Positive case for the union

Posted by fitheach on Thu 05 July 2012


The union between Scotland and England began in 1707, Ireland "joined" the union in 1801 and most of Ireland "left" again in 1922. So, the union has existed in a form for 305, 211 or 90 years depending on your definition. After such a long time it would be expected that successive Westminster governments operating what was recently heralded as a "redistributive union" would have banished poverty and inequality. However, the reality is Scotland which is one of the most energy rich nations in Europe has the most deprived areas of the UK and some of the lowest life expectancy levels in the EU. These statistics aren't bad, they are a disgrace.


Santa Claus

Positive case for the union

Loch Ness monster

The Tooth Fairy

If we take May 2011, when the SNP won an outright majority in the Holyrood elections, as the real starting date for the constitutional debate those supporting the union have had a year and a bit to express how Scotland benefits. The silence has been deafening. There has been plenty of noise from the anti-independence parties about the referendum date, what the question should be, attempted smears on Alex Salmond and plenty of scare stories. However, nobody has clearly articulated the benefits of the union. Even the UK Prime Minister when he  gave his lecture at the lectern in February 2012 omitted to say why Scotland is better off as part of the UK and instead spent his time offering some jam tomorrow if Scots voted "no".

The launch of the English Tory funded "No campaign" headed by former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling surely would be the platform where they could tell Scots why they are better off in the union. The no campaign website, called "Better Together", has a short page entitled "the +ve case" which one would expect to be a high level summary of all the benefits of the union. Perhaps we can tease out the positive case for the union by analysing the arguments on this page.

Better Together

A strong Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom gives us the best of both worlds: real decision making power here in Scotland, as well as a key role in a strong and secure UK.

What can they can mean by a "strong Scottish Parliament"? It should be considered progress that they refer to it as a parliament rather than an assembly, an executive or even a parish council. The next two parts of the sentence are just plain nonsense. "Real decision making power" would mean the Scottish Parliament could set income and corporation tax, avoid taking part in illegal adventure wars and banish nuclear weapons from Scottish soil. The Scottish Parliament currently can't do any of these things. Scotland returns less than 10% of the total number of the UK MPs to Westminster so it is not a "key role" more of a bit player.

Repetition of the word "strong" doesn't necessarily make it true. Perhaps "strong" is a form of antanaclasis that fails the clarity test. There are many interpretations that can be made of the phrase "secure UK" as it is left undefined. For a document that sets out to be positive it uses a lot of language which denigrates Scotland by suggesting we are not strong enough to make it without Westminster. This is a slightly subtler version of the too wee, too poor, too stupid meme.

In the UK the BBC and the Bank of England were founded by Scotsmen.

Tosh. The BBC was founded by a group of companies and John Reith (later Lord Reith), a Scotsman, joined as an employee. The Bank of England was effectively founded by a Scotsman, William Paterson, in 1694 a full 13 years before the UK was created which is probably why it got its name. This demonstrates poor historical research and is a spurious argument.

As an alternative suggestion we could haveThomas Jefferson, who was of Scottish descent, a founding father of the United States and the chief author of The Declaration of Independence reputedly modelled on The Declaration of Arbroath. Some have suggested that as many as three-quarters of the signatories to The Declaration of Independence were Scots or were of Scottish descent including Jefferson. Speaking in 2008 George W. Bush, then US President, acknowledged the debt America owed to "Scots' strong dedication to liberty" and also their "tradition of freedom".

We are proud that we fought together to defeat fascism

Lots of countries fought against fascism they didn't need to be part of a union to do that. Citizens of Australia, Bangladesh, New Zealand, India, Canada, Pakistan, South Africa and many others fought and died to defeat fascism. Those countries which were part of the British Empire have long since become independent countries.

But the case we make is about what's best for Scotland's future.

I am waiting with bated breath.

Times are really tough at home and really turbulent internationally. In the future Scotland's prosperity will be strengthened by keeping the British connection. We need more growth, more jobs, and more prosperity in Scotland. We don't need uncertainty, instability, and barriers for our businesses.

There is an obvious implication in this paragraph that in the past Scotland's prosperity wasn't strengthened by being part of the UK. I refer the reader to the penultimate stanza of The Proclaimer's song "Letter to America". If there is anything causing uncertainty it is David Cameron. Firstly, the Prime Minister makes a show by trying to veto an EU treaty which only succeeded in isolating the UK from our European partners. Then in a further move to appease his anti-Europe backbenchers the PM suggests a referendum on EU membership.

