Home > Comment, Current Affairs, Rants > The State of the Union – Scotland and England Divided

The State of the Union – Scotland and England Divided

The argument for Scottish independence heats up on both sides.

A sign of unity or division?

The Scots remember every victory and defeat against the English. We mark them on the bed-posts, with the score filled out in brackets. Our cousins south of the border do no such thing. While the Scots count small victories and nurse a grudging resentment to the Auld Enemy, the English actually take very little interest in Scotland, until recently. I think in essence this highlights a very great difference between the two factions debating over independence at the present.

And this is why I was deeply concerned to read all the Scotland bashing in the news yesterday. The Daily Mail front page headline: A Kingdom Deeply Divided, brought home the growing resentment for Scotland simmering south of the border. Because the formula used to divide tax between the home nations is over 30 years old, each individual in Scotland gets just over £10,000 spent on them in tax-payers funding, compared to about £8,500 in England, a difference highlighted many times as 15 per cent.

Ross Clark in particular alleges that Alex Salmond, in accepting of these extra funds and charging English students more than Scottish students, is subtly attempting to make England grant Scotland their independence and do his dirty work for him. The Scots are widely dubious about a referendum and rightly so.

We are currently still in a recession, and every second day one newspaper or another has some economist saying we could be heading for a double-dip. If this is the case then this might be the worst time to secede from the Union. Even Salmond, in his heart of hearts, knows this. But to accuse him of stirring up trouble seems a bit unfair. If the Barnett Formula, drawn up in 1978 gives Scotland ten per cent of the nation’s tax based on the fact that we had ten per cent of the population back then and this deficit is because we now have only eight per cent of the population then who wouldn’t take advantage of it? Are you telling me Mr Clark, in your infinite wisdom that if the tables were turned and since 1978 Scotland had grown to encompass 12 per cent of the UK’s population so that everyone in England got more tax money spent on them you wouldn’t take it? That Mr Cameron wouldn’t use that to make university cheaper for the English? Don’t make me laugh.

Of course it’s an unfair situation, and it needs rectified. But for my knowledge Joel Barnett was English. This is not a case of the Scots stealing money from the English, it is a case of an antiquated law not being over-turned sooner.

But here’s the nub of the matter for me. While I grew up in Scotland and was vaguely aware of the news and current affairs and occasionally read a newspaper, I was bombarded with figures indicating the Scots have the highest levels of obesity, binge drinking and teenage pregnancy in the UK.

Scotland is a small country with a whole load of social problems, and over and above the one’s mentioned we can add sectarianism and domestic abuse to the list (I think I recall hearing Glasgow had not only the worst numbers of domestic abuse by men against woman, but also of woman against men too). And what is tax funding funding meant to do except help those in need? The rich give more because they have it to help those in need, and in Scotland we have the figures to justifiably say: “We are in desperate need!”

Labour peer, Ruth Lister, wrote a fantastic piece in Monday’s Guardian about how the connotation of welfare denotes a “narrow, rather miserable, form of social assistance for people in poverty.” She argues that the old term, social security, (which was replaced with ‘welfare’ by New Labour), “represents an end to which society aspires. It expresses the desire to ensure genuine security for all through social means.” And by using ‘welfare’ rather than ‘social security’ we have got to the point where anyone on benefits is seen as a scrounger and a lay-about. And it seems many in England are seeing Scotland in this way.

Social security would instead provide us with a language of understanding, where we realise that although we are being taxed, this because, even if we don’t earn a lot, we are secure, and what we give is used to provide security for others.

I believe that Scotland needs a lot of social security and this is why we must remain part of the Union. I don’t deny that the English do too, but I must add that bashing Scotland for using money that we were given by Westminster to support our people is redundant and unfair and all you English out there who complain the most would be the first to use that money for your own people. I call for the Barnett Formula to be recalculated, but I also call for a degree of understanding between our two nations.

Scotland has great assets. We have great sportsmen in tennis, golf, curling, but also football and rugby. We have a long list of inventors, poets, writers and academics. We have North Sea Oil, which although undoubtedly still rising in profitability by 3.7 per cent to £15.9bn over the year 2009/10, wont last forever. But at present I believe that it still contributes a nice lump sum to Westminster every year.

But we also have, like the rest of the UK, a deep divide between rich and poor, and social problems, which although can’t totally be solved by funding, can at least be alleviated to some extent.

And, I say to all the English all over the country, who continuous quote that London pays two-thirds of the UK’s tax and so basically pays for Scotland, it doesn’t matter, because unless you live in London on a six or seven figure salary (in which case say it to your hearts content), London is paying your taxes too. London is like California, which is one of top ten largest economies in the world on it’s own. If both declared independence on there own it would destroy the Unions on both sides of the pond.

I freely admit that the Scots need the English, but maybe it would be more true to say the Scots need London. But don’t call the kettle black, because the rest of England and Wales needs London too. The rest of our taxes compared to the high-flyers in London are but a drop in the ocean.

We are a Union, and as such we rise and fall together. If we are sectarian and petty with each other we will fall. If we argue and bicker like little children we will fall out. If we actually talk like adults we stand a chance of creating a Great Britain which actually lives up to it’s name.

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