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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Jeremy Corbyn supporters should stop excusing Labour’s anti-immigration drift

The Labour leader is a passionate defender of migrants’ rights – Brexit shouldn’t distract the new left movement from that.

Something strange is happening on the British left – a kind of deliberate collective amnesia. During the EU referendum, the overwhelming majority of the left backed Remain.

Contrary to a common myth, both Jeremy Corbyn and the movement behind him put their weight into a campaign that argued forcefully for internationalism, migrants’ rights and regulatory protections.

And yet now, as Labour’s policy on Brexit hardens, swathes of the left appear to be embracing Lexit, and a set of arguments which they would have laughed off stage barely a year ago.

The example of free movement is glaring and obvious, but worth rehashing. When Labour went into the 2017 general election promising to end free movement with the EU, it did so with a wider election campaign whose tone was more pro-migrant than any before it.

Nonetheless, the policy itself, along with restricting migrants’ access to public funds, stood in a long tradition of Labour triangulating to the right on immigration for electorally calculated reasons. When Ed Miliband promised “tough controls on immigration”, the left rightly attacked him.  

The result of this contradiction is that those on the left who want to agree unequivocally with the leadership must find left-wing reasons for doing so. And so, activists who have spent years declaring their solidarity with migrants and calling for a borderless world can now be found contemplating ways for the biggest expansion of border controls in recent British history – which is what the end of free movement would mean – to seem progressive, or like an opportunity.

The idea that giving ground to migrant-bashing narratives or being harsher on Poles might make life easier for non-EU migrants was rightly dismissed by most left-wing activists during the referendum.

Now, some are going quiet or altering course.

On the Single Market, too, neo-Lexit is making a comeback. Having argued passionately in favour of membership, both the Labour leadership and a wider layer of its supporters now argue – to some extent or another – that only by leaving the Single Market could Labour implement a manifesto.

This is simply wrong: there is very little in Labour’s manifesto that does not have an already-existing precedent in continental Europe. In fact, the levers of the EU are a key tool for clamping down on the power of big capital.

In recent speeches, Corbyn has spoken about the Posted Workers’ Directive – but this accounts for about 0.17 per cent of the workforce, and is about to be radically reformed by the European Parliament.

The dangers of this position are serious. If Labour’s leadership takes the path of least resistance on immigration policy and international integration, and its support base rationalises these compromises uncritically, then the logic of the Brexit vote – its borders, its affirmation of anti-migrant narratives, its rising nationalist sentiment – will be mainlined into Labour Party policy.

Socialism in One Country and a return to the nation state cannot work for the left, but they are being championed by the neo-Lexiteers. In one widely shared blogpost on Novara Media, one commentator even goes as far as alluding to Britain’s Road to Socialism – the official programme of the orthodox Communist Party.

The muted and supportive reaction of Labour’s left to the leadership’s compromises on migration and Brexit owes much to the inept positioning of the Labour right. Centrists may gain personal profile and factional capital when the weaponising the issue, but the consequences have been dire.

Around 80 per cent of Labour members still want a second referendum, and making himself the “stop Brexit” candidate could in a parallel universe have been Owen Smith’s path to victory in the second leadership election.

But it meant that in the summer of 2016, when the mass base of Corbynism hardened its factional resolve, it did so under siege not just from rebelling MPs, but from the “Remoaners” as well.

At every juncture, the strategy of the centrist Labour and media establishment has made Brexit more likely. Every time a veteran of the New Labour era – many of whom have appalling records on, for instance, migrants’ rights – tells Labour members to fight Brexit, party members run a mile.

If Tony Blair’s messiah complex was accurate, he would have saved us all a long time ago – by shutting up and going away. The atmosphere of subterfuge and siege from MPs and the liberal press has, by necessity, created a culture of loyalty and intellectual conformity on the left.

But with its position in the party unassailable, and a radical Labour government within touching distance of Downing Street, the last thing the Labour leadership now needs is a wave of Corbynite loyalty-hipsters hailing its every word.

As the history of every attempt to form a radical government shows, what we desperately need is a movement with its own internal democratic life, and an activist army that can push its leaders as well as deliver leaflets for them.

Lexit is no more possible now than it was during the EU referendum, and the support base of the Labour left and the wider party is overwhelmingly in favour of free movement and EU membership.

Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott are passionate, principled advocates for migrants’ rights and internationalism. By showing leadership, Labour can once again change what is electorally possible.