Sep 16

Effie Deans: To vote yes would be worse than folly

Effie Deans is a Scottish unionist and enthusiast for Russian literature. She blogs at the Lily of St Leonards. The original post appeared here.

I didn’t intend to write another blog about independence but as John Maynard Keynes said “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” The facts have changed. I passionately disagreed with independence a week ago.  But now it is absolutely clear that to vote Yes is an act of unpardonable folly. Here’s why.

There are two financial journalists I respect above all others. They are I believe two of the finest minds in Britain. Economics is not a science like physics. No one can predict everything, but that doesn’t mean they are witch doctors either. To suppose so is simply irrational. Two pieces by Ambrose Evans Pritchard give very grave warnings from international investors and economists who probably had never heard of Alex Salmond a month ago.

Credit Suisse and Nomura are obviously not controlled by the Westminster Government, nor are Asian Pension funds. To suppose they are is to succumb to a delusion and a paranoia that fed German nationalism in the years after the First World War. Andrew Lilico is someone who writes very deep commentary on economics. I frequently find myself struggling to understand some of his writing, but always know that the fault is my lack of intelligence rather than his lack of understanding. In this piece he shows that the SNP economic case is without foundation and demolishes each of their supposed arguments.

We have learned in the last week that every Scottish bank and many major companies would leave Scotland if there were a Yes vote. Imagine if any European country knew this was about to happen because of a vote in an election. Which of them would vote for it to happen? It would obviously damage Scotland economically and make us all much poorer. But more importantly if all of these companies, (who again unless you believe “Westminster” controls world economics are quite free to decide), believe that an independent Scotland is not a place they can do business, what does that tell you about what the SNP promises about independence.

Mark Carney the most respected central banker in the world has confirmed that Scotland could not be independent and have a currency union with the UK, moreover if we tried to use the pound unilaterally it would cost each of us up to £18000 pounds. Something the SNP haven’t even thought of in their calculations. Imagine what that would do to public spending plans in Scotland. Imagine how taxes would have to be raised or spending cut. Imagine how the poorest in Scotland would be hit.

Finally Deutsche Bank has just warned that a Yes vote would be a historic mistake having the potential to set off another great depression. These are Germans who are sober and perhaps a little dull. They don’t tend to exaggerate. We’ve spent the last 6 years trying desperately to recover from the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s. To set off another is sheer folly.

The world economy is tightly interconnected. The Eurozone which is still struggling is one shock away from a renewed crisis. Have you seen how poor the people of Spain and Italy are? In Spain many people get no benefits at all. How do you think these people will react if Scotland makes their situation worse?

The EU was set up in response to nationalism destroying Europe twice in the first half of the 20th Century. I know Scottish nationalists think their nationalism is different, but most Europeans will fail to see the distinction if their lives are blighted with a threat they thought they had seen off. It is for this reason that Europe’s top lawyer gave a warning this week that Scotland would not be allowed into the EU.

Joseph Weiler has been called the greatest lawyer in the world and he absolutely destroys the legal and moral case for an independent Scotland joining the EU. There’s a reason for this. There is latent nationalism all over Europe. There are groups of nationalists quite small in number who would love to use the example of Scottish independence to resurrect their grievances about lost countries or boundaries that don’t include their people. If you doubt this read the following.

I have personally experienced what happens when Civic nationalism sets off latent emotions. I’ve known Ukrainian civic nationalists who just wanted to promote their culture, their language, who wanted to get on with their neighbours and create a prosperous western democracy in the EU. They told me all the same things that Scottish nationalists tell me. They also had the best intentions. But like so often their nationalism blew up in their faces.

I promise you if the sort of people who are warning now about the consequences of a Yes vote were doing the opposite and warning of the dangers of a No vote. I would vote Yes. It would be my moral duty to do so.

There are a lot of Scots who are either unable or unwilling to understand the economics that has been set out here. There are charlatans spreading lies who have no expertise about what they speak and not much education either. Nor are many Scots willing or able to understand Scotland in an international context. But it hardly needs to be said that if even a fraction of the damage that is threatened internationally happens because of a Yes vote, Scotland would hardly be welcomed with into the international community with open arms.

If you think all this is scaremongering, if you think the whole world is wrong and only you are right that “Westminster” is making them say all of this. I would seek treatment if I were you. The world isn’t scaremongering, it’s scared. So am I.

I know there are thinking, intelligent Yes voters. Good people who have supported the SNP all their lives. If you understand the issues, if you realise the danger that Scotland faces, you have a clear duty to speak out. I know that you desperately want independence. But this goes beyond politics. It is absolutely clear that right now independence cannot be achieved safely.

If you vote for independence knowing the damage it would do to Scotland, the poorest in Scotland most of all, you are clearly not a fool, for you have the intelligence to understand what you are doing. If you put your desire for independence above the suffering of others, both here and elsewhere, you are obviously a fanatic who cannot be reasoned with. If you think it would be worth it you have lost all sense of moral values. To understand what I have just written and vote Yes is not an act of folly it is the act of a knave.

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Sep 15

Matthew Hudson: How much does Sterling matter to Scotland?

Matthew Hudson hails from Buckinghamshire, England. His belief in the cause of unionism comes from the fact that his ancestry comes from all corners of Britain, and he feels more shaped by Britain as a whole than its separate component parts.Matthew Hudson

The pound sterling also known as the pound is the currency of the United Kingdom, a Union which includes Scotland. However Scotland is looking to leave this Union. Where this becomes more significant is that even though Scotland is hoping to leave the Union, it wants to keep the pound.

The only place in the world that uses the pound is the UK, and even though Scotland wants to leave it still thinks it should keep the the currency. This situation becomes worse when you consider the fact that if Scotland was to keep the pound and be independent then it would have to negotiate with the rest of the UK over the currency.

The issue with this is that Scotland would have just left the UK and even without Westminster’s logical case against currency union surely one could expect the UK to be at least partly bitter.

