Reading most of the national press over the past few days, we could all be forgiven for thinking that in ten days time the Scottish people will almost certainly take the irreversible decision to bring an end to the 300-year-old political and economic Union that has tied the peoples of England and Scotland together, in what is widely regarded as the world's most successful national partnership.
Quite whether the time is right to dissolve this historic union is open to debate, although it is clear that there is much underlying antagonism on the part of some Scottish Nationalists, who would make and have consistently made the argument that Scotland is and has been the subject of what is fundamentally blatant English colonialism for the past three centuries, even though the evidence would tend to suggest otherwise.
As has been pointed out by much more knowledgeable scholars of the subject, the mainstays of Scottish nationalism, its culture, language, legal system and educational systems have remained largely outside of English control or influence throughout the period of the Union, ostensibly in recognition of the historic differences that have always existed and will continue to exist between the two neighbouring countries. For anyone to suggest that Scotland has somehow been cleansed of its Celtic cultural, legal or educational heritage by the creeping Anglo-Saxon influence of England is surely an absurd argument to make, especially when so much of Scotland's current cultural heritage has been actively shaped by the Scottish people themselves.
At the same time of course another great complaint from the nationalist corner, is that the lives, incomes, jobs, environments and communities of every Scottish citizen are being ruled over and trampled upon by the foreign English parliament that sits in Westminster, even though that same particular parliament happens to be made up of assorted Scotsmen, Welshmen, Irishmen and Englishmen, although clearly not in equal numbers. It also seems to have escaped the Scots Nationalists notice that significant numbers of their countrymen have held high office within that same British Parliament, with very few complaints having been made about the 11 former British Prime Ministers who were either Scottish born or of Scottish extraction. Neither was there much of a fuss made about the hundreds of Scottish MP's who have held ministerial office over the period of the 300 years that the union has been in place, whose own government's policies, whether as part of a Labour or Conservative administration have directly affected Scotland and its people, for better or for worse.
What seems to be the most puzzling, is the idea, the theory, or even the widely held belief that Scotland has in some way been treated much more badly by successive Westminster governments than just about anywhere else in the British Isles, a firmly held view in the minds of some Scottish nationalists that appears to have little or no basis in fact. One of the most voiced criticisms levelled by the nationalist cause is that Margaret Thatcher's ruthless de-industrialisation of Britain during the 1980's was somehow aimed specifically at Scotland and its native industries, when in fact virtually every industrial centre in the country suffered a similar fate, not just Scotland. Then there is the issue of the ill-conceived Poll Tax, which some nationalists continue to carry around, as if it resembles the mark of a martyr state, forgetting of course that every single area of the country was eventually forced to bear the crippling costs of the poll tax, until such time as it was finally abandoned by a later Conservative government.
These events haven't made Scotland in anyway unique or unusual, they just make it representative of a much wider and larger Britain that has experienced truly tumultuous times over the period of the past 40 years or so. Are the Scots more deserving, or more aggrieved, or more deserving than those Britons who live and work in other hard hit areas of Britain, in the North East, the North West, in Wales, in Northern Ireland? No, they are not! But maybe they just choose to believe that they are? Increasingly it seems, there is a tendency for certain areas of the country, certain groups, to regularly claim that they are being specifically mistreated, demeaned or discriminated against by the powers that be, when in reality they are being treated as well, or as badly, as millions of their fellow citizens. The truth is that these semi-professional whingers seem to believe that they deserve special consideration when tough socio-economic decisions are having to be made by various national governments; that only they should be exempt from the pain, whilst their fellow citizens living elsewhere in the United Kingdom are not.
During the current Scottish independence campaign, which has been marked by claim and counter-claim on both sides of the argument, one thing has become abundantly clear, no-one really knows how well, or how badly an independent Scottish economy will fare once it is exposed to the chill winds of the international markets. Either way though, it seems to be the case that should the Scottish people choose to go their own way and vote for independence, then the subsequent separation between Scotland and the remaining parts of Britain should be absolute; if only to ensure that there can be no going back on the decision once it is made. Geographical neighbours we may have to be, but should the Scottish people choose to cast aside our historic relationship, then that should be an end to it for once and for all.
As it is, it appears that our political elite are now so horrified at the prospect of a "YES" vote in the forthcoming Scottish referendum that they are fully prepared to offer any and all sorts of incentives to the Scottish people, in return for their rejecting outright independence. Whether or not these offers of Devolution Max or Home Rule is sufficient to assuage the separatist cause will only be known after the public vote in just over a week's time, but even if it is, just how much damage will such blatant bribery have done to the wider social fabric of Britain generally? Why should the peoples of England, Wales and Northern Ireland accept that Scottish citizens are granted more autonomy than them? Why should they be expected to act as insurers of Scotland's future prosperity, when they have little or no influence over the political management of this new semi-autonomous state? Why should the Bank of England become the "lender of last resort" for what is essentially a foreign state? Such offers, or considerations shouldn't or wouldn't normally be offered, but given the level of political panic amongst the three traditional parties in Westminster, we now have the completely absurd situation whereby the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems are essentially offering the Scottish electorate a blank cheque on possible new executive powers, in order to keep them in the Union. Quite what the English, Welsh and Northern Irish electorates will make of such possible power transfers remains to be seem, but the fact that they haven't even been consulted on such measures must be causing a great deal of concern amongst the 60-odd million British citizens who live outside of Scotland's national borders; and who would doubtless be directly affected by such changes, but have no say in them.
It is surely a legitimate demand that English, Welsh and Northern Irish revenues should only be spent on English, Welsh and Northern Ireland's national needs, rather than those of an partially independent nation, which just happens to be attached to England's northern border. Why should a taxpayer in London, Belfast or Cardiff see their hard earned money sent to and spent in Edinburgh, when there is so much to be done in their own British cities? If Scotland wants all the trappings and the paraphernalia of an independent nation state then surely it is only right that Scottish taxpayers alone should meet the cost of such institutions and accoutrements? Similarly, if Scotland's native population, commercial investors and local businesses want to guarantee their own national currency, be that the pound or anything else, then surely it is not unreasonable for them to have to establish their own financial institutions, regulators and central bank, rather than choosing to rely on a historic relationship that they themselves have chosen to turn their backs on.
No doubt like many others in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, I cannot wait for the Scottish Independence referendum campaign to come to an end; and for the Scottish population to finally deliver their verdict, whichever side of the argument they ultimately decide to come down on. At least by the 20th September 2014 the entire country should have gained some degree of certainty over what the future holds, both for Scotland itself and for the remaining parts of Britain. If nothing else, the Scottish peoples true feelings towards the Union will have been exposed for what it is, for good or ill; in that it will have been seen as being valuable, or valueless. It is probably only after the Scots have expressed their view on the subject that we will finally begin to see the views and opinions of the real British majority, the bulk of the population who live in England, Wales and Northern Ireland; and who have not been permitted a vote over the future, of what is after all, their Union too!
In some ways there is undoubtedly an argument that it would be best perhaps if the Scottish nationalists were to triumph in the current referendum campaign, if only because there can be no going back on the bitterness and division that the independence question has caused, not only amongst individual families in Scotland, but also between the four countries that currently make up the United Kingdom. For many, the nationalist campaign has been fundamentally constructed on a series of publicly aired historic grievances and personally cynical ill-will, virtually all of which have been aimed at the majority English population via their elected representatives in Westminster. Although it remains to be seen whether or not Scotland will choose to remain part of the Union, perhaps the one certainty of the entire referendum exercise is that it has left the two main countries in the alliance, Scotland and England, more divided than at any other time in its 300 year history?