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Scotland and England: A Priceless Relationship

The debate on Scottish independence has been dominated by economic arguments, to its detriment, argues Tim Stanley.

'Sawney Scot and John Bull', an English print published in 1792. 'Sawney' was an English nickname for a ScotsmanWhen you forget why you started doing something it becomes progressively harder to justify why you carry on doing it. The debate over Scottish independence is a case in point. Why continue with the Union between Scotland and England, if we can’t remember how it came about or what it is for?

It is striking how much of the debate centres on economics rather than history. On a visit to Scotland in February 2012 David Cameron made a token reference to 300 years of partnership, but defended the Union largely on the grounds that it provides value for money. ‘Today, Scotland has a currency which takes into account the needs of [the] Scottish economy as well as the rest of the UK when setting interest rates’, he said. ‘And it can borrow at rates that are among the lowest in Europe.’ Doesn’t it make the heart soar?

You would imagine that nationalists would, in contrast, be full of talk of Culloden and the flight to Skye. But the language of the Scottish National Party (SNP) is just as modern and prosaic. At the Hugo Young Lecture in January 2012 SNP leader Alex Salmond said that he would make the case for independence ‘as the means by which the Scottish economy can grow more strongly and sustainably; by which Scotland can take its rightful place as a responsible member of the world community’. Independence will (somehow) turn Scotland into a green energy-producing financial power that leverages itself between the dollar and the euro. Switzerland with shortbread.

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