The SNP likes to talk of the benefit of “independence” from the rest of the UK. What people want the word “independence” to mean, of course, is “control over one’s own affairs”. Autonomy, in other words.
But autonomy is not on offer. Indeed, a vote on autonomy would clearly be absurd: in any given area, Scotland cannot, independent or not, act unilaterally without consideration for policy in rUK, or the rest of Europe and the world for that matter.
And when it comes to taxation, monetary policy, border controls, energy, and a host of other critical areas, the room for manoeuvre is practically non-existent, even in the event of the SNP having everything its way.
Scotland would keep the pound, but lose any representation at the Bank of England; it would have huge renewable energy resources, but it would rely almost entirely on rUK to purchase them; it would stay in the EU, but lose the UK’s voting power; it would be a member of the UN, but lose a place on the Security Council.
The way to get on in a modern interconnected world is to be a member of as many clubs and societies as possible.
The UK is one such grouping, and is a powerful member of others – and this guarantees that when the key discussions affecting Scotland’s future are taking place, Scotland’s voice is heard. It’s no use talking about deciding for yourself if you’re not going to be in the room when the decisions are being made.
No sensible person is suggesting that Scotland can’t be independent if it wanted, or that it wouldn’t be a comparatively well-off country in the event of independence. Of course it can, and of course it would.
But in terms of guaranteeing its citizens a certain quality of life, and affording them input on decisions that affect that quality of life – in those terms, Scotland would be mad to let go of the reins and let others dictate its destiny.
Independence may sound tempting, but the irony is that greater autonomy lies within the United Kingdom, not out of it.