Friday, 19 August 2016

Scottish nationalists reject what we share and what we are

There is a pattern to conversations with Scottish nationalists online. At some point the same old arguments are repeated. It is these arguments above all that mean that there is very little common ground between Pro UK people in Scotland and those who would prefer that Scotland became a sovereign independent nation state.

One of the reasons that it is so difficult to interact with Scottish nationalists is that they speak a different language to the rest of us. I don’t mean that they try to write in Gaelic or in Scottish dialect, though some of them do. What I mean is that certain ordinary words are used quite differently by Pro UK people and their opponents. The words that are most contentious are “country”, “nation”, “United Kingdom”, “Britain” and “British”. It’s because we have no agreement on these words that we cannot hold a civil conversation with each other.

I have long argued that when we use words like “country” and nation” we do so in different senses. Scotland correctly is called a country and a nation, but it is not a country or nation in the way that the United Kingdom is nor indeed in the way that France or Japan are. Scotland is not a sovereign, independent nation state. This is all very straightforward. But crucially Scottish nationalists deny something that is self-evidently true, that the United Kingdom is a country in the same way that France is, while asserting something that is self-evidently false that Scotland already is a country in the way that France is. This means that they continually beg the question or assume what they are trying to prove.

When I point out that in any democracy a part will sometimes vote differently to the whole and that this would also be the case in an independent Scotland, I always find the same objection made, but Scotland is a country. Quite so. But this argument only has any force if Scotland were already an independent nation state. In the United Kingdom we have national elections that cover the whole of our country. In this context it makes no more difference that five million people in Scotland vote differently to the UK as a whole than that five million people in Yorkshire vote differently. Why are the rights of people from Yorkshire less important than those from Scotland? Ah, because Scotland is a country, but Yorkshire is not. But this would only matter if the relationship between the parts of the UK were international. It would only matter if when I travelled from England into Scotland I were crossing an international border and going abroad. Given that our relationship remains national it is simply unjustified to point out that Scotland is a country in order to complain about election results we don’t like.

When we say Scotland is a country, we really mean that historically there was a country called Scotland which has retained a rather different identity from the other parts of the UK. But this is not unusual. There are differing identities all across Europe. There are places that once were independent sovereign nation states and the people from those places have both a separate identity and a common identity. I can feel both Bavarian and German, Sicilian and Italian, etc etc.

Scottish nationalists routinely treat the United Kingdom as if it were a collection of independent, sovereign nation states. It is for this reason they say that the UK is not a country or a nation. They see the UK as being like the EU or the United Nations. But amusingly if that were the case Scotland would already be an independent state? Why then struggle to gain something you already have? It is this above all that shows the circularity of Scottish nationalist reasoning. Nicola Sturgeon assumes that Scotland already is independent, for which reason she travels to Brussels as if she had exactly the same status as Angela Merkel or François Hollande. She then discovers that in point of fact she is the leader of a regional parliament with no more competence to negotiate internationally than the leader of Saxony or Burgundy. She must have known this already so why did she go. The reason is that the argument for Scottish independence depends on this circularity. Without it there would be no argument. It’s only because so many Scots assume that Scotland is a country in the same way that France is, that there is even a debate about independence.  

What do we call someone from the United States? We usually call them an American. What do we call someone from the Netherlands? They are usually called Dutch? What do we call someone from the United Kingdom? A United Kingdomer? We could but that would be an odd way of speaking. We instead call them British. Anybody who is a citizen of the UK is called British citizen. Yet I routinely come across Scottish nationalists who deny that they are British. This is exactly the same as a German citizen denying that he is German. Sometimes they claim to be Scottish citizens. But once more this is to assume what they are trying to prove. If Scotland became a sovereign, independent nation state, there would be such a thing as Scottish citizenship. Claiming that you already are a Scottish citizen is to assume that there already is such a state while arguing that there ought to be one. Once more the typical Scottish nationalist argument shows itself to be obviously circular.

But what is it to be British? Many Scottish nationalists deny that there is any such thing as being British. This usually takes the form of once more denying that there is a sovereign independent nation state called the United Kingdom? How am I supposed to argue with someone who denies the existence of something that obviously does exist? It’s like going to Germany on my holidays and telling the Germans that there is no such thing as Germany, but only Saxony, Bavaria etc. Sometimes Scottish nationalists maintain that the word “British” refers to the island of Great Britain which they think is a geographical term similar to Scandinavian. But again this is to fail to realise that there is no independent sovereign nation state called Scandinavia, but there is one called the UK. Italy is a peninsular and at one point Metternich said “The word 'Italy' is a geographical expression”. That may well have been true when he said it in 1847, but it is not true now. It would be absurd and indeed offensive to tell an Italian today that his identity is merely geographical.

But what is it that unites Italians and gives them a common identity. One thing that unites them is a shared culture. But what is this shared culture? How can I define it? Here we immediately come up against a difficulty. How do I define a shared culture without listing things that are either common to everyone in the world or are instead clichés? I could list some things that I think are typically Italian. They eat pasta and pizzas. They drink expresso coffee. They love football. They are romantic and emotional. But all of these qualities are stereotypical. Each of them is also shared by many other people in the world. In Italy moreover there are many dialects and in each part of the country there are different cultures and traits. Yet when I go to Italy I immediately recognise that there is something different about it from Britain. I may have difficulty pointing out exactly what it is, but it would be absurd to deny that Italy had a shared culture or indeed that it had a culture at all. It would be like saying Japan didn’t have a culture.

How do I define Scottish culture without descending into tartanry? Most of the things that are taken to be typically Scottish are not a part of our everyday lives.  Few Scots play bagpipes on hillsides or speak like Robert Burns. Yet no one sensible denies that there is a Scottish culture that is somewhat different from the other parts of the UK. The same goes for British culture. Visitors to the UK will find much that is common between the parts of the UK while recognising some differences. But is it possible to define British culture in a way that avoids cliché and which incorporates the identities of people from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Here’s my attempt:

In Britain we love defeat more than victory. We celebrate the Charge of the Light Brigade and the defeat at Dunkirk while other countries forget these things. If you go to the Second World War Museum in Moscow you’ll find no defeats mentioned. Even the response of Scottish Nationalists to defeat in 2014 was typically British. We came so close just like in 1745. We had a glorious defeat just like Culloden.

If we have a victory we prefer it to be a “close run thing” like Waterloo or the “narrow margin” like the Battle of Britain. In sport we are almost the only country that celebrates the gallant loser. We alone think that taking part is more important than winning.