The situation doesn’t improve if the Conservatives were to lose power, as both the Lib Dems and Labour share the view that Scotland will not get the pound. Alex Salmond originally tried to sell the idea of independence by making the point that Scotland would keep the pound. However this has been made clear that it won’t happen, and Salmond himself has said he doesn’t support sterlingisation as a long term solution. The question is: how much does the pound matters to Scotland?

The pound is one of the more successful currencies in the modern market and is a currency you wouldn’t want to lose. It may have been devalued in 1949 and 1968 but it is still doing well.

Of course the pound isn’t the only currency that Scotland could potentially take. If Scotland becomes a member of the European Union then it could get itself the Euro. This has a drawback in itself owing to the nature of the Euro. The Euro is a currency spread over many different countries from the affluent Germany to the not so affluent Greece.

These very different economies are arguably disadvantaged by the fact that they have the same currency and different markets as it means some economies are accommodating others. Germany for example can’t afford the Euro to collapse so has to stop countries like Greece and Spain having economic slumps. It means Germany has a lot of power over Europe and other countries lack that power.

Not all countries are happy paying money in to Europe and sharing the Euro which is demonstrated by the 2014 European election results in France where the French National Front were elected. The Euro doesn’t seem to be the best currency so it is safe to assume that the people of Scotland won’t want it.

Assuming then that Scotland decides not to have the Euro or is not allowed to join the European Union and it fails to get the pound then there is a third option for Scotland. Scotland could if it so desired adopt its own currency. The drawback with taking on a new currency is that it would need to establish itself on the international market. All the different currencies have different trading measures which are set up on the strength and reliability of said currency but new currencies have to establish themselves. A new currency would carry uncertainties and would be a bold risk for a newly formed country with many other things to worry about.

To conclude, an independent Scotland could easily end up in a less than desirable situation when it comes to currency and as a result of currency issues also economic issues. To trade with other countries the countries need to trust the economical nature of Scotland. Britain has got itself many countries to trade with and agree loans with – countries that trust the pound – and Scotland could easily lose this if it becomes independent.

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Sep 14

G Wright: Why I’m Scottish and British both

G Wright is a native of Glasgow with mixed Catholic/Protestant parentage, he himself being Catholic. He works as an engineer and voluneteers for various charitable endeavors in Scotland. This is a collected transcript provided by Union Jack Chat of one of their interviews, which can be read in its original form here.

Union Jack ChatFor me, a Scotsman, to be British is to enjoy a unique and special identity.  Most people only have one culture and one history; but we British are lucky to have a share in several other cultures, as well as our own.  I love all things Scottish, but I’d still prefer a Dry Gin to a Whisky, a Shakespeare over a Burns and a St Thomas More over a John Knox.  And despite these things being English in origin they have become very much part of my culture – thanks to the UK.  This is part of the beauty of the UK, as to be British is to be enriched in this way.

Our very successful Union is like a family, in that the nations are close and affectionate of one another, but also distinct in identity and at times rivals.  There is nothing quite like the UK, and – should the worst happen on the 18th, God forbid – there never will be anything quite like it again. For it is more than just a bland union of nations like the EU. It goes way beyond that, via having unity of language and a shared and lively history too. The peoples of the UK nations are not simply mere ‘partners’, but kith and kin. To be British is to be part of a family.

Unlike some, I do not feel like my British Identity is an unwelcome “bolt on” to my Scottish Identity.  For me, it is a complimentary aspect, not a rival one, like two luxurious room in a large mansion. The rooms are not competitors, but each is wonderful and interesting on its own merits. You can flit from one to another, or place them alongside one another. It is fascinating to see how they compliment one another.

To be British is to belong to a nation which has done more than any other, over centuries, to shape the modern world.  I think this is shown by the enduring successor of the Empire, the British Commonwealth. That the vast majority of former imperial territories choose to remain part of this family of friends today is a testament to how the bonds of brotherhood and friendship have ultimately prevailed over conquest and domination. These friendships are the real legacy of the Empire.

The recent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow were a lesson in how blessed we are to be British, to enjoy links and friendship with so many different people and nations from across the globe.  And the enrichment of Britain, through contact with these friends, was clearly visible – not least by the welcome presence of men from the Gurka Rifles at the security points!

It may not fashionable to boast of Empire in the modern era, but the size of the British Empire was impressive by any standards. I believe that, one day, historians will talk of the British the way they talk about the Romans today. And so to be British is to be international.

Some separatist extremists try to extrapolate neo-fascism from a simple pride in, or admiration of, British identity and the United Kingdom. But in spite of this, many people continue to be proud of their British identities. We are not especially vocal about it (that would be quite un-British indeed) but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. We have just as much to be proud of as Britons as we do as Scots. One cannot blame keen fans of British culture for admiring the more romantic aspects of an exceptionally rich tapestry of history, as others do with the Romans, etc. As a Scottish Briton myself, I cannot help but share their sympathies!

Sadly, many Scots today define themselves by what they decide to dislike – be it the English, or the Catholics – instead of appreciating the fullness of their heritage and important historical events. Many Scots think resenting these groups is what it means to be Scottish, it’s very sad. This kind of negative, or inverse identity is a phenomenon I have not encountered elsewhere.

I think in part this “negative identity” explains the verses in The Flower of Scotland which attempt to create a sensation of loss or grievance. Rather than pride in our own nation, our anthem is all about whom we dislike and how hard done by we feel. The end result of all this is an ignorant and divided society. Most people have no real sense of themselves and are simply unthinking clients of cheap, imported pop culture. And that which is thought of as being genuinely Scottish (kilts etc) is in the main a modern and contrived caricature of an identity.

