1. Independence is normal. It is normal for a nation to desire independence. Most nations in the world are independent. Those that aren’t are usually so because they are tiny or they suffer political oppression. This isn’t the case for Scotland.
2. The United Kingdom is “abnormal”. This is not a criticism of the UK. I mean only that it is unusual that 4 nations have agreed, like the UK, to fuse into one state. All 4 governments need to justify to their own peoples their reasons for giving up sovereignty to a joint nation. They also need to review the arrangements from time to time. In simple terms, the Scottish referendum is a type of review.
3. No-one said that the UK must go on forever. Most good things come to an end. The UK exists only because 3 small Celtic nations have agreed to union with its large Anglo-Saxon neighbour. England can’t make this continue forever. But there will always be an England. England and Scotland don’t need each other to survive as nations.
4. Scotland has only 10% of the population of England and this can make it hard for us to work together in a political union. It is inevitable that smaller partners in a political union will make the bigger compromises. Scotland’s population makes it a very junior partner in the UK Parliament. We can’t be too surprised if sooner or later Scotland feels that the compromises are too much to bear. Rather, we should be more surprised that the union has lasted so long.
5. There is a poor relationship between the current UK and Scottish governments which shows no signs of improving while Scotland remains in the UK. The Scottish government is now run by a party which has the support of more than 50% of Scottish voters. This party (the SNP) operates in Scotland only and wants independence from the UK. It therefore has no interest in balancing the interests of Scotland against the rest of the UK. This is a recipe for political deadlock within the union.
6. We know where we stand better with an independent Scotland. Every independent nation acts in its own best interests. The UK has to act in the best interests of 4 nations. Those interests sometimes conflict. The Scottish government often tells the UK government that it is not acting in Scotland’s best interests. With independence, Scotland and the UK can pursue their own interests openly and negotiate with each other sensibly on this basis.
7. In healthy families, parents give their blessing to children when they grow up and fly the nest. The union has recently been likened to a “family of nations”. In unhealthy families, parents either don’t care about their children once they grow up or won’t let them leave home easily. Mature parents give their blessing to children when they decide to leave home, in spite of any misgivings or their own feelings. Whatever we feel about Scottish independence, we will do well to wish Scotland the best in its new national adventure, and remain on good terms.
8. A majority “No” vote is still likely to lead to an unhappy union. Polls show at least 40% of Scottish voters currently want independence. Many “No” voters will vote on the basis of perceived economic risks or because they don’t want change. However, there are now few Scots who still feel a positive attachment to the UK political system. Following a “No” vote, we can expect the UK political system to be continually attacked by the SNP and other Scots, and for Scottish disenchantment with Westminster to become stronger. We will do better to focus our energies on improving England rather than struggling to keep an unhappy Scotland in the union.
9. We have significant ongoing business links which need not be jeopardised by independence. England and Scotland are major trading partners. We owe it to ourselves not to let political changes put at risk valuable business relationships with Scotland. We also should not put at risk English jobs dependent on trade with Scotland. The SNP recognises the importance of maintaining projects with mutual benefit. If we maintain a positive attitude to relations with Scotland whatever happens in the referendum, we should not fear Scottish independence. If we take umbrage and treat people and businesses in Scotland worse after independence, we will be more to blame for any repercussions on fellow English people.
10. The shared history of England and Scotland means that we owe it to Scotland to let them leave on amicable terms. Scotland has been in union with England for over 300 years. We have fought wars together and helped each other have prosperity, to say the least. That counts for something. If Scotland now decides to leave the union, this won’t change our shared past. But we owe it to them, and to ourselves, to negotiate with Scotland an honourable exit from the UK, if that is what they want, and to build a positive future relationship as national neighbours on new terms.