The SNP tactic so far in the Brexit campaign has been to try to force a No vote thus leaving the English hitched with the EU – just as the EU is about to hit us with the costs of Grexit, an EU army and police force and a whole lot of other things delayed so as not to upset us Brits. The reason is obvious: Scots won’t vote to leave the UK and join the EU, but the SNP can’t possibly make the economic case for Scotland outside the EU. So, they need England to be in the EU in order for the SNP to convince voters to give – not independence, but separation from the UK.
But if England votes decidedly for Brexit, and if Scots start following the English lead and becoming more anti-EU (which seems likely as we are slow starters in this race given we’ve just had a large election), then the game is up for the SNP. Because by promising a second referendum if there’s a Brexit, they have now hoisted themselves on their own petard. Because the reason they didn’t want a Brexit, was because they knew they couldn’t win a second referendum (particularly with oil prices so high).
So, how do the SNP get themselves out of the mess they created for themselves?
It seems we are starting to hear the rumblings of that in the recent talk from Sturgeon of being “in the pound”. This is coded talk for “in a union” with Britain. In other words, it appears Sturgeon may be tacitly admitting defeat on the Brexit vote, and is now trying to build a coalition around a “loose alliance” between an “independent” England and Scotland outside the EU.
Fortunately, whereas the Europeans are by instinct empire builders and centralists – the British have a decent record in the last century of decentralising power of devolving government first to the “colonies” of the empire and then to Scotland and Wales. So, whereas the EU is on a never-ending road toward more and more centralisation and a bigger and bigger state. The British pragmatism is for the size of state that best suits those involved. So, e.g. the Falklands are not “independence” nor is Belize – but we come to a pragmatic relationship.
So, the future for the English – Scottish relationship actually looks quite rosy outside the EU when we are allowed to resolve our own affairs without the dead hand of the EU trying to undermine our democracies.
The Reality of the England-Scotland relationship outside the EU
First, by getting rid of the “EU floozy” in the “marriage bed” cannot do anything but improve the relationship between England and Scotland if for no other reason than English politicians will stop wasting their time flying to Brussels to some pathetic “look good” do whether like natives they receive PR trinkets for handing away their lands and perhaps rather than going off on these glory trips to the EU they will visit Scotland from time to time instead.
Next, we have got to sort out the North-South divide, because Scotland is the extreme of that divide. And the cause of it is pretty clear. It is government policy devised by those in London and advised by academics in the South of England (Oxbridge) which totally and overwhelmingly favours the SE. Unfortunately, because government invests in “Oxbridge Elite” who then advise them to invest in the things that favour the areas around Oxbridge, almost all government spending ends up benefiting this area in some way. And even when they make an attempt to “help” the North, they do so in a way that favours the south – because it is the south that advises government – because that is where government is.
So, the real solution to the North-South divide is to move Government to the North. So why not move the second chamber to Scotland? (Howls of protest) …. now stop howling and tell me one good reason why at least part of the government machinery shouldn’t be in Scotland? The reason is this: the English have never allowed even one “British” institution to be in Scotland – and the English wonder why Scots want to leave?
Other parts of government that could be moved are GCHQ or similar establishments (not a large employer themselves but it has massive economic benefit to local area – and guess what? They are all in the South of England).
Another possibility is to move the whole civil service north – perhaps to Manchester-Leeds-Liverpool leaving parliament in London. (Howls of protests from the Sir humphrieas and all those who benefit economically in London – but it’s only fair!)
Unfortunately, one of the biggest hurdles to relocating key parts of the British public sector to Scotland is the move toward Independence which is caused by having a lack of key public sector institutions in Scotland. It would seem daft to move MI5 to Scotland if Scotland was going to leave the UK. But unless Scotland gets something big like the whole of MI5 – it will never have the economic growth to make us want to stay in the EU. Catch 22!
So realistically, given the intransigence and selfishness of the SE, Scotland is going to be heading toward if not out the exit door of the UK.
But realistically if Scotland “jumps” into independence, it will fail economically. Because its unlikely oil will be rising soon – and by the time it is likely to rise – the resource will be much depleted (as was the English plan?).
But far worse, economically, Scotland is a “subsidy junky” culture. We have a massively over-inflated public sector, and as a result our political leanings tend to be to the left and anti-commerce. And it is that anti-commerce attitude that would do most to kill an independent Scotland. So, we’d either fall off the economic cliff because we refuse to vote in economically sane politicians who would have to implement the kind of austerity that would make Thatcher wince – or we would have to elect a government with the Thatcher mentality of “Get on your bike – because there’s no free ride in Scotland”. Public sector jobs would go, pay would be cut, pensions reduced. There would be strikes, strife, but eventually if we kept the bastards there long enough and we got through enough reforms – Scotland would be turned around and we could survive independently. (Although it is unlikely we would be as prosperous as England – but that may be a price people are prepared to pay)
However, a more reasonable (not necessarily likely) exit, would involve a gradual increase in Scottish powers. Government led intervention almost never improves an economy – so more powers will not in themselves benefit Scotland’s economy. But government do have a huge economic impact through their spending – which is like shit – useless as a plant fertiliser on its own – but hugely beneficial when mixed with real soil. Likewise, government spending inadvertently nurtures the economy by giving a boost and life-line to local companies. That’s why the spending in London is so critical. It’s not because they intend by spending money buying paper clips to boost the SE … it’s just that a paper-clip manufacturer finds it advantageous to be near such a large and reliable customer.
So, the gradual release of powers from Westminster and the repatriation of powers directly from the EU to Scotland will inevitably improve the economy (if we can stop the politicians meddling with it).
The other key factors we need in Scotland is a press (or social media) that does its job of scrutinising government – which with so few papers, needs the press to see it as their duty to publicise views that they themselves do not agree with – something they are currently incapable of doing (Glasgow Herald in particular). We also need people to start seeing it as their duty to campaign against government – and not expect someone in England to do it for them! And … we need government to stop only listening to those who agree with it. Because in a smaller country, there is no way they can only listen to the professional lobbyists because Scotland on its own cannot afford a professional campaign group on every issue of importance. So politicians have to nurture groups who disagree with them (sounds odd – but that is what we require for our smaller democracy to work)
But ironically – once we sort out all theses problems – reduce the North-South divide, start politicians and media listening, get government to be more sensitive to regional differences – there will be a lot less demand for independence.
Given that the biggest hurdle to investing in Scotland is the possibility of Scotland leaving the UK, I suggest a massive but temporary injection.
The Commons is in need of updating. it’s run down and not fit for purpose, but making large changes whilst MPs occupy it is difficult.
So, let’s build a new temporary parliament – and why not be radical – let’s build it in Scotland in Glasgow – the (once) second city of the Empire. We have the infrastructure to cope (with a bit of planning) and let’s be honest – it’s only fair that parliament comes to us from time to time because getting to parliament for Scots is a bl**dy nightmare.
I suggest a ten year plan (two terms). The first term would be set aside to decide the future of the UK. Then as part of that settlement it would decide the future location of the parliament. The second term would then allow time to make the necessary changes to Parliament in London – or rebuild it as appropriate (perhaps in Manchester-Liverpool-Leeds) area or indeed why not Northern Ireland? Note, I do not actually suggest Scotland – because somewhere more central would seem best in the longer term.