The topic of Scottish independence seems to be inescapable at the moment. Hate it or loathe it, it turns up like the proverbial bad penny, and follows you round like the proverbial bad smell. Being the sort of person who can eventually be irritated into voicing an ill-informed opinion on almost any topic, here is my groat’s-worth on the burning question of whether Scottish voters should vote for independence or not.
Yes they should: one way or the other. The most important thing about the 2014 vote is that there should be a good turnout, so that the issue is settled either way. Devolution, independence and the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK has eaten up too much time and energy over the last few years, and has been far too convenient a distraction for Scottish politicians and other public servants who have let down the Scottish electorate. “It’s all because of Westminster, by the way” has become a get-out-of-a-muddle-free card for cornered politicians. Whom would they blame if Scotland were independent?
Personally, I have mixed feelings about the outcome of the vote. For reasons that I set out below, I hope for a strong ‘Yes’ vote. However, that would be a victory for Mr Alex Salmond, and I regard that wee gobshite with the contempt he deserves. To see him posturing triumphantly after the vote would take the edge off my pleasure at the outcome. One can only hope that the mephitic vapours of pomposity would inflate his ego to the point of explosion, like Mr Creosote, or cause him to rise into the air, to be carried by prevailing winds from Forth to North Utsire, where the good folk of Norway could work out what to do with him. Alex Salmond is a good reason to vote No.
None the less, I am strongly in favour of Scottish independence. By independence, I mean exactly that: complete, full independence. Scotland would be free to go its own way, to negotiate its own treaties and trade agreements, to support its own currency and to blame its own politicians for their mendacity and incompetence. Anything less would be a betrayal of the SNP cause. If Scotland votes ‘Yes’ and its leaders seek to retain some connections with the Auld Country, Britain’s response should be a polite “No, we couldn’t possibly compromise your hard-won independence. Fair’s fair, you got what you voted for”. Scotland deserves to have its own debate on EU membership, and the application period would offer plenty of time for that. And Scottish banks certainly should not have to depend on the Treasury in London to underwrite them or to bail them out. The indignity of the Royal Bank of Scotland being rescued by (mostly) English taxpayers must have been hard to swallow, and should never be allowed to happen again.
For such complete and thorough independence, terms and conditions would, of course, apply. First amongst these is the question of Northern Ireland. Scotland would be a relatively small country on its own, so it is obvious that the six counties of Northern Ireland should become a part of the newly-independent country. Northern Ireland is, after all, a Scottish overseas colony: that’s what The Troubles were largely about. And Scotland and Northern Ireland have so much in common in terms of health, wealth and religious intolerance, as well as their interwoven histories. For Northern Ireland to become a part of the newly-independent Scotland is truly a no-brainer.
So many advantages for Scotland! What benefits might there be for the rest (i.e. the great majority) of the United Kingdom? There would certainly be some employment gains, not least in the construction industry as the new rail terminus for the East Coast Mainline is built at Berwick-on-Tweed. Job vacancies would increase as true-blooded Scots leave their well-paid jobs South of the Border to return to their home country. English universities would be able to charge overseas fees to any Scots deluded enough to prefer, say, Oxford University to Strathclyde, though the need for Tier 4 visas for Scottish students could be a hassle. Shopkeepers and taxi-drivers would at last be able to refuse Scottish banknotes: “Clydesdale Bank? No mate, I don’t take foreign money”. Above all, though, the disproportionate representation of Scotsmen (and it is mostly men) amongst our Westminster elite would gradually melt away as the true patriots returned hame, and others found the best vacancies filled by UK and EU candidates. Finally, after far too long, the Scottish tail would cease to wag the British political dog, and England and Wales – the great majority of the UK, let us not forget – could get on with governing themselves without the distraction of the Scottish independence debate, and without the undue influence of politicians who would be learning the truth of the apocryphal Chinese proverb: “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it”.