I’ve just finished watching the interesting, but rather flawed, Andrew Neil programme about the implications of Scottish independence on the UK. I felt that there was a whole load of hype and mischief making in the programme. I’ll give you just one example – Faslane.
In the programme it was strongly suggested that should Scotland become independent then the UK would loose it’s nuclear deterrent because there would be no place to house all the infrastructure and that no contingency planning has taken place to solve this. I find it hard to believe that there hasn’t been some significant thinking into this over the years as the base would have been ground zero for any attack – certainly during the Cold War. Yes it won’t be as effective and efficient in the short term but militaries are used to adapting to changing situations and an answer will be found. Of the two locations suggested, Milford Haven or Falmouth, there would only appear to be one winner – Milford Haven for both historical and geographical reasons. But that is not the point of this blog.
The point of this blog is to set out what I think are the real dangers for Scotland. Dangers that I don’t think anyone in Scotland really understands. Dangers that if let loose would do more harm to Scotland, and the UK, than should they stay in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
English Nationalism could once more start to form the view of the UK about Scotland. The nationalism that I am thinking about isn’t the perverted views of the far right but rather the grumbling, moaning, slowly turning resentment of perceived injustice. It is all very well for some in Scotland to claim that their country has been subservient to the English since the act of Union, and there is some truth in all this. However, they haven’t really felt the opposing force coming from the south in any real sense. I fear that should the First Minister win in September he will quickly over play his hand and start to let loose these forces.
I doubt the spark will be anything really important, such as the Nuclear Weapons, but something totally insignificant, perhaps the ownership of the Bridgewater Collection which was secured, I recall, by funds from the National Lottery. Nuclear weapons are complicated to understand and comprehend but being conned out of what is rightly all of our paintings, not just Scotland’s, is something that resentment can be hung on. It won’t take a crafty politician, say the leader of UKIP perhaps, to use this as a symbol of how the Scots are getting everything they want and we English are being duped by the Westminster elite who have not woken up to the new realities
I know this is somewhat far fetched but I fear it won’t be as far fetched as some might say. In fact after watching Mr Farage’s eye’s light up on last night’s programme it might be what UKIP intend to do no matter the outcome of the Scottish vote in September. It is also far fetched to assume that there is just one English view about Scotland, which clearly there will never be.
So how should these things be handled in the event of a Yes vote? Well the first thing is a realisation that 18 months to negotiate the separation is a non starter. On the programme last night I was taken aback by the arrogance of a member of the Scottish government’s insistence that this doesn’t cause a problem because London has done these things before. Even the most comparable exercise, the establishment of the Irish Free State in the 1920’s doesn’t come close to the complexities of separating the UK from Scotland. Just one example of something that didn’t exist back then – the European Union. For Scotland to join would require not just the UK to agree but the other members as well. The only thing that 18 months is assured of achieving is the ordered transfer of power won’t take place and stoke up resentment on all sides.
Another reason why 18 months is also an unachievable timescale is that in 2016 the SNP might not be in government, stranger things have happened – think of Winston Churchill in 1945 – almost won the war and voted out. The new government may well have different views on how things should progress, different priorities. Because of all these things I believe that a formal independence declaration should be aimed for no earlier than 2018 with the realisation that after this there will be years of negotiating. This, of course assumes, that the UK parliament votes for whatever settlement has been agreed – far from a certainty – then where would we be?. One final thing to throw into all this the current UK government is planning to hold its own vote on withdrawal from the EU during this period which is far, far more complicated.
So I hope Scotland doesn’t vote to leave and if they do then a calm approach will prevail as being in everyone’s interest. I am far from certain on both accounts