As the debate about independence for Scotland heats up a bit, I am amazed at just how insistent our London based leaders are in keeping Scotland in the Union. Such unanimity is very rare in politics. Just think of the EU and the range of views among our political, business and media elites over what relationship the UK should have with the EU. But when it come to Scotland, everyone in positions of power in London all share exactly the same view - Scotland must remain within the UK.
One reason given for this is that without the largesse that comes from London , we Scots would be quickly reduced to penury. This view, while quite pervasive is of course nonsense. I am not even sure that its proponents believe it. But they have to say something and beyond vague generalities about being stronger together and sharing the same values and other platitudes, they fail to make any positive case for the Union. This I think is both deliberate and revealing. For it is my firm conviction that the UK in its current form, needs Scotland far more than Scotland needs the UK. In particular the position and world view of our London based elites would change dramatically and for the worse (from their point of view) if the UK were to be reduced to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I can think of at least five reasons which explain why our elites badly need Scotland to stay in the Union.
Economic - This may come as a bit of a surprise, but despite the Unionist claims to the contrary, Scotland is a net contributor to the UK economy in more years than not. Scotland has many successful industries, for example tourism and agricultural products. One of which, whisky is an iconic brand throughout the world. And of course there is North Sea Oil. While it may have passed its peak in terms of production, there is still barrels of oil out there to be recovered and discovered. The UK continues to depend on the taxes from North Sea oil and gas to balance its books. Without these revenues the UK government would be in an even bigger mess than it currently is. The revenues from Scotland’s share of these reserves are just too important for our London based elite to give up without a struggle.
Military - This was the reason the UK came into being in the first place. England needed to secure its northern border. While this is no longer a factor - no-one really thinks that Russia or another continental power is going to try and invade the UK. However Scotland is still vital for the UK and its military ambitions. It is a useful place for airbases, but most of all, it is the home for the UK’s nuclear submarines. Where else in England , Wales or Northern Ireland could they be based? Not a choice the military brass and politicians would want to make.
Size - Despite what many people say, size does matter. Especially for countries that want to be seen as great powers. Now the current UK is not that large a landmass as major countries go. The UK is slightly larger than Romania and a bit smaller than Italy. But without Scotland it becomes much smaller. A UK of England, Wales and Northern Ireland would be smaller than Uruguay and just slightly larger than Tunisia. If it was just England on its own, well it would be very slightly smaller than Greece and very slightly larger than Nicaragua. Quite a downgrade in size for a great power. (Not to be contemplated.)
Self-Image - This is clearly related to the above in that for most of our elite and for many English people in general, Great Britain and England are pretty much the same thing. I image that most English people would find it incredibly difficult to draw a map of the UK without Scotland. Probably even more difficult for them to draw a map of England alone. It is, I suspect, way beyond their ken to conceive of the UK without Scotland’s land mass to the north. It is even worse for our London based elite, whose image of themselves is very much related to the notion of Great Britain and all that goes or rather, went with that name. The largest Empire in the world, once upon a time. Yet without Scotland there is no Great Britain, or rather, it reverts to a mere geographical term, without any political substance. There would also be the loss of the Union flag. Union Jack no more. Whatever remains of the UK would need to devise a new flag. And what would this new country be called? To be Prime Minister of the UK of England, Wales and Northern Ireland does not have anything like the same ring to it as Prime Minister of the UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. (We do not like this at all.)
Status and Standing in the World - Here we come to the crux of the matter. While the economic and military aspects of Scottish independence can be negotiated and dealt with, however reluctantly, the other consequences for the rest of the UK are enormous. Or at least for their London based elites. Just what standing in the wider world would or could this truncated UK command. For how much longer could this truncated and much diminished UK retain its permanent seat in the Security Council of the UN? Many in the UK are proud to talk of the UK “punching above its weight” in international affairs. But much of this is a residual of our Imperial past, when GB did rule the waves. I suspect that the loss of Scotland would be seen by our London based elites and by the rest of the world as a massive blow to their power and influence.
So the next time some Unionist politician or cheerleader waxes lyrical about the UK and how much Scotland would lose from leaving, just ask yourself - how much more would the UK lose from an independent Scotland?