your nuclear weapons out of Scotland and park them in England, somewhere.

    "put it into some English bank"

    There are no English/Scottish/Welsh banks; they are multi-national banks. You even agreed with that in the previous sentence.

    "Border Crossings"

    We won't have any. I don't know if the English will have any but we have said that the borders will be open. You will see no difference on our side.

    "What about all those English living in Scotland?"

    What about them? Nothing will change. When Ireland got its independence the Irish still stayed in the UK and the English still stayed in Ireland. What makes you think that any of that will change?

    "Are we just going to assume on independence day that every Scot living in the UK is an Englishman?"

    2 points here:

    1. If Scotland gets its independence there is no UK. The UK [United Kingdom] was formed from the Union of two crowns of two separate nations Scotland and England. Wales was a principality and the last King of Ireland was David de Bruce the brother of Robert de Bruce. The history of Ireland is/was so complicated with so many people, mostly Normans claiming Ireland as their own. Therefore no UK. However, if England still wants to use the term UK then it is free to do so.
    2. All Scots living in England will be Scottish and all English living in Scotland will be English. No problem there.

    "Until Scotland is allowed to join the EU"

    What makes you think that England will still be allowed to join the EU? After all, the UK as it stands will be over. What applies to Scotland must also apply to England. Remember it wasn't England that joined the EU it was the UK.

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  4. "Scottish people will be equivalent to immigrants into England"

    And vice versa. So what? Nothing will change as far as that is concerned. Scottish people resident in England will pay their taxes to Westminster and English people resident in Scotland will pay their taxes to Holyrood.

    "and prove they can speak English"

    Now that could be a hard one but, just imagine if we insisted on a stupid law like that in Scotland and forced the English to prove they could speak Scottish. I see no problem with that one.

    " Scottish nationals would find themselves in the same classification as Polish plumbers and Ukrainian waitresses."

    Ukraine is not in the EU and Ukrainians need to have visas to enter the EU. However, the same, if you chose it be would also apply to the English who live in Scotland. However, that wouldn't bother us. The English are more than welcome.

    "So would similar questions about them start cropping up in the Daily Mail"

    I'm surprised that you read that 'flog 'em and hang 'em high' rag. Having posted on that rag a few times that sentiment is already there.

    "why should the Scots look after English nationals in their free old people’s homes?"

    Why not? If they have lived there long enough and don't want to go home to England.

    "Has Alex Salmond REALLY begun to think what effect independence would have upon Scottish ex-pats living in England?"

    The First Minister is concerned about the people living in Scotland. That is his first priority. If the Scots want to go home then that is up to them.

    I hope that allays some of the fears that you have. Don't listen to the mud-stirring press. Most of what I hear in England about what will happen after independence is laughable.

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  5. Wow! Thank you for this detailed analysis, which is perhaps more than my piece (which was half tongue-in-cheek) deserved. I am sure that a lot of what you say is true.
    However, in challenging the detail you have missed the two main points of my article which were:

    1. thus far, very little attention has been focussed on the TERMS of independence, which my article was a call to redress. This of course will correct itself; Newsnight last night raised other practicalities – what proportion of the National Debt would Scotland take, what currency would it have, and who would act as lender of last resort for the Scottish banking system etc.? As I say in my article, I am sure that these questions have an answer – they are not insuperable barriers to independence – but they need raising.
    To take your analogy, which was indeed probably more apposite than mine, the desirability of a divorce lies not only in getting away from your insufferable spouse, but also in the terms of the divorce settlement.

    2. which brings me, of course, to my other point, that a divorce is NOT just an issue for the dissatisfied wife or husband, but involves TWO people. And that is why divorces, however ‘amicable’ they start out trying to be, often end up in acrimony. Your comments, I fear, continued to betray the belief that Scotland can become independent, but that somehow everything else will carry on happy-happy as it always has done.
    But that is the situation Scottish people have NOW – the opportunity to practise an impractical Scots nationalism whilst enjoying all the benefits of being ‘British’.
    My article was an attempt to get people wondering to what extent that situation will survive the ‘divorce’ of independence.
    This is why I asked readers to consider what would happen if the English were given a vote. They might get a surprise. They might just find themselves confronted with an English nationalism which tells the Scots that they WANT them to go, and that no – the Scots CANNOT, like some unfaithful husband, enjoy all the benefits of a re-found bachelor ‘freedom’, whilst continuing to enjoy all the home-comforts.

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  6. "Wow! Thank you for this detailed analysis, which is perhaps more than my piece (which was half tongue-in-cheek) deserved"

    Nae problem. I gathered it was slightly tongue in cheek but a valid position to take at this moment in time. The problem that we all have is the deliberate muddying of the waters by the Unionists. The object of the 'stories' being released is not aimed at the 'English' but at the Scottish voters. There are 2 reasons for this:
    1. The Unionists cannot come up with even one positive reason why Scotland should remain in the Union so they flood the media with dire predictions to bring the 'rebellious' Scots into line. [Check out the lyrics in the UK national anthem]
    2. The economy is in an absolute mess and anything which can divert the overtaxed public from, rightly, complaining to their elected leaders the better for Westminster.

