Thursday, 19 April 2012

Preaching to the unconverted

The thick haar around Brigadoon has prevented me from posting of late, but through the occasional gaps in the mist my faithful carrier pigeon, Coocoo, does manage to steal out with the odd message. One such comment seemed to find favour with, of all things, a Unionist yesterday, over at the hallowed turf of Cobblers with Cochrane. Who knows, maybe I'm onto something with the approach below? Although it didn't quite seem to convert that wayward soul, perhaps it might be an angle to try on any Unionist, erm, acquaintances that you have...?

Effie Deans:
The SNP has always been a single issue party. People join and campaign, not because they are opposed to Nato or the royal family, but because they want independence and can't bear being part of the UK. The reason for this is largely emotional. A true nationalist would want independence even if it meant Scotland would be poorer. It is for this reason that the SNP and its supporters are willing to do anything and to give up anything to achieve secession. This is necessary in order to try to persuade the two thirds us Scots who do not have their emotional needs. It is for this reason that the nationalist response to criticism and reasoned argument tends to be anger and hysteria. No doubt this time also.


Hi Effie, with respect I think your perception of nationalists/SNP members is maybe 20 or 30 years out of date. This group is a broad church, and a lot of them (but by no means all!) now have a much more rational reason for supporting independence. Namely, that successive UK governments of all flavours have shown themselves incapable of transforming Scotland's economic fortunes.

Imagine you are the UK PM/Chancellor with an election a few short years away. What do you do? Look after the economy of course. Which, with a short term view, means looking after the bit that generates most of the cash. Which of course means SE England and London. You do a good job, and these two areas get even more investment, jobs and wealth. Well done!

If you had the luxury of a longer term view you might think differently. You might remember for example, that you are supposed to be the PM/Chancellor for the whole of the UK. And that therefore, you perhaps ought to be moving to a state of affairs wherein all of the areas of the UK are economically successful. Wouldn't that be a better UK, economically as well as socially?

But sadly there are elections looming, and ignoring our love of the trappings of power for a second,
we can't let the other lot in. They would be a disaster (for the simple
reason that they are not us). No, we'd better go back to the short term view. I know, we'll set up a few special enterprise zones in "the North". That'll do.

Ignoring the silly overreaction to the front cover (which does demonstrate a kernel of truth in what you say!), the Economist article this week was interesting, basically saying that Scotland would be fine and dandy if it became independent now, but that of course the oil/gas revenues will have to be replaced over the next few decades. That is Scotland's big challenge. But it's coming whether we are independent or not. Look at the state of UK plc right now - and then subtract any oil/gas revenue...the UK safety net, such as it is, seems to be developing bigger and bigger holes as time passes.

Will we have the fiscal flexibility or political will necessary to perk up our economy if we stay in the UK? Recent history under UK governments of all flavours suggests not. Sadly Scotland is just not important enough within the UK. All of the UK parties have to (or rather choose to) consider how policies implemented in Scotland will play in England. This is doubly so if the policy is an important one that would actually make a big difference. This acts as a considerable brake on the changes that Scotland needs.

With independence however, I think that necessity will prove to be the mother of invention. Scotland will have to change to prosper. Agility and flexibility will be more and more important as the world grows more interconnected. If Scotland always has to look over its shoulder for approval from Westminster politicians, then I would argue we'll be far too sluggish to be competitive. And consider that Scotland has everything it needs to be a successful country: well educated people, respect for law and order, established institutions, diverse industries that are a good base upon which to build, natural resources, freedom of speech, etc. That's a pretty good hand - I have confidence that the people of Scotland would make a success of it.

Effie Deans:

This is as good an argument for the SNP as I have seen and this unionist enjoyed reading it.

High praise indeed, or was it damning with faint praise? Either way, even the oft-splenetic orraquine recommended Effie's parting comment.