How exactly is England hurt by Scottish independence? Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Wise up England, you’d be better off without Scotland

There are several powerful reasons why the English should accept or even be enthusiastic about the Scots going it alone when they vote at the end of the summer.

To date, the debate on the Scottish independence referendum has focused on why the Scots should or shouldn’t back independence. There has also been some recent academic research on why the Scots have arrived at a referendum in the first place.

But very little has been written or said about why the English should back Scotland’s exit from the union. I know many people in England would like to have a say on Scottish independence, and if the polls are any indication the vast majority of English voters would cast a no vote. But I would argue there are several powerful reasons why the English should accept or even be enthusiastic about the Scots going it alone when they vote at the end of the summer.

What good will devo max do?

The first revolves around the most popular alternative to independence, “devo max”. If the Scots decide to vote against independence, David Cameron is already promising that more powers will be devolved to the Scottish parliament. Many have interpreted these additional powers as equating to devo max.

But what would be the likely outcome of the Scots being granted devo max as a concession following a no vote? Some people are calling this bribery to keep the Scots in the union. Whatever you call it, it is nothing more than a short-term solution for maintaining the British state. Does anyone believe for a split second that a Scottish government run by the Scottish National Party devoted to extricating the Scots from the British state would be placated with devo max?

Once the Scots have it, what’s to stop them, just like any good negotiator, from continually asking for additional powers and threatening to separate if they don’t get them? Wouldn’t Scotland and England continue to grow further apart within the UK until all that would be left to say is that they are the two largest national components of one excessively decentralised state? What good does this do for England, Wales and Northern Ireland? The English must know that in the long term, offering devo max is a disastrous policy fraught with dire consequences for the union.

Ditch Barnett, resolve West Lothian

Another contentious issue from an English point of view is the Barnett formula, which provides extra subsidies from the British government to the people of Scotland for public services. If Scotland were to regain its independence after the referendum, this would free up additional taxpayer dollars to be invested elsewhere in what remained of the British state (albeit Scottish nationalists argue that Scotland is a net contributor to the UK once North Sea petroleum revenues are taken into account).

Then there’s the West Lothian question, which concerns the fact that MPs representing Scottish constituencies in the Westminster parliament are allowed to vote on legislation that does not affect their electorates. This would immediately disappear with the establishment of an independent Scotland, which English people ought to see as a benefit. After all, why should the Scots have a say on issues like English education when English MPs have absolutely no control over the Scottish equivalent?

One understandable anxiety from an English point of view is the fact Faslane in the west of Scotland is an important storage site for UK nuclear weapons. But there are other places to store them if an independent Scotland demands their removal. There has even been suggestion, reportedly from within the British government, that these weapons could remain at Faslane in the west of Scotland in exchange for a currency union.

Get real, England

This all raises the question, how exactly is England hurt by Scottish independence? Wouldn’t England be better off financially and governmentally by seeing Scotland leave the union?

I understand the emotional connection to the historical union and the desire to keep the borders of the British state intact after more than 300 years. But the British state today is not the British state of 100 or even 50 years ago, when the the Scots and English were still both benefiting from the spoils of empire.

A Britain with a Scottish population constantly angry or depressed or demanding further authority is not conducive to the remaining UK being a productive global power. Internal conflicts at home undermine Britain’s power abroad as history has demonstrated time and time again. Numerous distractions for the English, and the rest of Britain, would be eliminated with a yes vote on September 18.

Dr Glass put forward these arguments at the Chalke Valley history festival on Sunday June 29 in a debate with education secretary Michael Gove, former Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell and journalist Simon Jenkins on whether Scotland should gain its independence following the referendum.

The ConversationBryan Glass is General Editor of The British Scholar Society

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Getty Images,
Show Hide image

John McDonnell praises New Labour as he enters conciliatory mode

The shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present by crediting the 1997 government. 

Ever since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader, John McDonnell has been on a mission to reinvent himself as a kinder, gentler politician. He hasn’t always succeeded. In July, the shadow chancellor declared of rebel MPs: “As plotters they were fucking useless”.

But in his Labour conference speech, Corbyn’s closest ally was firmly in conciliatory mode. McDonnell thanked Owen Smith for his part in defeating the Personal Independence Payment cuts. He praised Caroline Flint, with whom he has clashed, for her amendment to the financial bill on corporate tax transparency. Jonathan Reynolds, who will soon return to the frontbench, was credited for the “patriots pay their taxes” campaign (the latter two not mentioned in the original text).

McDonnell’s ecunmenicism didn’t end here. The 1997 Labour government, against which he and Corbyn so often defined themselves, was praised for its introduction of the minimum wage (though McDonnell couldn’t quite bring himself to mention Tony Blair). Promising a “real Living Wage” of around £10 per hour, the shadow chancellor sought to build a bridge between the past and the present. Though he couldn’t resist adding some red water as he closed: “In this party you no longer have to whisper it, it's called socialism. Solidarity!”

As a rebuke to those who accuse him of seeking power in the party, not the country, McDonnell spoke relentlessly of what the next Labour “government” would do. He promised a £250bn National Investment Bank, a “Right to Own” for employees, the repeal of the Trade Union Act and declared himself “interested” in the potential of a Universal Basic Income. It was a decidedly wonkish speech, free of the attack lines and jokes that others serve up.

One of the more striking passages was on McDonnell’s personal story (a recurring feature of Labour speeches since Sadiq Khan’s mayoral victory). “I was born in the city [Liverpool], not far from here,” he recalled. “My dad was a Liverpool docker and my mum was a cleaner who then served behind the counter at British Homes Stores for 30 years. I was part of the 1960's generation.  We lived in what sociological studies have described as some of the worst housing conditions that exist within this country. We just called it home.”

In his peroration, he declared: “In the birthplace of John Lennon, it falls to us to inspire people to imagine.” Most Labour MPs believe that a government led by Corbyn and McDonnell will remain just that: imaginary. “You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one,” the shadow chancellor could have countered. With his praise for New Labour, he began the work of forging his party’s own brotherhood of man.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.