Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why Scotland should vote "No" on independence

Scotland matters to me.  My family came from there, hell I'm named after the place.  I have never lived there, but it is part of my heritage.  I feel warm towards it, I enjoy visiting Scotland and I grew up surrounded by Scottish accents, by elements of Scottish culture and language, and so I have an emotional attachment to the land from whence both my parents were born and raised.

From them and much of my family, I gained a keen belief in the ethic of working for a living, of reaping the rewards of that work, and in not seeking to cheat or live like a host off of the back of others who had achieved.  Call it Protestant work ethic, call it old fashioned self esteem and values, but the impression I got was a cultural background of deep respect for those who put in the effort to better themselves and their family, indeed the stories of my grandparents are of those who strived, against some family members who sneered.

So next Thursday when all Scottish residents 16+ (not people of Scottish descent elsewhere) get to vote on whether Scotland  becomes independent, has become interesting, not least because recent polling showed the strong lead for the "No" side has narrowed to being neck-and-neck.

For a libertarian who believes in a smaller state living in England, there are two compelling arguments for Scotland to say "Yes".  

Scottish voters overwhelming back statist politicians and political parties.  Take away the Scottish MPs from the House of Commons and the Conservatives would have clearly won the 2010 election.  

Scotland's economy is, despite the rhetoric from nationalists, dependent on English taxpayers to sustain a higher level of state spending than the rest of the UK, on average.  For whilst a geographic proportion of tax revenue from Scotland has meant that in some years Scotland contributes a higher proportion of UK tax revenue than it receives in spending from tax revenue, it is still not enough to balance the books.   Scotland overspends by over £12 billion per annum, so remove Scotland and the net impact is positive for UK public spending, but it doesn't mean the public finances in Scotland would be buoyant. 

I wrote in 2007 about the childishness behind calls for independence, and it still stands.

So while there is probably a bigger chance the rest of the UK would have a smaller state without Scotland, I'm asking Scotland to vote No - because that is in Scotland's interests.

I don't want to see my ancestral homeland become a new Venezuela, but moreover I don't want the UK to become smaller, weaker and less important in Europe and the world, and that is exactly what will happen.

An independent Scotland will be a minnow and far from "independent".  

It wont be independent because the intention is not to establish its own fiat currency (which would deservedly be treated with contempt), but to be in a currency union with the rump UK.  Yet all major UK political parties say they would not agree to this, and it is difficult to see how that could be in the interests of the rest of the UK, without imposing strict fiscal rules on Scotland that would limit or eliminate budget deficits for the new country and getting Bank of England approval for any sovereign borrowing by Scotland.  Getting your budget approved in London, and getting London approval for borrowing is not "independence".

If the UK government rejects a formal currency union, the Scottish National Party (SNP) says Scotland will use the Pound Sterling anyway.  That is true, but it would be limited to borrowing only the amounts it could raise at commercial rates.  That would be good for Scotland, but only if it meant shrinking the state, rather than raising taxes.   However, the socialist paradise being sold to Scottish folk can't happen.  For if taxes are raised significantly then the better off will simply leave, it isn't far to move to the UK.  Spending cuts would hit health, education, welfare and pensions, and would be a complete betrayal of what has been offered.

There is no golden egg of independence.

As a small state, Scotland wont be important or influential, or part of an influential state (which it is now).  It wants to join the EU, where its MEPs will be 2% of the European Parliament.  Yet the EU's law will bind much of Scotland's economic policies.  Scotland will have as much influence over those as Slovakia does.

The SNP says it can join the EU but not the Euro, but Euro membership is a condition of EU membership, and has been since the Euro was created.  The UK and Denmark have explicit treaty exclusions to this obligation, and only Sweden remains as the other EU Member State that has not joined the Euro and was an EU Member State at the time the Euro was created.

So Scotland joining the EU and not being required to be on the path to the Euro, would be unprecedented.  Consider also that Scotland will want exclusion from the Schengen agreement that eliminates border control between EU member states, because the rest of the UK excludes itself from it (and if Scotland did join Schengen, the UK would put up border control with Scotland).

The SNP says Scotland will join NATO, but it wants to eject the British nuclear deterrent from the Clyde naval base because it opposes nuclear weapons on Scottish soil.  It wants to be part of a nuclear weapons based military alliance, but its great contribution to that is to weaken it.  How is that credible for NATO members to support?  How can you oppose nuclear weapons, but support them protecting you, as long as you don't have to have any on your territory?

In short, Scottish independence is actually false.  What the "Yes" campaign seeks is independence, whilst using another country's currency and letting that other country veto your public borrowing and budgets.  It is independence, but joining a customs union that will write part of your laws.

However, it is more than that.  Scotland will be financially poorer, but also poorer in terms of influence in the world, and the UK itself will be poorer for that.   The UK has been a successful union, bringing together four nations (notwithstanding conflict and bigotry that plagued one of them), and growing a land of rule of law, relative freedom, prosperity and which had one of its proudest moments holding back the greatest fascist evil the world has ever seen.

I don't want Scotland to leave that, I don't want it to be poorer, I don't want it to drift off to become some northern hemispheric Venezuela, pursuing insane socialist policies on the back of declining oil revenues - because it will bankrupt itself.

Scots may be angry and upset at the recession.  Who isn't?  They may despise politicians for their gutlessness, for their failures, for their lies.  Who doesn't?  However, that is who is exactly keen for them to vote "Yes".

An independent Scotland makes politicians in Holyrood more powerful, makes Alex Salmond a bigger cheese than he is, it feeds their egos and they are willing to lie and deceive to get there.

Most of all, a vote for an independent Scotland is irreversible.

It isn't like a general election which gives a chance to boot out the bastards and reverse what has happened.

Independence is for life.

Virtually every country that has voted for independence in recent years did so largely with a massive mandate in favour, and few regrets or doubts expressed about the wisdom of independence.  These independence movements were almost always due to war or obvious history of ethnic rivalry or previous dictatorship (e.g. Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia).

Scotland's independence campaign has none of this.

I'm going to write in the next day or so about this, it's an optimistic campaign, but it is trying to sell independence on complete fiction and fear, more than that optimism.  It deserves to be consigned to history.

1 comment:

Angry Tory said...

Surprised you haven't mentioned the single most important transport policy for NZ: terminate the railways, sell the tracks & rolling stock for scrap, and sell the right-of-way to a private roading provider. Second most important policy: do the same for all the council controlled bus companies.

subsidisation of marginal users of networks that are inefficient to charge for (e.g. footpaths).

Large amounts of US suburbia doesn't have footpaths - no reason to force them on to NZ councils or developers.