Despite being half Scottish (my father was from quite an established Lothian family) I have not posted any thoughts on next week's referendum. The reason is two-fold. Firstly, I am not quite sure what I think. And secondly I actually believe it's a matter for the people who live there, not for me. That's why I recoiled when I saw the Saltire being flown from London government buildings and blanched when well meaning English friends started writing to Scottish strangers encouraging them to vote no. I asked one (a prominent anti EU campaigner) if receiving a postcard from a stranger from Brussels might make him change his mind in any 2017 referendum!
Every aspect of the debate leaves me divided. As a Libertarian I consider myself to be a political utilitarian. Yet I still have a love of tradition and only support change if the case for change has been proven. And that's the problem. At a recent event Rory Stewart, whose views on such matters are rooted in deep thought and good sense, spoke of the Union as two halves of a long established marriage which is facing difficulties. He said that both sides should surely try to find common ground upon which to build a reconcilliation and allow the marriage to survive. That of course is true, but can only work if both sides want to find common ground and if the common ground is sufficiently stable. What if one side feels the other is asking just too much? Or as is more likely in this case, the aggrieved party has changed so much over the years that what they have left in common just isn't enough to continue?
Will Britain be diminished? Almost certainly yes, but equally many people believe Scotland would be enhanced. Throughout the world there are cases of larger countries believing they have been diminished by nationalist sentiment and succession - Russia and Ukraine or Spain and Gibraltar to name just two. That however does not give the larger country to dictate the terms of the relationship.
Unlike the overwhelming majority of Conservatives I don't have an emotional attachment to the Union though I still believe there are political, security and economical advantages.
But surely someone who passionately believes in setting the UK free from the so called social and economic union of the EU could not want to dictate that Scotland should not set itself free from the rest of the UK if it wants to do so?
Whatever the outcome next week the result will almost certainly be very close. Unless the margin of defeat is substantial, it is almost inevitable that the issue won't rest and we will probably enter a period of "neverendum" with demands for a new vote following shortly on the heels of this one. And if I were a Scottish Nationalist I would be demanding that too. After all, the yes vote is solid. People who support yes have made a conscious decision to vote for change. The majority of the no vote are also people who have made a conscious decision to remain within the Union, but it also includes a sizable minority who probably dislike Alex Salmond, or who support Independence but fear the time is not yet right, or who have been swayed by fears of economic Armageddon. For example, if the UK government was not a coalition but actually a majority Conservative government following a more traditional free market Conservative agenda, would that alone not swing the additional 3% or 4% of the votes that the yes camp might be short?
I suspect that change is inevitable; if not next week then sometime in the next ten or twenty years. Each wave of nationalism is quenched by more devolution and thanks to Gordon Brown and with the acquiescence of the three main UK leaders, even if Scotland votes no they will walk away with devo-max. What's left in the bank for next time?
Already Scotland enjoys more funding, more devolution and far better public services than any other constituent part of the UK. That financial and democratic deficit has never been addressed and is allowed to continue only thanks to the munificence of English taxpayers. Thank goodness the English are less demanding than our Celtic neighbours. The question is, will they always be so?