Let’s face up to the facts – the majority of Scots want to be independent. They really do – whatever way they vote come Thursday. And this is dead clear from the poll of polls: which shows the Unionists winning to keep us together by only one per cent.
Let’s be honest: that one per cent lead is not really a majority for the Union. That one per cent lead is all the No Campaign could muster for the Union, despite throwing the entire arsenal of City of London financial fear at Scotland. Those terrifying threats of collapsing banks and mystery currencies and runaway businessmen – well, they have only convinced a mere one per cent of Scots we are better together.
It's clear that without fear, there would be a Scottish majority ready to go. And that means the current Union 1.0 looks illegitimate. That works the other way too: any sudden surge for the No Campaign would hardly be lead to a legitimate Union either.
From what I can see, both options currently on the table look set to make millions angry. So what options are there that would work out in a way that made the most Scotsmen and Englishmen happy?
The main argument coming out of Scotland is they want to be a nation again – they want the symbolic side of independence – and they want complete freedom to build the more social Scotland the way they have always wanted. They hate neo-liberalism. And I’m convinced the majority of Scottish voters would choose to go if they knew there was a safe way to maintain a currency Union with England. And it’s fair to say: England doesn’t want to pay for this socialism.
Now what do they want down South? The real English thinking about why Scotland leaving is bad for England – though people seem unwilling to say it outright – is that severing the Union is a huge blow for our stature in the world. This is something to take very seriously. The wars happening right now in Eastern Europe and the Middle East are every bit as geopolitically significant as the collapse of the Soviet Union. And a weak, wounded Britain is exactly what Vladimir Putin and the Islamic State would want. Do Scots want that? I think no.
So are there ways we could give the Scots and English what they both want? This seems contradictory. The Scots want to be independent but what to keep the pound; the English want to keep the Foreign Office and the British Army but don’t want to pay for any of Scotland’s wasteful social welfare. And everyone, somehow, wants to keep being British.
I think there is a third way for Scotland and England. The funny thing about the whole referendum on Scottish independence and the breathless debate about the Union is that it appears to be taking place without any reference to what being independent actually means these days in the Europe of the European Union.
Six shades of Scotland: how would they vote?
Six shades of Scotland: how would they vote?
1/6 SCOT BY RESIDENCE Ceris Aston, 23
Ceris Aston was born in Gloucester and has English parents. She studied at Glasgow University and works in marketing. She lives in Kirkconnel. ‘‘I would have described myself as British by heritage because I am part Welsh, English and Irish. I am as British as you can get in that respect so when I realised I was in favour of independence it made me really question this. Scotland is my home. It is the place I love and I can’t imagine living anywhere else. “Independence will be an amazing opportunity for us. There is so much critical energy already released in the referendum and I don’t think it is going to dissipate. It won’t be an amazing utopia with rainbows and unicorns but we will be able to take decisions over our own resources and create social justice in a way that is totally different from what is envisaged in Westminster.” VOTE: Yes
2/6 RETURNED TO SCOTLAND Peter Krykant, 37
Peter Krykant was born in Falkirk. He lived in the US and England for 12 years and recently returned to Scotland to raise family. “I have always been a patriotic Scot but the referendum has elevated that patriotism. I consider myself Scottish and British – you can be both at the same time. My son was born in England and my wife is American. “The closer this vote gets, the more worried I get. I am concerned about cross-border jobs. My wife is a researcher at Glasgow University, working on a £10m UK government funded project. Part of the reason we chose to live in Scotland is because of the opportunities we as a family can provide for our son. My wife is American but has UK citizenship. How will that be affected? People have said because I have been away that we shouldn’t be allowed to vote and called me a traitor.” VOTE: No
3/6 HALF SCOT Victoria Summerley, 57
Journalist and author Victoria Summerley was born in England. Her father was Scottish and she was educated in Scotland. She lives in the Cotswolds. “Like a lot of Scots, I suspect, I would vote yes with my heart and no with my head. I suppose I have always been something of a sentimental Scot. ‘‘I have watched the campaign with huge interest. Edinburgh has changed so much since I was at university – it used to be a fuddy-duddy place. But then it became this European, cosmopolitan city. The Scots have great links historically to France and consider themselves to be more European than the English. ‘‘I think Scotland could make a go of it, and I think all this nonsense about whether they would be in the EU, or whether companies would pull out, is counter-productive. The Scots just see that as bullying.’’ VOTE: Not eligible
4/6 BORN AND BRED William McMillan, 24
