For an island of our size, our impact on the world stage has and continues to be remarkable. We have led in the fields of science, culture, sports and politics throughout our history. We are the fifth largest economy in the world. We are permanent members of the UN security council. We are the second largest contributors to NATO. We meet our 0.7 per cent of GDP target to help the poorest across the world.
These aren’t just cold facts. Worldwide, billions of people see the positive impact the United Kingdom makes. Through the UN, we play a key role in promoting international peace. Our NATO membership helped defeat the tyranny of communism and continues to protect eastern Europe from Russian expansion today. By promoting free trade and meeting international development targets, we have helped to lift millions out of poverty.
With this impact, it is not surprising that billions would be terribly upset if the United Kingdom did split up, and that is how I see the question of Scottish independence. Not through the lens of Braveheart or the cry for freedom, but what would be the destruction of the greatest political union the Earth has ever seen.
Scotland benefits greatly from being part of the United Kingdom. The Barnett formula has resulted in Scotland receiving more than £1,500 extra per head from the UK government when compared to the rest of the country. This has resulted in more money for the NHS, schools and policing. The UK government has also recently revealed over £1bn of funding for city deals across Scotland. This will see improvements in rural broadband, cyber security, and energy, while also boosting tourism.
The UK, too, benefits from Scotland
James Watt from Greenock helped to push forward the industrial revolution with his development of the steam engine, putting Britain on the world stage. Alexander Graham Bell from Edinburgh gave Britain the breakthrough in the field of communication by creating the world’s first telephone. John Logie Baird from Helensburgh gave Britain a new platform to spread our culture with his invention of the television. Robert Burns, an Ayrshire man, spread Scottish and British culture with the power of his writing. Alexander Fleming from East Ayrshire made Britain a healthier nation with the creation of penicillin. The Barnwell brothers from Stirling brought much advancement to Britain’s aviation capacity, critical in our winning the second world war.
Contributions from these Scots, as well as those from England, Wales and Northern Ireland, have made the United Kingdom the prosperous nation it is today. It is history, joint development, and mutual gain that bring us together. This will not weaken when we leave the European Union, but strengthen.
The EU is an unnatural political project with its only goal being further centralisation. Senior politicians from Europe have called for the European Union to unify taxes, and Germany and France have this week come closer to announcing a European army. It is clear that the ultimate goal of the European Union is to become a United States of Europe.
Even without these levels of centralisation, the EU already has too much power. The EU restricts our ability to strike free trade deals around the world through the protectionist customs union. It imposes unnecessary burdens on business and the consumer – take the five per cent VAT charge on sanitary goods and electricity as two examples. Membership of the European Union will also, at some point in the future, require us to sign up to the Euro.
By leaving the EU, the United Kingdom will get rid of these overarching powers, retain our own army, and set our own tax rates. We can negotiate our own free trade deals and lower – or even remove – VAT on a whole host of goods, leaving more money in the pocket of the consumer.
So, the idea behind the SNP’s latest push for independence that Scots will vote to leave the United Kingdom to join the European Union could not be more wrong.
The Euro is extremely unpopular in Scotland, as is the idea of a European army. The prospect of Scots voting for higher prices on their electricity and sanitary products seems foolish. As does the prospect of fisherman voting to rejoin the common fisheries policy. Will those in the whisky industry vote to rip up the trade deals that Britain will have made with the rest of the world? I don’t think so.
Indeed, Scotland voting to leave the United Kingdom only then to join the European Union would submerge us into the continent of Europe at a time when Britain would be forging an exciting global future for itself. And the idea that Scotland would have more representation is just plain wrong. In Westminster, Scotland has 59 seats out of 650. In the European Union, Slovakia – a country with a population similar to Scotland’s – currently has 13 MEP’s out of 766.
Nicola Sturgeon would be asking Scotland to vote for less control. Scotland would have to adopt the Euro, resulting in no monetary control and having to meet tough EU deficit targets. Scotland would cede control of our waters, harming the fishing industry which is worth billions of pounds. We would have to accept centralised taxation from Brussels, resulting in higher prices for Scottish consumers. For a party that claims that Westminster is too far away and has too much power, it is bizarre that the SNP’s position is to hand even more powers to Brussels.
If Nicola Sturgeon does go for a second referendum, then the choice is between the success story of the United Kingdom and the never-ending problems of the European Union. A choice between a global Britain or a continent that is inward-looking. A choice between a Britain that is devolving power or a European Union that is centralising it. A choice between a Britain that allows us to have our voice heard on the top table of international affairs or a European Union in which we would have minuscule representation. A choice between the British pound and the Euro. A choice between the British army or the European army.
If the people of Scotland were presented this choice, then I believe that we would decide, once again, decide to remain in the United Kingdom.