Listening to Irvine Welsh on BBC Radio 4 this morning, my first thought was that he regards the idea of Scottish ‘independence’ as some sort of literary construct or theatrical Brigadoon. Meanwhile, here in Scotland, we have to pay the bills, and the SNP’s recent policy statement that it would go for Full Fiscal Autonomy (FFA) clearly says that the argument for ‘independence’ is emotional and pays no attention to facts figures and forecasts. We all denounce the Tory austerity policies, but they are a matter of policy – they can be reversed at the next election. FFA would consign Scotland to austerity-max, not out of ideological policies but because of structural problems arising out of the £7bn black hole in the finances that FFA would bring. So Labour finds itself fighting the Tories in England and the Tartan Tories in Scotland. Do you like your austerity coming from Westminster or Holyrood?
We have to agree with Welsh that thanks are due to the SNP for re-vitalising Scottish cultural, political, community life. The Labour Party, of which I am an active member, needed a boot up its arse. I like his remark that Scotland is re-building from the inside – out. But I don’t agree that Great Britain is permanently busted. We need a good devolution settlement for the whole of this small archipelago. Ask the Irish if they think the making of another boundary on these islands would be good. In let’s say twenty years from now, Scotland would be much more influential and much better served within a vibrant British union than by being a small peripheral member of a large, complex European union, which we can see already, is heading for a major convulsion.
The problem with the SNP is that it is a single-issue party: ‘England is the problem and separation is the answer’. There is no doubt that if Scotland were to go ‘independent’ there would be a sudden and serious downturn in general prosperity – with the poorest suffering most, they always do – and within fifty years at most we would be wanting back into a union with our British neighbours. Welsh said in the interview that if Britian were to revitalise, then the Scots are ‘the boys to do it’. Quite right. England is like the pals of his that he referred to who don’t really like each other. He senses, and I do too, that the younger generation is nicer. England has a long way to go, but Scotland’s responsibilities and opportunities lie in engaging fully with the re-formatting of Britain. We have a lot to offer. Isolation would be wrong for everyone.