Scottish independence would be a terrible loss for the UK
By Natalie Beale
The current debate for Scottish independence began with the Scottish Parliament general election of May 2011, where the Scottish National Party(SNP) gained a majority of 69 seats out of 128. Party leader
Alex Salmond has been First Minister of Scotland since 2007. Given that this is the first majority for a Scottish government since 1999, it no doubt gave Salmond the confidence to announce that a referendum for Scottish independence would take place in Autumn 2014.
Currently, the Scottish Parliament can make its own laws regarding matters such as education, health, agriculture and justice. Other matters are reserved for the UK Parliament in Westminster, such as major tax laws, foreign policy and social security. As part of the UK, Scotland naturally votes for that Parliament as well as their own.
Opinion polls suggest that the Scots are marginally in favor of remaining within the UK, and Prime Minster David Cameron has expressed a strong desire for Scotland to stay. In a visit to Edinburgh this month, he considered offering the Scottish Parliament further powers of self-governance. In any case, Cameron wants to see the referendum take place sooner rather than later.
The UK population is 60 million, and the Scots make up 5 million of that number. To lose them would make the definition of “British” even smaller, and leave Scotland as an independent country with a population smaller than that of Massachusetts. The UK has the seventh largest economy, proving the strength of this union – would Scotland damage its economy by voting “yes” to independence?
Historically England (and to a far lesser extent Wales) has been in conflict with Scotland, although that rivalry is now limited soccer. Scotland has a distinctive national culture, but it is also entwined with the culture of Britain as a whole. The last Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was Scottish – but British at the same time. Scots are a part of the union, they are the largest non-English group living in England. Would they become ‘foreigners’ if Scotland seceded?
Scotland plays a major role in UK politics, and historically has always voted left-wing. In the 2010 UK general election, the Labour Party (led by Gordon Brown) was dethroned in the midst of a weak economy. No other party managed to win a majority, so a coalition between the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) and the Conservatives (Tories) was formed. Tory leader David Cameron became PM, and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg became Deputy PM. Lost confidence in left-wing Labour was divided between the Lib Dems, and in Scotland, a turn towards the SNP. When the left-wing vote is united behind Labour, Scotland is an important ally in electing a liberal government. To emphasize Scotland’s left-wing blood, it is important to know that the Conservatives don’t even bother campaigning up there.
The current ‘coalition’ government (the Lib Dems are just a bauble and/or scapegoat to the Conservatives), led by David “shiny face” Cameron, has already left its mark. University tuition fees have trebled, libraries have been closed, arts funding has been slashed, the last 18% of publicly owned forest will be sold to private owners, and the National Health Service is under threat of ‘reforms’ widely condemned by health professionals and patients. For left-wing Brits, the Scottish are needed not just for their sparkling wit, astonishing good looks and general loveliness, but to elect the best government available.
Scotland is a vital piece – the head, in fact – of British politics, society, culture and identity. This small country has given the world penicillin, microwaves, radar, and refrigerators. It has given Britain a number of Prime Ministers, a Time Lord and a sense of being whole. Plus, let’s face one sad fact: to the rest of the world, the accents are basically indistinguishable.