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Oh my God! How will we survive? The Jeremy Vine Show yesterday had a discussion about Scottish independence. Well, I say discussion, but the amount of knowledge displayed by the participants was easily exceeded by a cat’s ability to explain quantum physics. Just ask Erwin Schrödinger. Essentially the programme boiled down to some seriously out of touch English media junkies telling people in Scotland that we have no assets, no resources, and that we have absolutely nothing going for us.
The first time I typed out the above paragraph, I mistakenly wrote Jeremy Kyle instead of Jeremy Vine. That was daft. In comparison with the comments aired on the Jeremy Vine Show about Scotland, the Jeremy Kyle Show seems like a serious, sensitive, and compassionate investigation of social issues. What we got yesterday from the Jeremy Vine Show was a few out of touch commentators screaming at Scotland, “You slag! You’d be nothing without me!”
The comments were so outré in their ignorance that they even made it into the pages of the anti-independence press in Scotland, as well as being widely aired on social media, so there’s little to be gained by repeating them in full here. Suffice to say that the truly gobsmacking thing about the remarks was not the arrogant lack of knowledge masquerading as insight which they displayed, it was the confidence with which they were asserted. It was British nationalist exceptionalism in full flow, and it was not a pretty sight.
Carole Malone averred that support for independence had declined since the 45% support it received in 2014, so it wasn’t going to happen. She airily dismissed it with a wave of her hand. The last opinion poll showed support for independence on 49%, Carole. 49 is a bigger number than 45. 53% say that they’d support independence if your fellow Brextremist Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister. 53 is also a bigger number than 45. It also represents a majority. Happy to help.
We learned from Paul Burrell, former butler to Princess Di who has been milking the connection ever since she died, that Scotland has oil, and a monster in a lake, and eh … This is untrue. Scotland actually has two monsters in lakes. Everyone forgets about Morag the monster of Loch Morar. Most people in Scotland are wishing that everyone could forget about Paul Burrell.
Scotland in fact has any number of mythical beasties. There’s Nessie and Morag, the kelpies, the selkies, the Grey Man (who contrary to popular belief isn’t actually James Kelly MSP), the Blue Men of the Minch (who aren’t Rangers fans who fell off the Harris ferry), any number of Little Folk, the Beast of Buchan (who is definitely a Scottish Conservative MP), and a whole lot more besides. What all these mythical craiturs have in common is that every single one of them is more grounded in reality than Paul Burrell. As far as Paul was concerned, the biggest issue to arise from Scottish independence would be what happens to the Queen’s holiday hoose. That’s quality current affairs telly that is.
None of this would be an issue if broadcasting was a devolved matter and Scotland had a proper broadcasting network of its own. As it is, we have to put up with a succession of ignoramuses pontificating about Scottish politics and current affairs, lecturing us from a position of gross ignorance and reinforcing the stereotypes and scare stories so beloved of the anti-independence campaign.
So what does Scotland have going for it, that question that the guests on the Jeremy Vine Show were so spectacularly incapable of answering. Scotland has 8.4% of the total population of the UK, but has 32% of the total land area and a massive 62% of the total sea area. Everything in 62% of the UK’s maritime area and every natural resource in 32% of the UK’s land area belongs to the 8.4% of the UK population which lives in Scotland. That’s a pretty good start. Even before we get into details, the people of Scotland are far richer in terms of maritime and land based resources per head of population than people in the rest of the UK.
But not all natural resources are evenly distributed. Although Scotland comprises 32% of the land area of the UK, that 32% contains over 90% of all the fresh water in the UK. Loch Ness doesn’t just contain a monster, it also contains more fresh water than all the lakes of England combined. Maybe Carole and Paul will remember that the next time they turn on a tap of chlorinated and calcinated water in London. The Sapir Whorf Hypothesis in linguistics says that our view of the world is shaped by the language that we speak. Scotland has such an abundance of fresh water that there is no Scots word for a shortage of water. The Scots word drooth means a lack of alcoholic beverages not a drought, because the concept of running out of water just doesn’t occur to Scottish people. That’s a luxury that people in most countries don’t have. Scottish water remains publicly owned and the best quality drinking water in the world is piped to every home in the country, unmetered.
