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20140917 Scottish Independence. I'd vote "yes" but the Scots should not.

Nigel Morris-Cotterill

I'm English. I don't have a vote in tomorrow's Independence for Scotland vote. If I did, I'd vote that they are thrown out of the Union, that all Scots are sent back across the border, unable to benefit from continued residence in the rest of the UK. I'd revoke the damage including fundamental constitutional change done to England by the Scottish combine of Blair/Brown and Darling.

For sure, I would not be bribing them to stay as the current UK government is trying to do.

The bottom line is that if the Scots are so silly as to back Alex Salmond's personal crusade even as far as holding a referendum, they deserve all they get because the "yes" campaign has entirely failed to present an effective business case for leaving the Union.

It is often said that no plan survives first contact with the enemy but Salmond has no plan except to become the leader of a country with no strategy for a safe and economically viable future. Those who are swayed by the call to arms which is the basic plank of the "yes" campaign forget that since the Scottish Parliament was formed, and Salmond became a play Prime Minister, the money to keep that Parliament and the country going has, largely, come from other parts of the UK. Scotland, despite its dubious claims to oil and gas revenues is not economically viable. Worse, it has a population that places high demands on the health services and is already seeing a high demand for pensions. It is very unlikely that Scotland will be able to afford these without very substantial rises in taxes. Scotland is a bit like New Zealand in that it has a small population, most of which is concentrated in two or three centres of population and the remainder of which is sparse including many outlying islands. Salmond has no plan for ensuring continuity of support for highland and island communities. So far, most of that has come from London.

Scotland has no defence plan. It has no army, no navy, no air force but it has perhaps the most difficult to police borders in the British Isles. Scotland's defence has, so far, been funded and managed entirely from UK tax revenues. Salmond has no viable plan for civil or national defence. It has no customs service, no immigration other than that provided for centrally from London. In fact, the only thing it has is the recently unified national police force, Police Scotland.

In fact, Salmond's plan is best summarised as this: cause disruption, get a "yes" vote but don't actually leave - keep collecting and spending the money from London while negotiating terms of severance.

It is amazing that, if the UK were a company, a special resolution would be required to hive off a substantial division. That means that a 70% majority of all members must agree. But the decision to break up the Union is in the hands of a small minority of the UK's population and even then on a simple majority of those who actually vote. it is possible that the vote may be swayed by dozens, not even hundreds of votes out of some 59 million people across the UK. Out of that population, only 5.3 million is in Scotland. We will have to wait to see the turnout - there is no compulsory votes in which abstentions may be recorded.

But some Scots are already hedging their bets.

Capital flight.

I love the news that many Scots - individuals and companies - are moving their money out of Scottish financial institutions over the border into England. One has to wonder how many of them are hedging their bets so that if the Scotland thing goes to Yes and that, as is almost inevitable, goes tits up in the most spectacular fashion, they intend to "follow the money."

This, of course, starts to play into my arena: as in all capital flight situations, questions must arise as to how much illegal money is moved under cover of legal money. The fact that the money appears to originate within the UK is absolutely no bar to it being proceeds of crime generated anywhere.

Glasgow has a special problem with organised crime conducted by foreign crime gangs. English banks must take care to ensure that they do not simply presume that the fact that moneys are already in a UK institution means that those moneys are free of risk.

Scotland has no central bank, no financial regulator, no national law to deal with money laundering and terrorist financing (it's buried in UK law as a discrete system but no law has been passed in Scotland and, therefore, when laws passed in England cease to have effect, Scotland will be entirely without any form of compliance with e.g. the FATF or EU requirements) and will therefore, if the Yes vote comes into effect, immediately become a country of ultra-high risk for money laundering purposes.

One of the main causes of capital flight is always economic and political uncertainty. If there is a "yes" vote, then there is absolutely no certainty. There is no certainty as to the shape of Scottish society. While for decades, Scottish politicians have pushed a socialist agenda in Westminster, Scotland itself is fundamentally conservative both socially and economically. Will Scotland apply a wealth tax and apply massively increased death duties to break up the large amounts of hereditary wealth in the country? If so, we can expect to see an increase in the transfer of interests into corporate vehicles which will enable at least some mitigation of such taxes.

A vote for "yes" is, above all, a vote for a leap into the political, social and economic unknown.

Who will be Scottish?

No one has come up with a plan for who gets a Scottish passport or, for that matter, who keeps a British passport. One suspects that the UK government doesn't want to inflame passions by pointing out that Scotland has no citizens, only residents. Will Scotland say that only those born in Scotland have the right to be Scottish and that everyone else must be documented by their own government? Scotland has thousands of UK government jobs. They should be cancelled immediately and the jobs brought into England, Wales or Northern Ireland. The people should be left behind. Premises should be abandoned. Let Salmond and his fanboys work out how to deal with a wasteland with many unemployed people who, even under current arrangements, have rights of support from Scotland, even though the money to pay for it mostly comes from the UK. Perhaps they will all be given jobs as civil servants and tax collectors as Salmond finds out that the infrastructure of government is larger and more complex than he imagines.

