So says David Cameron. But as in so many things, he could well be wrong. Most economic commentators expect a very negative reaction to a Yes vote, if that’s what happens on September 18th. This could happen quickly: indeed it is clearly happening already. Funds are moving out of Scotland; investment and house purchases are stalling; mortgagees are worrying about the future status and currency of their debt.
And of course, pace David Cameron, nothing is forever. The original and hugely successful union of Scotland and England has lasted 300+ years, and that’s a good long time. But if the Scots vote Yes, it won’t have been “forever”. And in this modern, internet age, things happen so much more quickly.
The European Union has set a key precedent here which Alex Salmond would do well to keep in mind. On June 2nd1992, the Danes voted No to the Maastricht Treaty. But on May 18th 1993, they voted again, and reversed the decision. The first decision lasted less than a year – just 350 days, if my arithmetic is right.
Then came Ireland, and the Lisbon Treaty. The Irish voted No on June 12th 2008. This decision, at least, saw its first birthday. But not its second. On October 2nd 2009, the Irish (after a disgracefully biased campaign) voted Yes, reversing the earlier decision.
It seems to me that something rather similar will happen in Scotland. There are at least three good reasons to expect a re-think.
A narrow margin. Surely a major constitutional decision should command widespread support – not the one or two per cent edge that opinion polls are predicting? In Ted Heath’s weasel phrase, such a decision requires “the full-hearted consent of the people”. We can argue about the threshold that would constitute full-hearted consent, but 51% it ain’t.
Economic consequences: I and many commentators believe that there will be immediate and very visible negative economic consequences of a Yes decision. As those consequences become visible, that 53% advantage could rapidly turn to 75/25 against in the polls. How could Scottish independence proceed on that basis?
For what it’s worth, my bet is that Scotland would muddle on with “the pound in your pocket”, but without any formal currency union agreement (and as Mark Carney said yesterday, “A currency union is incompatible with sovereignty”), effectively using a foreign currency over which they have no control. They will exclude themselves from EU membership the day they celebrate “Independence” (whether you think that’s a good thing or not). They simply don’t meet the criteria to start negotiating to re-join (for which you need a currency and a central bank). The consequences of using another currency will be dire for households and businesses. (Ask Greece). Scotch whisky exports to the EU will be subject to the Common External Tariff.
A pig in a poke: As the No campaign has been relentlessly repeating, in many respects the Scottish people don’t know what they’re voting for. It is quite scandalous that Salmond has failed to set out detailed and credible plans on the currency, on the debt, on EU membership. A Yes vote is surely little more than an authority to negotiate. In that negotiation process, the answers to these questions will become clear, and the Scottish people may well take fright. Are they to have no say on the outcome of the negotiations, and on Scotland’s proposed new status in the world? That seems to me inconceivable, especially as (I predict) when the Scots see the detail of the deal, they won’t like it at all.
No. Cameron is wrong. If the Scots vote Yes on Thursday (and we in UKIP hope they don’t), I predict a new referendum, and a resounding NO, within a couple of years.