The positive case for the Union

The positive case for the Union

The positive case for the Union

On the 18th of September the people of Scotland, the result of which will decide whether Scotland remains a part of the United Kingdom or becomes an independent country.

In the weeks running up to the referendum, Endeavour Public Affairs will be publishing a series of exclusive articles from senior politicians on both sides of the referendum campaign.  The first article is from The Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Bruce MP Liberal Democrat MP for Gordon and the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Party.

To follow Malcolm Bruce on Twitter – @malcolmbruce

To make a positive case for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom is to recognise multiple identities and respect that what it means to feel British – or Scottish for that matter – is up to the individual as long as it is inclusive.

It would be all too easy to pick apart the arguments presented by the Yes campaign with endless short-term policy guarantees, limitless and non-costed spending promises. However, there is also a very strong argument in making a positive case for saying a polite but robust No, Thanks to independence.

Sharing resources and strengths while supporting each other through weakness means we can achieve much more than if either party was alone.

As much as there is to set Scotland apart from the rest of the United Kingdom, there is as much that brings us together in terms of culture, (modern) language, shared history, and the free movement of people over the generations.  Together we have consistently punched above our weight in terms of international diplomacy, social development, the arts, invention, and enterprise.  Scotland and Scots have played a major role in this.

Of course, Scotland could go it alone, but whether it would look like the nation that the Yes campaign describes would be another matter, but asides from the headaches of starting again and building up costly, new, untested national institutions from scratch, why would we want to when we can already enjoy the benefits of being both Scottish and British?

Being united means the convenience of posting a birthday card or calling your auntie costs the same from the Scillies to Shetland.  Being separate countries will mean additional customs and trade barriers impacting on businesses as well as families.  Frankly, who needs it?

It is my hope that Scots do not allow political policies of the day to rule their decision for the long-term irrevocable future of the country.  This is not about party politics but the destiny of our nation.  In any case the SNP is not Scotland and Alex Salmond does not speak for all of Scotland.

As a committed federalist I believe in devolution and that it would surely be better instead to use our collective energies to improve our current union in investing in infrastructure, protecting the nation’s health and life prospects, and ensuring we remain secure and safe from those who seek to stand against a pluralistic, democratic, and peaceful society.

Using one voice whether it is through the UK’s role on the UN Security Council, EU Commission, G8, NATO, World Bank’s main board or the IMF packs more punch when trying to promote our shared values of human rights, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and democracy.

Our voice would be significantly weaker if the UK were to break up at a time when the world becomes ever globalised and interconnected.  As a whole nationalism, particularly in the current global context represents divisiveness and often leads to insecurity, and fear.

Being part of the UK gives us a stronger voice in the EU, rather than comparing an independent Scotland’s clout to a country like Denmark’s, on the assumption that EU membership is granted.  As one of the big three members, no matter what the Westminster Government of the day, the UK has a louder voice and through our network of embassies, high commissions, and trade missions throughout the world, we can promote Scottish brands and trade more effectively.

Closer to home, we enjoy creative collaboration and research through organisations such as the BBC, the British Council, UK Sport investment, National Lottery funds, and the UK Research Councils which have invested in life sciences in, for example, Dundee to make it a leading global centre of excellence.

Moreover we have access to some of the best intelligence and defence services and technologies in the world, helping maintain our security, including energy security.  This is matched by investment in renewables and green policies such as the UK’s Green Investment Bank, established in Edinburgh.

Our 300 year union has a secure currency which has survived the upheavals of the economic crises of recent years.  We have access to a lender of last resort in the Bank of England as well as access to secure and established pensions funds.  All this as well as no internal trade barriers means greater job security and means that people across the UK can ‘buy local’ and know it means access to some of the best produce and goods that Scotland is proud to produce.

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games this summer represented the best of the UK for me.  Seeing the crowds and fellow athletes cheering and congratulating team Scotland participants just as much as new and established names from the other home nations recognises our ability to enjoy our respective nationalities while coming together to share our collective similarities and achievements.  Long may that continue.

Published: Wednesday 03 September 2014

© Copyright of Endeavour Public Affairs 2014

Photograph: © Copyright of Sir Malcolm Bruce MP

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone.

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