    Just to give you a little background information on this subject I am more than sure that you have heard that the English have been subsidising the ungrateful Scots for...well, ever. This was put about by the Labour party in Scotland when the SNP started to make inroads into the UK political system. It started in the 70s. What the 'Scottish' Labour party did not take into account was that this 'Scotland only' propaganda would be picked up by the English press who delighted in running with it. It was not true then and is not true now. Scotland has always contributed more to the UK treasury than it takes out. Google 'McCrone report' which was kept top secret for 30 years. Don't take my word for it; check it out yourself. Then, after reading that, check out the treasury figures and if you find them then you are a better man than I.
    Years ago, before the advent of the internet, it was easy to con the people [not just the Scots but the English, Welsh and NI as well] because there was no way of finding out what was going on because of the cosy relationship between the government and the media. Then, along came the internet and blew that cosy relationship out of the water. When the Scots began to realise what was happening they were absolutely furious. It was PG Wodehouse who said: "It isn't difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine"; he was right. It must be something in the genes, or the water. Whatever the reason was when information slowly started to appear on the internet, which ended up being a flood, the relationship between the government and the media was shattered. If it wasn't for the internet would it have been possible, pre-internet, for you to ask these questions and me being able to give you the answers? Sadly, and I really mean this, it goes much, much deeper than that. If you check out the links in my blog you can see just how deep the worm goes (The Matrix). Anyway, that's for another day.

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  7. Your questions and my answers.

    1. "little attention has been focussed on the TERMS of independence"

    Of course. You don't tell your opponent, when playing poker, what your hand is. We have to accept that our leaders will sit down and sort it out for us. Then, after the deals are agreed on and the information is released to the public we can all complain that we were hard done by and should have got a better deal, but that's business.

    "what proportion of the National Debt would Scotland take"

    Another 'muddy water' question. What they are not telling you is that not only is Scotland liable for its share of the national debt but it is also entitled to its share of the accumulations of the Empire. Assuming that Scotland is liable for 10% of the National debt then it is also entitled to 10% of the Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, all the motorways in the UK, Gibralta, Falklands, UK share of Antarctica. I could go on but you get the point. Ah, you say, if that be the case then we English must be entitled to 90% of the motorways in Scotland etc. Of course you are, but 10% of England is worth far more than 90% of Scotland. What will happen is the same as what happened when Ireland got its independence; Ireland's share of the debt was offset on their claim on the rest of the UK, at that time. All smoke and mirrors. You are being misled by the UK government just as much as we are.

    "what currency would it have"

    The pound, just as Ireland did up to the ERM.

    "Scottish banking system"

    As I mentioned before; there is no Scottish, or English, banking system. there is only bankers.

    "in getting away from your insufferable spouse"

    You've met my ex-wife?

    2. "somehow everything else will carry on happy-happy as it always has done"

    Of course it will. Do you think for one moment that the real rulers of the UK, big business, is going to allow either side to go to war with each other. Of course they won't allow that. It's bad for business. If/when independence come you will look back at these valid questions and see them for what they really are; the UK's attempt to muddy the waters and bring the Scots to heel.

    "whilst enjoying all the benefits of being ‘British’"

    Two points:
    a) Britain is a geographical term and not a political term.
    b) If you mean that we invade countries to steal their wealth then I don't want to be a part of that.

    "if the English were given a vote"

    You are not going to be given a vote so it is an irrelevant question and only adds to the muddying of the waters. Let the Scots have their referendum in peace and then we can get down to business as usual or forge a new business as usual.

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  8. This article looks at Scottish independence from the point of view of the North East: http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/katie-schmuecker/what-would-scottish-independence-mean-for-north

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  9. Interesting article. You are right that the London area is sucking money out of the rest of England and the UK, but it is hidden by classifying major projects done in London as being a national asset, thereby not coming under the amount of money that gets spent in London. How the 'Crossrail' project is classified as a National asset when it only serves the people of London is beyond my ken. Then there is the Olympics; how does the north benefit from that? Neither of these projects are put down as money allotted to London thereby making it look as if London is not sponging off the rest of England and the UK.
    Some will say, and they may have a point, that the North just doesn't generate enough money to satisfy a need for money to be transferred from the south east to the north. However, if excess money, from the north, has always been diverted south then that money has not been used to reinvest in the manufacturing industries that needed to be up-graded to allow it to compete in the world markets. After all, didn't the industrial revolution, which fuelled the growth of the square mile, in London, start in the North?
    So, the UK's wealth came from the north and never returned but went into the pockets of the landed gentry who increased their wealth by investing those monies in a growing empire to further increase their wealth while leaving the populace in their 'dark satanic mills' to slip further into the abyss of poverty. But this did not only happen in the North, it happened to Scotland, Wales and the south west. All the wealth of those areas' natural and industrial wealth poured into the south east. Then they had/have the cheek to say that it is the south east which is subsidising the rest of the UK.

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  10. The site didn't allow me to post there, for whatever reason, so I have posted it here instead.

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  11. Interesting development: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jan/23/english-resentful-scottish-privileges-devolution

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