On Friday, I went to Edinburgh to assist the local party with the Cowdenbeath MSP by-election. We have a super candidate in Denise Baykal. She’s a solicitor by profession, and a relative newcomer to politics, but her enthusiasm is infectious and refreshing. Like most people in UKIP, she says what she thinks, and her sincerity shines through.
Inevitably the question of the Scottish Independence Referendum came up — it’s perhaps the most important domestic question in UK politics for 2014. What’s our position? The clue is in the name. We’re the United Kingdom Independence Party. Despite the much-discussed economic and political benefits to the Remainder of the UK (May I call it RUK? The acronym works much better than “Former United Kingdom”), I believe that we should all of us be much diminished by a UK break-up — north and south of the Tweed.
Some bright spark will ask “In that case, and by analogy, won’t we be diminished by leaving the EU?”. But the answer to that question is so blindingly obvious that I shan’t waste your time or insult your intelligence by setting it out.
But we’re also the United KingdomIndependence Party. Our founding objective, our lodestar, the principle that imbues our policies, is that we want the UK to be an independent, democratic, self-governing nation. Yes, of course we want trade and cooperation with our neighbours (and with all nations of goodwill). But we don’t want to be governed by anti-democratic, technocratic foreign institutions.
And here we get to the heart of the deceit practised upon the Scottish people by Alex Salmond. (I have a sneaking admiration for Alex Salmond. He’s a bit of a Jack-the-Lad, and he’s a superb political operator — as is Nigel Farage. The difference is that Nigel is right, and Salmond is wrong). Salmond offers Scotland “Independence in Europe”. In the phrase that Galsworthy loved to use, that is “An Irish Bull”. (In this case, it’s Scottish Bull too). It’s a contradiction in terms. It’s an oxymoron.
As Salmond knows (or ought to know), the great bulk of our new laws are now made in Brussels, in institutions where we have no control and little influence. What sort of independence does that give Scotland? And if the UK has little enough influence over the Brussels institutions, how much less would an “Independent” Scotland have? It’s a constant complaint of smaller EU member-states that the power is exerted by Germany and France, and they scarcely get a look-in. Scotland would have no more influence than Slovenia. Or the Baltics. With a population less than half that of Greece, it would have less influence than Athens. What’s half of zero?
But on the other hand, in Gordon Brown’s Cowdenbeath constituency, it’s easy to make the case that Scotland as part of the UK has huge influence in Westminster (if not always for the good).
Salmond’s promises are unravelling fast. He’ll keep the Queen as Head of State. But has he asked her? I suspect that her Majesty might accept, but it’s a bit presumptuous of Salmond to assume so. He’ll keep the Pound. (Cue pantomime chorus: “Oh No He Won’t!”). Even if HMG, the Treasury and the Bank of England agree to an independent Scotland using the Pound, they certainly won’t want to be lender of last resort (not after RBS). And they’ll decide monetary policy and interest rates in the interests of RUK, not Scotland. Again, Scotland will be in a position vis-à-vis London like that of Greece vis-à-vis Frankfurt. Ouch. Wait for the Troika.
He promises 100% renewable energy generation — a technical impossibility. But if Brussels’ 20% renewables target is rapidly becoming unsustainable (as it is), how will Scotland cope with 100%? He will drive energy prices and fuel poverty to excruciating levels, undermine competitiveness and security of supply, and decimate what’s left of Scottish industry.
He wants to finance an independent Scotland, and replace the Barnet Formula, with North Sea Oil revenues (curious, given his commitment to 100% renewables). But output is in decline. The ownership position of North Sea Oil in the context of an independent Scotland is a can of worms, and will keep lawyers busy for years. Meantime the Orkneys and Shetlands are “considering their position”, and might prefer to stay with the RUK. Or they could go for full independence. In either case, they could take with them a huge slice of North Sea resources — and blow a big hole in the SNP’s economic plans.
Even Salmond’s plan to retain free tertiary education for Scots is under fire. He says he can do it, although it appears to breach EU rules, and the Scottish government has commissioned legal advice. Yet it is desperately refusing to publish that advice. No prizes for guessing why.
Then again he says that Scotland will simply sashay seamlessly into membership of the EU on grandfather terms. He’s plain wrong. It’s absolutely clear that the RUK would be recognised by Brussels as the successor member-state to the UK. Scotland would have to apply as a new member. And while Brussels would probably be amenable, Spain has a veto and is vehemently opposed, not wanting to create any precedent for its own secession issue in Catalonia. In any case there would have to be some negotiations, for example to settle Scotland’s budget contributions, EU subsidies, representation in the parliament and so on. Probably a condition of any such negotiation would be an obligation to join the €uro, as it is for other applicant states. This would blow a hole in Salmond’s “Keep the Pound” pledge.
These are some good reasons not to vote SNP. But why should the good people of Cowdenbeath vote UKIP? We can’t expect to win, can we? Realistically, no, we probably won’t win. But in Scotland we are where we were in England five years ago — and look at us now! If everyone said “We won’t stand because we don’t believe we can win”, there’d never be a new political party. And remember that we started in Scotland seven years after England. We’re on the same upward curve across the UK, and we’re offering the people of Scotland a genuine alternative.
We’re offering real independence, within an independent UK — not Alex Salmond’s ersatz version of “Independence under the Brussels thumb”. That’s why we call UKIP “The Real Independence Party” (see photo above). We’re offering lower energy prices and a reduction in fuel poverty, and indeed more jobs, by dropping the SNP’s daft renewables objectives — and we wouldn’t be covering some of Scotland’s finest landscapes with unsightly wind turbines. We’re offering a tax threshold set at the minimum wage, to help the low-paid and make work more attractive.
Parts of Cowdenbeath are (let’s face it) economically depressed. It needs jobs and investment. Yet it sits in Central Scotland on what the British Geological Survey says is a shale gas basin. There’s a long history of coal mining in the area (and UKIP is pro-coal, and gas, and nuclear). But shale gas is “the new coal”. It can bring jobs and prosperity as coal used to do, but it’s much safer and cleaner and less visually intrusive.
On all these issues, UKIP is offering common-sense solutions that seem to have escaped the old parties. Go for it, Denise. You’ve got all the good arguments on your side.