We have achieved much together and can continue to do so by remaining united
On the 18th of September the people of Scotland will vote in a referendum, 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 Margaret Curran MP, Labour Party MP for Glasgow East and the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland.
To follow Margaret Curran on Twitter – @Margaret_Curran
On the 18th of September, people across Scotland will decide our future. And, in doing so, we will decide the future of the whole of the United Kingdom.
Scotland has a long and complex relationship with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Together we have grown and accomplished much more than we would be able to do separately. We have fought alongside each other to defend our country, built the great NHS and the welfare state, and created the world-renowned BBC, to name just a few of our achievements.
Whilst we should no doubt be proud of these collective endeavours, it is important to recognise that we face considerable challenges ahead. Today we are confronted with rising inequality and the largest cost of living crisis experienced in several generations. Parents worry that their children and grandchildren will not have the same opportunities or quality of life that existed just a generation before.
Under the current government, real wages have decreased by an average of £1600 per person since the last election whilst the cost of goods and services continues to rise. Across the UK almost a quarter of people aged 16 to 24 years old are unemployed and in many cities, the rate is over 25 per cent. Despite assertions to the contrary, the economic recovery following the recent recession has not been felt by most people across the country.
Many households have been squeezed by the decisions taken by the Government in the last four years but the solution to these issues is not independence – as Alex Salmond and the Nationalists seem to believe. It just is not true to suggest that our current problems can be solved purely by changing the constitution.
Following the release last year of ‘Scotland’s Future’, the Scottish Government’s blueprint for an independent Scotland, it is still not clear which currency would be used, how Scottish pensions would be paid, the share of national debt Scotland would take on, or what would happen to the Armed Forces should Scotland separate. These are only a handful of the outstanding questions the Scottish people want answers to ahead of the referendum.
At the moment, Scots have the best of both worlds. The Scottish Parliament currently takes the decisions about Scotland’s schools, hospitals, police, and transport while at the same time Scotland benefits from being a part of the wider United Kingdom. The case for remaining together touches on many different facets: economic and financial security, global influence and impact, and perhaps most significantly, our sense of shared values and ideals.
In terms of the economic benefits that are associated with being a member of the Union, Scots receive an average of £1200 more per head in public spending when compared with the rest of the UK. As part of the Union, Scotland is part of a single market of 65 million people and Scottish businesses sell twice as much to the rest of the UK as to the rest of the world combined. Given the size and strength of the UK economy, the UK Government was able to prevent the collapse of RBS during the global financial crisis, a move which protected the savings and mortgages of thousands of Scots, as well as thousands of Scottish jobs.
As part of the Union, we have a strong voice in the world. From having a permanent seat at the UN Security Council to being a member of the G7 to supporting our citizens abroad in any of the 270 British embassies and consulates around the world, the UK is a key player on the world stage. Our Armed Forces, which help defend our country and take part in major international peacekeeping missions, are some of the best trained in the world.
Above all, what binds together the nations of the United Kingdom are our common principles and shared vision for the future. A shared vision of solidarity, equality, and opportunity is held deeply amongst those in the United Kingdom. These ideals know no border and it is us citizens of the United Kingdom who have stood together in their pursuit. Through our continued cooperation I know we can enjoy a strong and secure country, in all its diversity, for many more centuries to come.
As ballots are cast in September I hope the positive case for the Union resounds with those voting and indeed with everyone across the United Kingdom. While it is Scotland’s decision to take, the impact will be felt up and down the entire country for many years to come. We have achieved much together in the past and we can continue to do so in the future by remaining united.
Published: Tuesday 10 June 2014
© Copyright of Endeavour Public Affairs 2014
Photograph: © Copyright of Margaret Curran MP
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone.