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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Scotland Votes for Independence


Results to be Known Friday
A Cri de Coeur
By Our London Correspondent  
[WritersClearinghouse News Service]
London Posted 18 September 2014
This  may be Great Britain's last forty-eight hours as a united country, with the referendum on Scottish independence taking place today. (18 September 2014).
As you know, I have always been a political person, but nothing I have experienced, including the election of Nixon in the US, has distressed me like this. When I read that the Yes campaign had closed a thirty point gap in the
polls and had now edged ahead of Better Together, I actually felt queasy.

And angry.  Angry at the imminent victory of parochialism and
quasi-religious nationalism over common sense.  Angry at the untruths
and half-truths peddled by that oily little fourflusher, Salmond, and
his harridan of a deputy, Nicola Sturgeon.  Angry that they have
stirred up  witches' brew of conflict and hatred the like of which I
have never seen in this country and which will poison the relationship
of Scotland and England for years to come, whatever the outcome of the

It must be puzzling to witness all this from the other
side of the Atlantic. Secessionist movements usually gain traction in areas like Catalonia, a relatively wealthy part of Spain which resents having to subsidise the
poorer parts of the country in a fiscal regime controlled by Madrid. 
In Scotland, however, the situation is reversed:  under the terms
Barnet formula, Scots are subsidised by English taxpayers to the tune
of £1,300 per person.  One in three of Scotland's workforce is employed
in the public sector, making it one of the most state-dependent
economies in the developed world.  Salmond likes to depict Scotland as
a potential Norway, rich with the proceeds of billions of barrels of
oil.  But North Sea oil reserves have dwindled, and those that remain
tend to be expensive and difficult to extract.  With the development of
shale oil, these reserves are likely to be uneconomic.

What will be more expensive and difficult will be untangling Scotland from the rest
of the UK:  who gets what.  Salmond has already threatened to renege on
Scotland's share of the national debt if he is not allowed to keep the
pound -- something the English would be insane to agree to and which
all three main political parties have strongly insisted will not be
allowed to happen.  As one Treasury minister said, it would be like a
divorced couple continuing to share a credit card. (Oh, and by the way,
Salmond also wants to keep the Queen, another example of having your
cake and eating it too.)

Scotland has banking assets very much greater as a multiple of its GDP even than Iceland or Ireland before the Crash, and with independence most of those assets will have fled south over the border.  When the Royal Bank of Scotland failed -- I think it was
the biggest bank failure in the world -- it took the resources of the
UK government as a whole to bail it out.  Scotland could never, ever
have done it on its own and would have been plunged into penury and
depression.  Most big corporations which operate in Scotland have
opposed separation and have said they would move to England if the
nationalists prevail.  When BP announced that this was its intention,
the SNP angrily threatened to nationalise its assets, Chavez-style.

NATO?  Another of Salmond's cake-eating fantasies.  Because the SNP
would not allow nuclear weapons on its territory or in its waters (the
big nuclear submarine base at Faslane will have to be moved at great
expense and with considerable Scottish job losses), Scotland will not
be allowed to join NATO, becoming a small, isolated nation in a very
dangerous world.

The EU?  Scotland would have to apply, and all 28
member states would have to agree.  Spain, for one, will never allow
admission, given its own separatist problems.  And even if Scotland
were allowed in, according to the terms of the Lisbon Treaty she would
have to commit to joining the eurozone, something no politician in
possession of his or her senses would ever contemplate.

I could go on.  Still, the question that presents itself is:  how can half the Scottish population buy the SNP's tartan fantasies?  Some pundits estimate that perhaps a quarter
or a third of Yes supporters don't care a fig about the dire consequences of separation.  For them Scottish nationalism is a kind of religion, beyond reason.  Moreover, they harbour an obsessional tribal hatred of the English, blaming them for all Scotland's ills.  And they harbour a particularly vehement hatred for Tories; indeed, for many of
them 'English' is synonymous with 'Tory':  devious, posh public school
boys determined to do Scotland down.  For most Scots, the cruel de-
industrialisation of their country in the 80s and 90s was not due to
globalisation or the fact that ships were now being built much more
cheaply in Korea than on the Clyde, but the result of the malign
policies of that Tory/English witch, Margaret Thatcher.

