Why breaking up the union is not a family tragedy

Alex Massie (whom I admire) has written one of the better “Better Together” pieces I’ve read. It’s good first because he doesn’t feel the need to pretend that an independent country of 5m fairly intelligent people1 and crap weather2 is doomed to failure (just look at Denmark); second, because he rightly points out that there’s been a fair bit3 of economic sophistry on the Yes side4 without indulging in economic idiocy himself. Finally, because his argument on the benefits of the union appeals to “softer” factors while still being coherent and sensible. You should read it.

Nevertheless, I beg to differ with Alex and the others who think Scottish independence will move Scotland further from our hearts (many metropolitan journalists even seem to think Scotland will actually change its physical location5) and divide them from us6. Scotland has had separate policies on health, education and the burial of dead livestock7 for at least 15 years. It hasn’t made me any less friendly with Scottish people, any less likely to visit Scotland, eat Scottish food, buy Scottish products or work with Scottish colleagues. The same will be true if and when Scotland has its own immigration policy (almost certainly less xenophobic than the UK’s), its own foreign policy (probably less inclined to foreign adventures) or its own economic policies (possibly less half-witted, but we can’t be sure). I’ll still have friends, colleagues and in-laws in Scotland, and I’ll still have to visit them – unless Ed “keep immigrants out, we don’t want any more like me” Miliband really does post guards on the Scottish border.

You see I’m fundamentally uncomfortable with the idea that the state could or should pick my friends for me. I don’t like the idea of any government, even a democratic one8, influencing where I can go, who can visit me, who can work with me, who can study with me, or whose products I can buy. It’s just none of their business. And happily, while the UK and Scotland remain in the EU9, the extent to which Her Majesty’s government can do so is limited10 (they can still prevent me entering into mutually beneficial relationships with people from non-European countries, but that’s a rant for another day). Great Britain is and always will be a geographical and cultural entity. We don’t need to be ruled by the same cabal of incompetents; nor do we need a shared central bank, army or empire to benefit from Scotland’s creative geniuses or world renowned exports. Thanks to technological progress it has never been cheaper or easier for Welsh, English and Northern Irish people to go to Scotland (or Eire, for that matter) or interact with Scottish people. Indeed, for most practical purposes, humanity as a whole has never been freer to interact, and that’s in spite of, rather than because of, nations, states, ministries and all the other paraphernalia that politicians and political journalists invest with too much importance. Yes or No on Thursday, we’ll still be together and as long as we keep parliament relatively free of the statist power hungry numptees who think their personal taste in foreigners should decide who gets to live next door to us, we always will be. And we’ll be better for it.


  1. On average. Obviously some are real geniuses. Which means others…
  2. Or “renewable energy resource”, as the Scottish Government likes to call it.
  3. I didn’t say more, just a fair bit. I personally think politicians on the Yes campaign have been more honest than those on the Better Together campaign, but that’s a bit like arguing over who’s the nicest serial killer.
  4. Honestly, if you’re a Scot wanting state socialism, vote No – you’ve already got about as much as you’re likely to get. The UK government just nationalised the banks for Christ’s sake.
  5. To be fair, that’s a major factor in my five year old son’s support for independence: he wanted to see how they were going to move it. But then, he’s five.
  6. The question of whether independence is the best option for Scotland (especially economically), is another matter, for another day. Short version: I think yes, but not in the way many Yessers think.
  7. Probably. Haven’t actually checked.
  8. i.e. usually one elected by around 20% of the electorate (35% of votes on a 60% turnout) . The current coalition actually got the votes of around 38% of the electorate, which just goes to show…
  9. Of course, Scotland leaving the UK might raise the probability that rUK leaves the EU, but we’ll stick to first-order effects here and cross that bridge when we come to it.
  10. I’m not praising the EU here, but at present it seems at least mildly preferable to the likely alternative. See e.g. Dalibor Rohac here.
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