Following the SNP’s unexpected win in the Glasgow East by-election, Cicero is worried about Scotland becoming independent:
The absurd scare stories do not alter the fundamental fact: of course it is perfectly possible for Scotland to be a viable independent state. The question is whether that is desirable let alone necessary, both to the Scottish people and indeed for the wider interests of the whole of the UK.
In my view, it is not only undesirable, it is a potential disaster for the security of the peoples of the current Kingdom, leaving two smaller states far weaker than their collective strength. In the face of the challenges of Russia and China, the UK -despite the looming economic crisis- is a far more viable entity than the separate states. Economically our collective credit rating will fall, and the influence we have together will have gone. Scotland would have the economic influence of Denmark and England about that of Spain- as opposed to a collective footprint today that is nearly equal to Germany and which can certainly contend with India and China.
I am unimpressed by Cicero’s analysis. Taking his points one at a time:
1. countries of 5 million people (Scotland) or 55 million (the rump UK) are just as economically viable as a country of 60 million people. This can be demonstrated by the fact that there are plenty of countries with these populations doing well economically.
2. Splitting a country in two should not in itself cause its credit rasting to change. E.g. if a country with GDP of £1000bn and debts of £500bn split into two countries each of GDP £500bn and debts of £250bn, then the debt to GDP ratios would be the same. Obviously if a country split up in a destabilising way, such as by civil war, that would affect credit rasting. But that’s not going to happen here.
3. regarding influence, the rump UK would have about 90% of the current UK’s economy so would presumably have about 90% of the influence.
4. Spain’s GDP is $1,438bn and the UK’s is $2,772bn; the rump UK’s would be about $2,500bn, clearly greater than Spain’s (data from Wikipedia). This would cause the UK’s GDP to fall slightly below that of France ($2,560bn), but the UK would still have the world’s 6th largest GDP.
In any case, the way to have more economic clout is through greater integration into the EU. The EU’s GDP is $16,830bn, vastly greater than the USA ($13,843bn), China ($3,250bn), Japan ($4,383bn), or indeed anyone else. If the EU was able to have a common foreign policy, then any threats it made (e.g. of an economic boycott of a county) would be vastly more credible than any threats Britain could make.
Cicero also worries that the split might not be amicable:
All this assumes, of course, that any split would be reasonably amicable. But suppose it was not? One does not have to predict Yugoslav levels of violence to see outcomes that could be very disruptive. There may be considerable resentment in the rest of the UK. Scots may face problems in England or Wales, English people already complain of insults and discrimination in Scotland. Instead of the velvet divorce like that of the Czechs and Slovaks which the Nationalists forsee, there could be a bickering and poisonous divorce- as most divorces are- with legal and financial disputes that last for years after separation.
When a couple gets divorced, they can choose to live hundreds of miles awasy from each other. Countries aren’t like that. Scotland and England are always going to be neighbours, so both countries would know that it is in their interests to have amicable relations. So self-interest would prevent relations from deteriorating too much. Incidently, I’m an Englishman living in Scotland and I’ve never come across any prejudice or hostility.
The 55th Parliament of the United Kingdom could be the last, but if David Cameron does not wish to be the last Prime Minister of the UK, he must answer the legitimate aspirations of the different parts of the Kingdom, without turning Westminster into an English Parliament- for that way lies the certain break up of our country.
But does Cameron want Scotland to remain in the UK? Most Scottish parliamentary constituencies are going to return non-Conservative MPs under any reasonable scenario, so if Scotland left the UK it would make it easier for Cameron to get re-elected.
Alex Salmond wants very much to manufacture a row between Scotland and the UK government. It’s conceivable that Cameron would go along with it, and that as a result, a Scottish referendum would vote for independence. I don’t think independence will happen, but it doesn’t seem plausible that it might.