That 62% of maritime waters which belong to Scotland contain 96.5% of the UK’s crude oil, and 65% of the UK’s natural gas reserves. Although admittedly we’re not counting the reserves of gas which were released on the Jeremy Vine Show. There was precious little natural about those. Those waters are also responsible for 60% of all the fish that are landed in the UK, and a considerable amount of fish caught by non-UK boats. They contain the greatest seafood stocks in the EU, and they’ll be traded away by Westminster in return for access to the EU markets post-Brexit, just like they were traded away by Tory PM Edward Heath in the 1970s.
Scotland’s 32% share of the UK’s land area contains 81% of the UK’s untapped coal reserves. Scotland possesses such an abundance of energy resources that we can afford to leave that coal in the ground. Likewise Scotland can afford to have a moritorium on fracking, because we have plenty of carbon neutral energy resources which can be exploited instead. There are not many countries which have that luxury.
Scotland’s 32% of land area is responsible for 92% of all the UK’s hydroelectric energy production and 40% of all its wind, wave, and solar energy production. Those figures are only going to increase, because Scotland possesses a massive 25% of the wind and wave energy production potential of the entire EU. Energy is the motor of any economy, and Scotland possesses it in an embarrassing abundance.
Scotland’s land also contains 46% of the UK’s forests and produces 62% of all its timber. It holds 30% of the UK’s beef herd, 20% of the UK’s sheep, 9% of the UK’s dairy herd, 10% of its pigs. Scotland also produces 15% of the UK’s cereals – by which is meant wheat and barley, not cornflakes or ricecrispies – and 20% of the UK’s potatoes. All this to feed 8.4% of the UK’s population. So it’s hardly surprising that Scotland has a huge food and drink industry worth an estimated £13 billion annually. Scotch whisky is a multibillion pound industry all by itself. Unlike the rest of the UK, Scotland is not massively dependent on food imports.
Scotland has a highly educated English speaking population with a world class history of invention and innovation. With independence more of the people that Scotland pays to educate will be able to remain in Scotland and benefit Scotland’s economy, instead of being forced into emigration because of the lack of opportunity created by generations of Westminster neglect. Independence means that our children can stay in Scotland, instead of benefiting the economy of London. Westminster economic policies take away our children, and then Westminster tells us that this is a union benefit.
This country has a £17 billion construction industry, a £17 billion financial and business services industry, a £9.3 billion tourism industry, a £5 billion aerospace industry, a £9.3 billion chemical industry, a £3 billion life sciences industry, and we export over £300 million annually in luxury textiles.
Scotland is blessed with being in a geopolitically quiet corner of the globe. We are not surrounded by war zones, we have no territorial claims on anyone and no one has claims on us. Scotland will have one of the greatest advantages of any nation – peace. Because as an independent nation we won’t continually be dragged into foreign wars by a UK government that wants to pretend that it’s still a global player.
Scotland has strong democratic traditions and institutions. Scotland has such a respect for democracy that it is able to conduct a debate on independence, a debate which in many other countries is carried out with bullets and bombs and states of emergency, entirely peacefully. In Scotland, we take peace so much for granted that our anti-independence press has instead to get itself worked up into a lather about some snarking on Twitter. Being surprised by snark on Twitter is like being surprised that alcohol makes people drunk.
When Scotland does become independent, it will be peaceful, democratic and stable. It will benefit from well established industries which enjoy a global reputation. It will benefit from natural wealth which is far greater per head of population than the rest of the UK possesses. And we will no longer see the products of Scotland’s wealth being drained out of the country in order to pay for London infrastructure, or the demented nuclear ambitions of a faded empire, or for tax cuts for the rich. Scotland’s wealth will stay in Scotland.
Scotland doesn’t have the cult of exceptionalism, but I don’t think that will be missed. How will we survive when our country’s resources, talents, and abilities are no longer being bled dry to fuel the vanities of British exceptionalism. How will we survive? Pretty damn well. That’s how.