The Case For NO: “For all of its faults Great Britain is a force for good …” from Jamie Lord Sempill
For all of its faults, Great Britain, is a force for good, in a world which is becoming less orderly and a lot more dangerous. The history of the last 300 years shows the extraordinary contribution that Britain has made to the modern world. A contribution that includes the promotion of parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, and the freedom of expression. Today, we see these core values under threat, and if there was ever a time to stand fast, it is now.
We are facing a constitutional crisis. The creation of an independent Scotland, and the time and expense required to bring this about, is a huge distraction from the greater task of rebuilding the British economy and ensuring a better future for all those that live in the UK. Successive governments, regardless of their political hue all seek to achieve this. The Britain of today is a more prosperous and successful country, than it was 50 years ago. We are the sixth biggest economy in the world, and the fastest growing economy in the G7.
A major theme of the Independence campaign is the often quoted democratic “deficit.” This is the Achilles heel in the British electoral system. The assertion that we are ruled by a Westminster government that we did not vote for is equally applicable to the many Scots who did not vote for the SNP in the last Scottish elections. This perceived democratic deficit was addressed in the Scotland Act and the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.
I sat in the House of Lords at the time, and listened to all the parliamentary debates on devolution. It was clearly understood then, that devolution would be an evolutionary construct, and that over time it would change. As it is, we already have had major alterations to the Scotland Act, and will as a result of the referendum, see further changes, all of which will give the Scots a greater say in how they are governed, and more importantly, how they allocate their tax revenue.
The exclusion of 800,000 first generation Scots, who are not resident in Scotland, from voting in a referendum on the future of their birthplace, is a greater democratic deficit. Also, what of the 60 million British citizens living in the rest of the country. Assuming a “Yes” vote wins the day, we are looking at breaking the Union with less than 5% of the vote. What is democratic about that?
The ‘Better Together’ campaign has been criticized for being negative, and for not portraying a more positive side to what it means to retain the status quo. The facts and figures presented by independent fiscal institutions and academic bodies have been largely ignored, but all have questioned the wisdom of voting for independence.
However, there are two indisputable facts. Firstly, there is going to be a substantial cost involved in breaking the Union. A cost running into billions, which the UK and Scotland can ill afford. Secondly, an independent Scotland would look to increase its welfare expenditure, a cost that is to be covered by volatile oil revenues. An independent Scotland will start with a strong socialist agenda, which is not conducive to creating a more entrepreneurial society, and may well result in shrinking the Scottish tax base. This likely scenario is causing massive uncertainty in the UK’s financial markets. Capital flight is a very strong possibility and will have a knock on effect on jobs and business investment.
And therein sits the greatest risk of separation. Can the separatists finance their ambition for a fairer more egalitarian society with a costly welfare dependency? It has taken over 50 years to build a welfare system that is the envy of the world. I believe that there is far greater security in ensuring the maintenance of the current UK welfare system with the UK tax base of sixty million than a super enhanced Scottish welfare system based on a Scottish tax base of 5 million.
These observations are deemed negative by the “Yes” campaign. As a voter, I think they have to be understood and factored into the debate.
There are many other aspects of the independence debate, but I maintain that the best solution to the aspiration of many of those planning to vote “yes”, is constitutional reform. It is already in the pipeline, and has the great benefit of being implemented without breaking the most successful Union of all time.
Finally, it is well known that the Scots have played a disproportionate role in the making of this successful Union. As a result of 300 years of that combined effort we have created one of the great nations of the modern era. Britain today is widely respected and has a formidable reputation. I, for one, have no desire to see all that effort discarded for the selfish interest of the few.