When I’m at the bus stop most Brits take note of where they are in the queue and try to get on the bus in that order. We try to be fair to those we’ve never met and may never meet again. On the bus we never talk unless a crisis happens in which case we overcome our reserve. Compare busses in Italy.

We are prudish yet promiscuous. It is the combination of opposites in the British character that is so unusual. See also the combination of politeness and aggression.

We are anti-intellectual. There isn’t really an intelligentsia in Britain. We favour empiricism over reason, which means our philosophers use common sense like Hume, Locke and Reid rather than abstract reasoning like Kant and Hegel.

We rarely learn foreign languages. I have hardly ever met a Brit who has taught himself a foreign language and reached fluency. The only bilingual Brits I know were either brought up that way or studied languages at university.

We are defined by our language which has spread Britishness all around the world. Wherever that language is spoken as a mother tongue there we find a culture that we recognise and share. This is what British culture is. If you go to New Zealand, you’ll find some things that are different, but much that is the same. I have far more in common with Canadians, Americans, Kiwis and Aussies than I do with anyone from Europe. It would be straightforward for me to work in any of these places and almost nothing about the culture would seem strange to me. This is because we share our British heritage and have kept our common culture just as we’ve kept our common language. For a Scot to deny he is British is to deny what he shares with much of the world.

British people are indifferent to food and therefore our food is indifferent. I have almost never seen a British restaurant when I’ve been abroad. The idea of a British restaurant seems absurd, yet everywhere there are French and Italian restaurants.

In almost all of the rest of the world people drink either wine or yellow beer. In Britain we also have brown beer that is fermented with top-fermenting yeast rather than bottom fermenting lager yeast. Until recently no-one other than the Belgians brewed in the way that we do.

British people get drunk in a unique way. The French and the Spanish drink wine slowly with food. They may drink more than we do, but you wouldn’t notice. The Russians on the other hand may not drink every day, but once you open a bottle of vodka it has to be finished. Such bottles at one point came with caps like our beer bottles. On holiday you can always spot the British by their unique form of drunkenness, sunburn and terrible clothes.

What defines British culture is our shared history and tradition stretching back hundreds of years. Russia abolished serfdom in 1861 and has never really been a proper democracy. Corruption was endemic during the time of the tsar, during communism and under Putin. In Britain we developed free markets and free trade centuries before anyone else. We haven’t had peasants let alone serfs since the Middle Ages. We started on the path to democracy earlier than anyone else. Our monarchy was limited by parliament when nearly every other European country still believed in the divine right of kings. It is for this reason that I do not expect a policeman in the UK to be corrupt. I expect to be fairly treated if I have a dispute in business. It is also for this reason that we settle political difficulties with elections and with parliament. While everyone else in Europe had revolts we did not.  It is this that we share in the UK and also with most other countries that share our native language.

Because we are confident in our British identity we rarely feel the need to boast about it. The difference between an American and a Brit is that the American continually needs to go on about how great America is.

Because of this confidence we also celebrate eccentricity. We like to do things that are pointless such as climbing Munros. We like collecting and we can be obsessive. But the combination of these traits can give rise to fine thinking just as it can give rise to follies. It was British scientists who invented the bouncing bomb and the D Day funnies. It is that combination of eccentricity and obsessiveness that leads us to invent so many things.  

A Scottish nationalist who denies his Britishness is denying not only what he shares with other people in the UK, he is denying the very words that come out of his mouth with which he makes the denial. It is Britishness that created the language with which most of the great Scottish thinkers and writers thought and wrote. A Scottish nationalist in denying his Britishness is therefore perversely denying himself. We only speak the language we do in Scotland because we are part of the UK. I can only with difficulty understand either of the languages of Scotland prior to the Union. That is a faraway place of which I know nothing and understand less.  If Scotland had not joined the UK we would now either be speaking Gaelic or a Scottish language that was as different from our own as Dutch is from German. To regret the Union is to regret that I am what I am and that I speak and think as I do. Rejecting Britishness is to reject me. I cannot even express this act of rejection without self-contradiction for I quite literally don’t have the words.

Britain is a great country which has contributed as much to the world as any other and more than most. It is our country.  This is the only argument we need to defeat the SNP. The world speaks our language and celebrates our culture. Yet some Scots would pitifully deny that any of this is theirs. They would do this because of an argument that doesn’t even recognise that it begs the question. They would do it because they can’t bear to share anything with the other parts of the UK, not even a shared country. I sometimes think that Scottish nationalists would prefer we didn’t even share a language with or nearest neighbour, because they can’t quite bear what it is called.   

Friday, 12 August 2016

It’s time to stop spoiling the SNP or the tantrums will get worse

I keep reading stories about how the SNP are trying to block Brexit. Sometimes they seem determined to stop the whole of the UK leaving the EU. At other times they apparently want Scotland to both remain in the UK and in the EU. There have been all sorts of odd schemes proposed. Some Scottish nationalists find a precedent in the fact that Greenland decided to leave the EU in 1982, but remains a part of the Kingdom of Denmark. Couldn’t the reverse happen to Scotland? Nicola Sturgeon has come up with five tests that somehow must be fulfilled for her to continue to be content with Scotland being a part of the UK. These amount to Scotland being a full member of the EU and could not be fulfilled in any other way. Sometimes these demands are accompanied with threats of if you don’t do what we want, we’ll hold another independence referendum. Apparently there may be secret plans to hold one next year. Alternatively there are no secret plans whatsoever. It’s all very thrilling and cloak and dagger. Of course, some red meat must be flung to the fanatics from time to time, but the reality is that far from being desperate for independence at the moment the SNP is desperate somehow to stay in the UK.

Why have conditions at all if the SNP really wants independence? Why not simply say we want to leave the UK and stay in the EU. Why try to block the UK from leaving if you don’t want to be part of the UK?  The SNP have quite a large number of seats in the UK Parliament. Apparently they think they can use these seats to somehow veto Brexit. But why should they want to? If leaving the EU is so intolerable that Scotland will rise up and demand another independence referendum, why is the SNP trying to prevent it? Don’t they want independence?

It is becoming ever clearer that the SNP is getting itself into a muddle. Why visit a junior minister in Berlin? He can't give you independence. The key point to grasp is that while the SNP is full of people who are desperate for independence, Scotland isn’t. There are people like me who are against Scottish independence under all circumstances. There are people who would support Scottish independence if they thought it would make them better off. Finally there are independence supporters who want independence come what may. But these people are not enough to win.

