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Siobhan Courtney
Siobhan Courtney
Siobhan Courtney is a British freelance broadcast journalist and writer.
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Does Scotland want a divorce?
Scottish calls for independence seemingly ignore the many consequences, economically and otherwise, that would arise.
Last Modified: 23 Jan 2012 12:35
First Minister Alex Salmond has announced a 2014 referendum on Scotland's independence [GALLO/GETTY]

London, United Kingdom - So Scotland no longer wants to be "united" with the United Kingdom, according to the leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond. In their vision for independence, the SNP cite Sweden's "generous" maternity and paternity leave, Norway's pension pot generated from oil and Denmark "leading the world" in onshore wind technology as shining examples of small independent states to aspire to. And that is what Scotland is aspiring to be - a small independent state.
 
But where does a small independent state fit in with the UK? It doesn't, and Scotland should not break up this union. They should stay committed - for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health (as we have done for 300 years). England and Scotland need to stand united together in their "marriage".

First Minister Alex Salmond wants to call a referendum for Scotland's independence, but doesn't seem to be in too much of a rush - 2014 is his preferred date. He wants to divorce England but wants to wait two years to do it. It seems Salmond is biding his time, waiting for the right moment to ensure he becomes a free man. 
 
This is a bit like someone saying to their lover: "I've fallen out of love with you and it's over, but you'll do for two more years until the time is right for me to go." (And we all know how those relationships turn out) The thing is, however, Mr Salmond, this isn't a passionate love affair fuelled by lust and longing, this is a union, a commitment that should not be broken up just because you think you'll be better off on your "own".
 
The world needs a united Britain
 
As Ryunosuke Satoro said: "Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean." Following the act of the Union 300 years ago, there was indeed an ocean formation - Great Britain became great. What did we achieve? Establishing a British empire; igniting the industrial revolution; abolishing slavery; standing up against and defeating fascism - to name but a few. Charles Darwin, James Clerk Maxwell, Alexander Graham Bell, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, John Logie Baird, Frank Whittle - the list goes on and on of inspirational figures that Great Britain is quite rightly greatly proud of.

"England doesn't want Scotland to leave this marriage, but if you want a divorce, Scotland, you can't walk away and still enjoy the benefits of being together. It's all or nothing."

A united Britain means a united voice. We need to be heard on a domestic and international scale. The United Kingdom's global presence, if broken up, would diminish greatly. Surely in such uncertain economic times, we need to strengthen our global position, not weaken it? Would an independent Scotland have to flog all its oil revenues to ensure they would be awarded a Standard and Poor's AAA rating - and what about the rest of the United Kingdom? Where would that leave their credit rating? Neither Scotland or the United Kingdom would be as desirable from an international perspective and there's no point pretending otherwise.

Would the UK and Scotland both be allowed to have a seat on the UN security council - who would sit behind who? And what about the G8? Who would fit in where? Peering through the windows and watching from the sidelines is something neither would accept.  
 
Also, what about Wales and Northern Ireland? I can't see Wales following Scotland's lead and going for independence - financially it just doesn't make any sense and they know it. First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "People should not pretend that independence for Wales would be a good thing." Mr Jones went on to say being part of the UK gives Wales a much stronger voice on the world stage. He also added: "We know financially that it's not in our interests. And money is transferred from richer parts of the UK into Wales."
 
Northern Ireland are sticking with Wales on this. Speaking at the Northern Ireland Assembly, First Minister Peter Robinson outlined his hopes that Scotland would remain "an integral part of the United Kingdom". The First Minister also spoke of the irony that, "the moment when there seems a real possibility of some form of break-up of the United Kingdom, [and] that Northern Ireland was not the cause of it."

One other point to consider is that if Scotland did leave the UK, there would need to be a huge spring clean and re-shuffle of MPs at Westminster to ensure Wales and Northern Ireland had a stronger presence and were fairly represented in the absence of Scotland. It wouldn't be good to have an English parliament full of English MPs - after all we would still be the United Kingdom would we not? Moreover, if Scotland did gain independence, would that mean the West Lothian question would finally be answered?
 
Who gets custody - and of what?
 
So many questions, and with any custody battle, both parties are hardly going to agree on who gets what in the split. Would independence, for example, mean new passports for the Scots? What an obscene waste of money setting up controls, presumably somewhere near the border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. It seems well, so petty, to subject our northern neighbours to queue to enter England and vice versa. But that's Westminster for you - no surprises there.
 
On Alex Salmond's wish list is Scotland having its own foreign policy and forces, but the first minister is happy to share defenceand military bases. Can't see that one working out.

"And will independence bring a new currency for Scotland? I doubt very much Scotland would want to use the euro and be destined for a fate like Greece or Ireland."

