I am regularly asked now for my opinion on Scottish independence. I was asked it again on Thursday at the EU conference I attended. My reply is that we should instead be discussing the question of England.
I pointed out that the polling which shows the UK as hostile to EU government in so many areas of our lives would doubtless show those feelings are str0nger in England alone. The EU draws more support from Scotland and Wales than it does from England.
Nationalists in those countries enjoy using the EU against England. They see that the EU’s continued insouciance to England, refusing it any recognition, is part of the process of weakening and undermining the Westminster government they dislike. It all helps to antagonise the England they wish to leave in a way which might help the change they want. One of the great ironies of the Scottish “independence” movement is it is not truly an independence movement at all. It is a dependence movement, wishing to shift Scotland to Brussels control directly. It is an anti English movement more than it is an independence movement. In bizarre opposition to all the rest of his feelings, Mr Salmond even wants to keep Scotland in the pound under the control of the Bank of England!
I explained to the audience that there are English Eurosceptics now who not only want out of the EU, but want an independent England. To them the ideal outcome would be England leaving the Union of the UK, and leaving the EU at the same time. Scotland and the rest could keep the EU membership as a leaving present or a poison pill, depending on how you look at it. England would then be free to spend her own taxes, make her own laws, and run her own affairs as she used to before the 1707 union and the 1972 union.
England’s representatives have accepted that Scottish withdrawal from the UK is a matter for Scotland and not for the rest of us. I am happy with that, but only on the understanding that should Scotland decide to stay there must be a new deal for England. If Scotland seeks devo max, and the UK government is prepared to offer it as the price of keeping Scotland in, we must insist on devo max for England as well.
As an English MP I want my country to be self governing, if Scotland splits away. I want the UK to have a referendum on its relationship with the EU. If the UK splits, I would hope both Scotland and the rest would have to renegotiate with the EU. That would give England our opportunity to say we want trade and friendship agreements, not membership of the emerging supertstate. We could put behidn us many of the chains that currently ensnare us from Brussels. English taxpayers may want save payments to the EU as well as to Scotland.
If, as I expect, Scotland recoils from leaving the UK England must insist on her own devo max. We also need to insist on a new relationship with the EU. The EU fits ill with English nationalism, which is the new force in UK politics which the SNP are deliberately fostering. Defenders of the EU are now defenders of the UK, which is causing new problems for the defence of the UK union in England. Defenders of the EU see that the splitting of the UK will cause a crisis or natural change in our relationship with the EU that they do not want.