As support for Scottish Independence seems to be growing, contributor Andrew Allison decides to make an argument for protecting the Union and why it is Britain is the most successful political unions in our history.

In July 2014 many of us started commemorating the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. We watched documentaries on what became to be known as the 'July Crisis' which was a prelude to Britain declaring war on Germany on 4th August 1914, and then, jointly with France, declaring war on Austria-Hungary on 12 August of that year.

By the time Germany signed the armistice on 11th November 1918, over 1.1 million British military personnel had perished. It is now estimated that 134,712 of them were Scottish.

But in July 2014 Scotland was in the midst of a bitter and divisive referendum on Scottish Independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Almost a century after those brave Scottish soldiers died on the battlefields of Belgium and Northern France, the Scottish National Party (SNP) were more hellbent on independence than ever. We were told that the referendum would settle the question for a generation. Some were more sceptical. The raison d'être of the SNP is an independent Scotland. Calling for another referendum was always going to happen sooner rather than later.

Boris Johnson has described the UK as "one of the oldest and most successful political unions in history". He is correct. We have weathered many storms together. Together we are much greater than the sum of our parts. But the SNP and its supporters fail to see this.

Financially, the Bank of England is the lender of last resort. Scotland benefited from this during the credit crunch and banking crisis just over ten years ago. If something similar happened again and Scotland was an independent state, Nicola Sturgeon would be forced to go cap in hand to Boris Johnson for help.

Government spending per head of population is greater in Scotland than it is in England and Wales. A House of Commons research paper highlights that in 2018/19, public spending per person in the UK as a whole was £9,584. In England, it was £9,296 (3% below the UK average).  This compares with:

Scotland: £11,247 (17% above the UK average)

Wales: £10,656 (11% above the UK average)

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Northern Ireland £11,590 (21% above the UK average)

The SNP argues that H.M. Treasury benefits from 'Scotland's North Sea Oil', although North Sea Oil would be part of any divorce negotiation. In 2013, the average price of crude oil was $91.17 a barrel. This fell slightly to $85.60 in 2014, but by 2015 the price had plummeted to $41.85, and even lower in 2016 at $36.34 a barrel. Alex Salmond's financial plan for an independent Scotland was predicated on the revenue North Sea Oil would provide. As you can see, this is not a reliable source of income. Indeed, if Scots had voted 'Yes' in 2014, they would have been forced to borrow heavily in order to pay for public services.

But in addition to having to pay for those public services, Scotland would also have to pay for its own military and security services. In an article for the UK Defence Journal in July 2018, Alastair Cameron, a former British Army officer and the founder of Scotland in Union, picks through the gaping holes in the SNP's defence policy. It is worth reading in full, but I just want to draw your attention to this paragraph:

"In strategic terms, there is no doubt that the UK's defences would be weakened if Scotland left. This applies in terms of basing locations as well as in size and soft-power influence. If Scotland left the UK, other powers might take the opportunity to question whether the UK should still have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and the UK's contribution to NATO would certainly be diminished. We should ask ourselves who would benefit from this negative impact and whether they are the kind of regimes we would like to see with greater influence".

Not only would an independent Scotland put its own defence and security at risk, but it would also weaken the defence and security of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. At a time when we face numerous threats, this would be a foolish thing to do.

Scotland would also have to create a diplomatic service and open embassies and consular offices across the world. When she was Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said that an "independent Scotland would have about 100 embassies and consular offices around the world, compared with the UK's 270", but this would still come at considerable expense.

If Scotland were to go down the independence route, taxes would rise, which in turn would risk economic prosperity. Scots would then realise that things like free prescriptions are not free – someone has to pay for them. Someone would be them. It would largely rely on the fluctuating oil market for much of its income, without a plan for when the oil runs out in about 30 years or so. It could lead to financial ruin.

Scotland would be a weaker country by not being under the umbrella of the UK, and the rest of the UK would be weaker too. It would risk our collective defence and security. This is true "one of the oldest and most successful political unions in history". Long may it remain so.

 

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