Thanks to the SNP the partition of Scotland is no longer as far-fetched as it used to be

Thanks to the SNP the partition of Scotland is no longer as far-fetched as it used to be

by Allan Sutherland
article from Monday 31, August, 2020

EVERY INDYREF needs its eve of poll “just to make sure” Vow. In 2014 it was tax powers, transport police and new welfare powers.  Imagine if, on the eve of an Indyref2, the British Prime Minister’s “vow” was  that any council region that voted by 60 per cent or more to remain in the UK, would have its right to self-determination respected and that region would not form part of any Scexit  negotiations.

In the 2014 referendum 29 out of Scotland’s 32 Council regions voted Remain, eleven of them – Borders, Dumfries, East Lothian, Orkney and Shetland, Perthshire, East Lothian, East Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire, Aberdeen City and Shire, and Edinburgh – by 60 per cent or more. 

Edinburgh voted 61.4 per cent to stay in the UK. In fact of 500,000 citizens only 124,000 – 25 per cent – went out and voted to leave the UK. 

If this happened again Scotland would be looking for a new capital, the negotiations would be in turmoil,  and the world would be bemused, to say the least. 

This is not far-fetched;  the idea of areas of Scotland remaining in the UK was discussed by both sides last time round and is surfacing again.  

In 2012, Angus McNeil SNP MP for the Western isles told the BBC that both Shetland and Orkney would be permitted to remain part of the UK regardless of the referendum result “if there was a big enough drive for self-determination” among the residents. He was responding  to a submission to the Government’s consultation by MSP’s who warned the islands could opt to remain part of the UK even if the rest of Scotland voted to separate. 

And the he day before the 2014  referendum  Alistair Carmichael, the MP for Orkney and Shetland, suggested  that in these circumstances  Shetland could  becoming a self-governing region similar to the Faroes (Denmark) or a Crown dependency, like  the Isle of Man

Recently Jamie Blackett, the deputy leader of George Galloway’s Alliance4Unity party, wrote an article supporting the idea of the Borders and Dumfries remaining in the UK, and two weeks ago you could buy tickets for an event entitled “Guantanamo on the Clyde: How to block any plan for continued nuclear weapons operations on the Clyde after Scottish independence” . It was hosted by Bill Ramsay, chair of the SNP’s CND supporters to counter proposals in favour of a cash-strapped Scotland being left with no option but to lease the Trident base to the UK and (pardon the pun) torpedoing the SNP’s holier-than-thow approach to defence policy. By the way, Argyll and Bute, Faslane’s council region, voted 58.6 per cent “Yes”, so that could be a superbly defended UK enclave. 

These ideas strike at the core of the “stories”  Professor Iain Black of Stirling University has been encouraging the SNP to embrace; the integrity of Scotland as a geographic, cultural and economic whole, appropriation of the moral high ground on race, gender, environment and nuclear war, and our huge natural, people and built assets. Their erosion threatens to dismantle the whole hyped “case, “Ulsterise” Scotland, and expose the vulnerability and reality of the “parts”, particularly the reliance on a few prosperous regions subsidising the rest. 

Just one quick example: if the most economically successful areas, Edinburgh and Aberdeen (City and Shire) remained in the UK  an independent Scotland’s GDP or GVA per capita would fall by a Covid-style 10 per cent. 

Politically and culturally the most real scenario is moving the border north, losing Dumfries and the Borders to the rest of the UK. It is a contiguous land connection, with a history of economic and cultural relations to the south. 

The people living there can still feel British and Scottish, and it may encourage a revival of an area badly affected by de-industrialisation as businesses move to a more stable fiscal, tax, pension and political environment and single market.  

Similarly, people – like me – who don’t want to live in a nationalist, hate crime, divided Scotland could move there, creating a kind of “Little Scotland” commuter/expat belt without having to move to Northumbria or further south –  and still travel to work in Scotland. It might even be a kind of safety valve to stop or delay large movements of people by enabling some to give an independent Scotland a try before deciding whether to move to the “borders bolthole”. 

