EXCERPTS FROM A SPEECH ON THE SCOTTISH REFERENDUM
Dr Liam Fox MP, Member of Parliament for North Somerset
7th February 2014
It has not been a good time for the Nationalists.
The skewering of Alex Salmond’s economics by the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, on his recent visit, was instructive, if not downright embarrassing.
What is now clear is that there is no guarantee that the UK Parliament would allow Scotland to use the pound if it voted to be independent. Even if it were to be allowed, Carney pointed out that it would mean full currency union, with banking union and the Bank of England as lender of last resort to Scottish banks. We can all see what has happened in the Eurozone when you have currency union without fiscal integration. You cannot simply make up economic policy and expect to get away with it.
Alex Salmond says he doesn’t need to take lessons from anyone else about economics. Believe me, Alex, you really do.
Another benefit that the Union brings to all its constituent parts is collective responsibility for the UK’s total debt. In the event of independence, Scotland would have to pay its fair share. Ironically in 1694, it was a Scotsman, William Paterson that helped establish the Bank of England for the purpose of lending the government money to wage war.
Scotland’s First Minister now says that if Scotland votes for independence and he doesn’t get everything he wants from the UK government, then Scotland will not contribute to the UK’s debt interest. This is maybe not surprising given that taking all liabilities into account, it is estimated that Scottish debt could rise to £185.4 billion or 123% of GDP if it became independent. But what sort of credibility do you think you will have in international markets if your first action is to refuse to pay your debts. Who will want to lend to you again?
This “make it up as you go along” approach to fundamental economic policy is utterly incredible as well as irresponsible.
There is no doubt that those who support Scotland remaining inside the UK are winning the argument hands down. The separatists have no convincing arguments on the pound, the European Union or NATO. The arguments for independence have been shown to be intellectually paper thin.
As the Prime Minister said in his excellent speech today, we cannot fight for minds alone. We must also win hearts. So let us make this case for our United Kingdom.
The border between England and Scotland is not just an economic one. It is a border that has been crossed by families for generations.
In 1707 we were a nation of treaty, now we are a nation of people. Who amongst us doesn’t have Scottish, Welsh, Irish or English blood in us? Who doesn’t have parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents from another part of the Kingdom? We are, as a nation, inter-married, inter-bred, and inter-mingled. 800,000 Scottish nationals live throughout the rest of the UK, whilst 400,000 people from elsewhere in Britain live in Scotland. So this is an argument that concerns not only those in Scotland, but families throughout the UK who, come September, could find themselves separated not only by geography, but by nationality. Why should our families be torn apart simply to satisfy the political ambitions of a few Scottish politicians?
Those of us who have family on both sides of the border. We do not see it as an “us and them” question. The negative Nationalist view sits in stark contrast to those in other parts of our country who see Scotland as part of their Britain.
The tale of the Union is a human tale. At a recent Burns supper I talked about how looking at Burns in his own time was so instructive.
For Burns – much like the union - was the product of many complex interactions and influences in a turbulent and uncertain period, which saw huge philosophical, cultural and scientific advances.
By the time Burns was born in 1759, the union had been in existence for over half a century. Yet only 13 years had passed since the Battle of Culloden, the final confrontation of the 1745 Jacobite rising and the last battle fought on mainland British soil. His birth also coincided with the emergence of the British Empire. It was in the middle of the Seven Years War - in which Britain and Prussia defeated France, Spain, Austria and Russia. Two years earlier had seen Robert Clive victorious at Plassey in India.
With an acute awareness of the world around him, by the time his family moved to Mount Oliphant farm in 1766, James Watt had invented the steam engine and Lord Grenville had introduced the Stamp Act on American colonists.
By the time his family moved again toLochlea in 1777, the Boston Tea Party had given way to the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Adam Smith had written The Wealth of Nations, Edward Gibbons had published The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and Thomas Paine had produced Common Sense.
Much of the debate around Robert Burns today, centres on whether he was a Scottish patriot or a British patriot. It is of course a ridiculously sterile debate. For there can be few if any, in this room who do not understand that there is no contradiction between pride in Scottishness and pride in Britishness. I have no problem being proud of being a Scot, proud of the constituency I represent in the West Country and my intense pride in being British.
The United Kingdom, in its infancy at the time of Burns, is something that for hundreds of years we have built togetherand it has achieved a historic synergy, often shaping the world around us and exporting our ideas of law, economics, human rights and democracy.
The intellectual vibrancy of the Scottish Enlightenment combined with the economic energy of the industrial revolution in England enabled our respective populations to achieve hitherto unimaginable global influence, still palpable and visible in many parts of the world today. It is unlikely that either country would have been able to achieve so much alone.
We cannot allow all that we have achieved to be lost by succumbing to the siren voices of Scottish nationalism.
George Orwell once said that “Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception”. And self-deception is something the SNP does not lack - membership of international institutions being a case in point.
The European Commissioner, Jose Manuel Barroso wrote a letter to the House of Lords Economic Committee stating that Scotland would not be subject to European treaties post independence. The Vice President of the Commission, Joaquin Almunia affirmed that ‘if one part of a territory of a member state decides to separate, the separated part isn’t a member of the European Union’, albeit this in reference to Catalonia. The assurances of the Nationalists were shown to be worthless and meaningless.
And then there’s NATO. Without Scotland,not only would the rest of the UK be weakened, but the rest of our NATO allies would be too. The nationalists say they would automatically be allowed into NATO. That’s just wrong. How do you expect to proclaim yourself a non-nuclear country and then be allowed into a nuclear alliance, which NATO is?
And what about the gap in NATO’s airspace that would be opened up? Alex Salmond says that the need to defend Scottish airspace means that Scotland would have to be allowed into NATO. That’s just untrue.
Maybe he should ask the Norwegians, the Swedes and the Danes what they think about this new vulnerability. Or is he saying that UK forces would have to be based at Scottish air bases? Funny sort of independence – keep the Queen, keep the pound and, now, keep the RAF? Has any of this been properly thought out at all?
It is clear that the separatists cannot answer many of the most basic questions about independence. But we cannot simply rely on winning the argumentsalone. We must also have a passionate commitment to the Union to counter the emotional appeal that nationalist sentiment can foster.
We must fight with every bit of our resolve to hold our United Kingdom together. We must fight for hearts as well as minds.
For those who come after us and for those who want to face the challenges of the future together, we will fight our battle with clarity, courage and conviction.
What we treasure we will never surrender. And we will prevail.