December 22, 2019


Why the English should support Scottish independence (Lincoln Allison, 22 December, 2019, The Critic)

[I]t is worth asking what a rational English person would lose from Scottish independence. One way of answering that question is to consider the arguments against Irish independence a century ago. People worried about a repressive, theocratic government and about the repression of minorities including Northern protestants and the ascendancy, but also smaller groups (as in the Limerick anti-Jewish "pogrom" of 1904). There were also concerns that the island would prove to be hostile to Britain and a security risk. In fact, of course, all of these concerns turned out to be valid. But none of them remotely apply to Scotland in the twenty first century. We aren't in any doubt either that Scotland is a nation and one lucky enough to have no dissenting minorities -- in sharp contrast to the bitter situation in Catalonia. Nor are we in any doubt that the Scots could run an open and outward-looking country and do so pretty efficiently.

But it does all depend on what you mean by "independence". I write these words with a smile on my face because in 2014 a referendum was held on the subject during which it became clear that nobody had a clue what they meant and if there is another referendum it must surely be on the basis of a full and clear blueprint. From an English point of view there are two essential conditions which independence must meet. The first, obviously, is that the "West Lothian question" must be dismissed forever: Scotland cannot continue both to have a parliament in Edinburgh and to have representation in Westminster. The second, equally non-negotiable, is that it must have its own currency. Proper countries have currencies and by analogy with the Euro I cannot imagine anything worse for Anglo-Scottish relations than having to send commissions up to Edinburgh to curb public expenditure. To clarify, there might well be private employers paying Scots in other currencies (many people in Aberdeen are already paid in dollars) and, of course, Scots should be able to hold savings in any currency they choose, but Scottish government accounts and the payment of public employees must only be in groats (or whatever).

Naturally there should be a plethora of arrangements which represent the remaining Britishness of Scotland without impinging on the essence of independence. These should include the retention of the monarchy as in Canada and many other places. Normal movement should continue between the two countries as it did between Britain and Ireland following the 1949 Government of Ireland Act which said that the Irish were not foreigners even if they had a sovereign state. There would have to be very close relations on defence and diplomatic representation: the emergent Scottish state and its electorate are hardly likely to want to fund a modern navy or air force let alone 123 embassies and 154 consulates as Britain does. They would also be expected to be members of NATO and the Commonwealth.

Posted by at December 22, 2019 12:00 AM