I have a great deal of time and respect for those Scots (and other property owners in Scotland) who wish for the country to become independent. I think, with some notable exceptions, the quality of the debate has been friendly, informed and serious. The abuse that some have received on both sides of the debate from trolls and unpleasant people has been condemned by those with more than two neurons to rub together. There is no place for abuse in this debate.
I have, however, felt the increasing need to state my position, and argue politely for what I think is right for Scotland.
As anyone who knows me will be aware, I feel intensely Scottish. Scotland has given me a strong sense of place and identity, and I place my love of the Highlands higher than anything else in life other than that I feel for my family, and that includes music. Music, family and Scotland's mountains combined make for a fairly heady experience.
If asked on a document as to what nationality I am, I frequently state, "Scottish." I see this not to be in any way at odds with being "British."
I've long puzzled over why nationalism and politics go together. I can understand it when people think they can run their country better because of a linguistic problem. The Hapsburg Empire would seem to have been doomed to failure because it ruled over so many languages, and sought to rule in German. I understand, having a German wife, that language is more than just a way of being understood. It's also a framework for thought, and therefore one thinks differently in different languages. Misunderstandings can occur not just because people don't understand each other, but also because the think differently when they speak in translation or in speaking each other's language. Germans sometimes have a reputation for brusqueness when the speak English, but this is only because they don't use conditionals so much in German, so when they speak English, those of limited experience appear a bit direct, and by our standards rude.
So a linguistic political Nationalism I understand.
I might even understand a "race" or religious Nationalism, as I suppose is exemplified by some States in the Midle East. I'm going to avoid the minefield that this subject is by saying that once again, it clearly doesn't apply to Scotland.
Is Scottish Nationalism not just an emotional state? It's not an intellectual position, is it? Or scientific? If it were scientific, would we not be giving a vote in the referendum to Scots who don't live in Scotland? And here is the central point of my argument against Independence....when politics and emotion go together, it can be a dangerous cocktail, as we've seen across Europe. I'm not suggesting that the SNP are in any way comparable to some of the Nationalistic excesses in Europe of the last 150 years. But surely a decision on the future of Scotland as important as this must be made on economic, intellectual and objective grounds, not because we feel that as being Scots we have a better chance of running our country well.
The Nationalists used to point to Iceland, Ireland and Norway as models for Scotland's independent future. For obvious reasons, they now just point to Norway. Norway is radically different from us economically, and maybe is how Scotland should have been run in the past, but we are where we are today. It's like the Irish politician lost in rural Eire who asks for the way to Dublin, to be told ,"Well, I wouldn't start from here." We have a massive national debt, which we must take our share of and take a share of the blame for. It's not just those south of the border who have been living outwith their means. Remember that the worst casualties of the Financial Meltdown were RBS and Bank of Scotland. Norway has little debt and large financial reserves, has never pretended to posture on the world stage as a leader, and has avoided spending billions on armed forces and expensive, protracted foreign wars. These are all things to admire, about Norwày,and perhaps reason to want an Independent Scotland 150 years ago. And I can see why Nationalists say that that could be our better future (I'd believe it more if they didn't want to remain in Nato). Scotland and Norway's economic positions are radically different, and our situation is much more precarious. You might as well compare ourselves to America as Norway.
Another thing which convinced me to vote No are the, what I consider, unrealistic promises beings made by the Yes campaign, and the certainty they have that they will be able to negotiate everything to their desire., seemingly without compromise.
Take currency union for example, a relatively new venture for the Nationalists...they used to have their eye on the euro. They say we'd have it, the Chancellor (Tory), Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Liberal), Civil Service (Independent) and Governor of the Bank of England have all either said no or expressed doubts about it. London scaremongering claim the SNP. Maybe. But the First Minister of Wales and The First Minister of Northern Ireland also say they wouldn't accept it. And would you want your interest rates, VAT etc set in London if your economy diverges from that of England (which is probably what in an Elysian future the Nationalists would envisage)? In the euro zone at the moment, interest rates are going down. In the UK,they're threatening to go up. Different countries need different economic packages at different times. I would respect the Nationalist position far more if they wished to be truly economically independent from London. This half way house is an emergency position because the euro is seen as being a vote looser.
Then there's the issue of membership of the EU, another thing far from certain. All the Eurocrats say we'll have to reapply, and if we reapply according to the Shengin agreement, we'll have to take on the euro; any new state must.
It is not in David Cameron's interest to fight for the Union. By letting Scotland go, the Conservatives would be the natural party of government south of the border. I'm not willing to declare my political allegiances here, but I've never voted Conservative, and can't see myself doing so. But I admire Cameron for fighting for a principle he believes in. Historically, Scotland has received more from the exchequer than it put in, and when the oil runs out, which it will, this is likely to remain the case. Never was there such a good time for the English to disengage amicably from their northern cousins. But to the eternal credit of the English, and despite considerable provocation, they have a strong admiration and fondness for us Scots which is frequently unreciprocated. We cheer for Uraguay and their rabid forwards. Could you ever imagine English supporters in the Uraguay end cheering against Scotland ?
Final point. The greatest flowering in Scotland's history was The Enlightenment. This came about because we had the most educated, literate populace in Europe. It didn't start to register until after 1707, when wealth and opportunity was created by the exposure to the markets, both home and abroad, of the English Empire. Without this, Watt, Adam, Smith, Hume et al would have remained unsung and isolated figures on the periphery of Europe. Best not to forget that we will always remain geographically on the fringes of Europe....one thing which no one other than tectonics can change.
We are better off together.