After the EU referendum quite a lot of Remain voters briefly flirted with support for independence. I’ve come across people who I considered to be solidly Pro UK who suddenly wrote things that suggested a certain sympathy with the SNP. But people do say silly things in the heat of the moment. These disappointed Remainers are at the very least not SNP fundamentalists. They will look at the argument for Scottish independence and weigh up the advantages and the disadvantages. The problem for the SNP, as I keep arguing, is that it is much harder to make the case for Scottish independence in the context of Brexit. The SNP leadership are going to have to throw out pretty much the whole of their independence White Paper of 2013. Brexit has sent them homeward to think again. But until and unless the SNP can come up with a credible alternative that looks reasonably attractive, they cannot expect to actually win another independence referendum. They need to answer the difficult questions now because they can’t win independence without a political campaign. During that campaign Scottish minds would be concentrated and politicians and journalists would keep asking the hard questions. The SNP wouldn’t be able to get away with blind optimism and everything would be alright, because while this would satisfy their supporters it won’t satisfy the majority of Scots.

It’s crucial to realise that SNP threats about a second independence referendum are empty for the moment. The first nationalist condition for the possibility of indyref two is that Nicola Sturgeon thinks she can win it. But there’s another condition I believe. If somehow she could persuade a majority in Scotland to vote for independence, but that this led to a significant deterioration in Scottish living standards Nicola Sturgeon knows that she would be blamed. What’s more I don’t think she is the sort of person that would like to see ordinary Scots made worse off. So while she certainly wants independence one day, it’s not at all clear that she wants it right now.

What do the SNP want? They want to make gradual steps towards the goal of independence. This is the crucial point that UK politicians have failed to grasp over the years. Foolishly in the last days of the independence referendum UK politicians made a promise that the Scottish Parliament would gain new powers. I think they should have made it clear that fulfilling this promise was conditional on everyone in Scotland accepting the result. There are two sides to every bargain and the SNP has simply not kept its side. What concessions have they made to the fact that the majority rejected independence?

So we had the Smith Commission which gave lots of new powers to the Scottish Parliament. The SNP wanted more and when they didn’t get all they wanted they claimed that the UK Government hadn’t kept its promise. Under those circumstances it would have been better simply not to have kept the promise. Granting all those extra powers hasn’t helped the Pro UK side of the argument one little bit. The SNP wants independence just as much as they always did. Every new power they gain is a step along the road to independence. UK politicians have to realise that they are feeding whiskies to an alcoholic. It is unlikely that doing this will make him sober.

Don’t make concessions to Scottish nationalism. It hurts our side of the argument by gradually making Scotland seem more and more separate. The SNP want to take baby steps towards their goal and then fall over the finish line. Don’t help them to do this. On the contrary, what the UK needs is more things that bring us together, more things that we share. We need less division not more.

It is for this reason that the response of pro UK politicians and journalists has been so disappointing since the EU referendum. Some people began writing about federalism as a way of keeping Scotland happy. Others began writing about giving Scotland a special status so that it can retain aspects of EU membership. Some Pro UK MPs even think it is a good idea for Scotland to have its own national news programme at six. Each of these things is just one more gradual step along the way to independence. There is only one lesson from the past twenty years of Scottish politics. Making concessions to Scottish nationalism gradually strengthens it while weakening the UK. Cease making concessions. Instead reassert the unity of the United Kingdom. Make it clear that our country is not splitting. Not now, not ever.

The SNP is a spoiled child that uses the threat of independence to gain concessions. It is happy for the UK to continue to subsidise Scotland. But it always bites the hand that feeds it. It is absolutely crucial that UK politicians begin to understand the SNP mentality and the SNP tactics.  No matter what you give to them they are not going to be content. All you do is demonstrate your weakness. So give them nothing. Of course, be friendly and diplomatic. There is no harm in consulting and listening. But never treat Nicola Sturgeon as if she is the leader of an independent sovereign nation state. She isn’t. Always remind her that she lost the only vote that mattered.

Brexit is going to happen or else we don’t live in a democracy. But it cannot happen unless the whole of the UK leaves and under the same terms. How could Scotland retain free movement of people while the rest of the UK did not? What would stop those people simply crossing the border into England? How could the UK as whole come up with a trade deal with, for example,  Australia if Scotland was governed by EU rules? Would that trade deal only apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland? On the other hand what if new EU regulations applied in Scotland, but not in the other parts of the UK? This is a recipe for confusion and chaos. If Scotland somehow stayed in the EU while the UK left it would make Brexit far less beneficial for the other parts of the UK. Instead of the UK Parliament being free to make our own rules we would always have to think of whether it would be commensurate with Scotland being in the EU. We would be constrained, for example, with what we could do with regard to  UK VAT because Scotland would still be in the EU and subject to EU rules on VAT. This would apply to any number of issues. Most importantly we couldn’t make the UK Parliament fully sovereign because the law in Scotland would still be subordinate to EU law.

There is an interesting debate to be had in the UK at the moment about the type of Brexit we should have. Some people have argued that we should simply leave the EU abolish all tariffs and say to the EU we are open to trade. If they chose to punish us they would in fact harm themselves. On the other side of the argument there are those who argue for a soft Brexit. Some favour a Norway model, some favour a Swiss model. Between a hard Brexit and a soft Brexit there are endless permutations. Let us hear the arguments. Let us weigh up the advantages and disadvantages. I tend towards supporting simply leaving, as I don’t want the EU to have any influence at all on our lives in the UK. But I also recognise that this may involve some challenges. There are people I respect who support a soft Brexit. I’m open to persuasion on this. Let’s have the debate.

The various parts of the UK have a role in this debate. But no one has a veto. What’s more someone representing 5 million people in Scotland should have no more influence over the outcome of the debate than someone representing 5 million people in Yorkshire. We are all equally British citizens. I ought not to have more influence because I am Scottish than if I am someone from the Isle of Wight.

It is vital that  no one should even consider making the sort of concessions that Nicola Sturgeon wants. They amount in effect to independence through the back door. If Scotland were in the EU while the other parts of the UK were not, then Scotland de facto would have achieved independence. Scotland's being in the EU while the UK is not is simply incompatible with Scotland being in the UK. Greenland may not be fully independent, but it is as near to independence as it’s possible to get while remaining part of the Kingdom of Denmark.  

