Monday, June 19, 2006

Scottish independence now!

While plenty of Scots will be cheering Sweden tonight in the World Cup game against England, it is about time they were set free. Scots don't like the English very much, it is a cultural tradition almost as engrained a bigotry as the Catholic/Protestant divide in Ireland (which also exists in Scotland). So the answer is simple. Scotland should be granted independence.
It would be the best thing for the remainder of the United Kingdom, and Scotland - in the long run (although it might pay a price for some years).
I have always laughed at Scottish nationalists – as they have largely been a bunch of deluded socialists. The Scottish National Party website is full of specious claims that an independent Scotland would be better off, because "look at how much Ireland has grown" (ignoring that this is due to a winning combo of low tax and EU subsidies for some years). Given my Scottish heritage, my derision of Scottish nationalism has been notable (although my parents' families were Labour and Tory respectively).
However, as a resident of the UK, living in London, it has become abundantly clear that I would be better off with Scotland being independent, and the United Kingdom comprising England, Wales and Northern Ireland (and for reasons I am about to explain, the latter two need to be on watch as well). So I am supporting the Scottish National Party in its campaign to win all of the Scottish seats in the House of Commons - even though it is a loony leftwing party dedicated to higher taxes, unilateral nuclear disarmament and a strong supporter of the European Union.
Why? Well first there is the argument well put in the Daily Telegraph. Scottish devolution has meant that the Scottish Parliament (the building for which cost £431 million), now has power over the following matters within Scotland:
- Agriculture, fisheries and forestry (though Brussels is as important);
- Arts and sport
- Economic development (i.e. subsidies for business, tax breaks and regulation);
- Education;
- Police/fire services and the courts (which have always been separate).
- Environment and food standards;
- Health
- Local government
- Social policy
- Transport
Westminster still determines broadcasting, energy, defence, employment, drug policy, foreign affairs, transport safety regulation (you know those Scots would want to cut corners on their brakes!), social security, monetary policy.
So with the Scottish Parliament deciding the former, the Houses of Parliament at Westminster decide the former for England as well, and the latter for both regions. MPs in England do not decide on funding or policy for Scottish schools and hospitals, but MPs from Scotland do decide on such matters for English schools and hospitals. This is utterly ridiculous. It is known as the West Lothian Question. The Scottish Affairs committee of the House of Commons agrees. It offered four solutions without a preference:
- Only English MPs vote on English laws (which seems a sensible first step);
- English devolution (which essentially means a UK federation, not entirely ridiculous);
- Reduction in Scottish MPs (while some key matters are still decided at Westminster this seems unfair); or
- Dissolution of the United Kingdom.
While ensuring English MPs only vote on English laws would be the logical step, it would have some interesting side effects in the current environment. For starters, as some solid Blair supporters are Scottish MPs, it may reduce or eliminate Blair’s ability to continue with his health and education reforms, which would be unfortunate. However, it would also kill off Gordon Brown’s hopes of being Prime Minister. What PM of the UK could be stopped from voting on some matters in the House of Commons? What PM could chair Cabinet deciding on English laws and funding for English schools and hospitals, without being able to vote on it? Well – what Chancellor of the Exchequer can prepare a budget, that to a substantial extent is not relevant to his constituents?
So – Scotland should be independent. It would also enable the socialism of so many Scots to come to the fore, and be implemented. You see at the moment, Scottish socialism is subsidised by England. According to the Times 54.9% of Scotland’s total GDP comes from government sector. This compares to 33.4% in London – the capital – and capital cities traditionally have higher proportions of state sector GDP than the rest of the economy. This comparison is all the more stark when you see that the state sector is responsible for 51.9% of GDP in Hungary, 42.6% in the Czech Republic, 41.2% in Poland and 36.3% in Slovakia – all post-socialist economies. In China, the state sector comprises 38% of GDP! Wales and Northern Ireland are worse than Scotland, but one at a time, and Northern Ireland is a bit of a "special case".
In short, Scotland is being propped up by the south of England (northeast England is worse at 61.5% GDP from the state!) and it should be paying for this itself. Scotland has maintained “free” university education, the company that operates rail passenger services in Scotland – Scotrail – gets the biggest subsidy, £225 million a year – of any rail operator in the UK. 16.7% of working age Scots are on welfare (which is controlled from Westminster). A relatively high proportion of the Scottish population are pensioners, which is lucky - because the health stats of Scots are shocking. As Michael Portillo (a supporter of independence) points out in the Times, in the Calton District of Glasgow, the average male life expectancy is only 53.9 years. This has everything to do with a culture of smoking, drinking to excess and eating everything deep fried in saturated fat. Scotland has introduced free personal care for the elderly and free kindergartens, and watches its public debt rise- no doubt in the expectation that a Labour government dependent on Scotland for a healthy part of its majority, or Tories keen to get their hands on such seats, wont make Scots face the reality of the cost of their socialist policies.
So Scots should be allowed to vote for a socialist government, increase taxes and continue the flight of capital, intelligence and entrepreneurial flair that has seen Scots that emigrate around the world succeed. It may also be stroppy on fisheries in the EU, which would be welcome. Once they have grown tired of it, they may turn their back and revitalise Scotland as a small independent country with lower tax, and encourage the enterpreneurial to return.
So I am, ironically, supporting the SNP (not directly mind you), because I reject all of its arguments for independence. It believes Scotland subsidises England. I look forward to the truth hitting Scots with the sort of sense one famous Scot once imparted – Adam Smith.
Michael Portillo sums it up below:
"In contrast to Scotland, Slovakia has enjoyed a growth rate over recent years averaging more than 5%. It has standardised corporate and individual tax at a flat rate of 19%...
today it seems that the thinking of Adam Smith is better respected and applied in Bratislava than in Edinburgh or his native Kirkcaldy. Perhaps Scotland could return to greatness if it severed the apron strings that bind it to England. Given its independence it would need to slash the size of its state and compete for foreign investment. Leadership would surely pass from the trade unionists and former public sector workers who fill the posts now, to those who could display the necessary dynamism. Socialism could not survive there any more than it has in eastern Europe."


