On Saint Andrew's Day, Ctd

A reader writes:

I'm entertained that you managed to frame the case for Scottish independence almost entirely in terms of English concerns - how typically Sassenach. Still, I'll offer a couple of thoughts from the perspective of the classic Scot, i.e., the long term expat.

It seems to me that the whole tone of the English wanting to offload the Scots is tied to three basic issues: 12 years of a Scottish-dominated Labour Party government, the drying up of oil revenue, and the extent to which Scottish devolution did nothing to address the more contentious issues of the West Lothian and English questions of governance or the Barnett formula.

The first of these three stirs basic little Englander bigotry - things aren't going well, let's blame the Scots, they're everywhere. It's the middle class version of English shopkeepers refusing to take Scottish pound notes as far as I'm concerned. The second of these was inevitable, and one might say in return, the revenue went to HM Treasury while the oil was flowing at a rate far greater than it came back north, so don't be a bunch of ingrates.

The third is the hardest to deal with, which is presumably why no government has bothered to take a comprehensive and coherent approach. Structurally, the current approach to the Scottish Parliament and Westminster Parliaments is an affront to equity in self-governance among the Home Nations. There's no reason for it not be addressed beyond, I would suppose, party politics, and the challenges of having a Parliament for the Union that could be completely at odds with any or all of the Home Nations Parliaments / Assemblies. Certainly if I were English I'd be exercised about MPs from Scottish constituencies voting on purely English matters.

As for the Barnett formula, that's going to fade in time anyway, and it's not like there aren't funding inequities at the regional level within England - they just don't have an official name. It's also not like the Tories couldn't have taken a swipe at it before, since it's not like there was much Tory support in Scotland to lose, electorally speaking. If Thatcher was willing to write off Scotland for a generation or more by giving them the preview of the Poll Tax, I can't imagine (or remember, to be honest) why she was unwilling to kill off the Barnett formula.

I must admit to bristling at your suggestion that Scotland could be disposed of by the English as being an artifact of history, a relic of empire, but mostly that's a small country chip on the shoulder. We helped build the empire, and kill the natives, but you're right, those days are past now... and after generations of inept government policy at a national and local level, and a wholesale failure to innovate, there's really not much else for Westminster to take.

And in truth it would probably only do Scotland good to be cast off. If nothing else, it would force some clear choices about taxation, the size and scope of the public sector, industrial and education and policy, and so on. I'd like to believe that my long-left-behind countrymen-and-women could recreate themselves to be a Tartan Denmark, but I suspect that old political habits would die hard and there'd be a rush to get money from the EU. Still, we've already got the chilly disdain of Eurocrats, being shot of the English might not be the worst thing ever. It would be typical if after more than 30 years of talking about finding a new landlord or maybe even buying their own place, Scotland was evicted.

One small note: when I said that Britain was a function of empire, I didn't mean that England colonized Scotland. The union, one might recall, began with a Scottish king (and queen, of course) assuming the English throne. I meant that colonizing the rest of the world was a critical Scottish-English project that brought the two countries together. The Scots played an enormously disproportionate role in seizing new territory and policing the planet in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. With that joint mission over, it's hard to see why the two countries need to stay together as rigidly as they now are.