The SNP has become too used to having its own way. It's time someone firmly said No and pointed out clearly that Scotland is not an independent sovereign nation state, but rather a part of one.  Nicola Sturgeon disgracefully had a meeting with the UK Prime Minister without there being a Union flag on display. She would not have done that if the leader she met had been from China. Why then does she disrespect the leader of the country which includes Scotland? It is time that everyone realises that Sturgeon's threats are empty. She is all over the place at the moment trying to stay both in the UK and the EU. This is a position that is obviously self-contradictory. Why hold such a position if she thought she could win an independence referendum? Look beyond the bluster and the necessity of keeping the SNP fanatics onside and it becomes ever clearer that Sturgeon doesn't even have an argument.  No further concessions need be made. Indeed they are the equivalent to giving in to a toddler in the supermarket. I want. I want. I want. It’s time to stop spoiling the SNP or the tantrums will only get worse. 

Friday, 5 August 2016

Is the SNP’s “National Conversation” only with itself?

The SNP are planning another so called “National Conversation” on whether Scotland should leave the UK. It was supposed to happen this summer, but has been put off for a while because of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. It’s crucial therefore to realise that even if the UK had voted to remain in the EU, the SNP would right now be trying to persuade us that we ought to have a second independence referendum and that we ought to reject the Union we’ve been in for more than three hundred years. The arguments that Nicola Sturgeon and others made about the European Union for some reason don’t apply to our own Union of the UK. She’s happy for Scotland to be in a union with Slovakia, France and Sweden, but can’t bear the thought of our being in a union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. What has she got against our fellow Brits?

On the other hand the arguments made by the Brexiteers, about sovereignty, regaining parliamentary control and indeed independence, are just the sort to appeal to Scottish nationalists. I think the UK has always been independent even while being in the EU. It is for this reason alone that we didn’t need to ask anyone but the British people if we could leave. But I can also see that we will regain a measure of freedom from the control and influence of the EU. The laws we make in our parliament will be supreme and will not be subordinate to those made by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. It’s obvious why these sorts of arguments might be supported by Scottish nationalists. This is one reason no doubt why 36% of SNP supporters voted to leave.

We are all somewhat contradictory. It is in our nature as human beings to be so. I supported one Union (the UK) while voting against another (the EU). Some Scottish nationalists thought the condition for the possibility of genuine independence was leaving the EU, others didn’t. In general most of us in Scotland, apart from fanatics, can see pros and cons about the EU just as even some more moderate Scottish nationalists can see pros and cons about the UK.

But if we are to have a conversation it is important that the SNP listens to alternative points of view and also provide answers. We know that there are SNP supporters who want independence come what may. But the conversation cannot only be with them. It must also be with those who are content indeed happy with our present arrangement in the UK.

Here are some of the questions I would like the SNP to answer.

1. Why are you assuming that a Scottish vote for Remain justifies a second vote for independence?

In Scotland around two million six hundred thousand people voted in the EU referendum. The gap between Remain and Leave amounted to six hundred thousand people. But over two million Scots voted less than two years ago to remain in the UK. The number of No voters in 2014 (2 million) is much higher than the number of Remain voters in 2016 (1.6 million). Crucially it is not possible to argue that the Remain voters in 2016 are Scottish independence supporters. Many of them clearly were not. Many would be horrified at the idea that the SNP would use their votes to justify Scottish independence.

Turnout in the EU referendum (67%) was much lower than in the Scottish independence referendum (84%), which suggests that the EU isn’t as crucial an issue to Scots as remaining in the UK. Moreover, we know that a sizeable proportion of Leave voters in Scotland support the SNP. These people no doubt are happy that the UK is leaving the EU.  The SNP therefore has to discount the wishes of a third of their own supporters in order to justify a second independence referendum.

It’s worth remembering too that those Scots who are happy with the result, Leave voters, plus those who are indifferent (abstainers amounting at least to the difference between the turnout for the Scottish independence referendum and the EU referendum) considerably outnumber those who voted to Remain. The fact is that we were voting on radically different things when we voted in 2016 and when we voted in 2014. It is therefore unjustified to use our vote this year as justification for rerunning our vote of two years ago. The fact that we chose to remain in the UK implies logically in and of itself that we were willing to accept the result of UK national elections. If that had not been the case we would have voted for independence. Apart from demonstrating once more that they are poor losers, why are the SNP complaining?

2. How can the SNP now justify the fact that whenever there is an election campaign they say that it is not about independence?

If the SNP had made clear during their campaign for the Scottish Parliament elections that they would be arguing for a second independence referendum within a few months, it is likely that they would have won still fewer seats than they did. Likewise if the Scottish Greens had made clear that they would support such a bid for independence, they too would have attracted very few votes from people who support the UK. Nicola Sturgeon also said that the EU referendum was not about independence. It becomes clear that nothing is about independence until it is. The SNP cannot be allowed to keep saying that an election is not about independence only later to use that vote to justify a second independence referendum. This is fundamentally dishonest and anti-democratic.

3. What would the SNP do if the UK Government continued to argue that it has already had its independence referendum?

Constitutional matters are reserved to Westminster. Therefore any legal referendum would require permission. The Edinburgh Agreement would give the UK Government the right to at least delay any future second referendum. Whether they would do so or not is a matter of speculation. But what would the SNP do if their wishes were denied? It’s all very well Alex Salmond talking about Theresa May not messing with the Scottish people, but what practically speaking would he suggest? Would the SNP attempt to stage a referendum without permission? Would this be legal? What would they do if Pro UK people decided to boycott such an informal poll? If they won such a poll, would they make a Unilateral Declaration of Independence? Would they stage a revolution? It’s all very well the SNP making threats, but the Scottish people deserve to know to what lengths they are willing to go to reach their goal.

4. If Scotland became independent what currency would we use?

It will not be possible for Scotland to use the UK pound if Scotland is in the EU while the UK is not. In the short term this will mean Scotland setting up its own currency and Central Bank and then later joining the Euro. Some countries like Sweden have promised to join the Euro but show no intention of doing so. But in the process of joining the EU if it became clear that Scotland had no intention of fulfilling its promise, it is hard to imagine the EU looking on our application favourably.

The problem for Scots is that our mortgages are in UK pounds. If a new Scottish currency fell in relation to the UK pound our debt would consequently increase. This would likewise be the case for any share of the UK national debt that Scotland took on or indeed any debt held by Scottish banks. How can the SNP guarantee Scots that we wouldn’t lose out through falls in currency given that our borrowing now is in UK pounds? This would be far more serious to our finances than the present fall of Sterling in relation to the Euro as few of us borrow in Euros.

5. Would Scotland have to join Schengen and would this mean that there would have to be a manned border between Scotland and England?

