Monday, 8 September 2014

Scotland alone - catastrophic for all

Yesterday's news that a YouGov poll of 1,084 Scottish voters showed the 'Yes' vote slightly ahead for the first time has provoked a fevered response across the UK - as well it should. I'm amazed reading about how low-key and unemotional the debate in Scotland is. Online as well as in real life.

Having visited Scotland three times this year, I witnessed no raised voices or threatening tones. A measured, indeed too-polite discussion on the niceties of a currency split, on tax-raising and -spending powers being transferred in their entirety to Edinburgh, on the pros and cons of Schengen, on NATO membership and the future of Trident submarine bases.

On the one hand, the 'No' camp (aka 'Better Together') is a coalition of the hated Tories, heirs to the butchers of Culloden, Labour (remember when the UK's premier and finance minister were both Scots) and Liberal Democrats. On the other hand, the Scottish Nationalists, who could muster only 28% support for independence just 11 years ago.  Using a cocktail of emotional appeal and populist rozdawnictwo promises, an independent Scotland will be, the Scots Nats claim, a paradise of free, limitless healthcare, free university education, expanded social housing, no nuclear weapons etc etc.

Who will pay for this? North Sea Oil, which somehow has failed to run out as predicted 20 years ago. And taxation - despite pledges to lower corporate tax rates to among the lowest in Europe. In what currency will all this be paid for? A pound, in which the Bank of England promises to be lender of last resort, propping up Scottish government spending? Or a pound unsupported by the Bank of England - more likely. Or a Scottish currency (like the Irish pound or punt from 1928 to 2002). Or - a long shot - the euro. How much of Scotland's financial and manufacturing sectors stay put, how much would move out, and how  big would the job losses be? Below: Union flag at half mast next Friday week? The Lloyds Bank building, Edinburgh.

The emotional pain inflicted on the rest of the United Kingdom would be tremendous. Worse than losing the American colonies in 1776, says Spectator editor Fraser Nelson, who's doing sterling work in promoting the 'no' position through the social media. Above all, for non-Scottish citizens of the United Kingdom, all 58 million of them - including myself - who have no say in the matter, it would mean the end of the country in which they were born.

No one has yet coined a suitable name for what would remain of the UK after Scotland left. 'Little Britain' or the unfortunately acronymed 'Former United Kingdom' are gallows-humour suggestions. Indeed, the presence of the province of Northern Ireland across the Irish Sea, and therefore not Britain, rules out the first epithet. 'Rest of the UK' would not work as a United Kingdom needs to be composed of at least two kingdoms. One kingdom, one principality and one province is not a UK. We are a little more than a week away from the UK becoming a country with no name other than one that reflects a past state of being (like Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). Come next Friday morning, it is possible that the country in which I was born, the country whose passport I proudly bear - will be no more.

And the flag - the Union Jack - the second-most iconic flag in the world after the Stars and Stripes - worn on T-shirts and handbags globally - what will the flag of the Former United Kingdom look like without the blue of the Scottish saltire?

Tribalism in Northern Ireland will prevent it from being absorbed into the South, while in Wales only those areas where Arawych Nawr comes before "Slow Down" on road signs feel strongly enough to want to break away from England. So, awkwardly, the Former UK will limp into injured irrelevance.

Scots may wake up next Friday week in celebratory mood, but in the coming months the awfulness of what they did will begin to dawn on them; regular runs on the Scottish pound; inflation caused by increased transaction costs of goods imported from across the border; protracted negotiations regarding Scotland's re-entry into the EU and NATO. And there's the prospect that the hated Tories will rule England for ever more now that 41 Labour MPs from north of the border will cease to have a say in Westminster. English politics would shift dramatically to the right - and UKIP, waiting in the wings, may end up being the main opposition party in Former UK by the end of this decade. So the English Left has just as much skin in the game as the Conservatives have to keep Scotland in the UK.

And yet no one other than the 4.5 million Scots over the age of 16 and resident in Scotland will have a say in the matter.

I can only hope that reason triumphs over emotions. Living here in Poland, I do understand how Scots must feel with the prospect of a return to nationhood. But there's no folk memory of Scotland pre-1707, like there was when Poland regained independence in 1918.

From the Polish perspective, with an unpleasant bully for a neighbour, it is far better that the UK remain united and strong, and remain a powerful influence within the European Union. Poles too should watch the last week and half of the referendum with some sense of trepidation.

Finally, happy 87th birthday to my mother, Maria Dembińska - Sto lat!

This time two years ago:
Happy 85th Birthday, Babcia Marysia!

This time three years ago:
Summer comes crashing to a halt

This time five years ago:
The atmosphere of impending autumn - Mono no aware

This time six years ago:
Time to recycle.

This time seven years ago:
Coal train running


Sigismundo said...

If I remember correctly, prior to the Union with England, the Scots pound was worth somewhere between 1/7 and 1/12 of the pound Sterling.

But the decisive factor may be the rather pleasant economic condition of another neighbouring petro-state, Norway.

Michael Dembinski said...

"Scotland: A new Norway, or another Greece? - discuss"

I worry about Scotland's Shoshalist tendenshees.

Bob said...

'Former United Kingdom Territory'

In other words FUK'T


Alexander said...

Without Scotland, The UK will get out of the EU, and Glasgow will be on an EU border town.

But think about a few other facts. The economie of the UK is the best of the western world. After 300 years of fighting together, a common language, a common currency and a common unwritten constitution, the Union still did not stamp out nationalist feelings. So how do the Berlin / Brussel eurocrats think they can unite peoples without any common history or languages or anything in common ?

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Alexander

Uniting Europe? There's a common threat that needs to be faced. Do you propose facing Putin as 28 individual countries, each with its own agenda, or as a single economic entity?

Alexander said...

The EU friends are still arming Russia, the economisc sanctions are a joke,money, machinery and technology are still going to Russia. And with winter approaching Putin will get the upper hand again.
Or was this on purpose ?
The Linke are going to govern in a bundesland, so the communists getting back in power with Merkel, with an other party, in power.
So in case of war, will the German friends fight Russia, or even defend Poland,or just take back the losts German grounds for a Molotov–Ribbentrop 2.0
The French are supplying aircraft carriers, yes now suspended, that can be used against Poland UK and the Baltic states. As the UK found out in WW 2 and against the Argentina the French friends can not be trusted.
To cover these facts the EU made a Polish puppet their unelected president .
An other example of real European friendship for Poland are the Dutch. They had 200 citizens killed.
The only action the Dutch Prime minister took was make a phone call to Merkel !
The Dutch want to wage war on ISIS the Dutch parliament decided. Besides, their militairy capabilities are a joke these days.
So Poland’s traditional allies are still the USA and the UK .
The eurozone zo’n can not and will not fight.

Regards, Alexander