Scotland the Whaaaaa..?

Added on Friday 26 Oct 2012

A truism of life is that nothing comes easy, and those who tell you otherwise are either drunks, liars or politicians, or just possibly all three:

"Rangers willnae go into liquidation!  That cannae happen to Rangers!  It's nae possible!  Rangers is too big and important."

Well guys, it did, it could, it was possible and one football club, despite all its impassioned and reasonless support, is not big and important.  It just thinks it is.

"Scotlan' will be independent, nae problem!  We'll just divide up the Union with the stroke of a pen, waltz intae the European Union with the tick of a box, take all our North Sea oil revenues with the click of a mouse, have our own embassies, keep our naval contracts with England all the same, keep the Pound Sterling and our benefits because it's convenient, be a strong independent country within Europe, and all wear kilts and speak Gaelic.  Nae problem!"

And apart from that last part about Gaelic and kilts, perhaps we will.

On the other hand, Rangers was all puffed up with pride and passion, but very swiftly became a Third Division minnow when HMRC faced it with the fact that it hadn't paid its taxes and would have to face the consequences.  Fans of Rangers' fellow clubs in the union also swiftly made it clear that the club would benefit from no special treatment within that union.  Rangers would not just float back into the First Division and resume business as usual as if nothing had happened.

Rangers was faced with the disinterested granite face of reality which no amount of huffing and puffing could influence, and became a minnow amongst minnows.

In my disinterested and dispassionate view as a Scotsman with an English accent living in Scotland who considers himself both Scottish and British, Scotland (like Rangers) risks exchanging common sense with passion and finding itself faced with the disinterested granite face of EU law, the vested interests of European eurocrats, the singular determination of multinational oil companies to protect their own North Sea interests and continuing demands from Brussels to contribute more to the ever-widening maw of EU budget demands without Sterling's barrier or the protective bulwark of the Bank of England.

And with an ageing population plus a shrinking base of tax-paying workers, how will we pay for our pensions, benefits or NHS?

I doubt we'll be able to, even with massive (and massively unpopular) "variations" in Scottish taxation; and I strongly suspect that, like Rangers, we will very swiftly become a Third Division minnow amidst minnows - part of a disinterested "union" which cares not one jot for our pride and passion.

You think England and HMRC are bad?

Wait 'til you meet the EU!

The Union of Crowns took place in 1603 and the Act of Union sealed the deal in 1707.  Scotland's last chance of independence was probably when Bonnie Prince Charlie took Edinburgh in 1745.  If he'd been able to establish a separate Stuart throne at that time, well, maybe...

But not now.

I would say our legal, financial and public sector systems are simply too entangled to separate.  It certainly would not be easy, it might well be impossible.  Not only that, much as some of us may not like to be reminded of the following fact:

"We trade more with England than we do with all other countries in the world combined." (Alistair Darling, former Chancellor of the Exchequer)

No Scottish businessman can afford to ignore that statement, however strongly his or her feelings of patriotism may burn.  Independence may provide a brief glow of contentment, but it will swiftly be replaced by hollow fear in the pit of the stomach when takings are low and the till registers empty.

Also, what of this Anglophile Scot - your writer - born in England, resident in Scotland and with most of his relatives in the South of England?

I've spent most of my life in Scotland, struggling for employment, living with grinding uncertainty but building up my national insurance contributions via the Department for Work and Pensions and yes, benefiting from the Disability Living Allowance.

I am nearly fifty and I have had my fill of uncertainty.  If the pride and the passion wins out, if Scotland becomes independent and the number crunchers finally realise what the bill for our portion of the national debt as well as what the payouts for Scots who have spent a lifetime paying into the system will be, I envisage a drastic scenario with two possible alternatives:

  • Stay in Scotland and face ever-higher taxes and endless uncertainty re whether the Scottish government can even reliably pay our state pensions.
  • Move to England and remain securely within the existing system.

I'll say it again.  I am wearied unto death of uncertainty.  If it comes to that then I'm off back to Shropshire and a small town called Shifnal where I spent my first three years of life.

Pride and passion don't pay the bills, my lads, and we lost our last chance of independence too long ago.