Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Can the rest of the United Kingdom afford Scottish independence?

Discussing John Barrett's views on Scottish independence earlier this month I wrote:
were I Scottish, if anything could convince me to vote for independence it would be being told that I could not afford it. I would be strongly tempted to vote Yes just to spite such a foolish argument.
Malcolm Bruce, the new deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, does not think it is a foolish argument. He puts an unusually forceful version of it in his interview with Caron Lindsay for Liberal Democrat Voice:
The rest of the UK is not going to indulge a Scotland that’s decided to leave and it’s not going to allow Scotland to go off on a financial frolic on its own, underwritten by the rest of the UK, without any conditions or constraints. So in some ways Scotland would be in a weaker position in terms of its economic management if it was independent than it is in the UK. 
If you have a Plan B, which they don’t, but you’re forced into it because you cannot get the deal you want, therefore you know your promises are undeliverable, you try to relaunch the groat where you’ve got no central bank with any track record, or anybody in it, the currency’s new and you’ve started your arrangement with a default. Then try and raise bonds on the stock market. Scotland would be bankrupt within weeks.
Malcolm may be right, then nationalism has always had more to do with emotion than it has with reason.

What is interesting is his claim that the rest of the UK will not allow Scotland to go its own way while underwriting its debts.

So far the Bank of England has said it will be happy to underwrite Scotland's debt, but this surely cannot be a permanent answer. This would be recipe for irresponsibility on the part of the new Scottish state and you cannot ask the people of the rest of the UK to underwrite policies over which they have no say.

So the question becomes, not can Scotland afford Scottish Independence, but can the rest of the United Kingdom afford Scottish independence?

Getting a Yes vote in the referendum may prove to be only the beginning of the SNP's problems. It could all get very unpleasant, and how can these questions be settled in the absence of amicable relations between the two governments?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Threats just result in more Yes votes. If Scotland is such a burden why does the rest of the UK fight and threaten just to keep Scotland in the Union?There will be problems if Scotland votes yes but neither side would benefit from animosity. Common sense and calmness would have to be the order of the day.