Sunday, 6 March 2016

Go Scotland, GO!

When I say Brexit is nothing short of a complete re-ordering of the post-war settlement with a view to creating a global community of equals, I don't think any cow should be held as sacred. All too often we hear the Scots threatening us with another referendum if we leave the EU, but I'm actually ok with this.

As you can see from the info-graphic, Scotland's overall contribution isn't vast. And that isn't right. It should be more. Scotland's economy should be electric. It does after all have vast natural resources, two of the UK's major cities along with significant cities like Dundee, which is an incredibly beautiful city on the banks of the Tay with a great deal to offer. Aberdeen is also a great city with much promise regardless of what's happening in the oil industry.

What we can say is that if this info-graphic is true then something is horribly wrong. If I were a Scot, I think I would be demanding independence. Where I part company with most of Scotland is that I do not believe Scotland is served by being a vassal state within the EU. Seriously, what is the point of independence if Brussels is still going to set the agenda?

What Scotnats should not is that if we do leave the EU, Scotland will have two choices. Either the EU, where virtually nothing changes but for a few more tax raising powers or Efta, where Scotland gets its own seat at all the global top tables, not least the WTO and NAFO. In Efta you get treated like a real country. If you believe in Scottish independence then why not practice it? Given the political realities of rejoining the EU, assuming the EU would ever dare, I would put hard currency on Scotland joining Efta.

And in this, I am not in the least bit bothered if Scotland does vote to leave the UK in that there are certain political realities to acknowledge. Our submarine bases are staying whether Scotland like it or not. We have that leverage and we will use it. Similarly, our cultural bonds are too close for any Scottish government to break up our forces - and Scotland, in the interim could not afford it, even if it wanted that.

So what we would actually get is Scotland as a partner in Efta, coming to roughly the same conclusions as the rest of the UK in that we have common interests. More voices in Efta can only be a welcome thing and Scotland as a state with its own power of taxation and control over its own ports could easily become the Switzerland of the North Atlantic. I don't see how anybody loses from that.

For sure, Scotland will have to work its way through a few years of SNP stagnation until it reconnects with its roots - those that spawned Adam Smith, but eventually, there's a lot to be said for Scotland doing its own thing. And that's largely because there's a lot to be said for democracy and multilateralism.

If however, Scotland chooses the EU path, I see it becoming more like Greece as it sees the opportunity to offload the adult business of government to Brussels, taking all of the credit but accepting none of the blame, itself becoming a corrupt dependency of the EU. It really all depends on how Scotland sees itself. Its dreams of independent prosperity are possible but not under the dead hand of EU supranationalism.

But really what is most disturbing is the size of London's influence. That's not a good thing. It gives London a sense of entitlement, when in fact London is the parasite that sucks the whole of the UK dry, drawing its brightest and best (and most gullible, thankfully) which is in part the reason why it has a gravitational pull of its own.

I would say the above illustration makes the case for more regional tax autonomy throughout. In this, I would ask Scotland to be patient and join us all in turning on London, demanding our powers be returned. I could live with an independent Scotland if that is what they choose, but I think that would be a missed opportunity for us all to gang up on London.

And while the same arguments are deployed by the Stronger In camp, the critical difference is that Scotland and the regions of England do actually share a demos, an identity and common traditions. We may not agree, but we have an understanding and a mutual appreciation that cannot be replicated by an artificial imposition.

If Brexit really does mean letting go of Scotland, then given how little we have to lose, and how much Scotland has to gain, if it chooses wisely, we should be prepared to accept it. Northern England doesn't lose out from it and having prosperity in either direction. It means it is no longer a zero sum game for Northerners. 

What we will get at the end of it is a UK and a Europe more at ease with itself, and may even see the rest of Europe evolving away from the EU. Given that workers rights are underpinned by our participation in the ILO, and our continued, voluntary observance of certain EU codes, it doesn't mean a leap into the dark or a step back in time. It just means that we are all in charge of our own destinies and our respective governments can only do to us that which we allow.

Personally, I would be sad to see Scotland go because I have grown up with a centuries old paradigm that I would not want to break - but that is also why I am opposed ot the EU. But if it really means Scotland has to find its own way so that we can too, then we can afford it.

What Brexit means is that for once, things are not settled and already decided. There are many pathways open to us. Leaving the EU but maintaining the EEA flexibility means that no borders or fences need be erected and we can continue to benefit from economic liberalism.

There is no reason to believe Scotland could not prosper, nor is there any reason to believe it could not surpass Norway in every respect. Glasgow alone could be a major engine of growth. Presently I think of it as a depressed version of Birmingham, which is not a good sign, but like my hometown of Bradford, I remember what it was and what it could be again.

In the final analysis, we should not be held to ransom by moaning Scots who don't really want independence. Their empty threats are meaningless since they threaten a referendum either way. When we ask them to put their money where their mouth is they will bottle it. Even when faced with the possibilities of Efta I think they will shrink from the possibilities.

But, actually, I hope to be proved wrong. In this I am calling Scotland's bluff. Go on Scotland, have your referendum! You give us our freedom and we'll give you yours. Save a space next to us at the global top tables. I'm sure we will do great things together, as indeed we always have.

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