The Scottish independence debate is often distracted from being about the future of Scotland and the UK to being about a number of different issues. So first of all: what the debate should not be about.
It is not about who loves Scotland the most. No one seeing the number of pictures of Scottish mountains in my room in Trinity would doubt how proudly Scottish I am. As a proud Scot, what worries me most about this campaign is that the Nationalists are trying to create a monopoly on Scottish pride. The Saltire is becoming their symbol, stuck to road signs at home as a reminder of the upcoming referendum. This is a worrying trend. For me, like most of those who support the Union, my main reason for wanting Scotland to remain part of the UK is my love of my country. It is because I love Scotland that I will vote no on the 18th September. I care about what this debate should really be about but too often is not: the future of our country. Separation would damage both Scotland and the UK.
The debate should also not be about the policies of the Westminster government, the Scottish government, Alex Salmond or wider party politics either. The actions of current governments are irrelevant when it comes to making the case for Scotland becoming an entirely separate country, those are matters for elections.
Instead the debate should remain focussed on the future, and on what independence would mean for Scotland. Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael made the point that he would not buy a washing machine, let alone decide his country’s future, on the tiny amount of information we currently have about what an independent Scotland would look like. So far we know that the Queen would remain as head of state, the EU would welcome us with open arms (despite Spain vowing to veto our application) and the oil would somehow make everything else work out perfectly (even though revenues fell by almost the amount of the Scottish schools budget in just one year). If the nationalists want there to be a yes vote they will have to provide a better vision than the current one which involves talking about the bedroom tax on most of their leaflets. That is not what this debate should be about. The Yes campaign is being fuelled by anger at the current government. Theirs is an argument for a new government, not to form a new nation.
In reality Scotland does very well out of the Union; if anything we’re overrepresented. Two of the last three British Prime Ministers were born in Scotland. Even now there are more Secretaries of State born in Scotland than there are women. While, yes, there are more pandas in Scotland than Tory MPs, the eleven Lib Dem MPs ensure Scotland is still well represented on the government benches. As part of the UK we really do get the best of both worlds; the Scottish Parliament controls the majority of public spending in Scotland while remaining in the UK provides the stability of being part of the sixth largest economy in the world. An independent Scotland would not be allowed to keep the pound and recent developments in the Eurozone have highlighted the problems of having a shared currency without shared fiscal policy. Setting up a new currency or joining the Euro would be unstable and ultimately costly. The best thing for Scotland is to remain part of the UK, with the security of the Bank of England and the pound.
Remaining part of the UK is good for jobs and business too. Scottish businesses sell twice as much to the rest of the UK as to the rest of the world and one in five Scottish workers is employed by an English, Welsh or Northern Irish firm. Putting up boundaries to trade would damage Scottish business. The UK is about more than a strong economy though – it’s a family. So many people living in Scotland have connections across the border, or come from other parts of the UK themselves. 800,000 Scots like myself live and work in England and Wales without needing papers or passports. We are so interconnected as a nation that separation simply does not make sense. In an increasingly globalised world we should be tearing down barriers not building them up.
Scotland benefits immensely from being part of the UK and further devolution has been promised by all the major parties. Remaining a strong Scotland in a strong United Kingdom really does give us the best of both worlds.
Read the other half of ‘The Conversation’ on Scottish independence here