Saturday, May 10, 2008

Gordon Brown fights to keep the Union

Well although he denied Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander called for an early referendum on Scottish independence (even though she did), the Daily Telegraph is reporting Gordon as saying "I want all Unionist parties and all parts of business – employers, managers and trade unions – to work together not only to push the case for the Union but to expose the dangers of ­separation"
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Of course the primary danger for Gordon is that he can hardly be Prime Minister of the UK if he is an MP of a different country - which he would be! The second danger is that losing Scotland would make the race for the House of Commons far closer for the Conservatives. 646 seats drops to 587 once the Scottish seats are removed. Labour would then have 315 seats out of 587 (rather than 356 in 646), Conservatives 197 (rather than 198), Liberal Democrats 51 (rather than 62). A slender 22 seat majority, but still 118 over the Tories.
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While I think it would be sad for the Union to split, if Scotland wants independence then so be it - especially since it takes more than it pays in taxes from Westminster. If Scotland wants to be a quaint small economy pursuing a vestigial socialist experiment then fine, England will be better off without it. Sadly, a smaller UK will be less effective internationally, but Scotland will have to live without being a major power, and seeking subsidies from Brussels instead of London. Perhaps it would learn like Ireland how socialism fails and lay out the low tax welcome mat - so I remain ambivalent.
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I wrote more strongly about it before, and believe the Conservatives should deal with the West Lothian question - quite simply Scottish MPs should have no right to vote on matters at the House of Commons that do not affect Scotland (i.e. everything devolved to the Scottish Executive).
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So what should happen? Do Scots really want to be on their own separate from Westminster, or do they appreciate the United Kingdom? Finally, the elegant Union Jack design - what the hell happens to that if the St Andrew's Cross has to go?

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