A mere six months from today, Scots voters will make their choice about whether to leave the United Kingdom. Given the public appetite for such a ballot, this newspaper can only support its being held. And yet it is clearer than ever that the interests of Scotland – and the rest of the UK – are best served by a No on 18 September.
There are two reasons for Scotland to stay, the first of which concerns the practicalities. Since the Scotland’s Future White Paper was published by the Holyrood government last November, any number of its promises have crashed back to reality. All three Westminster political parties concur that an independent Scotland would not be able to keep sterling and retain the Bank of England as the lender of last resort, torpedoing Alex Salmond’s easy assumptions of an automatic currency union. The President of the European Commission wreaked similar havoc with the suggestion that an independent Scotland would be assured of a place in the EU; such a transition would be “difficult, if not impossible”, José Manuel Barroso has warned. And a growing list of Scottish companies, beginning with insurer Standard Life, have voiced concerns about the impact on their businesses and warned that independence may force them to move operations to England.
Even the promise of wealth from North Sea oil and gas is not what it seems. Not only do Holyrood’s revenue estimates far outstrip those of the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Treasury’s most recent tax receipts came in sharply down. It is not enough to claim that increased production will fill the gap, particularly in an area where supplies are dwindling. Only those with the deepest pockets can withstand the vicissitudes of global commodity markets.
All of which makes a compelling case for the status quo. Perhaps more important, however, are those things which cannot be easily quantified. For all Mr Salmond’s attempts to rekindle memories of the Battle of Bannockburn, the reality of the Union is 300 years of shared values and mutual advantage. No less important, in an ever more globalised world, the ties that bind the UK – economically, politically and socially – make more sense rather than less.