It may seem somewhat ironic for a publication entitled “the British observer” to reveal a pro-Scottish independence position and yes, it is with a heavy heart that we would see the union dissolve, yet it would also be with a heart full of hope, hope that England will once again see her time in the sun. For too long the union has been kept up by the national government at Westminster focusing acutely upon the 16% (by population size) of the United Kingdom that is not English, all the while dangerously neglecting the people of England and their interests. This is no way to prolong a relationship. The esteemed First Minister of Scotland Ms Sturgeon furiously pounds the proverbial table, demanding that Scotland be treated as an “equal partner” of this union, but it is in fact England that is neglected in the central government’s efforts to prolong the inevitable.
This is not necessarily the fault of Scotland. It is only right that a people should demand what’s best for their own country before worrying about the needs of another, and they have proved to be effective in getting this; free prescriptions, whilst the English pay £8.05 per item, free tuition, whilst the English pay up to £9,000 per year, £2,000 greater public spending per head, whilst libraries and hospitals are closing en masse the length and breadth of England. The term you’re looking for is “well played”, because of course it is. We can only see it as natural for the Scottish to demand the very best, it’s the fault of the incompetent rabble occupying Westminster that England has been so greatly ignored in order to placate them.
Those south of Hadrian’s Wall who claim to be vehemently pro-union often do so from a seemingly irrational starting point. It is as if something that was historically a force for good must always be a force for good, whereas the fact of the matter is that one must constantly re-evaluate existing geo-political arrangements from the perspective of continuous improvement. We cannot cling onto things as fickle as flags and symbols like scared children afraid to remove the stabilisers. Even the most traditionalist of conservatives must recognise when something isn’t working, even the most hostile to change must be forced to admit when existing arrangements are no longer working for either party.
And this is the quaint irony of the Scottish independence debate; it actually makes much more sense from a political and economic standpoint for England to be more in favour of Scottish independence than the Scots! The economic arguments in particular do not make favourable reading for Scottish nationalists by any stretch of the imagination, from their share of the UK’s debt to the ever-increasing budget deficit, right down to the price of a barrel of oil, one could argue that attempting to “go it alone” would be something of a fool’s errand. However, money isn’t everything. To succeed in last year’s EU referendum debate it was this very fact that in the end we had to convince people of, that social issues and moral principle are more important than the financial markets.
For England on the other hand, it is a wonderful economic opportunity. Consider, for example, the fact that 88% of Scottish households take more from the public purse than they contribute in taxes. The average Scottish household consumes £14,151 more in benefits and public services than they contribute, and whilst public services and healthcare provision are largely devolved matters, the money must come from somewhere. Of course, much of this overspending on public services accounts for Scotland’s budget deficit, but the rest can be accounted for by what is contributed by the English taxpayer. 60% of English households contribute more to the public purse than they receive in benefits and public service spending, therefore one can come to the obvious conclusion that the SNP-designed culture of middle-class welfare-ism is partially funded by us, the English.
Politically speaking, people on both sides of the border will benefit hugely from Scottish independence. It is the case that the English and the Scots fundamentally view society and the political sphere through different lenses, an issue that has only been exacerbated by devolution. The 1955 General Election was the last time Scotland as a nation sent a majority conservative delegation to Westminster, with every General Election from 1959 onward resulting in a centre-left majority (Labour until 2015, SNP). England on the other hand, whilst historically shifting between the centre-left and centre-right every decade or so, is now consolidating its right-wing majority that appears to be here to stay. Surveys consistently find that the average Englishman is socially right-wing on the majority of issues such as immigration, globalisation and gay marriage, whereas the Scots appear to be more liberal on such matters, proving a fundamental ideological divide.
This political divide will always give rise to a situation where one side of the border has a grievance about the political decisions of the other. As a stronger sense of what it means to be a Scotsman and an Englishman has emerged, so have the differences in these definitions become more pronounced. It is the continuation of such unions which contain blocs of diverging opinion that gives rise to, at the extreme level, situations like those we saw during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. No political union that forces together groups of people with differing identities can survive indefinitely. For a long time with the right leaders, yes, but inevitably the time will come when the differences outweigh that which we have in common. The artificial identity that is ‘Britishness’ has ran its course.
So whenever Ms Sturgeon gets her referendum, be it next week, next year or beyond, the best result for England from an economic and political perspective would be a “yes” vote. Whether or not the Scottish people do indeed choose that path is another matter, as it was only two and half years ago that they voted by a reasonable margin (55%-45%) to remain within the United Kingdom. This was also when oil was priced 300% higher and before the SNP had chance to build up an even greater budget surplus. Come 2018, the circumstances may lead to an even more resounding “no” vote than the 55% in 2014, for the economic situation in Scotland will only deteriorate – there’s only so long a government can spend other people’s money on “free stuff” for the undeserving.
Whatever happens, it is not in the interests of the English to be rabidly pro-union. The most logical position to take is that it is an issue for the Scots and the Scots alone, but I for one shall be quietly pleased should they vote to leave the United Kingdom.