Andrew Allison is Campaign Manager for the Freedom Association. He writes here in a personal capacity.
The achievements of this small island off the coast of Europe, have, when you really think about it, been amazing. I was brought up in County Durham – the home of the railways. My adopted county of Yorkshire was at the heart of the industrial revolution. My paternal ancestors migrated south from Scotland, so I have an affinity for the country, and admiration for some of the greatest Scots in history: John Logie Baird, Andrew Carnegie, Alexander Fleming, Alexander Graham Bell, Adam Smith. And that’s not to mention Robert Burns (incomprehensible as he is), Sir Walter Scott, etc. The list goes on and on. Scotland has a proud history and has made a great contribution to the world.
So I am naturally a Unionist, for nostalgic and romantic reasons. As someone whose politics is right of centre, it can hardly be for hard-nosed political reasons. Not having Scottish MPs sitting in the House of Commons makes life easier for people like me – not harder. And I am becoming increasingly irritated by the political class in this country which appears to be constantly reacting to events, particularly during the last few weeks, rather than making the political weather.
The idea that all of us should fly a Saltire from the roofs of our houses, is, frankly, embarrassing. As if that’s going to make any difference. What are we planning next: free flights from Glasgow Airport to fly over England for teary-eyed Scots to witness this display of flag waving? Sorry, folks; I’m not going down on both knees and begging Scotland to stay.
David Cameron – whom I genuinely believe wants to maintain the Union for romantic reasons – has allowed Gordon Brown to offer Scotland anything in order for it not to leave. As many people have asked since the latter’s intervention last week: if Gordon Brown is the answer, what on earth was the question? Well, it wasn’t so much an intervention as a gesture of blind panic after just one opinion poll.
As John Redwood has correctly stated, if Scotland does vote No on Thursday, what is on offer is first-class devolution for Scotland; with Wales languishing in the second division…and England getting nothing. Oh, how the Labour Party wants that to happen! Labour’s reasons for keeping the Union are hardly romantic. Without Scottish Labour MPs, how else is it (in the short term at least) going to win a general election?
What Labour doesn’t seem to have fully realised is that, with devo-max for Scotland, England will be in uproar if Scottish MPs continue to vote on English affairs. Some vague acknowledgement of the need for more devolution in the English regions is not good enough.
As the population of England makes up over 80 per cent of the population of the UK, Labour could find itself in the position of having Ed Miliband as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but unable to get most of his legislation affecting England on the statute book; with virtually no authority in Scotland, and with the Welsh and Northern Irish snapping at his heels demanding more powers for themselves. Some mandate!
I have come to the conclusion that the best outcome on Thursday would be for Scotland to say Yes. A narrow No vote would not be in the best interests of any part of the UK. There is no reason why Scotland can’t be a successful independent country. Such a change may make some Scots realise that free prescriptions, free this, free that, are not actually free and have to be paid for – by them.
If the Scots embrace the industrious and entrepreneurial spirit they used to have before decades of socialism withered it away, there is no reason why Scotland’s economy can’t flourish and grow. Who knows how much more inward investment Scotland will attract with lower corporation tax rates compared to the rest of the UK? Who knows how many more successful Scottish businesses there could be under a lower tax regime?
One thing is for sure: if Scotland doesn’t embrace its industrious past, an independent Scotland will fail. If Scotland does vote Yes, there are greater choices ahead.