Charity worker William McMillan was born in Lanarkshire. “I just don’t feel as if my questions have been answered. When you ask a question they evade it. I would be very concerned about the future of sterling – what happens if our currency is suddenly halved in value? I am young and I am just starting out. People say the economy is in a bad state but I feel like it is improving and independence could be a backwards step. “I work for a charity that is paid for by public funds. If an independent Scottish government needed to make £6bn in savings they could end up cutting public services and my charity could lose funding. I don’t think the debate has been conducted well. Both sides have been having a go at each other. “It doesn’t make any sense to be backing away when the rest of the world is coming together.” VOTE: No
5/6 SCOT IN EXILE Andrew Travers, 42
Designer Andrew Travers was born in Scotland and has lived and worked in London since 1996. “I would find it very difficult not to go back if Scotland does vote Yes. You don’t get many chances to be there at the start of the recreation of a country. It would be so hard to sit on the sidelines and watch other people doing it. I’m not able to vote but I am completely fine with that. It is more important that the 400,000 English people living in Scotland get the vote rather than the 800,000 Scots that don’t. “There have been two parts to the campaign: the official one, which has been pretty tedious, and the really interesting and exciting stuff, which has been outside the main parties – such as the National Collective or the Radical Independence Campaign which have been going out trying to encourage people to register to vote.” VOTE: Not eligible
6/6 MARRIED TO A SCOT Josh Jefferey, 32
Josh Jeffery works in media sales. He was born in Cheshire. His wife is Scottish and they live in Edinburgh. ‘‘I have always felt British and I think I reflect the majority of English people living in Scotland by wanting to stay part of Britain. I went to university at St Andrews and met my wife here in Scotland a few years later. My job is based at home so I could work from anywhere in England or Scotland. “If the vote is Yes we would stay in Scotland. I really like it here and I feel at home. The people are great and there has never been any issue being English. The biggest concern for me would be the economy. I feel quite passionately that the people of Scotland are being misled. They say it is not about Alex Salmond but it is – he is the person pushing for independence and I think he is trying to hoodwink people.’’ VOTE: No
Scotland, if it becomes independent, will have to join the European Union. That means that Scotland will have to commit to eventually having a common currency with France, Germany and the rest, and of harmonizing its foreign policy with the rest of the bloc. Scotland would not be becoming independent again in the way it was in the past, but in the new way that European states are now.
There is a lot England and Scotland can learn from the way France and Germany are independent. The countries share a currency and have a closely coordinated common foreign policy. Are either really independent? Sure, on paper, but in reality their sovereignty is blurred in Brussels. Why can’t we do something similar under the old Union Jack?
Were both Edinburgh and London to be interested in working something out that would make the maximum number of happy Englishmen and Scotsmen they would probably do something like this. Whatever the result on Thursday they would declare a constitutional convention to dissolve Union 1.0 and set about creating a Union 2.0. But what might that United Kingdom look like?
I think this could take inspiration from the European Union – and take it much further. The outcome might look something like this. The old Union 1.0 would be dissolved and both England and Scotland would become independent. The new United Kingdom would then be founded again as a sort of super-tight European Union between two (or more, we’ll see) independent countries.
But what would we share in Union 2.0? To make it work, Westminster and Holyrood would both have to make a grand bargain. The Scots would get to keep the pound. That means there would be a currency union and a super-strict banking and fiscal union. The English would get to keep the British Army. That means there would be a super-tight defense, diplomatic and intelligence union. And of course, the Queen would still be the Queen, and everyone still British.
I’m well aware this idea is full of holes. I realise that the new United Kingdom would be tricky to work out. I’m not sure exactly how the foreign policy union with vetoes and all that would work. I’m also well aware that becoming attached to England with a shared currency - the way Italy is to Germany - is a rubbish deal for the Scots. But it seems strange this debate has to take place without talking about a third way.
The whole thing would be messy. But politics is messy. And any new 'United Kingdom of independent states' would need to have another referendum in fifteen years time to see if we are all happy with how things are going for us. Who knows what would happen.
The historian in me thinks that England’s refusal to think creatively about sovereignty has been a grave historical error for our power in the world. Looking back at the early twentieth century it is sad that Westminster was not interested in creating some kind of federation or common army with Canada, Australia and New Zealand when they would have happily entered one.
Union 2.0 is an idea not a plan. But there’s no reason we can’t give the Scots the triumph of identity and neo-liberalism they clearly crave and not keep something of the United Kingdom and the old British Army. Why not be messy and blur the borders of being independent and a federal state? What are we frightened of here?
Union 2.0 means being willing to break the rules and make some strange political beast together that might make no textbook sense and not be the best economic deal for everyone on this island. Who knows. We could even be cheeky and invite the Euro tired Irish to join with a specially negotiated opt-out on Her Majesty The Queen.
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