Lord Flight is a former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury who is now chairman of Flight & Partners Recovery Fund.
Here is something to take our minds off the Euro crisis, though it's a “can of worms”. Salmond’s target is apparently “Devolution max” – Scotland taking over responsibility for all of its affairs other than Defence and Foreign Affairs, leaving England to bail out RBS and HBOS, and continuing with its substantial Scotland subsidies – Government spending £1,600 more per person than in England, and an economy where some 60% work for a bloated public sector.
It is apparent that such a solution would not, however, be acceptable to the English. Rather like their view of the EU, the English have had enough of subsidising Scotland, only to be treated with discourtesy. I have been horrified by friends telling me of aggressive, racialist comments from Scottish staff at Edinburgh airport and when my children were at Edinburgh University, there were cases of English students being picked on by Scottish students and beaten up. I also grow weary of Salmond’s politicking. Not surprisingly, the ICM poll showed 43% of English voters approving Scottish independence with 32% disapproving, although 43% of Scottish voters disapproving of independence versus 40% approving.
On the other side of the coin my many Scottish friends in England are feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable – realising the English are fed up with Scotland’s shenanigans, albeit with some cause.
My practical view is that it would be a nightmare to break up the UK, incurring huge costs, and posing all sorts of difficult questions. More fundamentally, even if Scotland deserves to be kicked out of the Union, I am opposed in principle. There has been nearly 300 years of hugely successful collaboration between the Scots and the English, particularly about the world. I, therefore, hope that David Cameron’s initiative is successful. Appeasement has failed and is not the route forward.
My disappointment is that the leaders of major Scottish businesses, for whom all of the UK, and largely England, is their market – Standard Life, RBS, Scottish Widows and so on – do not more actively support and campaign for the Union. Indeed it might be better for the Conservative Party in Scotland to reform itself as “the Unionist Party”, to attract what survives of the Scottish business community, for whom independence would be a disaster.
But this territory touches on the underlying problems in Scotland, which are also, substantially, the cause of the political problems. Scotland needs to stand on its own feet and to revive its own economy. It is too dependent on the UK public sector and welfare support. Too many of its able people move South. Its politics are too Socialist. But there is little that England can do to correct this, other than, arguably, obliging Scotland to stand on its own feet, financially. But what is desperately needed politically is for one or more major Scottish figures to lead a pro-Unionist campaign in Scotland. It is time everyone remembered that Braveheart was only a film – but perhaps we should have some films about the success of the Watts's, of Robert Adam and other great Scots of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, who helped put the "Great" into Britain.