28) It's a well trodden path
"A majority of Swedish politicians were against Norwegian independence. They said all these bad things would happen, but they didn't happen. And at that time Norway was much poorer than Scotland is now." - Thorvald Steen, former president of the Norwegian Authors' Union
A postcard from Norway from around 1905/WIkimedia
Many of the comments coming from Better Together seem to take the form “but how will we do this?”. This motif came to its climax, perhaps, in Better Together's much parodied 500 questions.
In themselves, some of this list might have been reasonable, were it not for the fact that they could equally have been asked of a no vote. “Question 365: what will the minimum wage be in a separate Scotland?”... what will it be in the UK in spring 2016? It fell in real terms by 38p between 2009 and 2012. Was that predictable? Tomorrow is unknown and unknowable either way. The question is not what the future will bring, but in whose hands we want to entrust it, in which constitutional vessel we wish to navigate it.
But it's more important than that. The questions weren't really attempts to seek detailed answers. They were aimed at making a rhetorical point – the document hoped that its reader, or those reading about it, would infer something broader: that Scotland would struggle to do these things, that the very idea of becoming independent, and a smaller state, is so complex as to be impossible, ridiculous.
Around 30% of the people on earth live in a country which has at some point gone through the process of transitioning from London rule to home rule. Of Scotland's nearest neighbours, three became independent in the 20th century: Norway, Iceland and Ireland. They are but a tiny portion of the list of nations who have gone through such a change since 1900 as the age of land empires has come to an end. Did such practical questions pose the vast imponderable barriers it's often implied are in Scotland's way? No.
They try to tell us that the road ahead is one on which we should be afraid, but the truth is that the path is well trodden. Of course there will be setbacks along the way, but I've never heard anyone in Iceland or Ireland or Norway say that it wasn't worth it.
29) We have other unions these days
The flag of the United Nations
When the Kingdoms of Scotland and England were first gathered, along with the Principality of Wales and the Duchy of Cornwall, under the same parliament, the world was a very different place. There were as there are now good reasons for co-operation between nations. But there was no UN or EU to join, and the scale on which such collaboration could feasibly take place was much smaller. You can travel from Aberdeen to Athens today faster than you could make the journey from Edinburgh to London then.
The union provided certain functions, for better or worse – particularly military might and economic access. As the world has shrunk, it's worth assessing, what does Scotland get and need from our various collaborations today? And what is the role of Westminster in that?
For example, the requirement to be in the UK to secure access to English trade has been usurped by the advent of the EU and the WTO. The need to be ruled from London if we are to protect ourselves from outside invasion has reduced as we have developed broader partnerships of mutual security and as the nature of political violence has transformed in recent decades.
For a while, these functions of the union were replaced by another. During the years of social democratic consensus, the idea that we ought to spread wealth out across these islands – to pool our resources – perhaps provided a plausible case that we're better together. It's the argument that Gordon Brown makes now, and the words “pool resources, share the risk” must be the most common theme of Better Together speeches and press releases.
But in recent decades, this wealth has instead been sucked into the pockets of a mega-rich British elite gathered largely in the South East corner of this island, and then disappeared into some offshore account. I sometimes think that, when they say “pooling resources”, they are referring to the sun-bathed private piscines of Monaco. Likewise, the idea that the corporately captured British state 'shares risk' is just another way of saying 'we're all in this together' whilst the costs of the gambles of the wealthiest are passed onto the poorest.
The union of 1707 has been replaced by the EU and UN. The union of the 1950s has been dismantled by decades of Anglo-America's advanced neoliberalism. What is the case for the union of 2014? I don't see it.
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