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The impossible dream of Scots independence


THE reasons and events which led to the Act of Union in 1707 began some distance from Edinburgh and London. In fact, the origins started with Scottish investors looking to South America.

It is true to say that England being so dominant made it very difficult for the Scots to trade but it was their attempt to create a colony in Panama, which became known as the Darien Adventure, that was the final straw.

They managed to assemble a fleet of ships and set sail in 1697 to establish a trading base, and in so doing committed nearly a quarter of Scotland’s liquid assets. Alas, the climate and the soil proved very difficult, with crop failures and disease reducing the ranks. A second attempt in 1699 suffered the same fate. Most of those who remained headed for pastures new with a small number returning home and having to admit bankruptcy. In all some 2,000 lost their lives, including women and children.

Now you may wonder why the English appeared so helpful and neighbourly in giving those Acts of Union that saved Scotland financially, and allowed them to keep their laws all of which have endured to this day. Much as ever was to do with future investment opportunities.

It is no mean feat today to keep telling your neighbour, ten times larger in population and upon whom you reply for your fiscal survival, that you wish to tear up that agreement and now seek secession from those legal obligations, but if we are to believe the Scottish National Party that is precisely what they hope to achieve.

Of course, other countries have split amicably such as Czechoslovakia in 1992, forming the Czech Republic and Slovakia. But with such unequal fiscal arrangements what on earth do the Scots Nats hope to achieve? They have a parliament and some tax-raising powers plus the Barnett Formula, but the practical crunch comes with the currency and the central bank being in London.

At the time of the last referendum in 2014 Alex Salmond really believed that to keep using sterling was his way to independence without admitting that it was never a practical solution.

The almost constant talk about another referendum and independence, although they actually mean secession, is without stopping to think how the Scottish model can trade effectively to earn their living once the umbilical cord with their larger neighbour is cut. Scotland has never been a colony so all this talk about independence is factually wrong as secession and the repeal of the 1707 Act is what they should be claiming to want.

To progress, Scotland will need to create a central bank and a currency, something I’ve yet to hear acknowledged. The currency will have to be traded for three years minimum, just as the euro was, before the tangible currency can be issued, to ensure its value has been established. To talk about using the euro is equally absurd: to use another currency means swapping something of equal value, and where would the value come from without a new Scottish groat?

To imagine the continued use of sterling will set them free is just wishful thinking. But more to the point, what will they do when all those thousands of government jobs come south and the income from oil and gas has almost dried up?

Worse still is the prospect of the Bank of England refusing to grant Scotland some serious loans to keep it afloat in the intervening years. With the loss of the Barnett formula, thousands of jobs and will go, and Scotland would no doubt need to seek foreign loans to make ends meet. Can you imagine the Russians or the Chinese refusing to help? We may watch in awe and anguish as foreign naval ships arrive in former Royal Naval facilities at Faslane as part of some agreement with a foreign money-lender.

Not only would the United Kingdom be ruined but we would have been made the laughing stock of the world.

That is why Scottish Independence is far more than a referendum. Secession will signal the end of Great Britain as we know it and encourage other parts of the kingdom to seek a breakaway. These islands encapsulate everything we have strived to achieve together since the marriage of 1707, so let no man put us asunder.

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Geoffrey Bastin
Geoffrey Bastin
Geoffrey Bastin lives in retirement in East Sussex with his long-suffering wife, having been unable to change the world although still hoping to influence it in some small way before it's too late.

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