The Great Scottish Question



There is a considerable irony that I will be in Scotland next week to see my (English) aunt who is presently 103 years old.  She moved there when her (English) daughter and (English) son-in-law moved there with his work.   I assume they will all have a vote in the Great Scottish Question next week while Scots who are living elsewhere will not. Add to that the extension of the Scottish franchise to 16-year olds who will mainly have had no experience of earning a living or the realities of the real world and we all face interesting and challenging times!

The debate seems to be polarising on political issues with the Scottish Labour voters apparently favouring separation.  I can understand this.  At a superficial level, I could be attracted to the idea of losing Scottish MPs from the Westminster Parliament, thus guaranteeing a permanently Conservative Westminster administration.  This would enable us to sort out the inefficient and bloated NHS and, perhaps, even our school system that has failed generations of pupils because of slavish adherence to the teacher unions, to trendy teaching styles and political correctness.

At the same time, the Scots can revert to the socialist model they clearly desire with state funded and managed health and school systems with no fear of intrusion from the South. Of course, the question to ask is why health and education seem to work in Scotland but nowhere as well in England?   Could it be connected with the Barnett Formula that allocates £25 to Scotland for every £20 allocated to England?  No wonder the roads improve as one crosses the border.  No wonder there are no student fees in Scotland!

While I could suffer a momentary attachment to the idea of a permanent Conservative government for England in the same way that the Scots seem to be attracted to gaining permanent socialism in their country, I cannot contemplate the sheer stupidity of this view in the longer term.

To start the break up of the United Kingdom as Salmond and his team are clearly determined and as will surely follow with Wales and Northern Ireland as day follows night seems to me to be complete madness.  This will relegate Great Britain or,  more accurately, the separate nation states of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to small countries no longer able to punch above their weight and no longer enjoying a special relationship with the USA.  Do we really want this?

Do we really believe it is anyone’s interest to divide our armed forces and our overseas representation?  Do we really think we will gain by years of argument over how much of the bloated national debt belongs to each of the nation states? Do we expect England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to enjoy the same credit rating in the money markets as the United Kingdom?   Will the Barnett Formula continue to give Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a much larger share of the national revenue pool than England?

I am afraid that Gordon Brown’s campaign to save the Union may well help the separatist cause and I fear the same is true about Cameron, Miliband and Clegg tramping off to Scotland.  It may be too late to save the United Kingdom and an emasculated but permanently Conservative England is a poor second.

Are the Scots really that stupid?   I fear they may be.


About Keith R Mitchell CBE

Qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1967. Pursued a successful career in financial training and publishing until selling his interests in 1990. Elected a County Councillor for the Bloxham Division in 1989. Leader of Oxfordshire County Council 5 November 2001 to 15 May 2012. Chairman of the South East England Regional Planning Committee July 2002 to July 2005. Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly July 2005 to July 2008. In HM the Queen’s 2007 Birthday Honours, appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of services to local government.
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