AS I SEE IT: TERRY MURDEN says leaving the UK must be based on deeper reasons than short-term economic difficulties
Humza Yousaf has been in Arbroath making his own declaration of independence. The SNP leadership contender used a campaign speech not only to hark back to that historic statement, but to regurgitate his party’s focus on grievance. When the ideas for how to actually run an independent Scotland are in short supply, just accuse the Tories of making life so bad that splitting up the kingdom has to be better.
It really does beggar belief that anyone can see a justification for constitutional reform based on the current cost of living crisis and the high price of food and fuel which formed the basis for Mr Yousaf’s claim that along with Tory rule, an independent Scotland would banish poverty.
The Conservative government may have a lot to answer for, but it cannot be blamed for the energy crisis; nor is it wholly responsible for pushing the economy close to recession. By this time next year, when wholesale energy prices are expected to be lower, the war in Ukraine may be over and inflation tamed, the economy should be picking up. That will leave the SNP to look for another reason to divide the UK.
The party is fond of telling us they want Scotland to get back into the EU. Have any of its members noticed there is a cost of living crisis across Europe, too? Fitch Ratings sees Germany and Italy’s economies going into recession by the end of this year as they battle to control inflation. Maybe their governments have been mischievously copying Tory policies.
Or maybe they are facing the same problems as the rest of the world. The US is flirting with recession, Pakistan is at risk of default, Egypt is in need of external finance. Governments everywhere are facing challenging economic conditions. But, of course, an independent Scotland would rise above all this and create a land flowing with milk and honey.
There is also dangerous talk around majorities, an issue that gets too little attention. Mr Yousaf says Scotland will be independent when there is a “sustained majority” for independence. “When that happens it will be politically impossible to ignore independence. At that point the democratic will of the people of Scotland will not be denied,” he declared.
Aside from failing to say how it will not be denied, a sustained majority could, of course, mean several polls showing a simple majority of one. That should not be enough to decide Scotland’s fate.
The SNP regularly reminds us that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU. It should also be required to vote overwhelmingly to leave the UK. The margin needs to be of such measure that the outcome would be repeated if further votes were held and support for remaining in the UK had fallen to such a level that recovery was unlikely. This would provide evidence that the country has a settled and compelling case.
We have seen the effect of having a simple majority decide the UK’s fate in the EU. Subsequent polls have shown that a majority would now vote to remain. To paraphrase Lady Macbeth, what’s done is done and is unlikely to be undone. Scots must be certain they’re making the right choice when the time comes.
Terry Murden held senior positions at The Sunday Times, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and The Northern Echo and is now editor of Daily Business