Scottish Independence

Robert the Bruce

I’ve always been a big fan of Scotland.  I had the privilege of working in Asia for some years with United Distillers (now Diageo), and I became “Mr. Johnnie Walker” in Korea.  I’ve also had them pleasure of meeting Alex Salmond a couple of times — he once helped me with a speech for a Burns Night Supper (my birthday falls on Burns Night, as it happens).  So I’ll be honest: I value the Union so instinctively that I don’t feel any need to present detailed arguments for it.

I absolutely disagree with Salmond on just about every political issue — especially Scottish Independence and socialism — but I still admire the man.  He’s a showman, and I love a showman.

He’s also just in the process of launching his campaign for independence as I write, and I thought it might be instructive to contrast the campaign for Scottish independence with the campaign for British independence — in which I’ve been engaged all my political life, and which seems more achievable now than ever before.

Salmond seems to think that he can fund an independent Scotland on North Sea revenues.  But North Sea production is in decline, and in the event of Scottish independence, the ownership of the oil and gas would be disputed.  Not a very reliable start.

Many commentators have pointed out that had Scotland been independent three years ago, it would have been unable to bail out RBS, and Scotland could well have ended up like Iceland (or still worse — if they were in the €uro — like Greece).

Many of the English resent the Barnett Formula, under which the UK Treasury makes regular subventions to Scotland, funding their free university education, free prescriptions, elderly care and so on.  I don’t resent it, because I recognise that a currency union (and Sterling is a currency union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) absolutely requires on-going fiscal transfers from richer areas to poorer areas.  This is a fact which Angela Merkel is learning the hard way.  The €uro could only survive with politically unacceptable permanent fiscal transfers from Germany to ClubMed.

But it is difficult to see how an independent Scotland, without the Barnett Formula, could possibly sustain its almost Soviet level of public spending as an independent country.

So Scotland receives huge and undeniable financial benefits from its union with England.  The UK, on the other hand, suffers huge financial costs from its membership of the EU.  The direct budget contributions are around £16 billion, but the total costs, including regulatory costs, are credibly estimated at over £100 billion — a terrible drag on jobs, growth and prosperity in Britain.  The case for British independence from the EU is well-made.  The case for Scottish independence is not (at least, not in Edinburgh — though the English might make a case).

Salmond seems to believe that after separation, both Scotland and rump-UK would continue as two new countries within the EU.  (He also assumes that Scotland would keep the Pound — but will the English want to play Germany to Scotland’s Greece?).  This is not at all clear.  Constitutional lawyers argue that both Scotland and rump-UK would effectively be new countries, and would have to re-apply for EU membership.  At the very least there would have to be elaborate negotiations over budgets and so on.  And we in England would need a referendum.  This is perhaps the one point that could persuade me to support Salmond’s position.  We should get the referendum on the EU which successive politicians have denied us.

The funniest yet the saddest thing is that Salmond still talks of “An independent Scotland within the EU”.  That is about as credible as Hague’s “In Europe not run by Europe”.  Time to wake up and smell the coffee, Alex.  Better still, have a glass of Scotch.

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13 Responses to Scottish Independence

  1. I deeply believe in what the Eu calls subsidiarity and for that reason I support regional (truly regional) government. I would also support the house of Commons being limited to English MPs for English Bills for that reason. Scotland, Wales and Norther Ireland ought to be allowed a degree of self government.
    I also believe in freeing up Counties and Towns to govern themselves properly – and without much subsidy either. I support elected police chiefs and elected mayors.

    But what he says he wants is total independence. But he does’t really mean it when it comes to English money or the EU.

    He is a local politician who is after personal power. If he succeeds, he will be a big frog in a tiny, bankrupt puddle. The real Scottish politicians will have long gone to London and Brussels.

