Rory MacLeod writes from Edinburgh: Alex Salmond is at it again. He has just published another document in the war of words over the Scottish referendum. He maintains that Scotland can go it alone and that the Scots will then be in control of their destiny. The First Minister is the best politician in the UK at present. Every time he puts forward an economic argument, along comes Alastair Darling and trumps it. It does not matter because Alex Salmond always comes out on top. Mr Darling – you remember he was once Chancellor of the Exchequer of the UK under the unlamented Gordon Brown – has a way with numbers and words. He always sounds so plausible. He says, for instance, that there is no way the Bank of England is going to consider Scotland when it comes to deciding monetary policy. The problem is that Alex Salmond has decided that the English pound will continue to be the currency of an independent nation. Why not a Scottish pound? After all, people here already have Scottish pounds but printed in England. Even the First Minister, who comes out with many outlandish statements, is canny enough to know that a national currency would be treated with suspicion by every company exporting goods here. They would demand payment in either English pounds or euros. The result would be a very weak national currency. The big banks and financial institutions have threatened to move south if the country divorces from the UK. Alex Salmond says it’s all bluff. Think of the billions to be earned from North Sea oil and gas. Think of Norway, which is finding more reserves all the time. The whole North Sea around Scotland may be afloat with untapped reserves. This way of thinking is known as the law of intended consequences. The more you drill for oil and gas, the more you will find.
The numbers game about whether or not Scotland will sink or swim after independence is rather tedious. As the man says, you can prove anything with statistics. The Scots after divorce will be forced to stand on their own two feet and become more dynamic. Entrepreneurship is in short supply up here but the realisation that no one in London is giving orders will work wonders. The news that a part of Surrey is paying more UK tax than the whole of Glasgow has come as a shock. However, people here do not believe it. The Glaswegians are canny folk and are able to disguise their true incomes to the extent that the English tax inspectors just give up. Beating the English taxman is a national sport here.
However, the true supporters of Scottish independence are the English Tories. Scotland always votes Labour. Without these MPs the Conservatives would have had a majority of 21 at the last election. Just imagine what a difference that would have made to English politics. I have not forgotten our Celtic brethren in Wales but they hardly count. The Scots cannot understand why the English MPs still permit Scottish MPs to vote on matters that do not apply to them. This is the West Lothian question and this term has now gone into English constitutional history. So why do they put up with it?
Perhaps it is because Tories are at heart imperialists. Once a territory has been acquired, it should never be given up. Scotland was swallowed up in 1707 and arguably has gained more than England from the relationship. Emotion appears to overcome hard political interest. However, we Scots think that the English are coming to their senses and have realised that they are better off without Scotland.
So the Tories should be cheering on Alex Salmond. After his victory, the Conservatives can look forward to winning the next election. That is, if the dismal George Osborne can perform a miracle and convince everyone that he knows what he is doing.