Monday, 15 September 2014

Bonny Prince Alex

Prior to the union with England Scotland had a long and glorious tradition of following the wrong leader and creating the wrong alliances and this poor judgement eventually created the need for union with England 1706, when the Scottish Parliament voted by 106 votes to 69 for dependence.  Since the Union there have also been a number of moments when the Scots have thrown their lot in with leaders (Bonny Prince Charlie for one) and alliances (The French) who offered more than they were able to deliver.
Queen Anne's floral badge of Union

Over the last three hundred years the people of these British Isles have managed to make an awkward four way marriage work.  There have moments of hostility and open conflict (Irish independence) but there has also been peace and prosperity.  This marriage of geographic necessity has enriched the world with so many important discoveries and insights; it is barely credible that such a small place could achieve such a creative and important contribution.  Together we colonised about 25% of the globe and then handed this empire back.  We gave the world it's global language and saved Europe three times from despots and tyrants.  Together we have been in the right side of so many important alliances and civilising initiatives.  We achieved more together than any of us had the right to expect.

Domestically we have been much more successful than many give us credit for.  We have been one of, if not the most, successful economy over the last 200 years.  If it had no been for our commitment to the two world wars and a misguided dalliance with socialism for 25 years we would be the richest country on planet by a country mile. In partnership we have built great institutions: the rule of law, the BBC, great universities, GMT, accounting standards, the codification of sport and the Jaffa Cake.  We did all of this whilst maintaining a playful contempt for each other, which has been sustained by sporting rivalry. We even married each other and have, with open arms, invited the world to share our small group if Islands - we made multiculturalism work.

Scotland has a great identity and a clearly differentiated role in the world and to throw away the history and joint institutions we have built together would only be a sign of weakness and small mindedness, both if which are not characteristics one associates with the Scots.

So it is strange that Scotland is preparing to dump all this for some weird notion if independence - independence from what?  The idea, that in this increasingly joined up world of  global markets any nation can be independent is a sham.  Who really sets interest rates, who really decided how much a government can borrow and who drives competitiveness - it's the market dummy! I have a number of practical worries for an independent Scotland, two of which stand out.  Firstly, how will they be able to set up the tax collection infrastructure that the HMRC provides in eighteen months - without this they will be bust in a week.  Secondly they will lose of economies of scale - they may not like the services the UK provides but without the economies of scale that 65m people provide , in the future these services will either be more expensive or worse.  Scots can look forward to - terrible public TV, awful weather forecasts, a pathetic military, no foreign embassy in Washington and costly driving licences, and so the list goes on and on.

Listening to Alex Salmon over the weekend I was very struck by two things.  Firstly,  he seems to want to keep all the shared institutions that we jointly built (monarchy, the pound, the NHS) but he decries this heritage in the same breath. Secondly he seems only interested in being the captain of the ship and not in the safety of it's course ("we'll sort the currency issue out later on") . It's power he is after not independence and let's hope the Scots are not misled again by some self serving light weight.  Based on the current opinion polls my only conclusion is that most Scots with any common sense are now living abroad - many of them go to my local pub!!

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