With elections to the Scottish Parliament today, it is a forgone conclusion that the SNP will secure a second overall majority. Though they have not committed to a referendum in their manifesto, the goal of independence remains the SNP’s raison d’être. But they are not alone in their separatist leanings. Both the Greens and the smaller hard-left parties have declared their desire to break up the UK. In modern Scotland, nationalism is intrinsically ‘left wing’. Which is strange, given that there are no credible left-wing arguments for independence, but there are solid (and almost never stated) right-wing arguments.
Politics in Scotland looks and feels like real politics, but it isn’t. Elections are fought and won on the understanding that if all goes belly-up, the rest of the UK will be there to bail us (the Scots) out. Here, politics is a high-wire act performed twelve-inches off of the ground. And so, magic-money-tree economics dominate. We become emboldened to make ‘progressive’ choices at elections, because somebody, somewhere has the money to pay for it all.
In the last Scottish Parliament, only 12 per cent of seats were occupied by right-of-centre politicians. Compare this to the parliaments of other small northern European nations. At the time of the Scottish referendum, 61 per cent of representatives in the Irish parliament were politically right-of-centre, whereas in the Netherlands and Denmark the figures were 48 per cent and 49 per cent respectively.
Only an election stripped of potential risk could arrive at Scotland’s skewed left-wing return. No other democratic institution in the developed world is so one-sided. Combine this ‘risk-absence’ with the allure of the politics of victimhood. As a race, we Scots are identifiable by the pronounced intricacies of artery that pump thick, oleaginous resentment around our pasty trunks. Our politics are shaped by our propensity to blame (English Tories) for all of our woes. As such, we vote for grievance-mongers.
Okay, I hear you say, I get the reasons behind dumb election outcomes in Scotland, but what possible ‘right-of-centre’ argument could there be for Scotland to go it alone? The Scottish deficit stands at 15 billion per annum (9.7 per cent)! True. But two further truths flow from this statement: 1) our outrageous deficit (twice that of the UK’s) is the inevitable outcome of having a giant safety-net (England) in place to catch us when we fall, stripping risk from government calculations. Economies divorced from the imperative to adapt to circumstance, rarely prosper. And 2) to become independent would finally force a Scottish government to tackle such imbalances in our economy. Public spending in Scotland is between four and eight per cent higher as a percentage of GDP than in the UK as a whole (depending upon how oil revenue is divided-up in the calculations). The levels of taxation required to maintain such expenditure would, in an independent Scotland, dampen growth. This dampening would in all probability be compounded by capital-flight to England. A restructuring of the economy would be needed.
So we know that a ‘restructuring’ is required. But we also know that this restructuring will never be undertaken while Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom – no government in London or Edinburgh would so drastically slash Scotland’s budget. And here we have the ‘right-wing’ case for independence: to reject the status quo, whereby our bloated, propped-up economy trundles on, and embrace an economic rebalancing (imposed by necessity), one in which a ‘Laffer Curve’ mind-set takes hold, where the guiding principle of taxation becomes one of effectiveness, rather than one of politics.
Of course, there is the chance that our politicians would lead us into Venezuelan-style socialist oblivion, but I don’t get that impression of the SNP. They are smart, cynical people who harness the prevailing political moods (in the present case, ‘progressive’ politics) to further their own ends. I imagine that they will want things to be practicable. Just consider income taxation. For many years the SNP has talked about having redistributive income tax policies, yet now that they actually have the powers to make this happen, they shy away from it. Because they know that it would lead to tax avoidance and discourage investment. And so they go into the present election promising to continue with the evil Tories’ income tax regime. Reality enters the equation and reality defines the policy. Dreams of undiluted socialism would evaporate in an independent Scotland.
Yes, you may say. All very well, but that doesn’t make the deficit vanish. Step forward George Osborne, who has boldly pledged (as he must) to wipe out the UK’s remaining 4.5 per cent deficit, which, if achieved (and applied proportionally across the UK), would also eliminate half of Scotland’s deficit, and in so doing make an independent Scotland a less incredible prospect. We have a potential scenario whereby Osborne (as ‘evil English Tory’) does all of the necessary economic heavy-lifting to make independence more viable, only for the SNP to ride in at some opportune moment, and ostensibly ‘rescue’ us all from the heartless austerity of Conservatism. A successful Osborne is also a success for the nationalist cause.
Self-reliance begets discipline, which in turn begets efficiency, be it in an individual or a nation. Self-responsibility stifles whinging thoughts of victimhood. These are Conservative truths. An independent Scotland would move away rapidly from the political Left. We would witness a rebirth of Scottish Conservatism (which used to win elections north of the border).
It is inconceivable that, uniquely in Scotland, a politics would not emerge to represent all of those workers who do not want to see their pay consumed by taxes to feed a rapacious public sector. I am not arguing that Scotland should be independent, but merely that the only rational argument for independence is a right-of-centre one. It must be of great relief to Unionists that the only case we ever seem to hear in favour of separation involves unworkable socialist fantasy.