Man in a Shed said...

Of course there is an English dimension here. It may be the English don't want the Union to continue either. Right now I'd say that isn't the case - but given another 10 years of this mess I wouldn't be so sure.

But, as you say, the most damage may well be to Scotland which will never grow up if the English keep bailing her out. That aspect of devolution must be put right within the UK or outwith the UK. Socialsim is a symptom of a deeper disease, and Scotland has it bad.

Anonymous said...

"It believes Scotland subsidises England. I look forward to the truth hitting Scots with the sort of sense one famous Scot once imparted – Adam Smith"

I look forward, myself to the body politic and England itself waves bye-bye to North Sea Revenues and hello to the storage and funding of Nuclear Weaponry that you'll currently find in Scotland. I mean given that is costs just £25bn to upgrade Trident, could you imagine the bankruptingly high cost that it would take to replicate all these facilities in England? Of course not doing so would result in the scrapping of the Nuclear project and and independent EnglandWales and Northern Ireland being kicked off the security council, and other wieldy international organisations. And we haven't even started with the division of assets from the dissolution of the British State, yet - which sadly for England are mainly based there - everything from military assets to government investments and real estate. Mounts up to quite a lot, and quite a hole for the rest of the UK.

Certainly the route Scotland chooses after independence is up to itself. However I will watch with relish, the ignorance (quite nicely illustrated in your essay) backfire in directions you never even thought possible.

Libertyscott said...

North Sea revenues? Yeah that's all because of Scottish investment and ingenuity - NOT. Besides the North Sea oil and gas are in decline. If Scotland wants to kick out the military bases, then fine - lose all that employment too. Scotland is seriously dire socially and economically, and it shows. I have extensive Scottish heritage and frankly it kills me to think the place continues to live in the delusion that it is being ripped off - it's own parlous state is self inflicted.

Anonymous said...

You said:

"I would be better off with Scotland being independent, and the United Kingdom comprising England, Wales and Northern Ireland (and for reasons I am about to explain, the latter two need to be on watch as well). "

What on earth do you mean? "the latter two need to be on the watch as well". You give the impression that membership of the U.K. is some sort of reward given out by Westminister for good economic behaviour but in reality none of these nations asked or invited the English to conquer them.

As for the economic situation in Scotland, the British government has controlled the Scottish economy for the last 300 years.
Don't you think that they deserve some of the blame too?

The economic problems in Wales and the North of England have largely been created by the destruction of British industry by Thatcher's policies in the 1980's during her obsessive destruction of the trade union movement. Not by the inhabitants of those regions or their politicians. Remember that devolution became a feature of politics in the 90's, before Welsh and Scottish MPs had at best only limited control of the economic levers in their own nations.

Also do you really believe that a United Kingdom without Scotland, a United Kingdom of England and Wales would actually survive more than a decade?

The last time that occured was in the middle ages and was characterised by a state of constant armed rebellion in Wales, which ultimately only ended when the country was placed under the quasi-military rule of the "Marcher Lords".

I'll freely grant to you that the Welsh are unlikely to indulge in the sort of violent armed rebellions seen in Ireland but they would nonetheless find a union with England ideologically repulsive and would undoubtedly seek their own independence.

I would expect a Union without Scotland to last a decade at most without splitting completely.

Anonymous said...

"...In Finland we have independent parliament long time now and make happy country, good standards of living. I think Scotland has same population as Finland, maybe five millions of peoples, yes? And Scotland have good resources and clever citizens so where is problem to seperate from England, which is a different kind of country?"

Extract from "Now You Must Dance" by Bruce Leeming.

Libertyscott said...

"The economic problems in Wales and the North of England have largely been created by the destruction of British industry by Thatcher's policies in the 1980's during her obsessive destruction of the trade union movement"

You actually mean setting the British public free from being forced to pay for uncompetitives industries or being restricted to buy these uncompetitive products. The trade unions killed these industries off by seeking ever improved conditions, doing nothing about product quality or productivity, and stifling entrepreneurship. Far too many in the north expect "guvmint" to help them out, suckling off of the state directly and indirectly.

The truth is much of the UK economy is propped up from revenues of the City of London - without it, the UK would largely be an economy based on tourism and the industries of supplying its own population - if it weren't for Thatcher, Britain's economy would be in the same state as Italy's.