On Thursday there are several sets of elections across the United Kingdom. There are umpteen local council elections which will, no doubt, see extensive losses for Labour and significant gains for the Tories and maybe, if they are lucky, the Liberal Democrats. Peculiarly, local elections in the UK are a direct reflection on national elections - I wont be voting because London council elections were last year - but the campaigning I have seen is largely a mirror of a national campaign. Party political broadcasts have lied en masse about national issues, not matters that are relevant to local government. What is even more peculiar is how it will be seen as a referendum on Blair, even though it is commonly accepted that Blair will be PM for only a matter of a few more weeks.
However the election generating perhaps the greatest interest is the one for the Scottish Parliament - the one that gets to spend tax collected from Scottish taxpayers (and then some) to fund Britain's most socialist regional government.
Labour is unlikely to be able to form the next Scottish government, with the Scottish Nationalist Party, led by the socialist Alec Salmond poised to have a plurality of seats, though insufficient to govern in its own right. The SNP is likely to seek a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The Scottish Conservatives are unlikely to join in coalition, since the Tories are committed to the Union.
The SNP wants a referendum on Scottish independence within three years, and is unlikely to be satisfied governing without it. The SNP is driven primarily by a very socialist big government agenda, as well as a peculiar chauvinism and belief that North Sea oil revenue could fund a massive welfare state and a whole host of lunatic pet projects. Not that the other parties are that much better, all offering bribes ranging from free laptops for school pupils, broad based family welfare schemes and the like. Even the Tories aren't much better.
Scottish nationalism is a form of childishness at best, a belief stirred up by centuries of bigotry that Scotland is hard done by, and that London is distant and Scots have little say in what goes on there. Well, Scotland helped Labour win the last election. Scotland has 59 seats, of which 41 are Labour. If Scotland had been independent, Labour would have won by only 21 seats, a difficult to manage majority in a Parliament of 587. Note also who the next PM will be - a Scot, and the current and last leaders of the Liberal Democrats have been Scots.
If Scotland had independence, it would lose subsidies from England, but would not be poor enough to gain much from Brussels (maybe in the days before Bulgaria and Slovakia joined the EU, but not now). From a foreign policy perspective Scotland would be small fry, it wouldn't have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, it wouldn't be in the G8, it would be a small European country that could throw about the weight of Finland, with similar populations. It's GDP would be about the level of Singapore (albeit with 70% more people - which tells you a lot about its true wealth), so we are talking about throwing not much more than New Zealand about. Given the inclinations of much of the SNP, I suspect the independent Scotland would eschew Nato, after all, George Galloway was a Scottish MP when he was with Labour.
The SNP is promising that if Scots didn't like independence, they could rejoin the Union - if, of course, the UK wanted it back.
I am split on this. I have blogged earlier about how I thought that the best thing was for Scotland to become independent. This would get the nationalism out of the way, but most of all the socialism. It would remove the deeply leftwing Scots from the UK, allowing Scotland to go through the pain of experimenting with Marxism - and the cost it will impose in encouraging its best and brightest to leave, and encouraging more businesses to flee. It will fail and Scots need to see it first hand before acknowledging that there must be a better way - they could do worse than look at one of their own sons - Adam Smith. However Scots need to learn the hard way, much like the Irish who have reaped the benefits of lower taxes and a more open economy.
Indeed, it would be the best thing for the Tories, and Labour knows it would be a major blow to that party.
However, I also resist the separation of the Union. Besides sports, the integration between England and Scotland is enormous - this essence of being British. My heritage is part Scottish, and I live in England - I love Scotland to visit, and there is much about the Scottish character to love - hell, I was brought up on it. So I will be sad to see Scotland separate from England, and would prefer that - if there is to be a federal United Kingdom, then Scotland raise the taxes it needs for its socialist schemes, and Scottish MPs in Westminster only get to vote on British laws, not English ones.
I suspect the SNP will do well, primarily as a protest vote against Labour - a tired government, with little inspiration from Gordon Brown. An alternative is that a second place Labour could coalesce with the Lib Dems to thwart the SNP - which wont satisfy many Scots voters.
The case for Scottish independence would be strong if the Union gave Scotland less than it got, and if Scotland had good reason to feel cheated by it. The reality is the opposite, Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, a world power, one of the four main countries of the EU, a nuclear power, and home of one of the world's leading (if not the leading) financial capital.
England would probably be wealthier without Scotland, financially, but Britain would be less Great. The SNP will not get 50% of the vote, so cannot claim there has been a strong vote for independence - Alec Salmond should know that. However, it will still seek a referendum, which is a second battle. If the Lib Dems support an SNP government, then they are implicitly neutral on a referendum on independence.
So 3 May may be a step along the path to Scottish independence - for the sake of Scots, they should reject the SNP, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, all of whom represent politics that hold talented Scots back with (or chase them away from ) Warsaw Pact sized government intervention in the economy. However, if Scots continue to be, by and large, socialists - let them go the whole hog and learn a lesson - a lesson of the banality of nationalism, the bankruptcy of socialism, and the need to generate wealth through work not the state. The price of that lesson is a generation of unemployment and stagnation, a high price to rid Scotland of its cloth caps, red flags and 1940s style politics.