Aye! The Vote for or against independence from the United Kingdom is Thursday, the 18th. I would have to say that if I were allowed to vote, It would be ‘YES!’. Succeed or Fail, Local sovereignty makes more sense to me than rule from afar.
Tomorrow, my Dad and I are at our yearly outing at a very, very nice Country Club enjoying a round of the Scots own game, Golf. After we will have a wee dram with dinner in the club house and see what the Scots have decided.
After more than 300 years of political union, a Scots army, this time made up of voters, has a date with destiny, writes Hugh Reilly
It is June 1314, the place is Stirlingshire. The English army has tramped up the Middle Ages version of the M74 to sort out some treasonous Jocks who have challenged King Edward’s right to rule over his Scottish serfs. The rebellious Scots to be crushed are led by Robert the Bruce, a warrior king whose destiny could have been oh-so-different had he suffered from acute arachnophobia. Earlier, he had taken up residence in a damp cave, an ideal location for the fugitive on the go, and watched a hapless spider endeavour to swing Tarzan-like across the grotto’s entrance. On its sixth attempt, it finally succeeded.
Bruce interpreted the dodgy acrobatics as a sign that he could defeat the English. In terms of symptoms of a certifiable mental illness, waging a war based on the trapezium-type exploits of a spider was right up there with listening to the ranting of a burning bush.
Nevertheless, Bruce managed to gather a small army. Those who had answered his call to arms with a resounding “Yes” knew the dire consequences of defeat; yet, they felt the fear and did it anyway. They let out a huge groan when Bruce replied in the affirmative to Henry De Bohun’s demand for an equestrian square-go but how they cheered when Bruce stood tall in his stirrups and gave the English knight the pure malky with a battle-axe. Once the corpse was shuffled off the battlefield, the mortal combat began in earnest.
Despite being outnumbered two to one, the Scots prevailed, forcing Edward to catch the first cruise ship departing Dunbar for London. Across England, town-criers employed by the BBC declared it an outstanding English success. Sadly, the sacrifices of the men and women who fought for Scotland’s freedom were betrayed with the signing of the Act of Union 1707. The treachery of the ruling class is wonderfully encapsulated in the Robert Burns song, Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation. The people of Scotland were not consulted on whether they wished to give up the country’s sovereignty; indeed, when the terms were revealed, riots erupted in Glasgow and Edinburgh.
On Thursday, Scots have a once- in-a-lifetime chance to end 300 years of a being a junior partner in the artificial country known as Britain. I say artificial because, despite three centuries of trying to weld four distinct peoples into one homogeneous race, the traits and differences persist. Ask a Londoner his nationality and he’ll answer “English” – likewise, a guy from Glasgow declares himself to be “Scottish”. No-one, with possible exception of hard-line Ulster Orangemen, states they are “British”.
Back in 2012, only around 26 per cent of voters supported independence. Last week, on accepting that the referendum result was on finely sharpened knife edge, Alistair Darling claimed that “it was inevitable that the gap would narrow” as polling day neared. He rather unhelpfully didn’t explain why it was somehow unavoidable that the pro-independence vote would gather momentum. I think I can give Mr Darling some clues.
Firstly, the scaremongering tactics haven’t played well with a highly educated, highly sceptical electorate. Project Fear has backfired spectacularly on the pro-Unionists as, one by one, the doom and gloom scenarios have been ushered into the light and exposed. Should Scottish voters have the cheek to back independence, Scotland would be evicted from the EU, said the nay-sayers. Nato wouldn’t want Alba either. Worse, the cost of sending worthwhile mobile phone texts such as “Ah’m oan the bus, c u in 10 mins” would rise due to roaming charges imposed by avaricious telecommunications companies.
The bluff that Scotland would not be permitted a currency union with its southern neighbour was called when the value of sterling fell on news of the possibility of Scotland regaining sovereignty. It’s abundantly clear that the penchants of the financial market will have a greater input on a currency union than the anti-independence utterings of Gideon Oliver Osborne (yes folks, that’s the Chancellor’s name as it appears on his birth certificate). Denying Scotland the use of the pound would be cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face, akin to Van Gogh cutting off his ear to stop folk pestering him to wear spectacles.
Secondly, once the bluster and froth disappeared from the debate, Scots began to observe that objective evidence exists that their country will not descend into a land resembling the set of Mad Max. A league table of GDP wealth produced by the OECD – the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development – puts Scotland 14th in the world. The discussion between oil experts as to how much fossil fuel lies around our coastline told us that even the most Jeramiah of black gold drillers admits there are at least 16 billion barrels. Consequently, the unique attempt by Britain-firsters to paint carbon fuel assets to be burdensome liabilities failed to convince those cursed with possessing critical faculties.
A Yes victory would mean no more wars of adventure. Disastrous British foreign policy has led to the deaths of hundreds of UK soldiers and the maiming of thousands of others. And for what? Afghanistan is still a mediaeval basket case and IS rules large swathes of Iraq, a country we “liberated”. At home, a new Scotland would build on the sense of social justice that sets it apart from its southern neighbour. Despite the off-stage grumblings of arch-unionist Johann Lamont, the notions of free university education, free prescriptions and free personal care resonate with the majority of Scots who agree with a collectivist approach to helping those in need.