David Cameron: "Hi Alex, I know we haven't spoken in a while but I need a favour. Can we borrow a couple of your bases? England needs a bit of help with some conflict that's turning a bit nasty?"

Alex Salmond: "No, sorry Dave. They're not available at the moment and besides I don't want Scotland getting involved in your mess. Try Wales or Northern Ireland. Bye."

Now, I'm no economist, but surely the cost of building Scotland's own navy, army and air force would be astronomical in relation to their size and presence. More importantly, what about the servicemen who would want to stay serving with the British armed forces? There are moral and ethical considerations to consider by wrenching them out to serve only Scotland. And what about English personnel? Would they still be welcomed - or even recruited? I would hope so.
 
The SNP haven't been that forthcoming with clarification on all of these questions but they couldn't be any clearer on their plans for nuclear weapons. The first minister has guaranteed to scrap the Trident nuclear programme saying: "Never again would we be spilling and wasting our best blood in illegal wars like Iraq." Salmond last week confirmed to Al Jazeera "after we become independent, Trident weapons of mass destruction will no longer be based in Scottish waters". But where would they go?

The only viable options that spring to mind would be Wales or the South West of England. To move them from Faslane would cost billions and take years. In an interview with the World at One Angus Robertson, the SNP's spokesperson for foreign affairs and defence stated: "I have to say, they might find it difficult to find locations in England, but perhaps they should have thought about that before foisting it on the people."

And what about the (dwindling) oil revenues? They are in Scottish waters but I can't see England saying goodbye to their returns on their investments. Murky waters ahead for that one.
 
And will independence bring a new currency for Scotland? I doubt very much Scotland would want to use the euro and be destined for a fate like Greece or Ireland. Salmond wants the relationship on his terms and wants to retain sterling, but how, then, can Scotland wholly have independence - while using another country's currency?

The Bank of England (England would technically then be a "foreign" country to Scotland) would set the interest rates, so Scotland's monetary policy would controlled by England, with England's - not Scotland's - interests at heart. To have two countries wanting to spend their money in their own ways, but sharing the same currency would be a disaster. Germany and Greece anyone?

And so that pesky subject of the euro arises again. Presumably Scotland would have to apply to join the EU, meaning they'll being governed by Germany and France via Brussels. So Scotland won't be truly independent, as it'll be in Brussels' hands. All that hassle to be in someone else's control - not a great outlook is it?

I wonder if Alex Salmond would feel as passionate about dividing the national debt on a per capita basis as he does about keeping sterling? Like the UK as a whole, Scotland is "spending" more than it's "earning", with a bloated public sector. The SNP surely wouldn't want to follow the lead of their arch nemesis Tories - brutally culling and cutting public services that the electorate need most. And on the subject of the Conservatives, they couldn't be any more of a rare and endangered species in Scotland. Since the arrival of Tian Tian and Yang Guang there's a joke going around that there are more giant pandas in Scotland than Conservative MPs. And before the Tories start whinging that they're misrepresented and misunderstood in Scotland - there are only two words in response to that: Margaret Thatcher .
 
A muddled alternative - otherwise known as Devolution-Max
 
We know what Alex Salmond wants, but are the Scots following his pining for independence? It seems not - the most recent poll from YouGov shows that only 39 per cent of Scots want total independence. So to stop that dream of independence slipping away, the first minister - instead of a straight "yes" or "no" on the referendum - has chucked a third option into the mix: "Devolution-Max" (also known as full fiscal autonomy).

This basically means that Scotland would stay in the UK (so not achieve Salmond's aim of becoming fully independent) and have responsibility for everything, but foreign and defence policy which would fall under the control of Westminster. Trident submarines would be staying in Scottish waters, as England wouldn't want to move them. Troops wouldn't be serving in the Scottish forces, and Westminster would still be pulling the strings - as Scotland would officially still be part of the UK. According to the YouGov poll, 58 per cent of Scots favour devo-max.
 
But isn't devo-max a bit like being in a relationship, but not being totally sure of where you stand? You want to be with your lover, exclusively, all the time (the equivalent of Salmond wanting full independence) but your lover (Scottish electorate) isn't sure and doesn't want to take the risk. But you'd rather have them than have nothing at all - even if it does expose you to uncertainty, leaving you with that sinking feeling in your stomach.

England doesn't want Scotland to leave this marriage, but if you want a divorce, Scotland, you can't walk away and still enjoy the benefits of being together. It's all or nothing. In Great Britain at the moment there are so many questions that not even Mr Salmond, currently holding the title of Briton of the Year (which coudn't be anymore ironic) knows the anwers to. The only thing left to say to Alex Salmond is to listen to the Unionists - and don't let Great Britain and the United Kingdom become a thing of the past.
 
Siobhan Courtney is a British freelance broadcast journalist and writer. She is a former BBC World News presenter and BBC News journalist who has reported and written for BBC Newsnight.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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