The high price of independence – a price too high to pay


What with the European elections in the next few days, pressure building on all our main political parties to go for a European referendum as a way of extracting Britain from the EC. At the same time Great Britain could be just a little less great by mid- October if the Scots vote to take themselves out of the picture making the United Kingdom move a binary kingdom. My Scottish friends are becoming increasingly vocal. Say yes.  It looks like it might really happen. Despite all the warnings that they would be outside the EC and have to reapply. Despite being warned they wouldn’t be allowed to keep the pound as a unit of currency. Despite being told they will have to pick their share of the national debt.  All those insolvent Scottish banks.  It’s an interesting time in politics at the moment.

And I have been wondering when I have to make up my own mind.  I don’t have the vote. I can’t vote no.  It’s the residents of Scotland who vote whether to stay or to go.  But Scotland aside the pressure is growing with right wing parties like the comic UKIP to pressure the mainstream parties to have a referendum and take what’s left of Britain independent.

I made up my mind last month at the Arc de Triomphe. I had gone with the family to Paris for the week.  Caught the morning train into London and jumped on the Eurostar at Kings Cross. And we were in Paris by lunchtime.  An easy journey. The Arc de Triomphe is a memorial commemorating French victories set up by Napoleon.  It became a symbol of French power long before World War 1. A tomb of an unknown French soldier was placed there after the Great War and an undying flame set up to remember the French dead. Only French power wasn’t what they thought. In 1939 the German army unceremoniously occupied France and the Arc de Triomphe with it.  I thought about that invasion as I stood under the arch.

And was vividly reminded that nationalist has started a lot more wars than it has prevented. I have never had to fight in a war.  Nor has my son been called up to do national service either. Western Europe has enjoyed the longest period of peace in history. And largely I would suggest because we found a way to form a supra-nationalist order.   Nations get into squabbles which escalate into wars to defend interests.  It might seem ridiculous to imagine that the English would send special forces into an independent Scotland to rescue English citizens. In a supranational political order that would be unthinkable. But that is exactly what has been happening in Ukraine – a national entity not powerful enough to defend itself but powerless to prevent its citizens joining militias and creating conflict.

What neither the Scottish separatists nor the British independence lobby have considered is the ability of the nation state to defend its interests. But there is more to independence than economics.  You need to be able to back up the talk.  Scotland as a nation of 5 million people isn’t big enough.  Nor would the rest of the United Kingdom by themselves.  I too dislike the bureaucracies of Europe which are not politically accountable. But they have so far proved impervious to extremism.  And that’s why I would like to stay part of the EC. And that’s why I don’t want Scotland to leave the United Kingdom.  It will make the world a more violent place.  I don’t expect the separatists to agree with me. But what I would expect them to demonstrate is that separation will lead to more stability. More peace and security.  I don’t believe it.

Now I am going to be told about all the wars that the UK and that other EC countries have fought in the last 50 years. Yes with professional armies – outside of Europe. But the cost of doing so in resource and lives has worked its power on the electorate who are sick of casualties for wars whose purpose they have long forgotten.  The role of the territorial army has been corrupted. They were supposed to be volunteers to defend their country. But they found themselves conscripted into foreign wars for the British political interest. They weren’t defending their homeland at all.  What I am fearful of is wars that envelope the whole country. Where men and women have to be called up regularly. We have forgotten what that was like.



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