The type of Scot who can seemingly see nothing but ill-will and exploitation in the United Kingdom strikes a chord of frustration with me. I hate the “cannon fodder” argument you often hear about Scots in the British Army. It’s just not true. On the contrary, Scots Regiments have always been an important and illustrious part of the British Army. The Royal Scots were the oldest British Army Unit, till they became sadly defunct. Now it is the Coldstream Guards. And where is Coldstream? That’s right, Scotland! I also strongly dislike the bogus notion that Scotland is an English colony, rather than a partner of the English. It’s just absurd.

I think people would get a shock in an independent Scotland. We would have no G8 seat, no permanent UN Security Council seat, no permanent UN veto, no major EU influence, no major global influence, no nuclear deterrent, no conventional military power, no fiscal control over our own currency, etc. As part of the UK, we currently have all of that. I don’t think our coffers would be able to support the large number of public sector jobs the country depends on.

Before recent cuts started one in four people were employed by the state in Scotland, compared to one in five UK wide – and this is before all the extra ones needed if we were independent. Let’s not forget the many Scots communities, often isolated, who depend heavily on local British bases and military installations to drive their economies. All that would be gone if we split from the UK.

Control of our currency is another major issue that ceding throws up. We have to either take the euro (assuming we even got into the EU – not guaranteed) and let the EU control our currency (that’s going really well for Greece right now), or we keep the pound and let the Bank of England control our currency. The Bank of England currently controls our currency, but does so while taking us and our economic circumstances into account, along with the rest of the UK.

Post independence, they would still be in full control, but the Scottish economy would not feature in their considerations whatsoever, as they no longer have any duty to us. This then has grave implications for anything our Government would try to do: fiscal plans, the economy etc. Why would sane person, who was not intoxicated or under duress, freely vote to give up fiscal control of their own currency? If people think seriously, they can only credibly vote no, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens almost “by accident”!

Ultimately, the name of the “no” campaign – Better Together – sums it all up.  Were it not for the UK and its centuries of history, none of the constituent parts could ever have expected to have such an eventful history, or range of experiences and opportunities. We know from the work place that working together achieves more, and so it is with the UK too. To be British is to have broad horizons.

This whole referendum comes down one major question: do Scots want to be part of a nation which helps to shape the world, or do they want to be part of a nation which is shaped by the world? No Scotsman worth his salt would choose the latter! Here’s to a prosperous and proud Scotland within a happy and strong UK!

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Sep 13

Pearl of Tyburn: Seeing the British Union in the American

Pearl of Tyburn’ is a regular contributor to Open Unionism and practising Catholic from the United States. She is the founder of Union Jack Chat.

As OU’s American correspondent, I have been asked to give an overview of my journey to South Carolina as the Representative of the State of Maryland for The Sons of the American Revolution Historical Orations Contest. Of course, I will make a point of highlighting aspects of the trip dealing with national unity, Anglo-American history, and the lessons of the past we should all learn from as cultural cousins who have always shared a very special and unique relationship.

The Nationals were being held in Greenville, South Carolina, this year, which is strategically located close by two Revolutionary War Battlefields, Cowpens and King’s Mountain. My father and I took a ten hour car trip there, and I must say the journey further impressed upon me how many different nuances there are in the fabric of American geography and demographics. It’s almost as if we have several different countries stuffed into one. The best word I can use to describe the visual and cultural feel of the Virginias and the Carolinas is Celtic.

In contrast to the pleasant yet comparatively plain farm country of Penn-Mar, the trek south was marked by epic rivers and mountain ranges that seemed to have come over straight from Scotland with the Scots-Irish settlers who made them home. Of course, the accents start changing as well, hand-me-downs from the Ulster settlers whose distinct lilt and dialect did much to shape the drawl of the American Deep South over centuries of transformation. The haunting folk ballads of the British Isles experienced the same metamorphosis among these mountain strongholds and, distinctly mixed with traditional African tunes, gave rise to the Appalachian, Bluegrass, Gospel, and Country genres.

This area of America also makes up the Bible Belt, another legacy of the stubborn Covenanters who defied King Charles at Greyfriars and the brazen Apprentice Boys who slammed the gates in King James’ face at Londonderry. Their insistence on low-church practices and antipathy to hierarchy of any form make them perfect revolutionaries and religious individualists. Picking up local stations on our car radio as we wended our way through the mountains of North Carolina, I could not help but chuckle as several Reverend Mac-somethings came on the air, preaching their weekly sermons in deliciously thick drawls with gospel music to accompany them.

The food took an interesting turn in the south as well. Small town diners were plentiful, with huge signs along the highway reading: “Bo Jangles Waffle House”, etc. When we crossed over into South Carolina, we were hailed by a gigantic monument of a peach on a pedestal. And things just got peachier from there on out. There were peach stores, peach farms, peach restaurants, peach BBQ pits, peach parks, etc. For all those under the false impression that George produces the most fuzzy delights, the record actually belong to South Carolina, as the locals earnestly informed us! At the reception in Greenville, I also had the opportunity of eating an innocent looking hamburger-like entity, that hitherto will always be referred to as “that evil sandwich”! Er…fried onion peach jam pulled pork anyone?

Greenville itself has a touristy feel to it, a different sort of city from what I’ve been used to in my journeys north to visit family in New Jersey and New York. There were lots of little shops and restaurants and strolling areas for meandering pedestrians. Under different circumstances, I might have liked the place as a vacation spot. But I’m afraid the pressure was on for me as my state’s representative in the upcoming contest. The rules designated that each contestant should give a six minute oration on a person, event, document, or ideal associated with the American Revolution and apply it to today. I chose to tell the story of British General Thomas Gage, his American wife, Margaret, and the forgotten connections and divided loyalties that make the revolution more akin to a civil war.

