Ashwin argues that there are very great risks to a ‘Yes’ vote in the Scottish referendum and that it would leave many difficult questions as an Englishman relating to identity and England’s relationship with Scotland.
As someone who resides south of the border, I truly hope that the people of Scotland will choose to remain part of our United Kingdom.
Fred has highlighted the very real risks of a ‘Yes’ (i.e. pro-independence) vote on the UK’s future role on the global stage. Particularly in these tempestuous times with international conflicts worsening by the day, I would argue that now, more than at any period since the end of the Cold War, countries with shared values, beliefs and goals need to come together to face these challenges as a collective and not to spend their energies negotiating on how to split apart. But despite being a self-proclaimed internationalist, it is not these important foreign policy concerns that come first to mind when I imagine a United Kingdom without Scotland; rather it is the emotional or intangible matters: what will our flag look like, will I switch from Scotch to Bourbon, will I still be cheering for Andy Murray at Wimbledon? At a more personal level, would I, as an ethnic-minority first generation immigrant, stop referring to myself as ‘British’ and opt instead for ‘English’, an identity that, for reasons right or wrong, I associate more with the white indigenous population?
When I put my taxpayer hat on, I do sometimes consider the personal financial benefits that I would set to gain from a break-away Scotland. Net public spending per capita is approximately £3,000 higher in Scotland than it is in England. Moreover, with Scotland facing a more rapidly ageing population, it is only logical to conclude that I may stand to benefit financially by no longer cross-subsidising the Scots (with or without North Sea oil). At least, that’s what the independent think-tanks tell me.
Nevertheless, until very recently, I was willing to take my tax payer hat off and focus more on our intangible cultural ties. Ironically, one could argue that by following my ‘heart’ over my ‘head’, this has actually led me to be more pro-Union. However, over the past fortnight I have been deeply dismayed at how this important, potentially permanent decision on independence has morphed into a referendum on the current coalition Government’s social policies – from the bedroom tax and tuition fees to incremental privatisation in the NHS. The NHS in Scotland has been devolved since 1948. All major Westminster parties have indicated that further devolution will be granted to Scotland on tax and spending powers in the event of a ‘No’ vote, albeit the parties have been woefully inept in their communication. Recognising that they were hitherto losing the argument, the ‘Yes’ camp, led by the formidable Alex Salmond, switched from a message of hope to the same scare-mongering tactics that they accused their rivals of adopting earlier in the campaign. I cannot fault him for changing tack to win a campaign, but his anti-English rhetoric has left a very bitter taste in the mouths of many of us south of the river Tweed.
Many Scots will choose to vote ‘Yes’ due to a sense of national pride and a hope that Scotland can have a new and more prosperous future. This I can completely respect and support, even if I personally want Scotland to remain part of the Union. But given how the argument has turned into one about current welfare policy, with false information provided to the Scottish people about the NHS and North Sea oil and gas reserves, my ‘head’ has gradually begun to overtake my ‘heart’, bringing with it a sense of defiance that has led to a hitherto unthinkable personal sense of English nationalism. If Scotland does choose to become independent, I for one will press my MP to ensure that our government negotiates the very best possible outcome for the rest of the UK, in the process exposing the many falsifications of Mr Salmond’s campaign.
By Ashwin Grover who holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, a BSc in Economics from the University of Bristol and currently resides in London. Ashwin’s interests lie in British politics, European integration and 20th century history.