There are a couple of interesting articles in the Scotsman today.
Supposing Tony Blair is re-elected with a much-reduced majority . . . a quite likely scenario. Supposing the number of Scots MPs is greater than the difference between Labour’s total of votes and the total opposition votes . . . again, a possible election outcome that was the case in the Wilson/Callaghan premierships.
Supposing the Labour government’s Health Minister, John Reid, tabled Labour’s pre-election promises on foundation hospitals. If Scots weren’t able to vote, English Tories would vote down Labour’s proposals, arguing that they had a mandate from English voters for their policies for more private healthcare than Labour proposed. Stand-off.
Constitutionally, the Labour government would then move a vote of confidence in itself, all MPs would vote, Labour would win and things on the policy front would be back where they started. Stalemate.
The other story reports on a study arguing that Scotland would lose £8 billion in public spending if it became independent.
Prof McLean says an independent Scotland would start with a deficit of between £4.4 billion and £8 billion because of the difference between the money raised in Scotland – including 70 per cent of oil revenues – and the money currently spent.
And he adds: "I am all for Scotland having full fiscal independence. But the Scots should choose it in the full awareness of what it would involve."
A fair enough point, and from an English point of view a positive argument for independence.
I think both English and Scottish nationalists get drawn too easily into arguments about who gets the biggest slice of the cake, which just makes them competing clients of the institutions they should be united against.
Incidentally, Macdonald is right to point out that nationalism could become much more salient after the next election if Labour is returned with a smaller majority, (especially if Tony Blair is replaced by theme obviously Scottish Gordon Brown.)
I have looked at some of these issues in a couple of past columns for the Irish World:
Why Gordon Brown is a Union Man – 16 July 2004.
Time to assert a core of Britishness? – 9 April 2004.