It is the morning of 18th September 2014. My nationality is officially British. Although my passport somehow mentions an entity calling itself the European Union, which I am apparently connected with somehow. I was born British, have lived British and am still British. Yet this time tomorrow morning, I may well no longer be British. I will simply be English. But then again, I was that all along as well. And I guess that pesky organisation calling itself the European Union will still be attempting to command my allegiance as well. It’s all very complicated!
If you had asked me a few years ago whether I hoped the Scots would achieve independence, I would probably have said something stupid like, “Yes let them go. See if they can manage without our money”. Thankfully the passage of time hasn’t just started to put a few grey hairs on my head, but has also made me think a little more about these things.
So if you had asked me that same question a few months ago, I probably would have said, “No. The Union between England, Wales and Scotland has been one of the most successful and largely happy unions the world has ever seen, and it would be a travesty to wave goodbye to that.”
But life is complex and here I am, on the day of the vote, sitting here in England and really not knowing what to hope for, and not knowing how I would vote were I a Scot with a vote.
For me, one of the oddest things is the question itself: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”. I have always wondered how Alex Salmond — canny Scot that he is — managed to get away with such a blatantly misleading question. It automatically puts the answer “No” on the back foot and paints a “Yes” vote in a positive light. But more than this, the fact is the Scots aren’t voting to become an independent country. An independent country is a country that has full and sovereign control over its laws, its economy, its currency, its foreign policy, its ability to trade and every other area of decision making.
The Scots will not get this whatever they vote for. A Yes vote will not make Scotland an independent country. Sure, they will be independent of Westminster, but it is clear that they will remain — although this might take some renegotiating — a vassal state of the EU. The relationship will simply remove London from the equation, but the real power behind Scotland will not be found in Edinburgh, but rather in Brussels, or more accurately Berlin — which is where the real power lies behind the EU.
To ask people to vote to become an independent country, but to offer them no choice to actually be an independent country appears to me to be something of an insult.
Having said that, there is a rebellious streak in me which really doesn’t take very kindly to people cajoling me into something for their own ends. Which is why — despite believing the Union to have been a generally very good thing — if anything, I feel inclined to hope for a Yes vote. Not because I want to see the Union broken. Not because I bear any grudge against Scotland. Not because I think England will necessarily prosper after this decision.
No, it is because the last two or three weeks of campaigning have exposed the levels of duplicity and mendacity to which the London elite are prepared to go to scare people into maintaining the status quo. About a month ago, they appeared to think this would be a cakewalk and their campaigning was clearly half-hearted. But then as we have crept nearer the date of the vote, they have become increasingly alarmed to see the gap between Yes and No closing, and it seemed to dawn on them a couple of weeks ago that they might actually lose.
They panicked and ever since they have been desperately throwing everything at the campaign to make sure the Union is not broken. David Cameron has been faced with a conundrum which he didn’t expect. On the one hand, I feel sure he would not be particularly sorry to see Scotland go, since a Scotland-less country is the only possible way his decrepit party could possibly win another election. But on the other hand, the dangers of losing Scotland are perhaps even greater to him. Having already gone down in history as the man who broke the definition of marriage, it now looks as if he might go down in history as the man who broke the Union. No doubt he is proud of the first, and may well be proud of the second, but whether his own MPs will be quite so proud and willing to let him carry on as their leader is another matter.
Political ghosts from all sorts of countries — including the ageing lothario himself, Bill Clinton — have been coming out of their graves to urge the Scots not to secede. The three main party leaders have been throwing the book at the Scots with a plethora of sticks — “Scotland can’t go it alone”, “The economy would collapse”, “You couldn’t defend yourselves”, “You couldn’t remain in the EU”, “What would you use as currency?” — as well as carrots — “Please stay and we’ll offer you a load more powers, which we did sort of hint at a year ago, but thought we’d bring up two days before the vote. Promise.”
And then there is the BBC coverage, which has been appalling and has meant that there are a lot of people in Scotland that now despise that organisation for its obvious bias. Why is the Beeb, which has never before struck me as being anything other than anti-British, suddenly become so pro-Union? My best guess is that it doesn’t fancy suddenly having to rebrand as the EBC or EWBC and perhaps senses that its days as a monolithic, tax-payer funded propaganda machine are numbered. Oh and there’s the loss of revenue that would entail.
Which is what this is all about really. The real reason that the UK government and mainstream media have suddenly got very alarmed at the prospect of secession, and have embarked on a frankly disgusting propaganda campaign aimed at scaring Scots into thinking they are staring into the abyss, is all to do with the loss of oil revenues. There is a decent little summary of this here, the most salient point being this:
1. The UK can now borrow cheaply using the giant Scottish oil reserves as collateral
2. If Scotland leaves, the collateral (oil reserves) is no longer available
3. So the cost of borrowing money for Britain skyrockets
I am sad to see that it comes down to this. But such is the way of the world — The love of money and all that. And I am sorry that this campaign couldn’t have been conducted in a decent manner, with both sides being allowed to spend the same amount of money to get proper arguments across to the public, as opposed to scaremongering. I dread to think what the ratio of money spent on the respective campaigns is, although I suspect the No vote has massively outweighed the Yes vote. Anyone who thinks a referendum on EU membership — should we ever be offered one — would be free, fair and civilised should take note. It will not.
A couple of final thoughts. I think there is a very real danger of trouble if this vote is close, especially if the No vote wins by a sliver. The way the aforementioned London elite have poisoned the wells of honest debate has, I think, irked a lot of people in the Yes camp, which means that a narrow victory may well come with accusations of vote rigging and dishonesty. I fear for such a result, which is why my one hope in this is not that one side or the other will win, but that the vote will be decisive enough to put to silence any accusations and animosity.
Having said that, the genie has been let out of the bottle, and regardless of the result, expect to see more movements for independence coming out of the European woodwork — movements that you probably never even heard of before. Again, I can only hope and pray that such movements will be carried out in a civilised way, and met with a civilised response. After Scotland, all eyes on Catalonia and the response of the Spanish government. That will be most interesting!