Tommy McAvoy on why Scotland’s future is best served as a valued partner within the UK
In September of this year, Scots face two alternative futures; that of an inward looking diminished Scotland or a Scotland which continues to play a full and active part within the United Kingdom.
Scotland’s best interests have and continue to be best served from within the Union. The creation of the Scottish Parliament has given Scots greater say and control over many important aspects of life. However there are some areas where their best interests are served by working within the UK partnership.
The UK as a whole faces severe economic challenges, and the best way to address these is together. Independence poses a severe threat to much that Scotland’s prosperity is built upon. The UK has created a system of shared regulation and institutions, a unified labour market, and an integrated infrastructure. These have all helped boost trade with the rest of the world.
Were Scotland to vote ‘yes’, this entire approach would be undermined. Currently the pound is the shared currency of the UK; interest rates, and borrowing are controlled by the Bank of England for the benefit of the whole UK. An independent Scotland however, with the pound as its currency, would experience a bizarre sort of independence where currency, interest rates, and borrowing were controlled by a foreign country. In leaving the Union, Scotland would be abandoning mutually advantageous economic cooperation with the rest of the UK.
The UK partnership has helped advance Scottish interests throughout the world in a way more effective and in tune with the wishes of Scots than an independent Scotland could. A newly independent Scotland would inherit none of the rights, obligations, advantages, and benefits that have been accrued by Britain. Scotland would have to reapply and renegotiate its membership of international organisations and the terms which it acquired would not be as advantageous. If an independent Scotland applied for membership of the EU it would be forced to accept the Euro and join the Schengen Area. The UK has allowed Scottish interests to be far better represented and expressed around the world than would be possible if independent.
The advantages of working together and interdependence are particularly apparent in defence and security. Today, Scots form vital members of the UK Armed Forces. Scotland also benefits from the presence of military bases on Scottish soil and UK defence contracts. An independent Scotland would be ineligible for UK defence contracts. This would mean that never again would the Clyde build complex warships or aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy. As part of the UK, Scotland also shares in having a seat on the UN Security Council and is a member of NATO. Were Scotland to become independent, its NATO membership is one more thing that it would need to apply for and negotiate.
Scotland’s best interests have consistently been served through being a valued partner in the UK, and this is where its future will be brightest. The UK is four nations working together for the common benefit of all. If Scot’s vote ‘yes’ in September, it will cause radical change that will see Scot’s move outside of a relationship which has served Scotland well at home and abroad.
Lord Tommy McAvoy is Shadow Scotland Minister in the House of Lords
Published 30th January 2014