Alex Cole-Hamilton: Newsflash – independence is not going to happen

The Sustainable Growth Commission  chair Andrew Wilson outside the Scottish Parliament.Picture; PA
The Sustainable Growth Commission chair Andrew Wilson outside the Scottish Parliament.Picture; PA
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Despite what you might have heard from the SNP conference over the weekend, independence isn’t going to happen. There. I’ve said it.

A social attitudes survey published last week suggested that as many as 59 per cent of Scots feel strongly British. That warms my pro-UK heart, because it may finally signal the loosening of the constitutional knot that has throttled the consideration of all other public policy in Scotland this past decade.

It comes hot on the heels of the so-called Growth Commission’s report into how an independent Scotland could tough it out if ever we severed ties with the rest of the UK.

That report has been awaited by the ranks of nationalists for years. It was delayed several times to the point where it became so mythologised by those in the Yes base, they believed that it would represent a road map to the promised land. That it would finally win over those pesky No voters still clinging to their “facts”.

So reverentially was the Growth Commission talked about amongst the pro indy, or indy-curious commentariat that there were shudders of mild anxiety and nervous glances on our side of the aisle.

But we needn’t have worried, what started out as “what have they got up their sleeve”, swiftly turned to “is that it?”. Its publication was greeted initially with bewilderment and some degree of hushed consideration – not unreasonably – it was a very long and technical piece of work. Usually ardent unionist pundits even suggested that it was quite well written with interesting comparisons to successful small countries like New Zealand and Hong Kong.

This must have lit the touch paper because the far left of the independence movement went berserk. Suddenly, a document that was going to provide the much needed answers to the questions that had thwarted the independence cause in 2014, saw guns drawn within the Yes camp. Why? Because the comparisons it made with those countries would require one small ingredient for our fledgling country to get there – austerity on steroids.

Shortly after publication, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a well-respected think tank, was swiftly backed up economist and blogger Kevin Hague’s widely circulated analysis, that the commission’s formula would see public spending having to fall three per cent behind GDP growth within ten years (austerity is classified as the point where public spending has to dip more than one per cent behind GDP). It was clear and it was damning.

Now, I’m not going to spend the rest of this article talking about what an economic disaster area our country might become. I don’t hate Scotland, as some in the dark underbelly of the SNP might suggest, and I won’t do it down. I love my country. But so too do I love the United Kingdom. You see, I’m an internationalist– for the same reason I am unashamedly Europhile, I proudly support the continuance of the political and social union within these islands. I believe in forging political unions with those countries close to you geographically and those who share your values. That’s the way to prosperity and a shared answer to the macro issues of climate change, human trafficking and terrorism.

I said at the top of this article that independence isn’t going to happen, but that doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods. The new SNP deputy leader was elected on a mandate to push for another referendum as soon as possible, so we in the pro-UK camp need to be ready. That means putting aside our differences, Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem and start pulling together once again to make a positive case for the union.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is the Lib Dem MSP for Edinburgh Western.