Friday 9 February 2007

Why some of us are still Unionists

There's going to a lot more of this and this over the next few weeks:
A CENTRAL plank of the SNP's case for independence - that Scotland has a healthy budget surplus - is "fundamentally flawed", the country's leading public finance expert says today.

Professor Arthur Midwinter says that the nationalists' claims, made in their "Scotland in Surplus" document, are based on £4.5 billion of "dubious assumptions and unexplained assertions".

And there'll be more replies like this:
The Scotsman is really pushing the New Labour propaganda. Same garbage in two different articles. So when are they going to allow the SNP the same amount of space to reply to these lies and distortions?
Here are some reasons why I'm still a unionist, albeit a federalist one:
(1) I worry about Scotland's large financial industry. Most customers are in England and at the first real whiff of independence English competitors will be warning folk about the wisdom of keeping their money in a country that appears to be addicted to socialism. On the other hand, the tourist industry could well benefit from independence.

(2) It seems highly likely that Scotland's first few governments would be dominated by the numptariat with all of the financial consequences that would inevitably follow. But what about Ireland, we are asked. It took the Irish some fifty years after independence to realise that a low business tax regime was the key to prosperity. I don't think it would take us quite as long to get the message - (a) because the world is much more knowledgeable nowadays about which policies work, and (b) because predominantly urbanised Scotland was historically much wealthier than predominantly rural Ireland and people here would demand sound policies rather quickly. But it would still take a time.

(3) Anyone knowing history can only be impressed by the overwhelmingly positive things that have come out of the UK. I'm not convinced that the Union's time is up.

(4) Despite what some preach, many of us are both Scottish and British. Like me. My late father was English but spent a lot of his life in Scotland. My mother is Scottish but has lived in England since the 1960's. One of my sisters was born in Scotland, the other in England. I was born here, then moved to England, then back here again, then to England once more, and am now back in Scotland. I would find it distinctly upsetting to have a different nationality from others in the family and the idea that London or the Lake District could become "foreign" is bizarre in the extreme.

Over to my readers...


David Farrer said...

Comments made on previous template:

David Farrer
I'm sure that Standard Life etc. are working along those lines. Dublin is certainly doing well now as a result of adopting business-friendly policies but it was many decades after independence before they were implemented.

14 February 2007, 17:45:05 GMT
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not a lawyer
This business of a putative fiscal deficit of an independent Scotland puzzles me. 
Does the UK have a fiscal deficit in the shape of a Public Sector borrowing Requirement? Is it currently 40 billion per annum? 
Is the UK independent?

13 February 2007, 16:31:07 GMT
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David, I can't quite grasp the argument that English financial services companies would try to use the 'based in Scotland' line as a great basis for investing in an under-performing institution. Most consumers buy on independent financial advice. They recognise the free but complex market that operates and want the best deal their money can buy - which is partly why Dublin is a growing financial services centre serving English customers. I fear your irrational fears will be dissipate as I trust the marketing gurus of the likes of Standard Life to have a cunning plan at hand already - like only servicing customers from an English call centre even if the money is fund managed from Edinburgh.

12 February 2007, 20:21:12 GMT
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David B. Wildgoose
I am English and was British. The only way my Britishness is likely to be restored is if the British State stops discriminating against me and mine simply because we're English. 
A federal UK would be the ideal choice, but let's face it, it isn't very likely. Devolution has fractured the Union, and no major party is prepared to restore the balance by supporting English devolution on the same basis as Scottish devolution. 
Scotland wants to have its cake, and eat England's as well, and quite frankly the English are sick of being taken for a ride.

12 February 2007, 13:46:14 GMT
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David Farrer
Why would an irrational fear of a socialism which doesn't exist in Scotland, stop someone from Tunbridge Wells stop paying into their Standard Life pension? If the suggestion is that an independent Scotland would not flourish economically, precisely how would that impact on the returns on investments that fund managers primarily make furth of Scotland? 
What you say makes sense logically but many people make decisions without thinking logically. My fear is that English customers will be told by our competitors: "Don't give your money to Scots who spent so much on their parliament building" etc. etc. I know Holyrood was planned in London and that the overspend on similar projects down south was just as great, but how many folk understand that?