There may be a case for independence. But right now, the "yes" camp has signally failed to make it. More importantly, it has created destabilisation: that's the standard Maoist, etc. policy for taking control.

The campaign for the referendum has cost much public money that the UK cannot afford. Salmond has had his wish: he's being seen as a revolutionary statesman. A more sensible view is that he's a self-serving con artist whose primary objective is his own glorification.

Allowing him and his cronies to get this far is a blight on Scotland.

Salmond has one plan B: as a socialist he hopes to join forces with socialists in Europe and get funding for a newly independent Scotland. But first he has to overcome the not-so-small problem that Scotland is not a member state and that, in many ways including its laws, it does not meet the criteria for membership. And even if Scotland does manage to become a discrete member of the EU, there is no guarantee that moneys will be voted. After all, it's not an undeveloped nation in the sense of the Eastern European states - and even they found money hard to come by.

Don't bother with knowledge, just believe

Alex Salmond has all the traits of the extremist: he has no depth, he has no explanations. He is using charismatic statements to tell Scots that whatever happens it will be better for them if they vote for fundamental change. He's the high-priest, he's using the tactics of communism, right-wing extremism, religious fundamentalists and technology companies. He's holding up a black box and telling Scots that whatever is in it it's better than what they know. It's not even smoke and mirrors: it's the latest gizmo or "the cloud."

Forget what it does, don't worry whether it works, just believe, is the essence of the "Vote Yes" message. In technology terms, Salmond is selling the Alpha-test version of a country, fixing the bugs once the customer has taken delivery. He might pull a rabbit out of the hat - but prudence, that great Scottish trait, says that unless there is at least reasonable grounds for suspicion that there is a rabbit there, Scots should not forego dinner in anticipation of his producing it.

Salmond is selling a pig in a poke, a dream in a cul de sac. He's avoiding telling lies about his vision of the future by not saying anything about his lack of vision. He is depending on Scots sleepwalking their way into a world where there is no national, social or cultural or governmental infrastructure and no way of paying for it. He's hocking the future of the current population to pay for his personal dreams. They will turn into everyone else's nightmare. He might be forever the first President of Scotland but history will show that the Scotland he presided over the creation of did not work. Whatever he might imagine, he will never achieve the standing of the world's great revolutionary leaders. And history will show that things got a whole lot worse before starting to get better and that it took many generations before Scotland, by then unrecognisable as the country now being mooted, reaches its current fiscal position. In fact, Salmond has only two hopes: tourism and offshore financial services. Good luck with the latter: those coming to that particular party have missed the best bits of the buffet.

So, I'd vote yes. And I'd vote for a break at midnight tomorrow night with all Scots seeing their UK passports cancelled and them expatriated until their new government can find a way to document them. I'd vote for them to get their banks back, debts and all. I'd vote for them to return all their Bank of England bank notes and I'd exclude their banks from clearing through the Bank of England. I'd do it to teach them a lesson. I'd do it so that, when the whole venture falls apart and Scotland is in political, social and economic ruin, it comes back, begging for redemption.

Scotland costs the rest of the UK a lot: at the point of delivery, healthcare and education including university and other benefits are free. They are not paid for from Scotland's revenues: the rest of the UK gives Scotland the money. Across the rest of the UK we all pay for those services as we use them either in full or as a contribution. Scotland has thousands of miles of small rural roads: they are maintained - ultimately - by taxpayers across the UK. And in general they are maintained to a far higher standard than rural roads across, for example, England.

So let's be clear, Scotland: it's in my financial interest to cast you off into the freezing waters of the north Atlantic.

But for many non-financial reasons, I don't want to do that.

It's not that I dislike Scotland (I don't: I like it very much) nor that I dislike Scots (I don't: I much prefer most of the Scots I've met to most of the Londoners).

But really: stop being idiotic and tell Salmond and his coterie of cretins to sod off. Not because being tied to the UK is perfect but because an independent Scotland will be a disaster.

Footnote / update : the morning after. http://www.bbc.com/news/events/scotland-decides/results The result is not in doubt. Every voting district except three (with one still to declare) voted "No." Two of those failed to reach a 55% majority and the other one reached only 57. They will say that the result displays a strong demand for independence. But it can equally be argued that it was sending a message and that many did not consider themselves ready to be independent, in effect that "Yes" was a protest vote. The "Yes" campaign must not take comfort in either position nor should it take comfort that it is not known how many of those voters were swayed by the bribes offered by an oddly unified "yes" camp with more devolution being a prime part of the offer.

Whatever, the good thing is that Scotland will remain. The bad thing is that so will Salmond who will undoubtedly see, at least in public, this as a vindication of his position. But in private, for him, it's going to be a bitter morning after pill to swallow,

Look at the BBC site's graphic of the parts of Scotland and how they voted. The socialist centres voted "yes" or nearly so, the much more conservative areas with significantly smaller populations universally voted "no", often comfortably. And that gives me considerable pleasure. Things aren't going to be the same, but at least it's not going to be a train wreck.

© 2014 Nigel Morris-Cotterill
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