Friday, January 12, 2007

New Year blues

There is a lot of speculation about the supposed imminent collapse of the most successful multi-cultural and multi-ethnic state in modern history. No, not Iraq. The UK.

Strong polls for the SNP, and carefully-fanned English resentment of the higher levels of public spending in Scotland mean that political commentators are talking seriously about Scottish independence. Or as seriously as political commentators who have a regular deadline to fill with the latest breathless crisis can do.

But this is hugely irresponsible. For 300 years the Anglo-Scottish Union has created an immensely successful dynamic that has benefited both nations. This may not always have been put to the very best possible use - witness the race for Imperial domination. But it has created the modern world of liberal democracy, the importance of the rule of law, the Industrial Revolution and the global financial system. Now – at least partly because the Tory party wants to destabilise Gordon Brown and the press are happy to have a story – all this is being cast in to doubt.

There may be a coherent intellectual argument to make for splitting the Union – but it has to involve the belief that it will be through broader integration with the European Union that England and Scotland can regain the influence and scale that would be lost through partition. To be fair that is part of the SNP argument. But the very right-wing English commentators calling for a split are the same ones who turn puce at the very mention of the EU.

As you may be able to guess from my name I feel especially torn. My family roots are Scottish but I grew up in London. One grandfather slogged through the trenches of World War one with the London Scottish. I personally feel British before I feel either Scottish or English.

The current system is not perfect. It not fair or sustainable that our current Home Secretary can bring in laws that do not affect his constituents. But to jump from this to breaking up the Union shows a short-sightedness that can only be driven by the need to sell more newspapers tomorrow. Or rattle the Chancellor.

1 comment:

Tristan said...

I see no need for the EU for Scotland to be successful as an independent nation.

What is needed is a liberal economy, something which I doubt the SNP would ever offer.

As for the benefits or otherwise of independence, I don't think there'd be much effect in the short term, in the long term it depends on what the British and Scottish governments do.