Stating that we need "more prosperity" is a self evident truism which adds nothing to the debate and adding "uncertainty, instability, and barriers" is their modern day twist on here be dragons. Instead of empty rhetoric the no campaign would be better served by presenting a coherent argument supported by facts.

In these tough and turbulent times, the size, strength and stability of the UK economy is a huge advantage for Scotland's businesses.

The UK is indebted to the tune of £1,000 billion which hardly makes it strong or stable. The UK economy returned to recession, the frequently predicted "double-dip", in the first three months of 2012. George Osborne's sole tool of quantitative easing combined with austerity cuts haven't stimulated growth and don't look like they will in the near future.

A independent Scottish government would be able to implement economic policies which would suit businesses in Scotland. Westminster governments, at best, can only make compromises because the Scottish economy is not their sole consideration.

The UK is the world's oldest and most successful single market and the UK has the oldest and most successful currency - the pound.

More historical tosh and unsubstantiated assertions. I would be interested to read their definition of a "successful currency". If instead we look at the relative performance of the UK economy in terms of GDP we can see that it has steadily declined since 1900 against the USA, Japan and our European neighbours. More recently in comparison with the developing nations the UK performance is even worse.

However, the important consideration is how would Scotland's economic performance compare to the rest of the UK. Luckily, we have this data and it is clear that for GDP per capita Scotland would be the sixth most prosperous country in the world with the UK trailing well behind in 16th place.

The UK is better placed than a separate Scotland or England to help our businesses find and win new orders across the world.

Citation needed.

Companies win business based on superior products, more efficient distribution and/or better prices. The Scottish Government can, and has helped, by encouraging business sectors, ensuring a well trained workforce, attracting inward investment, etc. I haven't seen any evidence presented by the no campaign that would support the assertion that the "UK is better placed than a separate Scotland".

Oh, wait, maybe they mean encouraging the kind of orders Claire Short was quoted as saying "stank of corruption".

As part of the UK we have real clout in the UN Security Council, NATO, the EU, and we have Embassies around the world.

Do people, other than the UK Prime Minister, ever wake up in the morning and say "thank goodness we have a seat on the UN Security Council"? This might be news to the leaders of Labour and the Conservatives at Westminster but the UK doesn't stand like a Colossus astride the globe. The British Empire no longer exists. The UK seat on the Security Council probably has a short shelf-life now as we don't have the political, military or economic power to justify it.

An independent Scotland would be able to decide at some future point whether it wanted to pursue membership of NATO. NATO works on the basis of collective defence, so, the more members the better. In addition Scotland occupies a strategic location in the North Atlantic which would make the country an attractive partner for defence. Even if Scotland chose not to join NATO there is an affiliate organisation, Partnership for Peace, which some European nations have joined so they can co-operate on defence without becoming full members. Members of PfP include Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland, Austria and Finland.

Westminster has never had an easy relationship with the EU and, as discussed above, David Cameron is busy making it worse. Scotland could have "Embassies" too.

By contributing to and benefiting from the multi-national, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural United Kingdom of the years ahead, Scotland's society and culture will be enriched.

I really don't know what point this sentence is trying to make but it suggests Scotland without the UK is insular and racist. The Scots are quite capable of reaching out to nations, peoples and cultures across the world without a conduit provided by Westminster.

Hundreds of thousands of Scots and English have made their homes in each other's nation. Half of us have English neighbours.

All of us have English neighbours; our only land border is with England. Scottish independence won't change where people have chosen to make their homes. One of the fundamental concepts of the EU is freedom of movement for its citizens. This statement smacks of being thinly veiled scaremongering; if you vote for independence the result will be a mass forced exodus.


After all this waiting for the positive case for the union all we get is a collection unsubstantiated assertions, weaselly words and some poorly disguised insults. After more than 300 years is this really the best the unionist parties could conjure up. The positive case for the union is just like unicorns, Santa Claus, Nessie and the tooth fairy often talked about but they are still just mythical creatures.

In contrast the Yes Campaign are providing a positive vision of an independent Scotland where "decisions about Scotland’s future are taken by the people who care most about Scotland - that is by the people of Scotland".

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