There was also the issue of trying to make the subject relevant to “today.” Of the method being presented in this contest, I tended to be quite uncomfortable. The Whig Interpretation of History makes the case that historians must be very cautious in the way they try to connect the past and present in a pre-packaged format, making all that has gone before only of value if it applies to the modern. But in trying to force a direct analogy with present-day issues, we often create a false sense of historicity and lose track of the more subtle lessons that good stories always leave with the reader or listener. Hence, I decided to use the ending of my speech to encourage my modern audience to remember those who had gone before and learn the lessons from the past and show compassion for both sides and pray for their souls. But I did not attempt to make a modern-day equivalent illustration.

My competitors represented a variety of states across the union including Virginia, Ohio, Louisiana, California, and Florida. South Carolina also had a representative. Overall, they were quite a talented bunch, with polished oratorical skills and descriptive writing styles. But I did notice that the presentations generally leaned more towards a political bend than a historical one, even though this was supposed to be a historical orations contest. Also, a few impassioned rants against King George and British tyranny seemed to be an accepted method of appealing to the judges, all descendents of revolutionaries! One particular contestant made a shockingly broad statement about our forebears: “The Americans believed in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; the British did not.”

My brain began to vibrate with the name “John Locke! John Locke!” Yes, himm and a slew of other Brits who sought out and defined the meaning of liberty that the American Revolutionaries used as stepping stones in their own expansion of the word. And had he forgotten Pitt, Fox, Burke and the others who were against taxation without representation? Furthermore, even for those who believed that Parliament had the right to tax the colonies directly, can it truly be said that they embraced “death, tyranny, and pursuit of unhappiness”?

No, surely. Many of them were well-meaning, hard-working individuals who simply saw the situation in another light. Touching back to my point about making broad comparisons between the past and the present, it was common in the 18th Century for colonies to be largely unrepresented in the mother countries. Trying to force our own opinions on the way things should be into the past simply creates a false picture.

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Sep 12

Chris Jaffray: Missing Million vs Quiet No Voters

Chris Jaffray is an exiled Scot in England. He is a graduate of Leeds University looking to start a profile as a blogger.

The Scottish Referemdum has been left unpredictable following a surge in support for Yes. Yougov, a polling institution typical unfavourable to them, has given upward momentum and victory seems within touching distance. Most polling institutions have found some ten per cent of the electorate difficult to poll and this leaves the result uncertain as ten per cent would easily swing it at this stage. There are two competing theories about what will happen.

The first of these is the missing million theory. It contends that voters, who may be referred to as an underclass who have been politically apathetic for most if not all of their lives, will emerge from the cauldrons and all vote yes – this will give Yes a comfortably victory. Advocates of this theory working class support for ‘Home Rule’ was higher than its middle class counterpart in both referendums.

Since Scottish Nationalists twinned their cause to that of social justice and socialism it has adopted the Hegelian notion of history as inevitably progressing. To them it is only a matter of time before Scotland breaks away, as it is such an obvious move. That is why they were never deterred by poor showing in polls. This outlook is epitomised by their slogan: ‘You yes yet?’, as though it is only a matter of time.

In the event debate surrounding the referendum has not been the seminal dialectical event it might have been. Alex Salmond’s gradualist approach to independence has been to stress how much will remain the same rather than how much will be different. He has wanted it to be a general election, he would have loved it to be the Scottish National Party versus the Conservative Party, but in the event has had to settle for it being the SNP vs Labour. Turnout will be higher as it is virtually an election from which there is no going back, but it is not seen as the once in a lifetime opportunity it might have been because he has stressed continuity rather than change.

It has been about individuals when it perhaps should not have been. Had Salmond offered to stand down after independence it may have been something of a tabula rasa, but in the second debate when he asked the public for their support for a ‘democratic mandate to pursue a currency union’ (something a No vote guarantees) he ended any credibility to the line that a Yes vote is not a vote for Salmond. The dislike of personality which contributes to apathy is still here.

The second theory, which I buy, is the ‘quiet No voter’. The predecessor for this argument comes out of the 1992 General Election. The polls consistently showed a Labour victory to be imminent. 2007 and 2011 are seen as examples of the difficulty of polling Scotland but this election is the true precedent. Tory annihilation was predicted in Scotland, but in the event it gave the Tories 12 seats which contributed to their small majority. The reason for the polling inaccuracy was that voters lied about their voting intention.

Their reasons for lying about having voted Tory are easy to discern: Labour voters are more vocal and aggressive in their disagreement with you. Would anyone disagree with the notion that the same is true but more so of Yes voters? For this reason I believe the quiet No voter will win the day, with the no vote being greater than 55 per cent. Events around referendum day may yet find more quiet no voters in the polling booths.

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Sep 11

Matthew Hudson: The West Lothian Question must be answered

Matthew Hudson hails from Buckinghamshire, England. His belief in the cause of unionism comes from the fact that his ancestry comes from all corners of Britain, and he feels more shaped by Britain as a whole than its separate component parts

Matthew Hudson

One key product of the devolution granted to the nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was the creation of the West Lothian Question. The West Lothian Question is the title given to the fact that how, for example,  Scottish MPs can vote on all types of law for England but English MPs can only vote on certain issues, like defence and immigration but not education and training, housing, health or social services, for Scotland.

The significance of this West Lothian Question is the fact that through it, Scotland arguably gets a better deal at the moment as part of the UK than England. England has the least power over its laws and regulations, without influence from the rest of Britain, than all the other parts of the UK, yet England has not pushed for independence or even more power. Scotland has more power over its destiny than England owing to the fact it has a devolved Parliament.

