Utopia or Never Never Land?

No, since you ask. That’s how I would be voting, in an ideal world.

If Alex Salmond achieves his goal of an Independent Scotland this Thursday, I trust that history will record that it was done by disenfranchising over three-quarters of a million Scots.

As one of those Scots, I have to accept the fact that two men, apparently on opposite sides of the debate, colluded to deny one in six Scottish-born UK citizens the right to have a say in the future of their nation.

Such an act would be decried in the court of public opinion as a breathtaking breach of human rights were it to occur in any third world country. Yet in 2014, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it happens and nobody bats an eyelid. To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, this is the way democracy ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.

This is no foundation upon which to build a new country, and it is important to realise that’s what the Scottish National Party are attempting to do – build a new nation.

However much they look to the past, and Scotland’s proud history as an independent nation, they are not reclaiming anything for future generations. That old country disappeared long ago, and the world has changed beyond all recognition in the intervening 307 years. That the USA didn’t even exist then just goes to prove how much. No, the task that faces the SNP is creating a new, modern Scotland from the ground up.

If we believe all the projections, estimates and promises that the Scottish National Party have made, we should have no problem. New Scotland will indeed be a 21st century Utopia, where every citizen will prosper, sharing in the great wealth that is promised to us all. It sounds amazing. I’d love to live in such a society.

Unfortunately, in the real world estimates rarely turn out to be accurate. Take the Scottish Parliament building for instance. Scheduled to open in 2001 at an estimated cost of £40 million pounds, it eventually arrived 3 years late at a cost of £414 million.

Nope. You read that correctly. Four hundred and fourteen million pounds. Over ten times the original upper estimate. And part of the roof in the debating chamber collapsed just two years later. Every UK citizen paid for the new Scottish Parliament building, not just those resident in Scotland. Had that cost overrun fallen solely upon those living in Scotland, the project would never have been finished.


That’s just a single building. The Scottish National Party, if they are successful, will have to create an entirely new political infrastructure, and it will have to be financed solely from the public purse of the 5.3 million newly created Scottish citizens, rather than the 64 million citizens of the United Kingdom. Only the most incredibly naive of us would believe that there won’t be horrendous budget overruns, the burden of which will fall upon those poor New Scots. That’s no Utopia we’re being asked to believe in. It’s Never Never Land.

“Should Scotland be an independent country?”

That’s the question that will greet voters on their ballot papers on Thursday morning.

It should really read, “Are you ready to gamble everything?”

The first question makes it all sound like a theoretical exercise, a painless hypothesis to be idly discussed over coffee or a pint. But make no mistake, voting Yes is the biggest political gamble you will ever make in your life. And, let’s be clear on this, it’s not a minor wager, it’s an all-in bet, the true consequences of which cannot be foreseen. There’s no going back.

By voting Yes, you are voting to replace an existing political system, however flawed it might be, with another which has as much basis in reality as Thomas More’s Utopia or J.M. Barrie’s Never Never Land.

Projections, estimates and promises are all that the SNP have to offer us. Nobody really has any idea what the final cost of creating a new country will be – how can they? – but there is one fact that cannot be avoided – it will all come out of your pocket.

I urge all my countrymen to consider this when they make their mark on Thursday. Don’t vote for an unattainable ideal. The reality will fall far short and you will be left carrying the cost and the burden.

Second oil-field to the right and straight on ’til morning won’t take you to Never Never Land.

Don’t chase the dream. Face the reality.

Vote No.

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