Friday, 3 February 2012

The Wonderful Madness of Independence

Today there is a very interesting report from the NIESC which begins to unravel the financial complexities of Scottish independence. In summary, if the Scottish should vote for independence, they would be much poorer and their future more financially uncertain.

Now let me declare my interests upfront: I’m English. Very. This ought not to be an issue. But it is, and here’s why.

Sometime ago I used to run a company that had several regional offices. I used to visit them regularly. I always knew as the Edinburgh office door closed behind me and I jumped in my taxi back to the airport, they would be right royally slagging of my Englishness. And here’s the thing. Until that time, I had no view on the Scottish. They were just our Northern neighbours, part of the Union etc. But this vitriol dripped and dripped and dripped, and it turned me into a loather of the Scottish and all their ludicrously fake manufactured ‘Scottishness’.

And then there are their banks. Royal Bank of SCOTLAND - broke. Halifax Bank of SCOTLAND - broke and forced on LloydsTSB, which it broke. The English taxpayer is clearing up their banking mess. Plus ca change. After all, why did bankrupt Scotland have to join up with England in the first place?

I’m so bloody bored of moaning Jocks in England telling me how shit and oil thieving the English are and how oppressed and brilliant the Scottish are. If it is so great to be Scottish, fuck off back up to the frozen North and wear tartan.

So my heart tells me, bring on the referendum. Vote for independence you Scottish wankers. See how life is without the English Southern taxpayers subsidising you, your free prescriptions, your free social care, your free universities for Jocks etc. Go fuck yourselves.


Then my head speaks. The financial complexities of independence. The horribly protracted and inevitably fractious and very divisive negotiations. The UK’s place at the UN, the G8, the G20, the EU etc. Military bases, legal disentanglement, the Lothian question, Devo-max, blah, blah, blah. Not to mention the cost of all this unnecessary bollocks, just as we would hopefully be coming out of recession. And it tells me that the status quo is probably best.

And this paradoxical debate in my head is just what the Jocks will go through. Putting aside Wee Fatty Alex’s desperate attempt to fix the result - announcing his referendum question on Burn’s night, trying to use a completely flawed leading question, trying to fix who can vote, delaying the vote until the Commonwealth games on the 7 zillionth anniversary of Bannockburn etc - the reality is that the Jocks will never vote for independence in this generation at least and Wee Fatty Alex knows it damn well.

The SNP rhetoric is all about playing to (a) romantic Scottishness and (b) their resentment of the English. But when the romance is tested against cold, hard financial reality, the Scots will stay within the UK. Poll after poll tells us the result is forgone against. If he was at all confident, he’d call the referendum today.

His strategy is to play for time to build some momentum. But not momentum for independence. He knows that’s not feasible. No, momentum for Devo-max, which he judges is the achievable compromise position and is the next logical step along to his long-term aim of independence sometime in the distant future.

And this strategy is a tricky one for an English Conservative Government to deal with.

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