David Cameron has entered the debate about Scottish Independence, and as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, of which Scotland is currently a part, I believe that he is right to do so.
At present Alex Salmond is delaying any action on calling a Scottish referendum until quite close to the next Scottish elections, although he has a parliamentary majority and could ask for the legislation at any time. Reading comments from various sources on the subject, it seems clear that the general belief is that he is doing so in order to give him time to continue with the anti-English invective and hopefully increase his support within Scotland. Personally, I respect the Scottish people more that to believe that they will fall for this line.
But before he calls a referendum, I feel that there are a large number of questions which need to be answered, the first and foremost of which is "Who will be able to vote in the referendum?"
In that it was once said that here are far more Scots living outside Scotland than within, and large numbers profess that they would return home if they could, surely they are entitled to express their views on the matter - do all the expatriate Scots want independence or are they to be totally ignored. My son-in-law and his sister were both born in Edinburgh and have a Scottish father, but all live outside Scotland in order to work in their chosen fields. My wife had a Scottish grandfather and has an indirect interest in the matter. Then what about the non-Scots living in Scotland; will they get a vote?
The next question is who will be able to have Scottish Nationality? Will all those Scots living outside Scotland be able to claim Scottish nationality and demand a Scottish passport? Or are they to have dual nationality? Will my grandson be able to apply for a Scottish passport when the time comes on the basis that although he was born in England, his father was born in Scotland?
Those are a couple of practical questions which could directly effect individuals, but then there are the political ones. Would Scotland be in a position to take on its share of the national debt? I would suggest that a proportion of the UK's debt would need to be transferred to the Independent Scottish Government on the basis of the present funding arrangements, the Barnett formula. What about the military; there is the nuclear submarine base at Faslane and the RAF at Lossimouth. Will Scotland be contributing pro-rata to a common defence or will England need to relocate these facilities? Would Scotland maintain a reasonable defence capability or become a neutral like, say, Ireland or Sweden?
The list of such practical questions is endless, but so far none have been addressed. All we get from Salmond is how Scotland would be far better of if it was independent. I think the Scottish people deserve to be told far more and be able to have more than pious hopes.
I should make my position clear. I would like to see Scottish independence, mainly for two reasons
Firstly, I am fed up with the Scottish whingers, like Salmond, whom I don't believe are typical of the Scots as a whole
Secondly, it would appear to be the only way that England will get its independence. The situation where Scotland has its own parliament and can vote in favour of something in Scotland and then the Scottish MPs can appear and vote at Westminster against the very same thing for the English is totally intolerable. The situation whereby Scottish constituencies are also smaller than English constituencies may have been justifiable before Scotland had its own parliament, but can in no way be justified now.
Personally, I would prefer some sort of federal arrangement, similar to the US, with the four countries of the Union having a large measure of independence, and with the Westminster parliament just dealing with common issues.
Finally my personal prediction. Whenever a referendum is held, I do not believe that the Scottish people will vote for independence, and certainly not before a large number of questions have been answered.
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