On Thursday, we have a date with destiny. I urge voters to seize the moment, to give us back full sovereignty over our affairs.
The alternative – more years of Westminster governments led by Cameron, Miliband or, heaven forbid, Boris Johnson – fills me with dread.
At Bannockburn, the “wee folk” bled for liberty. We need only place a cross in the Yes box. Cry freedom!
There is entirely too much history and information to cover in one blog post. So if I may, two columns and some links. The first is from Bill Jamieson:
THE CASE FOR ‘YES’ YOU’VE NEVER HEARD
Good morning, Scotland!
SCOT-BUZZ EDITOR BILL JAMIESON says it’s forty eight hours to the biggest political decision we’ve ever made – not just how we want to be governed but which country we want to be in…
Scotland is at fever pitch. Never before has such argument raged, mass rallies held, the TV studios packed and tens of thousands of windows plastered with ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ stickers. Banners are everywhere.
“Should Scotland be an independent country?”
Never has a question more polarised Scots’ opinion. Views for and against have been put with increasing passion. Towns, communities and families have been split.
Accusations of “scaremongering” and “Project Fear” have marked the battle. The pound has trembled and markets have swooned.
We’re global news. You can’t walk down Edinburgh’s Princes Street or Buchanan Street in Glasgow without being jostled by competing teams of camera crews.
We’ve never had such world attention.
Now it’s up to us to cast our vote.
You might think by now you’ve heard all the arguments there could be for independence.
But here’s one you almost certainly haven’t heard from the mouths of politicians – the argument that dare not speak its name…
Let’s call it Consequences, or facing up at last to the honest truth.
We’ve heard promises of more public spending, better welfare benefits, protected spending on the NHS, more secure pensions, and a Scottish government able to deliver with those North Sea oil revenues. We’ll escape austerity. We’ll be better off.
Many ‘Yes’ voters fervently believe this. And many traditional Labour voters have been won over by it. The ranks of ‘Yes’ have been swollen by the deep unpopularity of austerity, cuts in welfare spending and a prolonged squeeze on wages and earnings that have lagged inflation – pay reduction in real terms.
Five years of austerity. Little wonder there’s deep resentment.
But how likely is it that independence per se will change this? How credible are the promises?
It’s said Scotland has had a great referendum debate. That it has re-invigorated democracy.
But is this really true?
Throughout this long campaign there’s been a huge hole.
There’s been barely any analysis of the real cause of our grievance, of what lies behind austerity and why public spending is being squeezed.
This long, raucous relentless debate has proceeded without an honest assessment of why government has been unable to deliver, why politicians are distrusted and why voters feel so disenfranchised.
Two words have been barely mentioned by either side. But they’re the biggest words in politics today. Those words are deficit and debt.
Here are two figures to consider. UK government debt now stands at £1.35 trillion. It will continue to rise next year, the year after that and the year after that.
While the annual budget deficit has been brought down, this only slows the rate at which the debt total continues to rise. B y 2018-19 that debt total is projected to climb to £1.5 trillion.
We can argue forever as to who or what was to blame, the wicked Tories or spendthrift Labour. But this debt has imposed a colossal burden.
It’s a figure almost too big to contemplate. So let’s focus instead on the annual debt interest alone.
This year, we need to find £52 billion to meet the interest bill. This, too, continues to rise. By 2018-19 it is set to hit £75 billion.
This means, it soaks up the entire tax revenue from fuel duties, Petroleum Revenue Tax, tobacco duties, spirits duty, wine duty, beer duty, Air Passenger Duty, insurance Premium Tax, the Climate Change Levy and Vehicle Excise Duty – and we will still have £3 billion to find!
Little wonder politicians hate talking about debt. Because debt interest is ‘dead money’. It brings in no votes. But it’s one of the first things deducted from government spending. And it compels cuts in other areas to make room for it.
An independent Scotland’s share of UK debt is reckoned at between £126 billion and £140 billion. Just taking the lower figure would leave Holyrood with £3.8 billion to find in annual interest charges.
Surely, then, we should vote ‘No’? But the case for independence is strengthened, not weakened, by the prospect of a Scottish government having to come to terms with this Consequence.
Not having to deal with the realities of tax and borrowing and debt has left our politics infantalised for too long. It’s bred and fostered the culture of false promises and more spending without concern for the reality before us.
An independent Scotland would have to cope, very quickly and credibly, with this reality. To hold and retain business and investor confidence, the independent government would need to recognise, in a way the referendum battle has failed to do, the reality of government today and the constraints that come with it.
Spending commitments will be deferred as finance minister John Swinney earnestly tells the Scottish parliament of the need to establish early credibility as one of “regrettable necessities of building independence”.
Remember, too, the resources he will need to find to build up our reserves to put behind a currency board to ensure currency stability and halt capital flight (see elsewhere this page).
