As a Scot, one of the first questions I get asked by new acquaintances in the City these days is whether I’d vote for Scottish independence or not. My answer is always a firm ‘no’.
That’s because under the SNP, I fear the economy would collapse in a mire of cronyism, muddle-headed socialism and a basic failure to accept that all the ‘free’ stuff provided by the government actually has to be paid for somehow.
But if I had any faith in the people who would run the country post-independence, I might well reconsider.
Like it or not, London’s influence dominates politics, finance and the media in Britain. We sometimes fall prey to this ourselves.
For example, we’ve called here on a number of occasions for a rise in the minimum wage in order to stop the taxpayer from subsidising low-wage employers. It’s a cry that’s now been taken up in parliament.
But much as I agree with the principle – employers should be willing and able to pay a living wage – the cost of living in most parts of Scotland is far below that of London and the southeast.
Price the minimum wage based on London living costs, and you’ll ultimately drive up unemployment in Scotland (because if employers can’t afford to pay staff, they won’t hire them) simply to compensate for the insanity of London’s housing market. It’s neither fair nor economically sensible.
So, the reasonable case for independence is not so much about nationalism as the desire to have representatives who are more responsive to local needs and conditions. And this desire for better representation is hardly limited to Scotland. The rise of Ukip has the same roots.
Just as many Scots feel that decisions are made for them by a distant parliament that doesn’t reflect what they want, so many British people feel that Westminster has ceded too much power to Brussels. And across continental Europe, nationalist parties born of economic pain are growing ever more popular.
Where has this mass disillusionment come from? I believe that much of the blame
can in fact be laid at the feet of our central banks. As we’ve often noted, printing money and keeping interest rates at near-zero levels isn’t just monetary policy – it is redistribution of wealth.
The indebted, and owners of assets such as shares and property, benefit hugely at the expense of those with savings, those who rely on income rather than capital gains, and those who are asset-poor.
You might agree with such policies – but decisions on wealth redistribution should be made by our elected representatives, not technocrats.
Having ceded responsibility for what truly matters in the economy, can mainstream politicians – reduced to tinkering at the margins with scattershot policies on minimum wages and energy price controls – really blame voters for turning to parties with woolly economic views, but promises to return power to the people?