All applicants to the EU have to promise to join the Schengen border free travel zone. The UK and the Republic of Ireland have an opt out from this which means that it ought to be possible for the Northern Irish border to remain open even if the UK is not in the EU while the Republic is. But would Scotland receive such an opt out? We don’t know. But the EU is trying to become more united and there are suggestions that there will be no more opt outs. Given that the UK voted to leave the EU partly to stem migration, the likelihood must be that Scottish independence would lead to a manned border with England. This is because there would be no passport controls between Scotland and the EU. How would this manned border affect trade with the other parts of the UK? How would it affect people in the Borders who travel regularly to England? Might some of them end up being late for work?

6. How would Scotland be able to maintain our present lifestyle if we lost both the money from the UK Government (The Barnett formula) and had to cut our deficit from 10% to 3%?

The SNP is continually optimistic about Scotland’s economic prospects. There are lots of good things about the Scottish economy, but this must not mean that we duck the hard questions. Scotland receives a considerable grant each year from the UK Government. The SNP has fought hard to retain it. But we wouldn’t continue to receive it after independence. Moreover, in order to join the EU we would have to cut our deficit from 10% at present to 3% and we would have to pay our subscription to the EU without any chance of receiving back our present rebate. The SNP pretend to care about the poorest in our society, but it is precisely these people who would be hit hardest by independence. Public spending in the UK has in fact increased under the present Tory Government, yet it has been called austerity. What word would we use to describe the cuts to public spending which the SNP would need to make in order to achieve their dream of independence?

7. Why would Scotland want to stay in a trading bloc (the EU) with which we do 14% of our trade, but leave the UK with which we do 64% of our trade?

It would be a disaster economically for Scotland to leave the UK’s internal market. It is this and this alone which allows insurance and banking firms in Edinburgh to do business with people in other parts of the UK. How many of us have a current account with a French bank or take out insurance from a Polish broker? We do so much trade with the other parts of the UK precisely because we are in the same country. We all hope that free trade will continue between the EU and the UK, but we do not yet know what sort of deal will arise from negotiations. It is perfectly possible that the EU might charge tariffs. If Scotland were in the EU, we would have to apply those same tariffs to our trade with the other parts of the UK. Would that help or hinder the Scottish economy?

8. How would Scotland make a profit from North Sea oil at present prices?

The shale revolution has made the cost of extracting oil much less than it once was. This fundamentally is the reason for low prices today. But it is always going to be cheaper to obtain oil from shale than from drilling under the North Sea. This means that although there may still be a lot of oil left in the North Sea it is hard to make a profit from it. This is now not a short term fluctuation of the oil market, but a long term change in the fundamentals. The break even point for North Sea oil is more than the cost of drilling. Future profits from North Sea oil rigs taken together with the cost of decommissioning them means that far from being a bonus oil may very well turn into a liability.  

How can the SNP plan for the future when they have no idea what the price of oil will be? They got the price spectacularly wrong last time. Do we really want the future of Scotland to depend on guesswork?

9. Do we know how long it would take for Scotland to join the EU and under what terms?

There is little doubt that an independent Scotland would eventually be allowed to join the EU. There might however be some obstacles in the way. We would have to overcome the objections of Spain. When Kosovo became independent in 2008 it received the recognition from many countries, but not from Spain, which does not like to recognise newly independent countries, because it fears that this will encourage separatism in Catalonia. Of course, if Scotland became independent by means of another legal referendum Spain might be persuaded to allow Scotland into the EU. If on the other hand there was any sort of unilateral declaration of Scottish independence, it is unlikely that anyone in the EU, let alone Spain, would look favourably on our application.

The terms of Scotland’s membership would depend on negotiations. But it’s worth remembering that Scotland’s population amounts to one hundredth of the population of the EU. Scotland has to leave the UK prior to even beginning negotiations with the EU. But under those circumstances we wouldn’t have much choice but to accept whatever deal from the EU we were given. What alternative would we have? Would the SNP describe this as a leap into the dark or are they able to explain when and under what terms Scotland would join the EU?

10. How much would it cost to set up a new independent sovereign nation state called Scotland?

We know that Scotland would have to severely tighten its belt in order to leave the UK, but at the same time we would have set up costs. We’d need some sort of armed forces. We’d need some sort of international diplomacy. We’d need a means of taxing our population and paying benefits. This issue was debated during the last referendum, but it still requires an answer. Some people think the cost could be between 1.5 and 2 billion pounds. So in addition to all the cuts we would have to make, we would have additional costs too. One of the main benefits of being in the UK is that we share the costs of things like the DVLA, HM Revenue and Customs, the British Army, Navy and RAF. Scottish independence means losing all sorts of economies of scale. How would this make us better off SNP?

11. What will the EU look like in ten years?

The SNP is privileging EU membership over UK membership. They think that being in the EU is a better bet than being in the UK. But do we actually know what the EU will be like in a few years?

The EU has two major structural problems Schengen and the Euro. Both of these are crucial for the future development of the EU. If you are in favour of the EU you really ought to be in favour of both. The problem with Schengen is that EU countries are closing their borders. Eastern European countries in particular are unwilling to accept migrants. They are willing to erect fences to stop them. How does the EU resolve this? Does it force Poland and Hungary to allow free movement of people? We just don’t know.

We are all familiar with the trials and tribulations of the Euro. There are only two options that can work long term. Either the EU becomes something very similar to a Federal United States of Europe or it breaks up. Unless and until the EU gains political and fiscal union the Euro will remain dysfunctional. At the moment the Euro is a recession machine that is impoverishing Southern Europe. Fiscal transfers must be made from the richer parts of the EU to the poorer parts, just as they are made in the UK at present. The alternative to this is that everyone goes back to their own currency.
What is going to happen? We don’t know. The Euro may muddle along, but sometime soon a new crisis will develop that will make the EU decide either way.

What of Scotland? How much independence would Scotland have in a new nation state called the United States of Europe? Not much. We would be outvoted by any EU Parliament. Why complain about being outvoted by Westminster if you just join a new nation state which will outvote you even more?

Do Scots want to transfer their money to Italy, Greece and Spain and indeed to countries that are much poorer than these in Eastern Europe. Many Scottish nationalists over the years were unwilling to share “oor oil” with other parts of the UK. Why then should they be willing to transfer Scottish money to anyone in Europe who is poorer than us? If we were involved in a transfer union in the EU, how would this affect living standards in Scotland?

On the other hand what if the Euro is destined to fail? I don’t think it will, but it might. If I had savings in UK pounds, which were then turned into Scottish pounds, which were then turned into Euros and finally turned back into Scottish pounds again, I would end up losing a huge amount. It would be like going round the bureaux de change so as to turn my money into dollars, then yen, then rupees and then back to pounds. This is one of the best ways to lose money I can think of. Can the SNP guarantee that this would not happen to my savings over the course of the next few years?

