23 March 2008

A response to Change is What We Do: The Union and Scotland

In looking at the Union, Alexander waxes lyrical over cross-border partnerships, focusing on banking:

The Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland, both successful Scottish banks, became even more successful and much bigger British banks through takeover and merger with English banks. From that position of strength, born out of the stability of the United Kingdom economy and its lack of internal barriers, the Royal Bank in particular has gone on to become a major force in global finance.

She forgets, of course, that the lack of barriers within the EU has allowed the Santander Group to take over Abbey National, so an EU-based relationship would work just as well. She also forgets that in 1992, Midland joined the HSBC Group - which although headquartered in London, is the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. National barriers are no match for international trade, and if her vision of independence contains fences being erected from Gretna to Berwick, and trade tarriffs put in place, then Wendy Alexander is sadly misinformed.

We reject the narrow Nationalist prejudice which says that working with the other peoples in these islands has become intolerable.

Nor is nationalism about cutting ties and co-operation with its neighbours for good, but simply freeing Scotland to co-operate with England when it is in Scotland's interests to do so. Indeed, if working with the peoples of the British Isles requires political union, she may want to ask Labour members across the UK where they stand on the Irish Question.

The people of Scotland know that in any partnership, there will be good times and bad times, times of prosperity and times of hardship. And when one partner is down, the others reach out a helping hand up. In times of difficulty, the others come to assist. Throughout the three centuries of the United Kingdom partnership, this has been the case, and the reason why the United Kingdom has survived and all its people have emerged from bad into better times.

But this failed during the Thatcher years. Labour politicians will scramble over each other to tell you how Scotland suffered during that time. Where was the help? Why, if we all help one another out, did we need a Scottish Parliament so badly.

"I have never been one of those who believes that, uniquely among the nations of the world, Scotland is incapable of standing on its own two feet. Political and economic arguments rage about whether Scotland, with or without oil, would be worse off if it were dependent on its own revenue base. All the available evidence tells me that even in times of high oil prices, Scotland would struggle to maintain existing levels of public services."

Again, she has contradicted herself: she isn't saying that Scotland can't be independent, but she's saying that Scotland couldn't afford its public services if it were.

Only someone extremely confident of benefit to Scotland from ending that Union would wish to put that [prosperity] at risk.

Well, yes. SNP members do tend to be of the view that Scotland will be better off independent. I could have told you that...

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