I wish I could believe in the promise of an independent Scotland: a land that will be free, green and wealthy. I have listened to passionate nationalists who tell me that Scotland has been exploited for centuries, that we pay more tax than we get, that we have vast reserves of North Sea Oil, that it doesn’t matter if big business moves out and that a currency union with England (and EU membership) is guaranteed.
When I say that I don’t trust the promises of politicians they tell me that the SNP are just a vehicle for escaping from the yoke of Westminster. As soon as we are independent the SNP will fade away, a host of new political parties will appear and Scotland will enter a new age of equality, ecology and wealth. It seems that everyone who believes in radical socialism and environmentalism has jumped on the bandwagon and can’t wait for independence.
Above all they believe that the Scots are so ingenious, inventive and entrepreneurial that nothing could possibly go wrong – and if it did we would sort it out in a jiffy.
I despise the UK political parties, globalism and our over-centralised government as much as the most fervent Yes campaigners – but I can’t accept that the SNP’s proposal for an independent Scotland is anything but a catastrophe for all involved. I believe that Scotland is contemplating economic, political and social suicide.
As soon as Scotland declares independence it will be faced with an insurmountable challenge: joining the EU. Without EU membership Scottish businesses will be faced with immediate import and export taxes, and this would be a death sentence for exporters. The oil, whisky and tourism industries could survive but what else? What would be left of our fragile economy? Who would invest?
The UK is a member of the EU but Scotland will be a new nation state and it will have to negotiate its entry. The SNP say that they would be welcomed with open arms and all that is required is that a treaty be changed and they be added as a new member state. They make it sound as easy as changing a contract between two companies – but when 28 different countries are involved it is anything but easy. If just one country refuses the whole process fails.
Most EU member states probably would welcome Scotland but some of the East Europeans might not. The new member states had to rewrite their legislation to comply with the Acquis Communitaire, the EU’s “body of laws” – a hugely complex and time consuming process – and they may well cry foul. Why should Scotland jump the queue for EU membership?
And how could Spain agree to Scotland becoming an EU member? It would set a precedent for their restive Catalonia region and could result in the breakup of Spain.
The SNP’s economic case for independence rests of the claim that Scotland is an incredibly rich country that is exploited and kept down by Westminster. What they don’t say is that the biggest employer in Scotland is actually the state sector and paying all those salaries, as well as pensions and unemployment benefits, will present an independent Scotland with an immediate, and huge, bill. How will they fund their bloated public sector every month? Easy, the nationalists say: North Sea Oil.
There are several problems here. BP and Royal Dutch Shell agreed with the leading oil industry expert, Sir Ian Wood, who said that Alex Salmond’s projections of oil reserves are wrong. The consensus in the oil industry is that oil is running out and will be totally gone by 2050.
Regardless of the amount of oil reserves found under the North Sea (and the Firth of Clyde, according to former SNP leader Jim Sillars) if Scotland relies on oil it would place their financial fate in the hands of a powerful and secretive cartel of petro-states – who raise and lower the price of oil according to their own economic needs. If oil became Scotland’s main source of tax income it would become hostage to an organisation (OPEC) whose policies (and prices) are beyond its control. Any sudden drop in the price of oil would devastate public sector budgets.
Abdalla Salem el-Badri, the head of OPEC, dismissed the idea of Scotland being allowed to join OPEC – the cartel of major oil producing nations. He also said: “I don’t see how England will stay without Scotland and Scotland stay without England. This is how we all grew up, with the UK, not with Scotland and England.”
None of these economic concerns seem to bother the Scottish nationalists in the slightest. Each devastating fact that emerges about the risks involved are dismissed as “scaremongering” and lies. The unique brilliance of the Scottish character will prevail, we are told, and we are sitting on mountains of wealth. To me this sounds like arrogance (we’re better than everyone else) delusion and fantasy.
The SNP have done a brilliant job of presenting a utopian future but the fact is that we would have to compete in the nasty, corrupt world that we all live in – where multinationals and offshore investment funds rule. We can’t create the green socialist paradise that Alex Salmond suggests as we’ll be struggling to pay the bills and get investors from day one. Perhaps he will ask the Russians, Chinese and North Koreans to come and save us.
By Rupert Wolfe Murray