Sorry alex: Why I’m voting “No” on September 18th

Tonight sees the biggest debate in the brief history of televised political debates in the UK when Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and former Labour chancellor Alistair Darling go head to head on Scottish Television (STV). Why is it so important? The future of the UK is at stake.
For on September 18th Scottish voters go to the polls to decide if Scotland should be independent in a referendum we didn’t want with a choice we don’t want to make. How did it come to this?
To find the answer you have to go back to the Scottish Parliament elections of 2011. Most voters wanted Alex Salmond re-elected with more seats but not a majority. But he and the Scottish National Party (SNP) won a majority for two reasons. One was Nick Clegg going into coalition with the hated (in Scotland) Tories sending his vote in Scotland into meltdown. The second was a bizarre affair known as the “Meatball Marinara Incident” where then Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray was chased by a group of anti-cuts campaigners into a Glasgow branch of Subway – all in front of TV cameras! Gray was humiliated in the press being called “chicken” the Labour vote also went into meltdown and the SNP won a landslide with 69 out of 129 seats – amazingly under a PR system designed to stop one party winning a majority. The SNP majority meant a referendum on independence was inevitable – and yet it was hardly ever mentioned in the campaign. It was more a case of as Herbert Morrison (Peter Mandelson’s grandfather) said of the 1950 UK General election “The British electorate has a habit of knowing what it wants and a habit of overdoing the getting of what it wants” (quoted in the British General Election of February 1974 page 268). Substitute the word “Scottish” for “British” and you have what happened in 2011.
So we got a referendum we didn’t want. Even more bizarre, most Scots according to the polls want more powers for Scotland but within the UK – the so called “Devo max” option – which is not on the ballot paper – because Alex Salmond and UK Prime Minister David Cameron couldn’t agree – so we will be voting on two options – independence or the status quo – that we don’t want. What a shambles!
So why will I be voting “No”/ First I don’t like Alex Salmond. As Iain Macwhirter writes (in “Road to Referendum” page 271) “Salmond genuinely feels that every Scot of whatever background living in Scotland should support the SNP. He can’t see why people won’t”. I suppose Vladimir Putin feels the same about the Russian people!
Second Britain is a small island – as Mr Putin said recently – so why weaken it even more by splitting it into two parts?. As the current centenary of the start of World War One shows us Britain combined has achieved great things. Things it could not do divided. United we stand divided we fall!
Thirdly there are too many questions Salmond has not answered. Here are just a few.
What would the currency be – the pound the euro or something else?
Would an independent Scotland be allowed to stay in the EU?
If the answer to the above is “No” and we had to reapply how long would it take – or would we be accepted? Remember at least two other EU nations – Spain and Belgium – have nationalist factions and won’t want to see an EU country break up – or want a new state to become a member.
How would an independent Scotland defend itself?
Would a UK Government insist on passport controls at the border to stop immigrants getting into England through Scotland?
How much would it cost to set up Scottish embassies abroad?
What happens when the oil runs out – or if the price of oil falls?
Would we still get the BBC programmes we like post independence? Would we get Sky or BT – both British companies – if we’re not British?
And that list is the tip of the iceberg. And it leads to my main reason for voting “No”. Independence is a “leap in the dark”. We don’t know if it is good for Scotland until it happens. But – and it is a big but – it we vote for independence we cannot reverse this decision. We are stuck with it forever. It is not like say voting for Ed Miliband to be Prime Minister in 2015. If we think he is rubbish we can turf him out in 2020. If we vote for independence we can not do that. And that in my opinion makes independence far too big a risk.
Finally I should say that the SNP’s internet supporters – the “Cybernats” as they are known – do not like people speaking out against them and heap abuse on anyone who dares to speak out – as the author JK Rowling recently found out. I’ve got a message for any “Cybernat” reading this. Say what you want. You won’t bully me!

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