11 February 2007, 17:14:30 GMT
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David Farrer said...

Richard Thomson
1. Why would an irrational fear of a socialism which doesn't exist in Scotland, stop someone from Tunbridge Wells stop paying into their Standard Life pension? If the suggestion is that an independent Scotland would not flourish economically, precisely how would that impact on the returns on investments that fund managers primarily make furth of Scotland? 
2. Surely you answer your own question here, since early 20th century Ireland and 21st century Scotland are coming from completely different places. In any case, the dependency culture so beloved of the 'numptariat' is a creation of the union - some would even go so far as to describe it as a 'union dividend'. Maybe in that regard voting for the union is a bit like smoking - you know it's bad for you but you keep doing it anyway? 
3. The union brought positive things as well as negative things, but as any historian will tell you, trying to attribute cause and effect in that way might be interesting, but it doesn't really get you very far. For instance, we often hear about how union brought about the enlightenment. But how much was brought by union, and how much was down to the earlier Scottish epistemological tradition, free access to markets and the absence of military conflict between Scotland and England?  
In any case, as anyone working in the Scottish financial sector will be able to recite to you chapter and verse, past performance offers no guide to future returns  
4. I would never discount the role of emotion in this debate, but this argument strikes me as a bit eccentric. If I'm British, then its in the same way that a Swede or a Finn is Scandinavian. I have relatives in the USA, Canada and Australia, all of whom long ago took the passports of their adopted nations. If I were to consider them 'foreign' on that basis, I think it would say an awful lot more about me than it would about the rightness or otherwise of the political arrangements giving rise to that situation.

11 February 2007, 15:15:54 GMT
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As one born in England to Scottish parents and having an abundance relatives on both sides of the border, I too find the idea of dissolving the Union absurd.  
It's refreshing to hear someone affirm that to be Scottish is also to be British. (As if the English alone could logically have claim to that geographical descriptor in any case.)

11 February 2007, 11:25:47 GMT
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David Farrer
Attention readers: 
The use of the term "numptariat" is to be encouraged. 
But I'd welcome a 10% commission once you've make your first £1 million from using the word...

10 February 2007, 15:20:39 GMT
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Neil Craig
Osbornes remarks were both disgraceful & economicly wrong in that any very slight effect of attracting businesses here that intended to set up in England would be swamped by businesses that were going to set up somewhere else in the world & most of all, businesses which would not be set up because, at high sorporation tax rates the return wouldn't justify it. 
However I don't like to see getting control of corporation tax described as fiscal autonomy. Full fiscal autonomy is code for de facto independence which means losing the Barnett dividend which would not end child poverty here.

10 February 2007, 15:03:00 GMT
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David Farrer said...

I understand your concerns David, but continue to feel that normalcy would breed a greater demand amongst Scots for a better class of politico. 
1)Scotland's financial industry will be just fine - the worries you express are identical to those proffered by stuanch unionists prior to the setting up of Holyrood - Standard Life and RBS both claimed they would flee should a devolved parliament be instituted - since devolution of course SL has finally floated and appears to be flourishing, and RBS has gone from being a small high street bank to being a global power. None of this was due to devolution of course, but then none of it was prevented by it either. 
2)True, the numptariat (and hopefully you won't mind when I nick that and use it as my own )will still continue to plague our governments - that will always be the case, and if you or anyone else can name a government anywhere devoid of numpties I will happily defer to your superior grasp of international affairs. Slovakia has 1st class numpties of a standard we can only dream of - none of this has stopped them from employing low tax, high growth principles. Ditto Latvia, Estonia etc - even Ireland, with it's politicians' somewhat haphazard relationship with transparency. 
3)Whatever positives were once claimed by the Union have long since died a death of irrelevance and have been superceded by the rush of small European nations to outperform their larger neighbours economically. The three poorest nations in Western Europe are Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If Northern England and Southwest England and Cornwall were countries too then these areas would constitute the top 5. 
In your excellent earlier post re:over centrallisation you scored a precise hit on the inefficiencies in UK government. Business clusters around government if that government is centrallised, and the London government is the most centrallised of all. The only way I as a Scot can imagine to rebuff this is to break up the UK. Federalism is a lovely idea in principle, but the chances of getting Whitehall and its acolytes to agree to self destruct when everyday election issues will always occlude the bigger picture is frankly forlorn. 
4)This is when emotion comes into play, and again that always tends to cloud what is ultimately best. I don't imagine that people from the Irish republic feel any more foreign when in England than Scots do - same language, similar broad culture, similar points of reference, but just slightly different enough to be content with. No expensive follies such as nuclear weaponry, imperialist hangover wars and the ability to elect politicians who can have a direct impact on their own particular country's aspirations of growth. 
There are wards in Scotland where more than half of children are raised in poverty, yet the Tories won't back fiscal autonomy for fear that 'it may draw investment away from England' - George Osbourne's words, and at least an admission that it would work, and not just in terms of fiscal growth.  
The Union is dead. It simply awaits a rspectful burial.

10 February 2007, 14:19:17 GMT
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Leonard Feeney
Only the improperly educated would ever infer that a visit to the Lake District would in any way engender a feeling of foreign-ness because of the creation of a Scottish ethno-state. Any educated, self-respecting member of the White race can appreciate the ancient ties that bind Europe's people and their immeasurably superior achievements.  
You need to read the works of Scotland's greatest contributor to true, scientific,interracial understanding, viz., Sir Arhtur Keith.

10 February 2007, 06:44:58 GMT
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Mr Eugenides
I agree with everything you say; just thought I'd notify you of my intention of stealing "numptariat" the next time the opportunity presents itself.

9 February 2007, 20:59:29 GMT