By Matthew Murdoch
Alex Salmond has now gone public with his desire to stage an independence referendum in the autumn of 2014. It seems like a long way away, but there are still plenty of serious issues which will need to be addressed before this ‘advisory’ vote takes place.
Legalities and Tory temper tantrums aside; there are some extremely pertinent issues with potential Scottish separation which will affect other area of the UK. There are, for starters, an estimated 800,000 Scots living and working in England right now. Many of these migrant Scots move to London, where the money (particularly for graduates) is disproportionately higher than it is elsewhere in the UK. The London route is a well trodden one and many natives to the English capital jokingly moan about ‘all the jocks’ that live in their city.
While a good percentage of Scots will make their home in the south of England permanently, a significant percentage will decide to make the trip back to settle down once they’ve made a little money. Should these temporary exiles be excluded from voting on any independence referendum? Surely Scotland is too small a nation population wise to discount the opinions of almost a million of its men and women living just over the border?
It’s extremely unlikely that the SNP will open up voting to anyone not registered to do so in Scotland. This will doubtless be a kick in the teeth to expats who had every intention of one day returning to their roots. Scots aside, there’s also an argument that Scotland’s independence should be voted on by all of the UK. Were Scotland to leave it would take with it as much as 9% of the UK population, 90% of the oil and gas revenues, the current location of the nuclear deterrent as well as various other areas of strategic and economic importance. Scotland’s exit would also dissolve the regular number of Labour MPs who have, in the past, been pivotal to their party’s electoral success and governance. In short, the UK almost overnight would decrease its standing as a world power and more likely than not place it firmly in the hands of the Conservative party for the foreseeable future. Such an occurrence might not mean a thing to separatists sitting in Stirling, but those who live in Swansea and Swindon might not be too happy with their end of the bargain.
Polls are polls and change on matters such as this almost every minute. Some taken last year suggest most people in England would vote Scotland out of the UK given a chance. Some taken just a week ago show that we are still welcome and wanted by our southern neighbours.
It’s impossible to tell how a UK vote would affect the outcome of Salmond’s planned referendum. Debatable statistics about how rich or indeed poor Scotland might be can gnaw at the minds of both Scots and English. However a vote like this will be more about hearts than heads, it’s just a matter of whose hearts and heads deserve to be asked the question.