It’s “Better Together” not “Worse Apart”

As we head into the final month leading up to the Scottish Referendum, it seems that the “Better Together” camp might have forgotten the title of their campaign.

For those in Scotland keen to vote “Yes” the underpinning desire is to assert that they are not subservient to the English. So no campaign is going to convince them to vote “No” by trying to argue that Scotland is not strong enough to be independent.

The biggest part of the debate has been to establish the answer to this very question, and the course the campaign has dispelled a number of myths of subservience. We now positively know:

  • There is more than enough Oil and Gas to keep Scotland very well.
  • GDP per capita is actually higher in Scotland than England.
  • It is likely that Scotland will be able to twist the UK’s arm in piggybacking off the stability of the pound in some way.
  • Whatever spending constraints may be faced due to a more rapidly ageing population, an independent Scottish Parliament would be able to raises taxes, or do whatever it would like to run the kind of society it would like to have.

In short, independence will easily work. On the surface great for the “Yes” camp, but has the “No” camp missed that this actually an even better platform for them?

The problem for the “Better Together” camp, is that they have seen it as their role to disabuse voters of this. Which seems to be the opposite of what they actually should be doing. To a proud Scot who would like to prove that they can go it alone, telling them they can’t, is going to be like a red rag to bull, and it is not going to appeal to their world renowned generosity of spirit and wealth. “Yes” voters need to be made to feel like they are wealthy enough to share as equals, then they might just see this as a vote for being inclusive and “Better Together”.

Darling’s opener for the debate on Monday the 25th should turn the debate on its head and throw Salmond completely — how about:

Yes, we can easily make it on our own. We should be proud of Scotland, and for having had the campaign, it has helped us to see that there is nothing to stop us voting “Yes”. For our size we outperform the rest of the UK, with the highest GDP per capita, and we likely have enough Oil and Gas to see us right. Salmond and the “Yes” camp are right, we simply don’t need them… but, maybe they need us?
For me the campaign has been about establishing that per head we are easily equal partners, if not more — that we currently make the UK better.
The problem I have with the “No” campaign is that it seems to be about independence at all costs. Sure, we do need more powers in the current Scottish Parliament, and this campaign has helped us prove to the rest of UK that we should be free to run more of our own affairs. It is a really important part of the “No thanks” campaign to be seen to be fighting for this to happen. Devolution must go further, we should have the control over domestic policy that we could have were we an independent nation — tax levels, NHS spending, education, etc.
However, there are lots of fronts where splitting responsibility and assets makes no sense. As Andrew Neil’s documentary showed there are a whole raft of unintended consequences to independence that will take decades to resolve, costing a fortune in lawyers — money better spent making society fairer. For example as an Island the UK is best defended by a combined military and border force. We have protected each other for hundreds of years. We have just celebrated the centenary of World War I. A battle we fought together and won together to preserve our combined cultural history and way of life, as we did in World War II. Do we really want to spend time in a messy divorce deciding which painting should hang in which national gallery? Who does that really benefit?
Worse still, our leaving will weaken the UK. At the very least they will have a lame parliament for the next five years which won’t help the fragile economic recovery going on at the moment, but there will be worse consequences. Like the UK’s relationship with the USA — we will become a small partner to a larger nation. One that we need to be strong for our own benefit. Sure we may not want Nuclear weapons on Scottish soil, but do we want our neighbours to lose their Nuclear deterrent? Potentially seat on the UN security council? Does it better us that the UK will fall down the GDP rankings? etc, etc. Our competition is from the US, China, India, and Europe — not from England or the UK, they are our largest trading partner. We need them to be as strong as they can be for our benefit.
The mature choice would be to vote “No thanks”, a clear statement of we could go, but that we see how we make each other better. A clear message off the back of this campaign to devolve domestic policy to the Scottish Parliament, but not spend a whole load of money splitting things that are simply “Better Together”. Focus instead our energies on making both our futures brighter.
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