Divided We Stand - Scotland a Nation Once Again
The Scottish question is now a matter of the highest politics north and south of the Border. But, says Politeia’s next pamphlet, Divided We Stand: Scotland a Nation Once Again?, current policy raises more questions than it answers. While the referendum on independence promised by Scotland’s ruling Scottish National Party is due in 2014, Westminster, meanwhile, puts its faith in a new Scotland Bill giving greater powers to Scotland, but within the UK.
But, says the author, Peter Fraser*, neither approach takes account of some of the complex matters which will be fundamental to a true settlement.
Not only would some of the constitutional arrangements proposed be unsuited to the demographic balance – at the moment England has a population of c.51 million to Scotland’s 5.1m, or ten times as many. But the plans for ‘social’ union are vague and imprecise and unless clarified would make for loose policy. Meanwhile any economic settlement must recognize that the economies differ, with different policies needed for interest rates or for that matter stimulus.
At the same time, the Westminster leaders fail either to appreciate the radical changes to politics north of the border, where traditional parties have been overtaken by the SNP, or, by contrast, the significance of the ties which bind Scotland to the UK, especially defence. Regimental links are part of the cross generational ties; while the Royal Navy’s historic connections with Scapa could once again become paramount in any settlement.
There is plenty on which to negotiate, says Lord Fraser, to the benefit of both countries, provided each recognizes the true interests at stake, economic, demographic and defence. He suggests we might consider an updated model for modern democracies of the Roman idea of a ‘client state’: one which allowed closely linked, self-determining nations to live side by side and agree formally their respective powers over foreign, defence and economic matters.
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie QC was the Conservative Member of Parliament for Angus South (1983-87) and Angus East (1983-87) and served as Solicitor General for Scotland from 1982-88. He served as Lord Advocate from 1989-92 and Minister of State at the Scottish Office from 1992-95.