Well done to the Daily Echo for its bold editorial stance in campaigning to save the United Kingdom. The Scottish Independence vote doesn’t just affect the Scots, it affects the whole of the UK, and whilst we English are denied a vote, we should not be silent about our views.
The Union between Scotland and England has lasted over 300 years and in my view served both countries very well. We are better together – safer and more prosperous.
Real risk lies ahead for an independent Scotland; its budget deficit is significantly higher than the rest of the UK, there are questions around what currency it would use and its financial independence, its dependence on volatile and reducing North Sea Oil revenues, and the damage that would be done to the Scottish financial services sector which contributes twice that of North Sea Oil to Scotland’s GDP. 100 years on from the start of the First World War, the world still seems very dangerous place and breaking up our armed forces will do nothing to make us safer. Most importantly though, breaking up the union of Scotland and England would not just be a political separation, it would separate families. How many English live in Scotland and would find themselves living in a foreign country, and vice versa for Scots living in England? How many English are married to Scots and how many of us have Scottish relatives?
I am hopeful that the Scots will vote to remain in the UK, but even if they do, all the indications are that it will be a very close vote indeed.
If we do remain together then there will still have to be change. If there isn’t, then there will be calls of another referendum in the next few years. The UK will have to have a new constitutional settlement. It will have to be one that all the political parties can agree on and be one that will last the next hundred years and not just for the next Parliament. The UK parties are talking about devolving more powers to Scotland and there is even talk of moving to some sort of Federal structure. I cannot see why most, if not all, domestic powers shouldn’t be transferred to Scotland. Similarly any new settlement would need to consider Wales and Northern Ireland. Perhaps there is even an opportunity to continue to develop a more positive relationship with the Republic of Ireland, following the Queen’s successful state visit a few years ago.
The English should of course be afforded the same constitutional rights and a new constitutional settlement would also allow the West Lothian Question to be resolved. With new powers being transferred to Scotland, the quid pro quo would be Scottish MPs no longer voting on domestic English matters; an issue that has been unresolved since the Scottish Parliament was formed in 1999.
The Scottish Independence debate has in my view been positive for democracy, I hope dearly that they vote NO to Independence, and I hope that afterwards all the political parties can work together to ensure that the Union, albeit perhaps a changed one in the future, remains strong for the decades and centuries that follow.