With less than a year until Scotland votes for independence, RICHARD LUTZ feels the heat rising in the referendum debate.
‘The truth is, we don’t really know what Scottish people want, let alone what independence will mean.’ So writes Scots author Denise Mina in a recent New York Times article.
Well, at least she’s honest about her indecision and confusion. A trip north of the English border finds a profusion of opinions, and a great deal of unknowns along with, of course, testy debate, argument, poison, logic and fervent nationalist dreams come The Referendum next September.
Yes? No? In? Out? Independent? Bolted to the bosom of the UK? The issue twists and turns. It seems everyone has an opinion (which is good). But it seems alot of voters, and I mean alot, simply are uncertain.
One issue..a big issue…is defence.
If Scotland goes it alone, what happens to Britain’s £45bn per year military establishment with its Trident armoury based near Glasgow, its overseas commitments, its standing army, its seat on the UN Security Council?
Alot of unanswered questions about Scotland and the British army. This from The Herald, Glasgow’s morning paper, regarding a new Ministry of Defence analysis to be publioshed this week:
The MoD paper, the latest in a series of Whitehall reports assessing the impact of independence, casts doubt on Nationalist claims that an independent Scotland would inherit a share of UK armed forces personnel and equipment, then reconfigure existing bases to accommodate them.
It argues that an independent Scotland should not expect Scots servicemen and women to be transferred automatically from the UK military.
And in further extracts made public yesterday, it claims it would be costly and time-consuming to establish the combined army, navy and air force Scottish Defence Force from scratch.
Defence is, actually, where the nationalist platform defaults to a tired template. The go-it-alone movement wants a £2.5bn annual budget for its armed forces. The SNP foresees a force of 15,000 regular and 5000 reserve personnel. Faslane near Glasgow would be converted from a nuclear base to a “joint force HQ” and Scotland’s main conventional naval port, according to The Herald.
But does a new Scotland really need even that? It would have no enemies, and the modern threat of fundamentalist terror isn’t fought with the old model of a standing army. It needs a a modern protective service based on intelligence, not brute force and guns.
One train of thought is: why not start from scratch post-independence (if it comes to that) and chuck out the hackneyed idea of a big uniformed army, an air force bristling with armaments and a bigtime navy?
Just have an effective Coast Guard, little else. Then, that £2.5bn per year can be ploughed into what a free Scotland would need- more cash for education, industry and a costly but free health service.
The defence issue is just one unknown. There’s also the links with the £ sterling; Scotland’s shaky ties with the monarchy; a vituperative debate on who owns North Sea gas and oil; and, the nation’s potential connections with the EU and NATO. Each one of these will have a definite effect on not only the Scots but also the 50m people below the border and how they live their lives. Independence will hit the English hard.Though most do not realise it.
One Glasgow friend said to me: ‘What rattles me is that everyone looks to the SNP for policies on a wide range of issues.’
‘But if we go independent, it could be a Labour administration and it simply doesn’t want to show its hand on any issue. It’s frightened.’
Alot of unknowns. And less than a year to go before a vote that could change not only Scotland but England too.