Monday, 15 September 2014

...if you're going to leave please don't slam the door on the way out


It's Saturday night, we're at one of the barrel-top tables in The George and we get to the moment in the evening when we talk about something other than the day's football results. It's a bit of a ritual - somebody will say, 'perhaps we should talk about something other than football' and we do. And often the topic is political - partly this presents a chance for me to get a gentle ribbing but mostly it provides a sort of half time breather before returning to the travails of Leeds United or the correct pronunciation of Louis van Gaal.

So we talk about the Scottish independence referendum. This isn't a detailed debate - more what d'you think, 'yes' or 'no'? And the consensus is essentially that we'd all rather Scotland didn't pack its bags and leave because, despite all the banter, we rather like the place. But, if Scotland insists on going could they not slam the door on the way out.

The problem is that we also know that Scotland - should the vote be 'yes' - has every intention of not only slamming the door but also kicking over the bins and pulling the gate off the hinges. And then coming back the next day to go round the house with little labels saying, 'that's mine, that's mine, I'm having that'. The idea that Alex Salmond would negotiate in good faith is as ridiculous an idea as believing that the moon is made of green cheese or that Newcastle United can win this year's premier league.

Today several thousand people have gathered in Trafalgar Square clasping their flags and slogans to - politely - encourage Scots to stay with the United Kingdom. In doing so, a lot of people who don't have a vote on Thursday about something that will profoundly affect their country are making the point to Scots that, whatever is said about oil, hospitals, bank notes and bagpipes, we really are stronger as a united kingdom.

Sadly an all too typical Scottish nationalist response is this sort of tweet:

Tory toffs? I had a good look at the picture and saw a lot of ordinary people taking time out after a day at work to urge Scots not to be daft enough to vote for secession. But it suits that nationalist agenda to argue that anyone in a jacket working in London is a 'Tory toff' - a statement only an inch or two away from the related argument that all Tories are English and 'we don't like Tories do we'. And this soon slips into saying that all the English are Tories.

Some argue that it's not England or the English that Salmond and his pals dislike so much but this abstract thing called 'Westminster'. Except that such language is whistle-blowing in the direction of anti-English sentiment - if there is a problem with the sense of entitlement that goes with modern representative government, please don't tell me that it's resolved by moving the location for that sense of entitlement from SW1 to EH1.

In the end I'm with the view of most folk down here. I like Scotland and the Scots, admire the passion for place and the sense of nation but believe secession would be a grave mistake that future generations of Scottish people will come to regret. But if the Scots insist on going, do so quietly without demanding that the country you're leaving gives you everything you have now plus a whole load more. Independence means just that, it means the good and the bad, the tough choices as well as the promises of eternal happiness. What Scotland can't argue for - although this is core to the SNP argument - is for it to have its own apartment, car and wardrobe courtesy of an English sugar daddy.


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