SNP have been trying to gain support to break free of Britain so that they have more control over the laws of the land of Scotland, however, Scotland already has many powers especially in the social sector leading to the question, is there anything worthwhile for Scotland to gain by becoming independent? Scotland has power over:

  • agriculture, forestry and fisheries
  • education and training
  • environment
  • health and social services
  • housing
  • law and order (including the licensing of air weapons)
  • local government
  • sport and the arts
  • tourism and economic development
  • many aspects of transport

As this list shows the idea that Scotland is powerless and dominated by Westminster or the argument that Scotland lacks representation are unfair. Scotland isn’t the only country that has benefited from devolution: Wales and Northern Ireland also have. The difference is that Scotland has one of the best deals. Wales have used their devolved assembly to pass legislation that: makes university fees cheaper than they are in England; means that Welsh people get prescriptions for free; and that people in Wales have to pay for shopping bags. Wales is happy with the situation it is in and hasn’t been pushing for independence. Wales and Northern Ireland both benefit from the West Lothian Question and for them that is enough.

To conclude, Scotland arguably has one of the best deals of all the members of the Union and it is the only one that wants independence from the Union. This raise the question: why dpes Scotland needs independence. There has already been talk on giving Scotland even more power if it votes “No” in September putting it in an even better position than other parts of the Union. With all this on the table, does Scotland need independence? Is there really anything that Scotland can gain from it? With all that has been said; to me, the answer is no.

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Sep 10

Calum Crichton: A Strong Scotland: A United Kingdom

On Tuesday 2nd September I was asked by the Better Together campaign to give a speech to some students at the City of Glasgow College about the upcoming Scottish independence referendum. As a committed campaigner, I was delighted to accept the offer. I should say that Better Together did not tell me what to say in my speech. Therefore I take full responsibility for what I said. Below is a rough transcript of my speech, and here are the accompanying PowerPoint slides
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[Originally posted here, we have Calum's kind permission to reproduce his recent speech.]
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It is a great pleasure today to be here giving a speech on the referendum, and I thank Glasgow City College for inviting me along. As a student myself at the University of Strathclyde, this is a fantastic opportunity for me to speak to fellow students about the most important democratic decision Scotland will ever take: do we choose to separate Scotland from the United Kingdom and become an independent state, or do we choose to continue our union of partnership that we have enjoyed for over 300 years?
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The purpose of my speech today is to present what I believe is a wholeheartedly positive case for saying ‘no thanks’ to independence, and opting for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom. For me, the case for union stems from three areas: an economic case, a political case, and finally an emotional and cultural case, which I believe there has not been enough emphasis on to date.
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The important thing to recognise here is that this choice is unlike any other we have had to make. This is not a general election, it is a referendum. If you voted Labour in 2010 and are unhappy with the coalition government, you have a chance to vote again in 2015. But the outcome of the vote in September will be decisive. There will be no going back. If you vote for independence there will not be a chance to vote again. If the vote is ‘yes’, Scotland will leave the United Kingdom forever. Independence is not for Christmas, it is not for New Year, it is not for six months where we can try it out. It is an irreversible decision.
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Now some might say that is the whole point. That’s fair enough. But it also means that we have to be 100% sure of the facts before we vote in September. As the Scottish parliamentary elections in 2011 demonstrate, a low voting turnout weakens democracy. We cannot risk a low turnout in a couple of week’s time. So I urge you all to think carefully about the decision before you, and I urge you to go out and vote in the referendum.
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I’ll start with the economic case for union. As a finance student myself, this is the argument that interests me the most. Winning that argument is also key to winning the referendum, if polls are to be believed.
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Now there’s been a lot of discussion of the last few weeks about currency. And rightly so, because a country’s currency is the foundation of its economy. Today, Scotland’s currency is the UK pound, which is one of the most trusted and secure currencies around the world. But if we leave the UK we choose to leave the UK pound. The SNP’s plan for a currency union has been explicitly ruled out by all three main UK parties. This is not because there would be bad blood between Scotland and the rest of the UK if the vote was ‘yes’, but because there are very sound reasons not to agree to it.
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As the euro-zone crisis has shown, for example, close political and fiscal integration is required for a monetary union to work. Yet the SNP have promised a much different fiscal policy to that in the UK. That may or may not be a good thing, but it is inconsistent with a currency union. Another major problem is the relative size of the Scottish and UK banking sectors. Scotland’s banking sector is over 12 times the size of its economy, compared to about 4 times for the UK. This means that the continuing UK would be at risk of providing taxpayer support to a troubled bank, but it is inconceivable Scotland could support the rest of the UK in a future crisis.
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So for me we face a clear choice in September: do we opt to continue with the strength, security, and stability of the UK pound, or do we gamble on Alex Salmond’s plan B?
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And what is Alex Salmond’s plan B? Well unfortunately there is yet no answer to that question. I’m often accused of scaremongering, being anti-Scottish, or talking Scotland down when I focus on currency. But asking questions is a positive and fundamental part of any democratic process. And independence is far too big an issue not to scrutinise. So when I say “what if we don’t get to keep the pound?”, and all I get told is “trust Alex Salmond”, I can’t help but think that’s far too big a risk to take. Why walk away from a currency that works for Scotland? Why gamble on Alex Salmond being right? This is a risk we do not need to take. We can keep the UK pound by voting ‘no’ in the referendum.
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A second big positive is the UK single market. It’s often said that you don’t know what you’ve got until you’ve lost it. I think that is true here. The UK single market is one of the most successful and free-flowing in the world. It’s interesting when discussing the EU we hear the SNP say being in the EU is important for trade. Yet Scotland exports over 4 times as much to the UK as we do to the EU, with approximately 70% of Scottish exports being sold to England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. So if the EU is important for trade then so must the UK.
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Right now Scottish firms have unimpeded access to the 6th largest economy in the world, and a market of over 60 million consumers as opposed to just 5 million here in Scotland. That promotes jobs, opportunities, competition, and brings economies of scale.
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Now of course Scotland and the UK would continue to trade with each other in the event of independence. But would it be as prosperous as it is now? The answer has to be no, because we know that border effects – differential tax, administrative, and regulatory procedures – matter. If they did not the US and the EU would not be negotiating a free trade deal. So we should not underestimate the advantages the UK single market brings to Scotland.
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Another economic benefit is the spreading of risks. Scotland has two main fiscal challenges over the long term that we need to consider: (1) the higher volatility on the tax side due to a greater reliance on oil revenues; and (2) the greater pressures on the expenditure side due to an ageing population. All else equal, it means that the gap between what Scotland receives in tax revenues and what it spends on public spending is larger.
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The Institute for Fiscal Studies have said that in order to enjoy long run fiscal sustainability Scotland would need £6 billion worth of tax rises and/or spending cuts. But we don’t need to do this. Right now our pensions are backed by the world’s 6th largest economy, we enjoy a welfare system based on need and not nationality, and oil revenues volatility is ironed out by the pooling of tax receipts. That stability is a much better choice for pensioners than going it alone.
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As well as spreading risks we also share rewards. For instance, by participating in the UK’s research network and infrastructure Scotland receives UK research funding above what its population share would suggest. Now we get this funding because we have world class universities – but it’s something that would be lost if we separated. Education is a great example of how we get the best of both worlds as part of the UK. We have our own education system in Scotland, decided by our own Scottish parliament – but we are also part of something bigger, and our education system benefits by being part of the UK. Why risk losing this?
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Finally, we pool resources across the United Kingdom. As I touched on earlier, Scotland has much greater tax receipt volatility than the UK due to the contribution of oil revenues. Yet pooling resources across the UK maintains the stability of public spending in Scotland. And we know that this works for us here in Scotland, because public spending is approximately £1,200 higher per person than the UK average. There are good reasons for this, such as the lower population density in Scotland and the elderly population. But the fact that we consistently enjoy higher public spending per head than the UK average is evidence that the UK’s fiscal model is successful in meeting Scottish needs. Why throw this away?
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And then there is the political case for union, and the fact that the United Kingdom offers Scotland much greater opportunities to participate in the international community. For instance, if we want to engage with advanced economies and emerging markets, and engage with countries on global issues such as tax avoidance: the UK is a member of the G7, G8, and G20. An independent Scotland would not be.
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If we want to improve global financial regulation: the UK is the 4th largest shareholder in the IMF. An independent Scotland would not be.
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If we want to tackle global poverty: the UK is the 4th largest shareholder in the World Bank, and has the world’s 2nd largest aid budget. An independent Scotland would not be.
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If we want to enhance global security: the UK is a permanent member of the UK Security Council and one of the most important players in NATO. An independent Scotland would not be.
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If we want to tackle climate change and encourage business investment around Europe: the UK has the same number of votes as Germany in the European Union. An independent Scotland would have less than Greece, in accordance with its population size.
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If we want to promote human rights around the world: the UK has over 270 embassies, a figure just short of what the United States has. An independent Scotland would have around 70 – 90, according to the SNP’s White Paper.
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If we want to establish fantastic opportunities for our businesses: the UK is the 6th largest economy in the world and has 169 UK Trade & Investment offices globally promoting Scottish businesses. This allows our firms to be part of a country with an unrivaled reputation of unique skills and a strong legal framework; it allows our businesses a truly global reach and an unparalleled network to tap into; and it allows our firms to promote their products, their services, their ideas, in every single part of the world. We know for a fact that an independent Scotland would not have this vast resource to offer – the SNP’s White Paper offered only 26 Trade & Investment offices.
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But it’s not just on the international stage that there is a political case to be made for the union, and we should not understate the benefits of devolution, which offers us the best of both worlds. The vast powers of the Scottish parliament allows key local decision making to take place: in important areas like health, education, transport, child care, social housing, and infrastructure. But we can be part of something bigger too, and work together to achieve more in areas where it makes sense: in defence, in international relations, or in fiscal transfers across the UK, where we are be part of a larger entity that pools its resources together and targets it to those areas most in need.
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Why build walls between the people of the islands, and create divisions where none currently exist? We have representation not only at the Scottish level, but at the UK level in one of the most powerful and respected political institutions in the world. Where is the benefit in swapping our 59 Scottish MPs for a single embassy in London? Devolved decision making in a UK context is a winning combination, and with a guarantee of more powers on the way in the event of a ‘no’ vote we should positively choose to continue the success of devolution and reject separation.
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And then we have the social and cultural case for union. In a recent speech the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said:

