Saturday, 21 January 2012

Scottish Independence for aye!

The topic of Scottish Independence from the rest of the UK is rumbling around the news and will continue to rumble for the next year of two.

At the bottom of the whole story is the question about who has the power to call a referendum.  There is a false assumption that the Scots want one thing and the English want the opposite.  The (barely elected) UK Prime Minister, David Cameron (pardon me for spitting after saying his name) seems to be taking the line that the Scottish Parliament under Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, does not have the power to secede from UK without the approval of London.  Meanwhile Salmond is 'sabre rattling' and claiming the opposite.

The more I hear about this story, the more I feel that the question is bigger than is being discussed at the moment.  After all it is not a one sided issue.  There's a very simple solution to Salmond's problem. 

Ask the English!

Being a fundamentalist Scot he is falling into the same trap of making the assumptions that his 'type' often makes in the opposite direction.  They accuse the English of not understanding how the Scots think, and in some ways he is right.  As I mentioned on January 1st, in 'An Independent Hogmanay', the English do not even know how the other English think, as there are a lot of us and we live in very separate communities across the country.  (While many of us may smile at the particular version of Englishness portrayed by Flanders and Swann here, I think most would flinch slightly.)

This time though, Salmond is making the false assumption that he does know how the English think.  When you contemplate this for a moment you will see where he has gone wrong.  He draws the conceited conclusion that the English don't understand him, but that somehow he has some sort of superior intellect to understand them.  Harking back to the long-gone colonial era, perhaps he assumes that the English actually want to retain power over his 'independent nation'.

Well - from my own (albeit limited) viewpoint I think he couldn't be further from the truth.  People of my generation and younger have almost nothing in common with the English of the colonial era.  Not only that - when it suited them to do so, the Scots played a full and active role in ransacking the colonies, and modern Scots have exactly as much in common with their culpable ancestors - almost nothing

In the present times of austerity I would say that the majority of the English would be only too happy to stop subsidising the remote corners of the UK. My opinion falls short of the imposition of independence that many would subscribe to, but if they truly want independence, why not let them have it?

However, living in the heart of England, the question of Scottish home rule is almost irrelevant to most people.  After all, UK squanders enough money on other lost causes (a new 'Royal Yacht' being this week's nonsense!) so what difference does a few billion wasted on Scotland matter.  However, in recent weeks I have only heard one single objection to the idea of splitting up the Union.  That came from a colleague who usually has a live-and-let-live approach to life.  Unusually his objection went like this.

The campaign for independence is being led by radical Scots.  Think about all the other moderate Scots who would be badly affected by independence.  Think how their quality of life would be reduced when the English subsidies stopped flowing.  As one nation we should all stand together. 

Well pardon me for disagreeing.  But when the ordinary people of England start to get the same subsidies - including free prescriptions and free further education for their children - then we will be 'one nation', and then I will start to feel sorry for the folks in 'North Britain'.

The message to Alex Salmond is clear.  Get the English involved in 'your' vote for two reasons.  One - it is their right to have a say in the matter.  Two - you would gain a massive surge in support for your aims. 

Without the English sympathy vote you might not achieve your target within your own lifetime but with our help you could have it much more quickly than you expect.

Small note:  I shouldn't have revealed this English secret should I?  If the Scots get wind of this they will want to stay - just to spite us! 

And another: This is far from a racist opinion.  Where is the line between racism and nationalism? 


Fiscal Balance said...

I doubt many Scots would get upset or see such an opinion as a racist one

They probably think, like me, that a great many English have a rather petulant, puffed-up self-indulgent opinion of themselves when it comes to their nation's perceived influence on Scotland and thoughts. When it comes to putting their cross in the ballot box, the considerations they will be weighing will not be how to elicit responses out of the "English" or anyone else.

Having said that, I am fully in favour of independence for England. I think England should arrange a referendum forthwith. Have it before Scotland's and put all the recent whingeing about Scotland's referendum to good use :)

On the issue of "subsidies" you mention. There are no subsidies for a variety of reasons (a) England currently doesn't raise enough tax revenue to keep itself afloat, far less anyone else (b) According to Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland (the official statistics) Scotland raised 9.4% of UK taxes and got 9.3% of the spending. In 2008/09 Scotland raised 10.3% of UK taxes and got 9.4% of the spending (and that spending includes a Scottish share of defence, debt interest, foreign affairs as well as all pensions, social security benefits and all devolved expenditure including university fees and prescriptions).

Plasma Engineer said...

Nice try.

And the total cost of the Royal Bank of Scotland's recent rescue would be exactly how much? And only this week the loss making managers of that institution want to pay themselves half a billion in bonuses having presided over >700 million of tax payers money being wasted.

Or maybe RBS is conveniently not Scottish for this purpose?

Anyway - it sounds as though we both want the same outcome. However, I would be happy to live in mutual respect but you want to continue accusations of English petulance. I tend to think that petulance is a generic British trait.

Fiscal Balance said...

I would have a great deal more respect for the calls of English independence, or of expelling Scotland from the Union if they weren't a reaction to the events in Scotland which, undoubtedly they are. Where were the calls before devolution or before the election of the SNP Scottish Government? There weren't any. A bit like the jilted lover - "Just go, I didn't love you anyway".

England has had 305 years in this Union with Scotland. It has had the numerical strength to assert its own independence at any juncture from then until now. It has declined to do so. And I can't help wondering if that was because Scotland, during most of that time, was meek, accepting and powerless in a situation where it was overwhelmingly dominated by another nation. Yet, when the uppity jocks start to express their identity and their political independence it is somehow beyond that pale - because it is Scotland that is doing it and not England.

The RBS point always amuses me somewhat. Here we have a bank that has a larger footprint SOB than it does in Scotland. This was a bank that, in its heyday 1997-2008 generated enormous profits, eyewateringly huge revenues for the UK Government and accumulated an enormous base of assets. None of that was ever counted as a peculiarly Scottish contribution to the UK. Yet, when the bank gets into difficulty all of the liabilities suddenly become Scottish. Cake and eating it, much?

I agree with your basic point about the managers of the institution and their behaviour over the years. But what about the major owners of the company - the City based banks, funds and institutions who were the predominant shareholders? Why do they escape blame and opprobrium?

I would be happy to live in mutual respect with the other nations of these islands. I don't want to accuse anyone of petulance, I really don't. But, the evidence is too strong and compelling to do otherwise.