THE rest of Britain will lose its “brand” and be less attractive to incomers if Scotland opts to become an independent nation next year, Boris Johnson said in a provocative speech last night.
Raising the prospect of how a Yes vote next year might impact on the rest of the United Kingdom, the Mayor of London ridiculed the prospect of a “former United Kingdom” – or “F UK” – trying to sell itself across the world. “What the F UK do we think we are doing?” he asked.
Scottish independence would also mean the remainder of the UK would lose an “identity” valued by people who settle in Britain but who struggle to think of themselves as English, he added.
In the speech at the London School of Economics, he said he wanted to tackle one of the “myths of our time”, that London was drifting apart from the rest of the UK “like some lunar module about to detach itself while the rest of the rocket slumps back to earth”.
London, he said, was “the capital of England, of Britain, of the UK, and it is profoundly in the interests of all those political entities that it should remain so”.
But the SNP said last night the speech highlighted the fact that the pro-UK side looked at the world through “a London lens”, rather than one which included the UK as a whole.
In the section of his speech on Scotland, Mr Johnson declared: “The last thing we should think of doing is breaking up the union between England and Scotland that helps make Britain one of the most successful political constructions in history.
“We lose an identity that is of huge value to people who come here and who find it hard to think of themselves immediately as English.” He added: “And we lose our brand. I was in Kuwait and watching a shopper buy underpants made in Devon, and that was because the shop had red, white and blue union flags outside and guardsmen in busbies guarding the door.
“It said Britain, and what will they think if the union flag is red, white and green and they no longer have an entity called Britain, but something called the Rest of the UKm or the former UK, or F UK?”
He added: “What the F UK do we think we are doing? We are stronger together, and we have a great future.”
The destinies of London and of Britain as a whole, he said, were “woven inextricably together”. He added that “the bonds, the coils of that union, are growing denser the whole time”. Citing the example of The Beatles, he said that while “the greatest band in the world came from Liverpool”, it was London which “helped propel them around the world”.
He added: “And that is truer today than it has ever been. I conclude from this that the secret of our national success is not to engage in some mad process of decapitation, of separating the greatest city on earth from the rest of the country. The secret is to strengthen London as the gateway to Britain.”
But SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing said last night: “As Boris’s speech underlines, a problem for the No campaign is that they view the world through a London lens. Within a continuing social union, a gain of independence for Scotland is that we always get the government we vote for – instead of Boris’s party imposing appalling measures like the bedroom tax with just one Tory MP here.”
She added: “And an opportunity of Scottish independence for the rest of the UK is that it will encourage a rebalancing of decision-making away from the predominant interests of London and the South-east, in favour of the needs of England’s regions.”