No group of nations in the world – not the European Union – and not even the federal state of the U.S. – have approached what the four nations of the UK have achieved across national boundaries by pooling and sharing our resources to equalise incomes and opportunities between nations.

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And he is right. The United Kingdom is a unique family of nations comprising Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. And together we should be proud of what we have achieved and do achieve in the world.
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The fact that we have pioneered around the globe, ended slave trade, built the NHS, established the pension system, and created the BBC.
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The fact that we are a country that celebrates diversity within itself, allows for different expressions of national identity, accommodates different legal systems, and does so against a background of mutual respect for each other’s traditions, the rule of law, and democracy.
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Or how about the fact that we are part of a country where the concept of pooling and sharing resources across our four nations is a treasured one? As Gordon Brown has said, these are achievements no other group of nations in the world can boast, and we should take pride in what we do as one United Kingdom.
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And finally I’d like to finish on a personal note. To me, the UK is much more than just a country. It is a family. I was born in Manchester and have lived in Glasgow since I was 7. I have never felt a foreigner in my own country. And I don’t want to. I love being Scottish, but I love being British too. Why should that be frowned upon? Why can we not be proud to be part of a larger family of nations?
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I remember when I was at secondary school choosing which university to go to I was always told by my teachers to look outwards, not inwards, and to broaden my horizons as far as possible. Yet looking inwards and narrowing my horizons is exactly what Alex Salmond is asking me to do.
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To me, there is nothing remotely ambitious about walking away from the United Kingdom that Scotland has played a large part in creating. And there is nothing remotely progressive about turning our back on the partnership we have, choosing instead to create borders and divisions where none currently exist. Making that positive choice for Scotland to remain part of our United Kingdom is not just a matter of the head, but of the heart too. Voting ‘no’ in the referendum is not a vote against Scotland: it is a vote for a strong, confident, and ambitious Scotland as part of an outward-looking, successful, and prosperous United Kingdom that offers opportunities for everyone, regardless of their nationality. That is a much bigger idea than separatism.
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So let’s confidently say ‘no thanks’ to independence. Let’s instead choose to keep Scotland’s greatest ever invention: the United Kingdom.

