Andy Findon urges all UK politicians to think hard about Scottish separatism.
It is inconceivable to think that colonial officials of 90 years ago would have believed that Britain’s Empire would collapse, receding to leave only the ghostly outline of the greatest socio-political entity the world had seen since the days of Rome. Yet, could anyone have conceived that Britain’s power would wane to such a degree that the nation itself would implode? The SNP’s attempt to, in effect, secede Scotland from the Union is a dangerous gamble, and one that has not been properly thought through.
Besides the rose tinted view that many in Britain have for the glory days of Empire, and those within Britain who consider themselves to be British above any other national denomination, there are some serious questions which must be addressed. However, much of this debate has been swept under the carpet in the face of gathering tensions around the world and inward political wrangling in Westminster. There are many within the Westminster elite who do not consider the SNP threat to be real or valid, believing that there is no way Scots would vote for independence. If, however, the opposite happens and on the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn the Scottish choose ‘freedom’, it is imperative that the costs and effects are properly presented to people on both sides of the border.
The majority of polling in Scotland has placed support for an independent Scotland at around 30%, demonstrating a sizeable proportion of the electorate (so not just Alex Salmond, Sean Connery and Mel Gibson) who would be happy to see the Scottish rule themselves. What is less clear, however, is exactly what an independent Scotland would look and feel like.
The question of economics: How much of the national debt would be passed onto Scotland? Scotland as part of the United Kingdom has acquired debts alongside the other constituent countries, channeled both through Westminster and Holyrood. This debt would obviously have to be divided and could not simply be left burdened upon taxpayers south of the border. Scotland would have to take its share of the national debt. But how would this be worked out? How would repayments be made to London? Furthermore, what of off-shore oil? The North Sea provides reserves for all of the UK, the Scottish should not be allowed to monopolise this valuable asset and hold London ransom over energy. Scotland would also need to join the European Union as a new member and go through the vetting procedure and waiting period. Scotland would then face the question of joining the Euro, which in itself is a risky gamble as recent events have proven.
The question of defence: Who would defend Scotland? What would happen to Scottish service personnel who have sworn allegiance to the Crown? Where would Scotland’s defence force come from? Would they enter into a defence sharing agreement with the remainder of the UK or turn to Europe? What of ship building on the Clyde? The most serious questions which have arisen in recent days are that of nuclear defence. Alex Salmond has already reiterated his contempt for Trident and said an independent Scotland would not allow nuclear submarine bases on the Clyde. But with Iran and North Korea posing potential nuclear threats, what would happen to Britain’s nuclear deterrent?
The question of history: Finally, what of the historical bonds between the nations of the United Kingdom, in particular England and Scotland? What of the Union Flag? That potent symbol of British power and prowess, which since 1801 has not only represented the United Kingdom, but colonies, dominions, realms and now independent nations. What would happen to this great symbol? Would it once again be changed to match the changing tide of history? Would the break-up of the Union lead Commonwealth realms and countries to finally pull the plug on a rich and deep chapter of history?
Whatever Scotland decides, one must support the ideas of self-determination, which in itself opens up questions about why the Scottish should have a say in their own future, and yet the rest of Britain has no say on the European Union. However, Alex Salmond and, indeed, the political leaders in Westminster, must think long and hard about this decision. It could alter the nature of Britain as an entity both at home and around the world, and bring to a close a long and illustrious history of a union of nations which have fought and died together for over 300 years.