  2. Mike Spilligan says:

    Let’s be honest, and this reflects in part your “showman” comment, this is centred on Salmond himself. He visualises himself as being an equal (and not alone in that) among Merkel, Sarkozy – sorry, Hollande, and …. well, you list them …. and regularly hob-nobbing with them at “important international meetings”. This is not about what’s best for Scotland.

    • Maureen Gannon says:

      In total agreement with you Mr Milligan .
      I would add to another comment the English only votes could end up a travesty , no one has been able to answer this question for me since K Clarke first introduced this idea. Just prior to that the Labour party had three leaders two Scots, Smith/Brown +bLiar raised and educated in Scotland Brown and bLiar both had treasurers from Scotland with members of the cabinet from there , so how would it work ? you have a cabinet presenting a bill that only applies to the English are you telling me that the said presenters who after all were still Scottish MPs could not then join in the debate and could not vote on said Bill ? could not see that working, the whole devolution was to keep themselves in power not for the good of Scotland, had there been a federal system such as the USA all this division is unlikely to have happened, that is my opinion,
      It must be the choice of the Scottish people whatever the consequences may be.

  3. The mere date of Salmondo’s referendum being specifically the anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn, says it all really. This is just Nationalist shibboleth and damn Scotland’s economy in the doldrums for another 2 years+. It matters not really what is the result, just so long as Salmondo performs the ancient ritual self-flagellation expected of a Scottish Political Martyr. The most ignorant man in the Scottish cabinet may well have the manner of a “friendly uncle”, but the fatuous approach to the Scottish economy and power supplies is breathtakingly inane.

    Absolutely ZERO diligence is done, and cash is handed over to anybody with a vaguely plausible tale, and especially if it is a “carbon tale”. Salmondo now has the power to actually borrow money on international markets, and that is seriously bad news. Two billions will be spent on building a new Forth Road bridge, to carry the traffic of the non-existant industrial goods, from the empty silent factories of Fife and beyond. Which manufacturer in his right mind wants to bring production to a country who has professed that they will be reliant on wind power in just a few years time, at two or three times the cost of coal/gas/nuclear power. Steel, Aluminium anybody?

    Salmondo sadly may be just grossly negligent and incompetent, or he may be deluded by others and their hell bent scramble for the Holy Grail of climate change, the magic knob which can regulate the temperature of the Earth to just how everybody would like it to remain for ever and ever…. and thine is the power and the glory Amen. Am I being too harsh? I don’t think so. Wake up Salmondo to reality, before you wake up in the Bar – L.

    “Seeyoo Jimmy, ‘n ‘at pal, ken. Geezmatt e-cake” – see photo linked to writer’s name above.

    …..apologies to Boyd Tunnock

  4. Of Course it isnt really Robert The Bruce, but “Robert de Bruges”. Our very own first overlord of Flemish descent. His progenitor came over with William the Conqueror as a so called “knight”. The Milibando of his day, a bit like a glorified EU Commissar. Born in England and subsequently though descendents were supposedly officially born in Dumfries-shire, would this have allowed them to retain their English estates and land holdings? Still “King Robert” of Bannockburn fame was a homocidal maniac and an outlaw, an evil mass muderer who “harried the North East”, slaughtered livestock and burned crops. He even stooped to murdering rivals in the sanctity of the House of God. An malevolent bigoted despot with tyrannical authority, based on fear and loathing. How quickly we forget, and the rose coloured spectacles are donned, or in Salmondo’s case “whisky goggles” perhaps. Salmondo, you hanker after a glorious Scottish past, that never existed in the first place. That’s the other side of your glorious Bannockburn Story.

  5. Samuel says:

    It appears that you need him more than he needs you, I don’t think he reads your blog. Judging from the bias behaviour of the major press, I am left worried about our chances on the right when we get our turn for independence – will we be made to lose our only chance to become independent.

    It cuts both ways.

  6. But Scotland isn’t a poorer area. The Barnett Formula is essentially a bribe to keep Scotland in the Union, Tony Blair admitted as much when he described Barnett as a ‘small price to pay’ to keep Scotland in the Union.

