By Bob Duncan
The local authority elections are finally over and the SNP has emerged as the clear winner, at least from an arithmetic point of view.
Assuming the ConDems manage to hold onto power at Westminster, only the European elections of May 2014 stand between us and the independence referendum and those are likely to be little more than an opinion poll for the referendum itself.
We hear from the leadership of the SNP that the launch of the “Yes” campaign is only days away, and we can expect a “No” campaign to begin soon, if somewhat tentatively, as the pro-dependence parties begin their communal dance, circling one another as they reach towards some form of coalescence. It would seem that the phoney war is about to end, allowing the debate to pass from the procedural to the political.
It is often claimed that Scottish independence will bring with it a number of highly undesirable consequences, notably a significant decrease in national income, the end of progressive social democracy, serious questions over national security and an uncertain future in the geopolitical arena.
One may be forgiven for dismissing such concerns as the usual scaremongering by those with little positive to offer, but in reality these are the completely predictable outcomes of Scottish Independence – not for the newly independent Scottish state itself – but for the rest of the UK, as it comes to terms with its post-Union future.
These dire consequences for the rUK are also the primary reasons why the Westminster will resist Scottish self-determination with all of the means at its disposal, despite recent claims that the incompetence of the Unionist camp demonstrates a secret wish to finally be rid of us. That may be true of a number of Tory back benchers, but is clearly not the view of the UK establishment.
Allow me to explain.
Take first the prediction of a decrease in National income. The UK has bolstered its current spending using Scottish oil revenues for almost forty years, avoiding national bankruptcy at times, and considerably reducing its budget deficit at others. This income stream has also allowed large capital projects in South Eastern England to be funded, such as the Thames barrage, Crossrail and the London orbital motorway. Do not forget, also, that 25% of all UK corporation tax comes from oil-related businesses.
Almost all of this is about to disappear from the rUK balance of payments in a very few short years. At a time when energy resources are likely to be the key to national success, it is Scotland which is holding all the cards. With between 1 and 2 Trillion pounds of oil reserves, around a quarter of Europe’s renewable energy potential, and even the prospect of enough submarine methane hydrates to dwarf oil revenues, Scotland’s economy is set to outstrip that of the rUK in a way first predicted back in the 1970’s by the long-suppressed McCrone report. Over the same period, hard financial times await those South of the border.
Then what of the end of progressive social democracy? The loss of the thirty-odd Labour MPs from Scotland will not, as is often suggested, lead to a continual dominance of the Conservative Party in the rUK. Even without MPs from Scotland, the present administration in Westminster would need to be a coalition.
However, the two main parties in English politics are chasing a centre-right electorate in the South-East corner of the country, against a background of a rise in the far right, as exemplified by UKIP and the BNP, and the disintegration of the Lib Dems. The future of English progressive politics does not look rosy, and it is English politics which will dominate the rUK due to simple force of numbers.
And those questions over national Security? The location of all of the UK’s nuclear weapons in Scotland, with no obvious alternative site in England (under the circumstances, we can probably discount Wales as an option) must place the continuation of the rUK as a nuclear power in some doubt.
Even if those nuclear facilities are eventually re-sited, this may make their replacement impossible and could lead to their eventually being scrapped. The renewal of Trident, in any case, may be an unaffordable option for a cash-strapped, energy-poor economy, increasingly forced to import most of its fuel, water and other raw materials.
Finally, we come to the question of the rUK’s uncertain future in the geopolitical arena. Westminster’s claim to World Power status is based primarily on having a veto in the United Nations, an historical anomaly that is hardly merited by its current influence or military might.
The loss of Scotland must put continued permanent membership of the UN Security Council in serious jeopardy, if for no other reason than its providing a unique opportunity for a realignment of the current membership. The rUK would need to renegotiate its way back in, and from a position considerably weaker than that which it currently enjoys. On the surface, that seems quite ambitious.
So, given all of the dire consequences of Scottish Independence, for what is left of the UK at least, we should not be surprised if the fight to keep control of Scotland is a hard one. All of the dirty tricks will be brought into play, from the biased media to scare tactics, and even the security services, and the “No” campaign will not be a positive one.
Misinformation, propaganda, fearmongering and much worse will characterise the lead-up to the referendum and no dastardly deed will be left untried.
We must be ready for this form of opposition if we are to win the popular argument, and must fight negativity with a consistently positive message. We must concentrate on the solutions to poverty, deprivation and ill-health which will be made possible by self-determination, and not advocate independence for its own sake.
We must dominate those new media to which we are not denied access, and we must use them wisely and use them well. And, most of all, we must win the battle on the doorsteps, in the workplaces and in the pubs.
If, over the next two years,each of us overcomes the fears of just one other person, inspiring that individual with the vision to vote for her or his own freedom, then we will prevail. It is the individual voices of those who share a positive vision for the future of this country that will make this happen. Not the political parties, not “Civic Scotland”, not the governments in Edinburgh or London.
It is you and I, face-to-face, online, in print, making the case for self-determination wherever and whenever we can, that will finally win our people their freedom.
And the campaign starts right here, right now.