The parliament will ponder the option of tax increases rather than spending cuts. But it will also need to weigh up the cost of those tax increases – voter consequence and business exodus.
It will be a moment of truth like no other.
So why not avoid this and vote ‘No’? The problem here is that it will leave ‘Yes’ voters, not with a recognition of this reality, but with a bitter sense of grievance. A large proportion of Scotland will feel cheated and frustrated. These feelings will be stoked by claims that independence was wrested from our grasp at the last moment by a conspiracy of Westminster scare tactics, dirty tricks with banks and big business and the collusion of the BBC. The myth of the Stab in the Back is already being woven.
We will have learnt nothing and gained nothing. Instead, there’ll be the old enemy to blame – the London government, the Westminster parties, the metropolitan elite.
A ‘No’ vote does not put the issue to rest. On the contrary. It will condemn us to more years of infantile politics and reality evasion. The chance to come to terms with a major cause of our discontents will have been missed.
It’s not a comfortable case for independence. It’s not the case you’ll have heard from politicians.
But it’s the case far nearer to the truth than we’ve ever been told.
Now, Paul Krugman. Like him or not, he is absolutely right on this (however, Scotland has oil coming out of its ears and that changes the economics):
Scots, What the Heck?
SEPT. 7, 2014
Next week Scotland will hold a referendum on whether to leave the United Kingdom. And polling suggests that support for independence has surged over the past few months, largely because pro-independence campaigners have managed to reduce the “fear factor” — that is, concern about the economic risks of going it alone. At this point the outcome looks like a tossup.
Well, I have a message for the Scots: Be afraid, be very afraid. The risks of going it alone are huge. You may think that Scotland can become another Canada, but it’s all too likely that it would end up becoming Spain without the sunshine.
Comparing Scotland with Canada seems, at first, pretty reasonable. After all, Canada, like Scotland, is a relatively small economy that does most of its trade with a much larger neighbor. Also like Scotland, it is politically to the left of that giant neighbor. And what the Canadian example shows is that this can work. Canada is prosperous, economically stable (although I worry about high household debt and what looks like a major housing bubble) and has successfully pursued policies well to the left of those south of the border: single-payer health insurance, more generous aid to the poor, higher overall taxation.
Does Canada pay any price for independence? Probably. Labor productivity is only about three-quarters as high as it is in the United States, and some of the gap may reflect the small size of the Canadian market (yes, we have a free-trade agreement, but a lot of evidence shows that borders discourage trade all the same). Still, you can argue that Canada is doing O.K.
But Canada has its own currency, which means that its government can’t run out of money, that it can bail out its own banks if necessary, and more. An independent Scotland wouldn’t. And that makes a huge difference.
Could Scotland have its own currency? Maybe, although Scotland’s economy is even more tightly integrated with that of the rest of Britain than Canada’s is with the United States, so that trying to maintain a separate currency would be hard. It’s a moot point, however: The Scottish independence movement has been very clear that it intends to keep the pound as the national currency. And the combination of political independence with a shared currency is a recipe for disaster. Which is where the cautionary tale of Spain comes in.
If Spain and the other countries that gave up their own currencies to adopt the euro were part of a true federal system, with shared institutions of government, the recent economic history of Spain would have looked a lot like that of Florida. Both economies experienced a huge housing boom between 2000 and 2007. Both saw that boom turn into a spectacular bust. Both suffered a sharp downturn as a result of that bust. In both places the slump meant a plunge in tax receipts and a surge in spending on unemployment benefits and other forms of aid.
Then, however, the paths diverged. In Florida’s case, most of the fiscal burden of the slump fell not on the local government but on Washington, which continued to pay for the state’s Social Security and Medicare benefits, as well as for much of the increased aid to the unemployed. There were large losses on housing loans, and many Florida banks failed, but many of the losses fell on federal lending agencies, while bank depositors were protected by federal insurance. You get the picture. In effect, Florida received large-scale aid in its time of distress.
Spain, by contrast, bore all the costs of the housing bust on its own. The result was a fiscal crisis, made much worse by fears of a banking crisis that the Spanish government would be unable to manage, because it might literally run out of cash. Spanish borrowing costs soared, and the government was forced into brutal austerity measures. The result was a horrific depression — including youth unemployment above 50 percent — from which Spain has barely begun to recover.
And it wasn’t just Spain, it was all of southern Europe and more. Even euro-area countries with sound finances, like Finland and the Netherlands, have suffered deep and prolonged slumps.
In short, everything that has happened in Europe since 2009 or so has demonstrated that sharing a currency without sharing a government is very dangerous. In economics jargon, fiscal and banking integration are essential elements of an optimum currency area. And an independent Scotland using Britain’s pound would be in even worse shape than euro countries, which at least have some say in how the European Central Bank is run.
I find it mind-boggling that Scotland would consider going down this path after all that has happened in the last few years. If Scottish voters really believe that it’s safe to become a country without a currency, they have been badly misled.
This Link has all of the articles, data, polling and otherwise that you need to become informed.:
Two articles to wrap up the discussion: