The Scottish independence referendum is looming large this September. I am English. I don’t get a vote. So, Scottish students, I have a favour to ask of you.
I have no idea what the ‘right’ choice for Scotland is. I don’t know about economics. I don’t know about political theory. I barely know where St Andrews is on the map. Thing is, though, nobody really knows what the ‘right’ choice is. It is a wild step into the unknown.
Chopping the top off the country would be like shaking up a yoghurt then peeling back the lid: you know the pot will still be fairly full – England, Wales and Northern Island aren’t going to be destroyed. But how much yoghurt will stay stuck to the lid? And will the rest of the world want to lick it off?
It’s impossible to tell – there are too many mysteries. We don’t even know what type of yoghurt we’re talking about: Activia or Yakult, Muller or Munch Bunch? So, rather than you trying to make a reasoned decision based on facts and wisdom, I have a suggestion.
Imagine if Scotland did vote for independence. Between September 2014 and March 2016 – when Alex Salmond would plan to declare Independence Day – there would be so many problems for the UK to sort out.
There would need be a new Union flag, one stripping out all hints of Scotland, like a spurned lover tearfully cutting the face of an ex out of holiday photographs. Scotland would also have to decide what kind of money it would use. It might retain the pound, it could start trading in Euros, or even adopt a radical barter system based on death threats and milk-bottle tops – which I think is called ‘Bitcoin’.
There is big argument to be had as to whether an independent Scotland would be obliged to offer British students free tuition like they do to those from the rest of the EU. Scots could be left fuming as hordes of Brits flood in to take up Scottish students’ places on free courses. “They can barely speak the language!” Scots would shout, fistfights breaking out in bakers’ shops when English students indignantly demand “potato cakes” rather than tattie scones. They would be considered parasitic locusts in search of cheap education on the Scottish taxpayer’s tab.
I’d like to assure you, by the way, that I haven’t come to steal from your country. I’m not here for the potential of free education two years down the line. I came to St Andrews for the weather, the plumbing in Andrew Melville Hall, because I was rejected from Oxbridge and heard there were lots of hot American girls here.
If Scotland became independent those American girls would have to file for new visas. Someone would have to sift through reams of paperwork to re-approve those students. Everyone north of Carlisle would have to find a way to peel the ‘GB’ stickers off the backs of their cars. For the next 15 years, Scottish grandparents would mistakenly type “.co.uk” rather than “.scot” into their browser. Add up a million tiny inconveniences like that and the UK would end up having a complete, and glorious, nervous breakdown.
Without doing a decade of economic and political research, I think a vote in the referendum isn’t much more than a guess at what would be best. The only certainty is that a ‘Yes’ would be much more fun to watch than a ‘No’. The process of seceding would be anarchy – the British would hate the Scots, the Scots would hate the British (more) and the BBC Evening News would become one big, mucky international divorce hearing. Wouldn’t that be exciting?
If you vote yes, we can have all that. We can have a 60-million-person, 18-month-long break-up argument and it will be great. We will fight over who gets to keep the nice plates and splitting up our record collection. Except with this we’re fighting over nuclear missile silos and splitting up huge financial institutions and education systems, tearing them in two like huge concrete marriage certificates.
Like bludgeoning a kangaroo to death with a banana, independence is going to take a while and it’s going to be messy. Let me see it – please vote ‘Yes’. We can sit in your garden, eat yoghurt together under a hazy red sky and watch the world burn.