Some people want independence come what may. They want it so much that they don’t care what it costs. But the rest of us want answers from the SNP. There’s no use having a conversation if it remains one sided. The SNP has a perfect right to be optimistic about Scotland. I share that optimism so long as we remain part of a post Brexit UK that I think has a bright future. Certainly the UK faces far less uncertainty than an independent Scotland would. But if the SNP wants to make the case for independence it’s no use seeing everything through tartan coloured glasses. They need to start answering the tough questions otherwise we may conclude that they are just talking with themselves.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Brexit has not made Britain a more intolerant country

The choice of the UK electorate to choose to leave the EU has come as a shock, not only to those who voted to remain, but also to those who voted to leave. I think perhaps it is for this reason that a large number of Remain supporters have been questioning the motives of their fellow Brits. We have been called xenophobic, anti-European and racist. The reality of course is that there isn’t that much difference between a Remainer and a Brexiteer apart from different political beliefs and possibly personal circumstances. We would really be in trouble as a country if 52% of the population were so full of prejudice as some Remainers suggest. The truth however is that everyone, if they are honest with themselves, has a degree of prejudice, but we try our best to overcome it. Which of us has never had an intolerant thought? Come on Remainers why don’t you cast the first stone? But Britain remains a remarkably tolerant, welcoming country, where most people in their ordinary lives try to get on with each other. My guess is that the level of prejudice among Brexiteers is pretty much the same as among Remainers. I have seen rather a lot of prejudice expressed by these Remainers about people like me, so who knows what else they might be prejudiced about.

Britain is one of the few countries with an open and inclusive identity. We accept without question that British citizens are British, no matter where their parents came from. This might seem straightforward, but it is far from commonplace around the world. In Russia it is quite common to call someone a Tartar, or a Georgian even if they are a Russian citizen. The description Russian is frequently not applied to people who are not ethnic Russians. I think this sort of idea applies in quite a number of European countries. For example, Latvian citizens who speak Russian as their mother tongue are not considered to be Latvians. It is partly for this reason that the Hungarian and Polish Governments are so keen to keep out migrants. They do not think that these migrants could ever really become Polish or Hungarian.

Even in our own country the identity associated with the parts of the UK is not always as available to newcomers as it should be. Someone with an English accent in Scotland will not be considered to be Scottish even if he has lived here for decades, unless of course they join the SNP. Scottishness to a large extent is determined by where you were born and who your parents were. These things are fluid, but I imagine this is the case to an extent also in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  This is one reason why we should all value our British identity. It’s the only identity that unites all of us. Without it we’re liable to judge identity on the basis of where someone was born and whether they can trace their ancestry back to the Norman Conquest or the Battle of Bannockburn.

So let us be grateful that we live in a United Kingdom where we have been able to integrate millions of people from elsewhere and done so successfully. Britain is far less racist than it was when I was a child. Few indeed are the European countries who would have done as well as we have in remaining a cohesive society despite massive changes to our country’s demographics.

In 1945 nearly every British citizen's ancestors had lived on this island for centuries. Of course, we have always had immigration, whether it was from Angles, Saxons and Jutes or later from French Huguenots and Eastern European Jews. But the fact of the matter is that if you look at the crowds celebrating VE day you will find remarkable homogeneity. In the space of seventy years, look at the changes that have occurred.

In 1946 there were nearly 49 million people living in the UK. Now there are 64 million. If population growth were to proceed at the current rate, some people think we might reach 85 million in the next twenty years or so. This sort of increase is clearly untenable. It is not in the interest of any British citizen, wherever they are from, to see our rather small island end up so crowded. Brexit will not mean that immigration ceases. It certainly will not mean that anyone will be deported. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties guarantees that anyone with the right to live here now will continue to have that right. But let’s also think a little practically. We know how difficult it has been to deport people who we know hate us. We know how it has proven impossible even to deport foreign criminals. Does anyone seriously think we could deport millions of Europeans even if we wanted to? What would we do, round them up and put them on trains? What would that do to our relations with other countries? The whole idea is completely ludicrous. No-one, but no-one is going to be deported.

Where I live in Scotland almost everyone is from Scotland. It’s very easy for Scottish Remainers therefore to be smug about how liberal and welcoming they are. There is almost no-one to welcome. When we talk about population growth in the UK we’re not talking about Scotland. The Scottish population grew by a bit over 200,000 between 2001 and 2011. The UK population grew by four million. The English population likewise grew by four million. So it’s pretty obvious where new arrivals go.

Imagine if 4 million people arrived in Scotland from elsewhere in the space of 10 years. Why not? Scotland is largely empty. There is lots of space to build new towns and expand the ones we already have. Imagine if four million English people decided to move to Scotland, because England is full. Who is to stop them? We all have the right to live and work where we please. Imagine if the UK Government decided to create some space in England. They could give tax breaks and grants to English people to move to Scotland. If suddenly Glasgow doubled in size and half of the population was from England, would the Glaswegians be happy? What if only half the population of Dundee had a Dundee accent and the rest had English accents. Would this make Scottish independence more or less likely? I’ve expressed this idea before. The reaction from Scottish nationalists was one of horror. I’ve been accused of putting forward the idea of cultural genocide.  But why is it OK for 4 million people to move to England, but not OK for a similar number to move to Scotland?

But on reflection the Scots who would object to 4 million English people coming to Scotland have a point.  What they are saying is that they want to retain the character of Scotland and that this means that the vast majority of the population of Scotland should be Scots. They think that if millions of English people moved to Scotland then they would lose Scotland. They would lose the Scottish accent, the distinctive Scottish culture and the chance to determine their political future. If millions of English people were set to move to Scotland, the majority of Scots would want to see this limited in some way. It wouldn’t mean that they’d be against the English people already living in Scotland, but they wouldn’t want to lose the unique character of their own country.

There is no danger whatsoever of millions of English people moving to Scotland. Fear not Scottish nationalists! Your worst nightmare won’t come true. But the character of vast chunks of England has been changed beyond all recognition in the past seventy years. Do English people not have the same rights as Scots to protect the character of their country?

No sensible person should oppose all immigration. We couldn’t stop it even if we tried. Moreover, it is massively to our advantage that people from Europe and elsewhere can continue to come to live and work here. It benefits us, it benefits them. People who supported Brexit did not do so because they hate their neighbours, but because they saw Brexit as the only way to even limit immigration. They were right in this.

