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Malcolm Fraser: Scotland doesn’t need independence to take more responsibility for itself

I’m A Scot, with a conviction that my “Britishness” has never challenged. But for all we have to learn from our Nordic context and Celtic connections, I’m clear that the culture of Britain, from the BBC to the Fall and the Smiths, has lit my life.

And it’s England I have most exchange with, from trade and business to friendships and a wife (a Surrey lassie – who has voted for independence parties more times than I have).

I never felt comfortable with the concept of “independence” until I realised its limitations. For in this modern, connected, free-trade world we are all, whether we like it or not, inter-dependent. I am interested in how a properly independent Scotland with its own currency would fare; but few people are talking about this and the “independent” Scotland I read about, with sterling retained – and therefore England setting our monetary policy and lending rates – is, clearly, not “independent” at all.

But I do think that we, the Scottish nation, are desperate to take more responsibility for ourselves. Are we are a once-proud, mercantile nation that has become too dependent on subsidy, or a creative and commercial country that London sucks the life out of? Either way we need to accept that the union has been good for us as a nation, in helping us out of a Celtic miasma and on to an international stage; but that what once was good now hobbles us, and that we now need to stand on our own two feet.

This means, first and foremost, that we need to have responsibility for raising the taxes, here, that we spend here, and power over welfare to fight for equality of opportunity for all our citizens.

The proposals for Scotland’s future set out by the Scottish Devo Plus group, of which I am a member, do this. It’s also important to realise what they don’t do. We will still share defence, foreign affairs and financial regulation with the UK, so this proposal won’t stop Scotland from being dragged into vain, stupid foreign wars, or stop us pouring countless billions into the vile, empty charade that is our dependent nuclear deterrent; and they won’t stop the business-friendly deregulation suicide pacts that successive governments have pursued.

What this means is that we won’t have the luxury of sitting smug on the sidelines if England (and Wales, and whoever else is still attached) go careering further down these routes. We would have to stay and argue for a more just and loving international Britain. That seems, to me, nicely proportional: we look after our own affairs but still look outwards, in financial and international matters.

“Devo Plus” is a wee brand-name that describes a model for change in our political system, now. But, in a much larger sense, the fully-federated nation within a wider community of nations it describes – Scottish Nation, United Kingdom, free trade Europe, United Nations – is an exemplar of civic nationalism and responsible nationalism, for our age.

• Malcolm Fraser is director of Malcolm Fraser Architects

 

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