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Sep 08

Chris Jaffray: Why does the nastiness of the SNP go unreported?

Chris Jaffray is an exiled Scot in England. He is a graduate of Leeds University looking to start a profile as a blogger.Chriss Jaffray (Square)

Some commentators such as Alex Massie, David Aaronovitch and Daniel Hannan have drawn comparisons between the belief that Scotland should leave the United Kingdom and that Britain should leave the European Union. Aaronovitch claimed Farage and Salmond both want you to believe in ‘outtopia’, and Massie said arguments are often parallel, those wanting out shout about democracy while those wanting to stay in shout Armageddon after you leave.

Whatever you think of the UK Union and European Union, whether in in (almost all of Labour and the Lib Dems, lots of Tories too), in out, (UKIP, Hannan), out in (the SNP), or out out (a rarity which proves some things really are beyond left and right – Jim Sillars and Douglas Carswell) it seems a fair point that Scottish separatism is treated with greater respect than UK separatism. UKIP and the SNP are not the entirety of the out forces in their particular field, but taken as broad representatives the SNP have been given an easier ride. If you don’t believe that, take a look at the media hate campaign which UKIP encountered before the European elections. Why is this?

There are two reasons, as far as I can see, and both relate to power and your view of power. Scottish nationalism can lend itself to a view of the powerful against the powerless. It presents the poor Scottish as oppressed by the bigger bully that is England. Jim Sillars infers this when he repeated his tireless line ‘the greatest myth we have had bestowed upon us is the myth of our own inadequacy’. (Here’s a secret, Yes talk about Scotland’s inadequacy more than No). Lesley Riddoch added to this with her ridiculous piece in the Scotsman about how the Commonwealth Games were Scotland coming to believe in itself. At this stage, I must ask what planet these people are on.

Take a look around you: there has been a Scot in cabinet every year since 1990; two of the last three Prime Ministers and Chancellors were Scottish; and even when the Tories came in in 2010 there were two Scots in cabinet. A casual follower of politics on the BBC will travel no length before encountering a Scot: Andrew Neil, Kirsty Wark, Jim Naughtie. The Premier League has been won by two Scots as managers, and never by an Englishman, no matter how much Kevin Keegan would have loved it. The British Medical Association is known as the Scottish Mafia because of its plethora of Scots near the top.

The notion that the Union is oppressing Scots is ridiculous, but this portrayal gives the SNP an edge over UKIP. They are believed to be against the wealth of London and the Tories, whereas UKIP are seen as up against a low skilled Romanian migrant at worst and a Brussels regulator at best.

The second is their contrasting plans for ‘outtopia’. UKIP has tacked away from its right wing roots of late, pandering to old Labour votes, but before this its endgame after Brexit seemed to be a libertarian society, ‘keeping the flame of Thatcherism alive’. The SNP’s endgame, despite corporation tax cuts, was a ‘fairer, more socially just Scotland’, and other vague nebulous things.

There are still massive problems with this as a nationalist concept. What if you disagree? How many times have the SNP looked for reasons to tell someone their opinion is irrelevant – and even in the first debate Salmond tried to question the Scottishness of Darling. There is an authoritarian strand in Salmond and the SNP which loathes all other opinion. He said in that debate a ‘majority’ voted for him in 2011. This  is not true, a plurality did. 55 per cent of people voted for other parties. He does not speak for Scotland. What of the rare brand of Scottish Tories, 416,000 of them? Can they express their view in an independent Scotland? Can the growing number of people who voted UKIP?

If you think this is a sensationalist portrayal of Salmond and the SNP, look to the criminally underreported documentary on Channel Four which shows they have been intimidating businesses. Businesses have said they fear ‘retribution’ further down the line. Business may well fancy its chances better in the Union, but Salmond and the SNP cannot handle this proposition. They have a narrative of their Scotland, anyone who does not subscribe this is regarded as somehow not properly Scottish. If this is no xenophobic nationalism what is?

Jessica Elgot asked in the Huffington Post ‘Could Scottish independence be the first nationalist movement that ethnic minorities don’t feel threatened by?’ This misses the point. Scottish Nationalism since the 1970s has been the fusion of nationalism with ‘social justice’, so of course minorities do not matter to it. The divisive nature comes when people dispute the ends and means. When people disagree about the ends and means of the SNP they are told their opinion cannot be heard.

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Sep 05

Pearl of Tyburn: Unionists must stay calm and stay the course

Pearl of Tyburn’ is a regular contributor to Open Unionism and practising Catholic from the United States. She is the founder of Union Jack Chat

I’ve noticed recently there has been something of a downswing in the mood among in the Unionist camp, with people vocally blurting, “I don’t know what will happen now! I don’t know what will happen now!” Of course, we never did have a crystal ball to show the outcome beforehand anyway, but up until recently, quite a few of unionists had been hoping for and predicting a grand-crash-victory in favor of the Union, with the Nationalist number pounded down to the bare minimum so they could never rise from the ashes to haunt us again.

But then their came the “big bad boost” for the Nats over the last week, with the pollsters scurrying to update information, and often conflicting each other in the process. Panda Bear Salmond’s theatrics on TV in front of a stacked audience didn’t help things much either.

Okay, so the chance of winning an overwhelming victory is pretty much sunk at this point. The Nats have done well, admirably well from an unbiased standpoint. Of course, most of this success is thanks to melodramatics and blatant manipulation of the facts, but they have inspired almost half of the Scottish people with a dream and a sense of community feeling. Sadly, Better Together chose not to appeal to the romantic side of human nature in addition to the practical side, and have suffered for it. As a romanticist by nature, I know how that sort of approach just fails to cut the mustard.