Just as it is not racist for an Aberdonian to prefer to live in a city where the majority of the population are Scots, so neither is it racist for English people to want to protect the character of their towns and cities. Most people all around the world wish to live in towns and cities where the majority of the population are like them. This is true for Japanese, Koreans, Taiwanese, Hungarians and Poles. This is something basic in human nature. It is the reason we have countries at all, rather than live in one great world state.

Brexit has not made Britain a more intolerant country. On the contrary by limiting immigration we may all be able to integrate further and get on better than before. But above all don’t sneer at people who saw uncontrolled immigration changing their world forever and who voted to take back control.  Don’t sneer especially if that is not your world.

Scottish Remainers who have next to no experience of mass immigration should try to understand the legitimate concerns of those who do have that experience. It’s easy to be open, welcoming, tolerant and smug if you live in the average Scottish town where 99% of the population is Scottish. Would you really feel the same if only 49% had a Scottish accent? Which way would you have voted then?

Friday, 22 July 2016

How to make the SNP's task still harder

There is a very respectable argument for Scottish independence that surprisingly is rarely made by supporters.  It goes something like this. We want Scotland to be independent because we want Scotland to be a sovereign independent nation state just like all the others in the world and we don’t care what happens next, because wherever this path takes us, it will be worth it. Historically this is the normal route for places that seek independence.

When the American colonists rebelled against British rule, they had no idea what they would end up with. In the short term it would no doubt have been better for them to have continued living under British rule. These Americans didn’t worry overly much about trade or currency or the difficulties that lay ahead. They were willing to fight a war to gain their independence. They were more than willing to take a risk.

In more modern times I remember when the Baltic States broke away from the Soviet Union. They were in a currency union with the other Soviet Republics. They did most of their trade with the other parts of the USSR. But suddenly there was a mass movement of people joining hands to say they wanted to get out of the USSR. These tiny Baltic States were suddenly independent. They set up their own currencies. They were not part of NATO or the EU. They had no idea when they became independent if they would be able to join. But they didn’t care. I doubt anyone back then made any great promises about the economic prospects of Latvia, Estonia, or Lithuania. Since 1991 they have had some pretty tough times. But they didn’t much care about this when they became independent and I suspect they don’t much care now.

I have made the point before, but it is worth reiterating. This is a very good argument. To an Estonian who wanted independence in 1991, I have no answer. Likewise to a Scot who wants independence come what may, I have no answer. It is perfectly possible for Scotland to become an independent country. If that’s what you want come what may, then go for it.

I disagree, of course, and will do all I can to prevent Scottish independence. But this is not because I particularly feel that Scottish independence long term would be a disaster. An independent Scotland would be at least as prosperous as Estonia, probably much more prosperous. The future has not happened yet. Scotland could become the next Switzerland if it chose the right economic policies. I oppose Scottish independence for the same reason that an American opposes the independence of California. I want my country, the United Kingdom, to remain intact. That’s it. If an independent Scotland were able to give everyone in Scotland gold bars every week I would still oppose Scottish independence.

There is a reason however that the SNP tend not to use the argument that I have outlined. There is no mass movement in Scotland demanding independence. There are people willing to vote for the SNP and even vote for independence, but the situation here is quite different from the Baltic States or even the situation in present day Catalonia. Hundreds of thousands of people are willing to demonstrate for independence in Barcelona. In the Baltic States there were enough people demanding independence that they could join hands right across the three republics. In Scotland there is nothing like this.

There was a free and fair referendum in Scotland and independence lost. Less than two years ago 55% said No. They said No even when they were promised all sorts of nice things by the SNP. If the SNP had instead argued Scotland would go through tough times for a number of years, but it would be worth it, I strongly suspect the No majority would have been greater. The SNP were unable to make the fundamentalist argument for independence, because there are not enough fundamentalist Scottish nationalists in Scotland. My guess is that there still are not.

At the moment quite a lot of Scots are angry because the UK is going to leave the EU. How dare the UK as a whole have a different opinion to Scotland? Some of those angry Scots are people who previously voted No and they are now flirting with the idea of Scottish independence. I think this is short term and transient. The argument as to whether we should be in the EU for most people is a matter of practicalities. Is the UK better off in the EU or not? At the moment we don’t really know, because we haven’t tried leaving yet. We do however know that the UK for centuries wasn’t in the EU and we did well enough. The likelihood is that we will do well enough again. 

Few indeed are the people in Scotland who really have an overwhelmingly emotional attachment to the EU. How many Scots wanted to join the Euro? How many wanted to be part of Schengen? How many wanted the UK to become a part of a United States of Europe. If we all really loved the EU so much why didn’t we sign up to all the EU directives in the same way as Germany or France. Why did we want to opt out of the fundamental projects that were leading the EU to its goal?

I think support for the EU in Scotland is not fundamental at all, rather it is contingent on the idea that our prosperity depends on the EU and also vaguely on the sentiment that being pro EU makes me more internationalist and generally a good sort. This is of course complete rot. Switzerland is one of the most internationalist countries I can think of, yet it isn’t a member of the EU. The EU on the other hand is one of the most corrupt and anti-democratic of organisations. It is directly responsible for poverty in southern Europe. I think if you are a good sort, you should oppose it both for moral and practical reasons. 

It's worth reiterating also that being a good European does not depend on being in the EU. There are 50 European countries only 28 of which are in the EU. It is rather offensive to conflate being European with being in the EU as if those 22 countries were not properly European.

But what happens if it turns out that the UK outside the EU ends up being more prosperous than inside the EU? Given the right economic choices we can turn the UK into a low tax, low regulation free trade hub. The EU might then begin to look like a rather tired protectionist customs union sinking into decline, lurching from one crisis to another with a currency no-one much wants and an inability to come to an agreement about what to do next to sort the mess.  Would Scots still be so desperate to remain in the EU?

If our support in Scotland for the EU is mainly about economics, then under the circumstances of Brexit working well, we clearly ought not to mind that the UK chose to leave. Of course some people still worry about being able to live and work in the EU. My guess is that will continue more or less the same. It isn’t as if it was impossible to live and work in Europe prior to the EU. Moreover it’s obviously in Spain’s interests that Brits continue to spend their money retiring there. On the other hand few indeed are the Scots who either wish to or can work as bus drivers in Warsaw. Polish is rather difficult you know.

For those Pro UK Scots who wish to defend our position within the UK, it is vital to change our mentality. There are advantages and disadvantages to being in the EU. But we are leaving, so let us seize the advantages and minimise the disadvantages. There is quite literally no point whatsoever in continuing to fight the EU referendum. We are going to leave. What we must think about is this. What sort of relationship to the EU makes it easier to keep the UK together and harder for the SNP to make the case for Scottish independence?

