Basking in the glorious summer and bursting with pride from the spectacular (if a little kitsch) opening of the Commonwealth Games and the golden haul of medals, Scots could be forgiven for thinking that we had at long last stumbled on a sort of Celtic paradise. The rumble of thunder and the dark clouds building on the distant horizon may bring us quickly back to our senses. We are in the final weeks of the countdown to the 18th September referendum on independence, a day that could sever our 300 year-old ties with the rest of the UK and ensure that any fleeting semblance of paradise was lost.
Fed up with the incompetence of repeated Labour and Lib-Lab coalitions at Holyrood, the people of Scotland used their votes to give Alex Salmond an actual majority, enabling him to form an SNP government and implement his pledge to hold a referendum on independence. As a result, inward investment has virtually ground to a halt. International businesses and industries that are keen to use Scotland as a springboard to market their goods in the EU are now holding back, waiting for the outcome of the referendum, uncertain of the future. They are not willing to risk major investment in a country that might, if it votes YES, leave the EU for an indeterminate period, leave the sterling zone and even have to erect borders with our biggest trading partner – England.
The SNP response to such claims is based on bluff, bluster and denial. We will seamlessly continue as a EU member state on day one of independence, we are repeatedly assured, against virtually all, contrary eminent legal and political opinion in Brussels. We will keep the pound, says Alex Salmond, despite the leaders of the three main political parties at Westminster stating that an independent Scotland will not be allowed to keep the pound. We will ensure that Scotland retains its share of the EU rebate, says Nicola Sturgeon, despite the fact that no new Member State will ever again be allowed to benefit from a rebate, making EU membership more expensive for all Scots.
The SNP majority at Holyrood has also given us a sinister glimpse of what an independent Scotland will look like. A parliamentary committee system, dominated by the SNP, to ensure government policies are driven through with no opportunity for checks or balances. Democratic decisions voted through by local councils called in and overruled by SNP Ministers. A single police force, with armed police walking the streets of Inverness and Aberdeen, as if our cities were like Chicago or Los Angeles. An energy policy based on useless and massively expensive windmills, steadily destroying our landscape, driving over one million Scots families into fuel poverty and leading inexorably to electricity blackouts. Individual state nominated guardians appointed for every Scottish child to ensure their upbringing conforms to SNP Government stereotypes. An embryonic foreign policy based apparently on ‘ban the bomb’ and help Malawi.
As an integral part of the UK, Scotland currently enjoys full diplomatic representation in 267 embassies and 169 trade offices around the world. In contrast, Alex Salmond’s vision is for an independent Scotland to finance around 70 to 90 embassies and 27 trade offices. Currently, as part of the UK, Scots have a respected voice in the UN Security Council, the G7, G8 and G20. We are seen as one of the big players in the EU, not least because the UK is the second biggest contributor to the EU budget. An independent Scotland would never enjoy the same international clout.
It is a deeply depressing outlook and endless talk of a fairer Scotland, social inclusion, standing on our own feet, stopping London Tories from pulling Scotland’s strings and all the usual nationalist guff, cannot hide the dangerous and divisive political experiment that the SNP have embarked upon. Scotland, as we have all come to celebrate in the past few days, is a great country. We have achieved greatness as part of the United Kingdom. We have forged our destiny together with our English, Welsh and Northern Irish neighbours, none of which want us to go. A YES vote would end all of that at a stroke. Paradise Lost.