In fact, if 61.4 per cent “Remain” East Lothian in this would create an “East Coast UK Panhandle”  from the  Tweed to the Forth, raising the prospect of a border post on the new bridge. For Passport to  Pimlico read Customs at Corstorphine. 

The real game changer would be if Edinburgh and Aberdeen did the same. I attended the Aberdeen State of the Cities Conference last November .       

Aberdeen City Council  is a coalition of Labour and Conservative,  very frustrated by the increasing centralisation of local government, the unfair treatment the area gets in terms of funding and business rates – and eager to have more autonomy to mastermind and execute its transition from oil and gas to new high tech, high productivity, green industries.  A lot of time was spent discussing the City Region model, in particular the Manchester example.  

It got me wondering about the UK government refusing to cede a 60 per cent No vote Grampian region and instead grant us Crown Dependency status. We’d be a big loss to Scotland and a net contributor to the UK. 

In 2017, two  years after the oil price slump, Scotland’s GVA per capita was £25.5k, Aberdeen’s was £47k,  Aberdeenshire’s was £30k – and the  Grampian average was £38k.  

By comparison Edinburgh’s GVA is £44k, Glasgow £31k, North Lanarkshire £18k, Dundee and Angus £23k. If Aberdeen City and Shire and Edinburgh left, Scotland’s GVA per capital – and GDP – would reduce by 10 per cent, almost as bad – and more permanent – than the  Covid recession and  likely to drive Scotland’s structural deficit up further. 

The transition for either city would be much simpler and quicker than joining an independent Scotland. 

We have functioning subsets of Scottish devolution in terms of a police and legal system, education, health and local government, there would be no messy separation with rUK on pensions, defence, welfare and membership of international organisations like NATO and the UN, and we have excellent air, sea, road and rail infrastructure. The southern landfall of our three iconic Forth bridges is within Edinburgh’s boundaries  We have a distinct culture and traditions and we’d still be Scottish and British. 

There are plenty of precedents. Singapore, Gibraltar, and Hong Kong demonstrated what is possible while closer to home the Channel Islands and Isle of Man are autonomous but remain in the British family.  

Brexit and Covid have muddied the Scottish independence waters to the consistency of wet concrete. 

Last week’s GERS figures will be the last for several years that clearly show Scotland’s dependence on the UK with any simple clarity. Future years will feature astronomic amounts of debt, deficit and GDP fluctuation that will make comparisons and future predictions almost impossible. 

Guantanamo on the Clyde, Corstorphine Crossing, East Coast Panhandle, the Borders Bolthole? 

The idea of Scotland being wrenched from the UK – or Balkanised as described above – is horrible, stupid and suicidal. If either happened  then we truly  would have been “too wee in outlook, too poor in brains, and very stupid to have allowed the SNP, Scotland's 21st century parcel or rogues to drag us out of the UK against our will.  

Brexit, new powers already made available, the need for import and skills substitution, and new opportunities of state intervention and deregulation, for example in freeports, need to be grasped not rejected by nationalists in a sour huff. But if push came to shove I’d rather live in ‘Little Scotland’ than Nicola Sturgeon’s People’s Republic of Lesser Caledonia. And, you never know, Angus McNeil might yet get his wee bit hill… minus the glens. 

Allan Sutherland is an IT consultant.

Angus Mcneil report commenting on  a submission to the UK Government’s consultation on the referendum by Orkney and Shetland MSP’s that the islands could opt to remain part of the UK even if the rest of Scotland voted to separate, 

Alistair Carmichael 

Scotland GVA Statista 

Jamie Blackett Broadcast 

Bill Ramsay The UK could lease Fasland from Scotland 

Prof. Iain Black Stories 

Aberdeen Economic Conference and Report per cent20Policy per cent20Panel per cent202019 per cent20FINAL.pdfAberdeen 

UK Defence Journal Faslane Rent £1bn 

Aberdeeen City and Shire Economc report

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