I believe it would be in the UK’s best interest to leave the Single Market. We ought not to be a part of EFTA nor the EEA. We ought to trade with the EU in exactly the same sort of way as Japan does or Australia. We should attempt to trade as freely as possible under those circumstances. You don't have to be in the Single Market to trade with it, otherwise we would be unable to buy anything from China.  The EU is still going to want to sell us things, so it is in their interests not to be overly protectionist. But most of our trade is with the rest of the world anyway. We buy more from the EU than we sell. Therefore any tariffs would hurt them more than they would hurt us. We might even end up making a profit.  The saving of the EU membership fee alone would more than compensate us for the amount we might pay in increased tariffs. You wouldn't pay an entry fee to go into Tesco. Why pay one to buy things from the EU? The main advantages for the UK in leaving the EU can only be obtained if we make a clean break. There is absolutely no point going to all the trouble of leaving the EU only to end up being ruled by Brussels anyway.

The huge advantage of going down this route also is that it makes Scottish independence still harder to achieve. The gap then between a UK outside the Single Market and a Scotland inside the EU would be even greater. Scotland would then have a trade relationship with the UK that was no closer than Greece’s. Scotland would not only have left the UK’s internal market, it would also have ceased to be in the same trade bloc as the UK. If the EU applied tariffs to UK exports, Scotland would have to apply them too and vice versa.

The crucial thing in any argument with people who want to contemplate Scottish independence is to concentrate minds. But it is vital that we don’t go down the Project Fear route again. There should be absolutely no exaggerations about Scottish independence. But quietly pointing out the consequences, while at the same time pointing out the great future that the UK has ahead, can win the argument decisively.

The SNP are beginning to admit that Scottish independence would mean some years of difficulty. Quite so. It is becoming obvious that first we would have to set up a new currency and a Scottish Central Bank. It would attempt to peg this currency to the UK pound, but we know from the ERM debacle that pegs can break. If you have a mortgage in UK pounds and the Scottish pound was devalued by 20% your debt would in effect increase by 25%. This is one of the reasons why it has proven so difficult for countries to leave the Euro. Persuading Scottish home owners to take this sort of risk might prove challenging.

In order to join the EU Scotland would have to promise to join the Euro and the Schengen zone. We would then lose the money we get from the UK under the Barnett formula, while at the same time having to pay our subscription to the EU minus the rebate that was negotiated by Margaret Thatcher. We would then have to attempt to cut our deficit of 10% down to 3%, otherwise we wouldn’t be allowed into the EU at all. This would involve both much larger tax rises and spending cuts than Scots have hitherto experienced. It would make Tory austerity look like generosity, which in fact it is. Scotland makes a 15 billion pound loss every year, which is made up by the UK Treasury. This strikes me as rather generous given how insulting many Scots are about Britain. To cease making a loss every person in Scotland would have to pay around three thousand pounds a year. You may think independence is worth it come what may, but I’d rather keep my three thousand pounds thank you.

Meanwhile our trading relationship with our biggest trade partner the UK would cease to be an internal market and we would be no closer to the UK in trade terms than any other country in the world. Whether there would need to be a hard border between Berwick and Gretna is hard to say. But it might be difficult to avoid this if Scotland is in Schengen. The Republic of Ireland at least has an opt out from Schengen which will make it easier for them to maintain an open border with the UK. Scotland might of course be able to obtain all sorts of opt outs too. Then again the Spanish might decide that they really don’t want to encourage secession movements and might block or delay Scotland’s entry into the EU "pour encourager les autres".

At the same time as all of this we would have to set up a new sovereign nation state called Scotland with all of the costs involved. None of this can remotely be described as scaremongering. Moreover none of this need put off a fundamentalist nationalist. No doubt, after some years Scotland would be doing very well indeed. But let us at least be honest about what we would need to do.

The other side of the coin is that the UK can do very well outside the EU. Free from the constraints and the bureaucracy of Brussels we can turn our country into a beacon of business and free trade. We will be able to negotiate trade deals with anyone we please, because we will not require the agreement of 27 other countries. We will be able to attract skilled people from all over the world to come and live and work here. The crucial point however, is that we will choose who has the right to come. The UK can become an offshore business centre like Japan. The advantages potentially are enormous, but people need to fundamentally change their mind-set. Stop thinking about the disadvantages of leaving the EU, start thinking of the advantages. When you make that switch you will start helping, until then you will remain hindering. 

This is the positive message about Britain that we need to counter the SNP’s argument. We campaigned far too negatively last time round and nearly lost because of this. The EU referendum campaign was lost by the Cameroons because they chose to go negative again. What we need is a simple clear positive message about Scotland and the UK. Don’t be negative about Scotland, but quietly point out the disadvantages of leaving the UK, while pointing out the advantages of staying. Moreover, we must start being patriotic about the UK and positive about our chances outside the EU. I despair of those Remain people who continue to threaten disaster for the UK. Our best chance of defeating Scottish nationalism long term is to disagree with them about the UK’s role in the world. Being positive about Brexit is our best argument. If the UK makes a success of our role outside the EU we will leave the SNP without an argument. On the other hand Pro UK people who continue to be negative about the UK’s prospects are making the SNP’s argument for them. Our one chance of making the positive case for the UK is to be positive about leaving the EU. We can tell a better story than the Scottish nationalists. It’s time high time we all started doing so.

The EU is in trouble. Every day I find myself thinking we made the right choice to leave. Italy looks like the new Greece, but Italy is too big to bail out. Thank goodness we are not going to be in the same club as Turkey. Uncontrolled immigration and open borders looks ever more unsafe. How long before another EU country follows the UK lead. Some Scots might think they can find a safe haven in the EU, but it’s not at all clear that the EU can even survive long term, at least not in its present form. This need not concern fundamentalist Scottish nationalists. For them, of course, it doesn’t matter what the future may bring, for Scotland ought to be independent come what may.

But the fundamentalist SNP position looks increasingly odd when you compare them with other independence movements like the American revolutionaries. Imagine if the Americans fought their war of independence in order to throw off British rule, only to ask the French king to rule over them instead. “Give me liberty, or give me death” would be a strange rallying cry under those circumstances. Give me liberty, or give me Brussels is Nicola Sturgeon's version of this. It appears unlikely that she will be remembered for as long as Patrick Henry. 

Scottish independence would involve an almighty struggle and tough times for all Scots. If you think it would be worth it fair enough, but why would you go to all that trouble only to end up being ruled by the EU?