    The Conservative used to have a policy to keep Ireland in the Union ‘Killing Home Rule with Kindness’ which was more formally known as the Goschen Formula. The continuation of the Barnett Formula is ‘killing home rule with kindness’ but it’s beginning to stoke English nationalism.

  7. Please release my comments from the purgatory, thank you.

  8. Gail says:

    It is my personal belief that Mr Salmond already knows that Scottish Independence won’t work as he was reported in the press as saying “Dinnea fret! England will gie us a bailout”. I hope that England makes it clear that Independence means just that. I would be sorry if this happens, but if this is what the Scottish people want, so be it.

    • Of course Scotland will then be “entitled” to Foreign Aid, just like any sub-Saharan country. Maybe Scotland can look forward to British jobs & industry exported to them, just like what happened with India & China etc. All those nasty chemical-belching low-paid, long-houred jobs. It’s just what Scotland asked for, isn’t it. With all that Neodymium waiting to be mined from within the giant turbine forests, what are they waiting for, let’s get started now ! Reality is that should Scotland vote for, and be granted independence, then Salmond’s whole raison d’etre will vanish, and his “SNP” will be disbanded. Salmond would appear to then be a “Turkey”, but will his supporters be voting for “Christmas”?

  9. C.Wardrop says:

    Just so, Mr Helmer!

  10. Hen Broon says:

    Such demonising of the foremost politician in these islands!

    Such vitriol and visceral hatred poured on the heads of a country who wishes to be like other normal countries and look after itself using it’s own resources. Those same resources that have pored in to London these past 304 years, and kept the UK from penury in the 70s.

    WOW! Even our national hero has a bucket of bile flung over him, Robert The Bruce. In Alex Salmond we have a modern day Robert The Bruce and he scares Westminster shitless.

    But lets stay in the present an deal with the EU argument.

    UNIONIST MYTH: Brussels rule: “With independence we’d just be swapping London rule for rule from Brussels and Berlin.”

    This is the UKIP argument, but it’s often repeated by europhobic Conservatives. Anyone who believes that Brussels would exert greater control over an independent Scotland than Westminster currently does also believes that a person who joins a a darts club loses more personal autonomy than a granny whose arm was twisted into giving power of attorney to an avaricious relative who proceeded to raid the bank account and flog off the family inheritance before putting arsenic in her Ovaltine. The only difference between Scotland under Westminster and a whodunnit is that we already know whodunnit. We don’t need Hercule Poirot to tell us it was Westminster.

    Brussels does not collect all UK taxation and then decide how much it’s going to give back. Westminster does that to Scotland. Brussels doesn’t even set the rate of VAT, Westminster does that. Brussels doesn’t have the power to insist we keep nuclear warheads on the Clyde. Westminster does that. We wouldn’t have had to ask Brussels for permission to regulate our broadcasters, but we had to ask Westminster’s permission to set up a Gaelic language TV channel, because Conservative MPs from Surrey need to be consulted before punters in Portree can watch Gaelic soaps. Brussels wouldn’t have been able to commit a Scottish defence force to the invasion of Iraq, but Westminster tells us what countries we’ll go to war with. Brussels doesn’t have the power to tell us how much the state pension for the elderly would be or what administrative hoops disabled people have to go through in order to get benefits, only Westminster does.

    If the UK decided to hold a referendum on leaving the EU, there would be an outcry if Brussels decided it would determine the timing and question of the vote, yet that’s what Westminster wants to do in Scotland. Eurosceptics say within the EU we’re dictacted to by an undemocratic superstate. Being dictated to by an undemocratic state is a perfect description of the situation of Scotland under the Union.

    Saor Alba gu Brath

    • “He is a local politician who is after personal power. If he succeeds, he will be a big frog in a tiny, bankrupt puddle. The real Scottish politicians will have long gone to London and Brussels.”

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