How exactly is England hurt by Scottish independence? Photo: Getty
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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.

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What happens when a president refuses to step down?

An approaching constitutional crisis has triggered deep political unrest in the Congo.

Franck Diongo reached his party’s headquarters shortly after 10am and stepped out of a Range Rover. Staff and hangers-on rose from plastic chairs to greet the president of the Mouvement Lumumbiste Progressiste (MLP), named after the first elected leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Diongo, a compact and powerfully built man, was so tightly wound that his teeth ground as he talked. When agitated, he slammed his palms on the table and his speech became shrill. “We live under a dictatorial regime, so it used the security forces to kill us with live rounds to prevent our demonstration,” he said.

The MLP is part of a coalition of opposition parties known as the Rassemblement. Its aim is to ensure that the Congolese president, Joseph Kabila, who has been president since 2001, leaves office on 19 December, at the end of his second and supposedly final term.

Yet the elections that were meant to take place late last month have not been organised. The government has blamed logistical and financial difficulties, but Kabila’s opponents claim that the president has hamstrung the electoral commission in the hope that he can use his extended mandate to change the rules. “Mr Kabila doesn’t want to quit power,” said Diongo, expressing a widespread belief here.

On 19 September, the Rassemblement planned a march in Kinshasa, the capital, to protest the failure to deliver elections and to remind the president that his departure from office was imminent. But the demonstration never took place. At sunrise, clashes broke out between police and protesters in opposition strongholds. The military was deployed. By the time peace was restored 36 hours later, dozens had died. Kabila’s interior minister, claiming that the government had faced down an insurrection, acknowledged the deaths of 32 people but said that they were killed by criminals during looting.

Subsequent inquiries by the United Nations and Human Rights Watch (HRW) told a different story. They recorded more fatalities – at least 53 and 56, respectively – and said that the state had been responsible for most of the deaths. They claimed that the Congolese authorities had obstructed the investigators, and the true number of casualties was likely higher. According to HRW, security forces had seized and removed bodies “in an apparent effort to hide the evidence”.

The UN found that the lethal response was directed from a “central command centre. . . jointly managed” by officials from the police, army, presidential bodyguard and intelligence agency that “authorised the use of force, including firearms”.

The reports validated claims made by the Rassemblement that it was soldiers who had set fire to several opposition parties’ headquarters on 20 September. Six men were killed when the compound of the UDPS party was attacked.

On 1 November, their funerals took place where they fell. White coffins, each draped in a UDPS flag, were shielded from the midday sun by a gazebo, while mourners found shade inside the charred building. Pierrot Tshibangu lost his younger sibling, Evariste, in the attack. “When we arrived, we found my brother’s body covered in stab marks and bullet wounds,” he recalled.

Once the government had suppressed the demonstration, the attorney general compiled a list of influential figures in the Rassemblement – including Diongo – and forbade them from leaving the capital. Kinshasa’s governor then outlawed all political protest.

It was easy to understand why Diongo felt embattled, even paranoid. Midway through our conversation, his staff apprehended a man loitering in the courtyard. Several minutes of mayhem ensued before he was restrained and confined under suspicion of spying for the government.

Kabila is seldom seen in public and almost never addresses the nation. His long-term intentions are unclear, but the president’s chief diplomatic adviser maintains that his boss has no designs on altering the constitution or securing a third term. He insists that Kabila will happily step down once the country is ready for the polls.

Most refuse to believe such assurances. On 18 October, Kabila’s ruling alliance struck a deal with a different, smaller opposition faction. It allows Kabila to stay in office until the next election, which has been postponed until April 2018. A rickety government of national unity is being put in place but discord is already rife.

Jean-Lucien Bussa of the CDER party helped to negotiate the deal and is now a front-runner for a ministerial portfolio. At a corner table in the national assembly’s restaurant, he told me that the Rassemblement was guilty of “a lack of realism”, and that its fears were misplaced because Kabila won’t be able to prolong his presidency any further.

“On 29 April 2018, the Congolese will go to the ballot box to vote for their next president,” he said. “There is no other alternative for democrats than to find a negotiated solution, and this accord has given us one.”

Diongo was scathing of the pact (he called it “a farce intended to deceive”) and he excommunicated its adherents from his faction. “They are Mr Kabila’s collaborators, who came to divide the opposition,” he told me. “What kind of oppositionist can give Mr Kabila the power to violate the constitution beyond 19 December?”

Diongo is convinced that the president has no intention of walking away from power in April 2018. “Kabila will never organise elections if he cannot change the constitution,” he warned.

Diongo’s anger peaked at the suggestion that it will be an uphill struggle to dislodge a head of state who has control of the security forces. “What you need to consider,” he said, “is that no army can defy a people determined to take control of their destiny . . . The Congolese people will have the last word!”

A recent poll suggested that the president would win less than 8 per cent of the vote if an election were held this year. One can only assume that Kabila is hoping that the population will have no say at all.

This article first appeared in the 01 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Age of outrage