Saturday, 14 June 2014

Guest Post: Scottish Independence - A view from our Edinburgh University work experience student

I've spent most of my life in Newcastle, save for four wonderful years spent at the University of Edinburgh.

I know at first hand the hoops of steel that bind our two nations together. In the North East, our proximity to the border means that our two cultures have, over the centuries, mixed together to create our distinctive regional heritage. We are not distinct peoples; instead, our respective roots are so closely entwined that to erect such an artificial political boundary between us would not only be tragic but incredibly damaging.

As a single, unified nation, there are currently no economic barriers between Scotland and the North East. But this could not continue under an independent Scottish government. The new government would need to create new trade agreements and new tax rates – this will inevitably have an impact on businesses and jobs both in Scotland and the North East.

Every year, countless Scottish tourists come to the North East to visit our spectacular landscapes and award-winning tourist venues, not to mention our world-renowned warmth and hospitality. With an independent Scotland north of the border, our vibrant tourist industry could be under threat, putting jobs in the North East at risk.

It’s not just businesses in the North East that are worrying about the future. Edinburgh-based Standard Life recently stated that businesses in an independent Scotland would face “significant challenges”. If there was a word to sum up the mood of the nation’s business community, it would have to be “uncertainty”.

But instead of reassurance from the SNP, Alex Salmond has ignored these palpable concerns, exchanging economic common sense for mere petty nationalism. We have yet to receive answers to vital questions about the future of Scotland and the rest of Britain. What, for instance, would Scotland’s position in the EU really be? What about Scotland’s currency? How would interest rates be managed? How about the vital issues of tax policy and pensions? We have only had vague, half-hearted answers to these questions. The futures of the people of Scotland, the North East and Britain should not be in the hands of a party that deals in uncertainty.

When it comes to the EU, we see the most poignant example of Salmond’s obfuscation. The single market is a hive of economic activity with 500 million people generating £10 trillion in economic activity. 3.5 million jobs in this country are said to be linked to our membership of this trading organisation – but will Scotland remain a part of the EU at all? We have yet to receive a definitive answer to this question. The SNP has not given the people of Scotland the straightforward answer they deserve – as a result, the future of these islands may indeed be sacrificed by uncertainty.

Because that is what the SNP are offering – uncertainty; a gamble in which the stakes – the futures of Scotland, the North East and the rest of the country – are far too high to risk. An independent Scotland would be a step in the wrong direction if we are to build a resilient economy across the United Kingdom.

Of course, our shared history is also a firm reminder that we are better together. Scottish regiments have served alongside those from the rest of Britain, from Waterloo to D-Day. Our army is a tangible reminder of this fact, with our patchwork of regiments mirroring our shared history over countless centuries. It was Scottish airbases that provided Britain’s defence to the Soviet menace and it is submarine bases in the Clyde that keep our nation safe in an increasingly uncertain world. The arrangements of our national security clearly demonstrate our combined strength in tackling today’s global issues.

I would like to end this piece with an interesting reminder from history. As Edward I campaigned against Robert the Bruce and John Balliol north of the border, he was not fighting purely Scottish adversaries. Robert the Bruce owned lands across England, most prominently in Yorkshire, whilst the Balliol family had founded the college that bears their name at Oxford. There was not then, as there is not now, a definitive boundary between our two nations and there never can be.

We have countless centuries of shared tradition on these islands, a history which has developed one of the most successful partnerships in world history: the United Kingdom. For the future of Scotland, the North East and the rest of Britain, let us with common sense and common spirit remind ourselves that we are better together. 

Mark Loughridge is currently on work experience in my constituency office and studied Ancient History at Edinburgh University.