Research carried out in 2003 indicated that a quarter of English people living
in Scotland were victims of antagonism, harassment and prejudice.  One
third of these people considered Scots Anglophobic.  I wonder what the
figure would be now.  My daughter-in-law's family are working-class
Glaswegians, and each time my son goes to Scotland to visit, the anti-
English barracking is pretty well non-stop.  His English accent seems
to irritate them, and they -- weirdly -- find hilarious the fact that
he played the violin as a boy.  'Posh', you see.

Those Yes supporters who might actually consider the unpleasant consequences of separation seem to have bought Salmond's fantasy of a Caledonian socialist
paradise where the benevolent State will provide everything that the
nasty Westminster government is unwilling or unable to provide. 
(Already they have free prescriptions, free homecare for the elderly
and free university education.)  No more cuts to the NHS budget! 
(Fact:  there have been no NHS budget cuts.)  An independent Scottish
NHS would be run by and for Scots!  (Fact:  NHS Scotland is already an
independent, devolved body, separate from the organisation in
England.)  Where would the money come from for all this largesse?

It has been a feature of this campaign that whenever anyone raises the
prospect of the disturbing economic and political problems stemming
from independence, the SNP accuse them of 'scaremongering' or
'bullying'.  These bullies include the Pope, President Obama, Hillary
Clinton, the President of the European Commission, the OECD, most CEOs
of companies operating in Scotland, and the Prime Minister of Australia
-- as well as the previous British Prime Minister and Chancellor of the
Exchequer, both Scots.

With characteristic cunning, Salmond hornswsoggled David Cameron into allowing 16-18 year-olds to vote in this referendum, although this has never been the case in any other UK election.  As Salmond calculated, kids never read a newspaper and are
particularly susceptible to his Pied Piper blandishments; and they,
like the children of Hamelin, have a grim future if Scotland goes its own way tomorrow.

Are Scotts oppressed and exploited by their much
bigger English neighbours in the Union.  No.  Does the existing
political system work against them?  No. In fact, compared to England,
Scotland is considerably over-represented in Parliament in terms of
numbers of MPs per 100,000 population.  Is Scotland culturally and
linguistically distinct from the rest of the UK?  Not really; probably
not much more distinct than Yorkshire or Cornwall.  Has the 300 year-
old Union operated to the disadvantage of the Scottish people?  No:  on
the contrary, it has provided considerable opportunity for talented
Scots to achieve succees in many fields, and their ingenuity and
enterprise in forging the Industrial Revolution and in the Imperial era
are justly famous.  Will an independent Scotland be safer and more
secure in a world full of dangers?  Certainly not.

Maybe, like the Quebecois, Scots will look over the precipice and take the safer, more
sensible course.  Given the harassment and abuse directed against the
No campaigners by fanatical Scots nationalists, I supect that many of
those who tell the pollsters 'Don't know' will in the event vote to
preserve the Union.  Britain is my adopted country, and I do not want
to see it dismembered and cast into years of chaos by the odious
Salmond and his nationalist fantasists.  As an ex-pat, I see her flaws
and her (sometimes) infuriating foibles probably better than most
natives.  But on the whole, the Britain I have lived in for forty years
is a tolerant, decent, humane society, many of whose characteristics
were affectionally chronicled by George Orwell eighty years ago and are
still recognisable today:  her essential gentleness, for example, and a
dislike of o'erweening authority.  For me, living here, it's like
marriage:  you see the faults and shortcomings of your spouse -- but
you love that person anyway.  And I do love Britain.