Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Scottish independence and the "heavy price" of voting no

According to the IPPR Future of England survey 2014, I'm in a small minority of Englishmen who support Scottish independence. Just 19% of respondents to the Future of England survey were in favour, which makes me one of the few English people who support the idea of greater autonomy and increased political accountability north of the border.

The findings of this survey paint an ugly picture of England as a land filled with bitter, resentful and vindictive people, seething with anger at the audacity of the Scots for even daring consider an escape from the misrule of the Westminster establishment.

What is much more concerning than the fact that the majority of the English oppose Scottish independence, is the fact that a clear majority believe that the Westminster establishment should punish the people of Scotland with huge funding cuts should they vote against independence in the referendum. The mainstream media has described this attitude as "the English" seeking a "heavy price" for the independence referendum.

The motivation behind this common English desire to have Scottish funding cut by some £4 billion to bring per capita spending down to the UK average, is the pervasive media narrative that the Scottish are a bunch of "subsidy junkies".

A brief look at the actual facts reveals that Scotland does indeed benefit from slightly higher per capita government spending than the UK average, however Scotland also has a much higher per capita GDP than the rest of the UK, thanks largely to the revenues from Scottish oil and gas. Once the proceeds from oil and gas are added into the equation it turns out that tax revenues in Scotland are nearly 20% higher than the UK average which would make slightly higher public spending seem pretty fair.

Once the supply of North Sea oil begins to dwindle, Scotland also has huge renewable energy potential, including some 25% of EU offshore wind potential, 25% of EU tidal potential, and 10% of EU hydroelectric potential.

These vast supplies of actual and potential energy reserves make Scotland a very wealthy country indeed, however a great swathe of the English public seem to believe that the Scottish people should be denied the benefits of all of this Scottish energy wealth so that it can be distributed to the people of England instead.

One of the most absurd things about this English bitterness towards Scotland is the way that they completely overlook the fact that government spending in London is much higher than the levels of public spending in Scotland that the mainstream media have whipped them up into a frenzy of bitterness and jealousy about.

The disparity in public spending between London and the rest of England is so enormous that more than half of England's infrastructure budget is spent just in London and the South East. To put this into perspective, the annual investment in transport infrastructure in the North East of England is just £246 per person, while the annual amount in London is £4,895!

You'd have to be a particularly one-eyed Englishman to allow the mainstream media to whip you up into a frenzy over the fact that average public spending in Scotland is slightly higher than the average for England, without realising, or caring, that vastly more public money is poured into London than anywhere else, including Scotland (and that's without even adding the £1.5 trillion in public money that was sunk into the City of London financial sector to save the bankers from the consequences of their own reckless gambling into the equation).

When the majority of English people demand that the level of Scotland's per capita government spending is reduced to the UK average, what they are actually demanding is that the Scottish public be denied the economic benefits of their own abundance of natural resources, so that the benefits can be redistributed to England instead. In order to adopt this absurd "It's not fair that Scotland gets more" position, they have to completely ignore the elephant in the room, which is the vastly bigger disparity that exists between government spending in London, compared with the rest of England.

What makes this common English "punish them if they vote no" attitude so much worse is the fact that the majority of respondents to the IPPR survey also want to see
 the Westminster establishment use its powers to obstruct an independent Scotland by trying to force them out of the EU and other international institutions, and by attempting to prevent them from using the pound (even though that would be impossible because the pound is a fully tradeable international currency). 

This "punish them whatever they decide to do" stance actually makes a very strong argument in favour of Scottish independence. Not only do a majority of my fellow Englishmen want Scotland to vote no to independence because they feel a sense of entitlement to the revenues from Scottish natural resources, they also want Westminster to attempt to severely punish the people of Scotland for their audacity, should they dare vote yes to independence.

It seems that the majority of my fellow Englishmen are not very nice bedfellows at all. 
The fact that most of my countrymen oppose Scottish independence isn't all that much of a problem, after all, everyone is entitled to their opinion. What is completely unacceptable is the ridiculous sense of entitlement that so many English people seem to have towards the proceeds from Scottish natural resources, and the blatantly vindictive "punish them whatever they decide to do" attitudes they hold towards the people of Scotland.

All three of the Westminster establishment parties have been offering Scotland "jam tomorrow" promises of more decision making powers for Scotland should the people of Scotland vote no to independence, however the results of this survey show that the English electorate are baying for Scottish blood. It seems extremely likely that any further devolution of powers would also see massive cuts in Scottish public spending, imposed in order to appease the much larger English electorate.

The only way for the people of Scotland to ensure that the economic benefits of their abundant natural resources are not redistributed to England is to vote in favour of independence. The majority of my fellow Englishmen want to see the people of Scotland punished whatever they decide to do, and should the Scottish people vote against independence, it's quite clear that it would come at a "heavy price".

The results of this survey are an embarrassment to England. They paint us as a selfish, resentful and vindictive bunch with an intense loathing for the Scottish, however I'm proud to be one of the minority of English people who support the idea of Scottish independence, and wish the people of Scotland all the best for the future, no matter what the outcome of the independence referendum.

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Reasons Scotland should vote Yes - 1: Uncertainty
Reasons Scotland should vote Yes - 2: We don't need your pity
A letter to Scottish voters

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Who is to blame for the economic crisis?
"Bedroom Tax" - tax the poor to subsidise the rich
The "unpatriotic left" fallacy
The Tory ideological mission
Margaret Thatcher's toxic neoliberal legacies