But all this aside – there is presently no cause for despair. We’re still ahead by roughly six points, even with the “disastrous debate” impact. We may not be able to win in an overwhelming tidal wave, but we still can win, even if it be a typical status quo 1-2 per cent minimum victory. What we have to make sure of is that we make good use of this advantage, hold the line at all costs, and get every single vote possible from the “don’t know” camp. This can be done by grassroots Unionists getting out there and being passionate about it, as long as they don’t abandon ship in these last few weeks and let the Nats yell them down and scare them off.

As for Mr. Darling, Better Together, Mr. Cameron, and the British political parties – I’m not going to criticize them too harshly, since I do believe their hearts are in the right place. But the average people are going to have to make up for where they lack.

What disturbs me most is that some Unionists have concluded that a small victory would be something of a disgrace, and would be just about as bad as a defeat. I totally disagree. On September 19, nobody is going to care by what percentage the victory was won by. Yes, it will no doubt mean that the hoard of would-be-Wallaces will reemerge in 10 or 15 years, clamouring for independence all over again so they can be bigger fish in a smaller pond.

Yes, a political survival in September is not going to guarantee a revival of Britishness nation-wide. But if anything, it is a gamble for time to change things around us for the better. Besides, even if I felt certain that he UK was doomed to fall in 15 years, in 10 years, in 5 years – I would still consider gaining that extra time well worth the fight.

I’m not going to pretend I know how all this is going to turn out in the end, because I don’t. But there is one thing I am sure about: this cause is worth fighting for, once, twice, a hundred times. It’s not just about keeping a small island unified under one government. It transcends the British people themselves.

What we are fighting for is what Britain represents to the world: hard-won lliberty and the rule of law; unity that respects diversity; steadiness in the face of Irrationality; continuity to counter unthinking change; a strong foundation on which great structures can be built. For all her past sins and present failings (or perhaps because of them), the world needs Great Britain. She represents us all.

But there is a fear I have. The fear is that the Unionists themselves will be their own worst enemy through a vice that goes beyond simple complacency: it is pride. Perhaps this has been the most deadly chink in British armor from the beginning of their history. The realisation that there is no landslide victory in sight and that almost half the Scottish people are in favor of splitting the union has wounded British pride. In some quarters, I think the attitude is that if we can’t have it all, we won’t have it at all. This is when the reigns can begin to slacken. This is when the space for the nationalists to squeeze through to victory can start to open.

But it must not be so.

Besides, whatever happened to British claims that they did best when up against a wall? Wellington commented after Waterloo, with his typical frankness, that the battle for Europe was “The nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.” Throughout British history, it has been a refrain that those crafty islanders had a canny way of rebounding on a knife’s edge of victory and defeat. I know, it is part of a mythology, romance for the simple-minded and all that. But look at where ignoring romance has got Better Together! If the British people could just believe in themselves enough, and perhaps take courage from the old stories which show that heroes fight and God is still alive, I wonder what victories could be won.

So we must not mope in corners or demand all or nothing. We must not think too far ahead or bite our nails about the return of the Nats a decade or so hence. We must not lament about when we did or failed to do over the course of long, drawn-out, altogether taxing “neverendum”. We must hold fast to what we know to be true, and fight for what we love, as individuals as well as members of a common cause. Let us look ahead, to the final stretch of this race, instead of peering back over our shoulders. As a certain famous cigar-smoking Brit said in another moment of crisis: “This is not the end, not even be the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning.”

There is one more analogy I have to make. In The Lord of the Rings, individual actions affecting the bigger picture is beautifully portrayed by the British Catholic author. It is a matter of Providence working through broken vessels who answer the call to duty in the hour of darkness, whether it be by defeating a monster thought indestructible or sparing a creature whose fate would save the world. My point is: never despair of making a difference, no matter how inadequate or alone you feel at times. And for a touch of whimsy (and since ranting Nats often have a certain orc-ish resemblance…), enjoy the following from King Aragorn:

“Hold your ground! Hold your ground! Sons of Gondor! Of Rohan! My brothers. I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West!”

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Aug 31

Andrew Charles: Even a No vote in Scotland will change the Union

Time has flown somewhat since the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and leader of the independence movement in Scotland, Alex Salmond, signed an agreement as to the terms of a referendum. So, will Scotland be an Independent country?

Going by continuous polling data this does not look likely; however on September 19 I do believe that the United Kingdom and it’s relationship with its regions will be different. If Scotland does go its own way the world as we know it will be different, but even a ‘No’ vote, which is likely, will alter relationships within the Kingdom. The devolution of corporation tax powers and anything else Salmond may demand may seem like small ‘meat’, but any variation from the ‘norm’, i.e. any differentiation from Westminster with regard to policy, will break the very social and cultural ties held dear and those which have held and maintained the Union between the regions of this United Kingdom.

Why one might ask? Scotland may not be an Independent country on September 19, but it might well achieve the means to become one through being able to ‘go it alone’ on numerous policy differentials. This has already taken root in some senses with varying prescription charges, care of the elderly, and higher and further education: small things, yes, but with further economic and tax raising powers the very heart of what ties the UK together can be shaken.

Salmond is playing the long game. It’s a win-win situation for him come the 19th no matter what – and little do we know it. Do not think Salmond is going anywhere after the referendum: nationalism will be very much alive and support for the SNP may even increase.

All of this will effect the political ties between Westminster and its regions, a negative effect of devolution when power is spread and diffused from any one place. Devolution may have its benefits, but there is a price and the keys to Scotland were handed over to the political establishment of Scotland in 1999. Charles Darwin may have been an Englishman, but his theory of evolution can apply to the political world also.

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