Scottish independence: We must fight to save this marriage

Prime Minister David Cameron was “right to have made such a strong and emotional intervention” in his first major address on Scottish independence at the Olympic stadium in London last Friday, says the FT. Britons have been “too blasé” about a possible split, which will be voted on in seven months’ time.

A Yes vote would not only condemn London and Edinburgh to years of “sterile debate” over everything from the currency, sovereign debt and business regulation to the armed forces; it would also, as Cameron said, “deeply diminish” the UK. The 307-year-old union between England and Scotland is “one of the most successful political marriages in modern history”.

In the event of a Yes vote, “Britain’s prized reputation for political stability would slip; investor confidence would be lost”. Cameron is understandably “wary” of hurting the unionist cause by associating it too closely with a “Tory brand that is unpopular north of the border”. All three main party leaders – David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg – should therefore make the case collectively.

When Cameron, a southern Tory public schoolboy, talks about the union, it simply “reinforces” all the Scots want to get away from, agrees Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian.

The reason so many are considering making the break is fear that Britain will never again return to “the kind of social democratic values that still find a ready consensus in Scotland”. But in the end, the economy could prove the “decisive factor”.

Voters will be “pondering” the gloomy recent analyses by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, which warns that an ageing population and declining oil revenues spell higher taxes.

In the most recent polls, support for independence is holding fairly steady at 43%, with 57% preferring to remain in the UK; 51% believe independence would mean higher tax bills.

There is certainly no shortage of “miserablist” arguments, says Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer. Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, has talked about Scotland losing defence contracts; George Osborne, the chancellor, has suggested an independent Scotland will be “too feeble” to support its banks.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney has drizzled “cold water” over the idea that an independent Scotland could keep the pound. But is fear-mongering sensible, or will it just raise the Scots’ hackles and encourage them to vote Yes?

At least Cameron cannot be accused of acting out of electoral self-interest. Rerun the result of the last general election without the 59 MPs Scotland sends to Westminster (only one of whom is currently a Tory), and the Tories would have a majority of 19. Cameron genuinely does not want to see the UK ‘torn apart’. Nor does he want to go down in history as the PM who “lost Scotland”.

  • Angela

    Although this is perceived as a Scottish issue, the impact of a Yes vote on the rest of the UK would be enormous.
    The UK outside of the South East of England would be effectively disenfranchised, and no Labour government would ever be elected again. Bad for democracy.
    In a generation the North would be agitating for devolution too!

  • jack

    One in five scots are public employees . I foresee tax rises or a rise in unemployment. The labour stronghold in Scotland would also disappear in a independent Scotland.

  • John Morgan

    Who says that taxes would need to be raised? Where is the proof?
    Independence could regenerate the centre-right in Scotland. Almost 90% of voters in Scotland vote for left-wing parties. Does that mean 90% of the population is left-wing? Not a chance! If your politics are centre-right and you believe in independence who can you vote for? No one.
    The centre-right think tank ‘Wealthy Nation’ have put forward proposals to create an independent Scotland with a low-tax economy. Anyone earning £15k or less would pay no tax and the rest would be taxed at 15%. Think of the inward investment this would attract instead of propping up the sterile public sector that bleeds the country dry.
    There is this idea that we Scots are all left-wing, welfare junkies. If there was a decent centre-right alternative (something like MSP Murdo Fraser proposed) then we could broaden the debate further than who is getting what handouts.