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March Update from Alastair Cameron

Update from our founder and director, Alastair Cameron.

Alastair at our Burns Supper in Glasgow this year

How many reasons are there to keep Scotland secure within the UK? The answer to this question could be expressed as a long list, perhaps under sub-headings such as jobs, defence, science, education, friends and family, culture and international influence. Alternatively, the question could be distilled into some key points, such as: Scotland and the UK benefit from sharing resources; we shouldn’t set up a border at Gretna, Coldstream and Berwick; together, we can achieve more and innovate better; and the majority of people in Scotland voted to keep the UK together in a decisive referendum only a few years ago.

Scotland in Union’s excellent “Ten Reasons” campaign is a great starting point in listing why we are still better together (and if you haven’t already seen our ten, please check them out here). Building on that, I thought I might share some of my top reasons, in addition to the obvious economic benefits of pooling and sharing across the UK.

Matters of collective defence, security and international impact are high on my list of reasons for Scotland to remain in the UK (as you might expect from a former Army officer). Our capable armed forces not only defend our interests directly, for example by having some of the most advanced jet fighters in the world on high alert at Lossiemouth and Coningsby to intercept any potential threats, or world-renowned special forces and specialist troops able to deploy globally. Our armed forces are a key part of NATO’s collective defence in an uncertain world, playing a full part in deterring aggression.

A Typhoon fighter based at RAF Lossiemouth intercepts a Russian Blackjack bomber over the North Sea. (Photo: MoD)

They can also distribute aid or participate in disaster relief with a reach and effectiveness which few nations can match. In other scenarios short of war, including an urgent need to evacuate citizens from another country, hostage rescue at home or abroad, or in response to emergencies within the UK, we are fortunate to have the resources, skills and resilience of the UK’s armed services ready to assist and protect us. Breaking up the UK would weaken all these aspects of collective defence.

UK forces deliver aid in the Philippines, after a typhoon. (Photo: Royal Navy)

In other areas of security, too, we are fortunate compared to the citizens of many countries. The Secret Intelligence Service, the Security Service and the Government Communications Headquarters together help to detect and prevent attempts to commit terrorism or undermine our infrastructure, helping to keep us all safe. Their reputations and capabilities are the reason for, and are magnified by, intelligence sharing arrangements with our closest allies – arrangements which I doubt very much would be available to a separate Scotland. Our network of embassies and consulates across the globe are able to influence other countries and to provide support to individuals abroad: in 2018-19, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office assisted more than 22,000 British people abroad, and more recently of course there has been FCO help provided to people overseas affected by the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Statistics about the UK FCO's assistance to British people abroad. (Source: FCO Annual Report 2018-19)

Other huge areas of endeavour which we perhaps take too easily for granted are culture, the arts and sport. In these, to re-use a slogan from the 2014 campaign, we truly have the best of both worlds here in Scotland, within the UK. We can all enjoy Scotland’s cultural heritage and artistic traditions, while simultaneously benefiting from everything the UK has to offer; our talents can play on a wider stage than that which would be available were we to leave the UK; and the UK as a whole can benefit from Scottish artists and actors' participation in our creative industries. Similarly, the sporting rivalries between the countries and regions of the UK do not prevent many Scottish athletes from being part of Team GB, or taking advantage of UK-wide sports funding. We are also in the fortunate position of being able to preserve our historic sporting identities, while also being able to cheer on Team GB's stars if we want.

Team GB at the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics. (Photo: ITV)

In science and innovation, shared funding and facilities for scientific research means we are able to innovate to help deal with climate change and to push the frontiers of science and exploration. As SIU’s ‘Ten Reasons’ highlights, 79% of university research grants in Scotland come from UK sources. And let’s not forget that it is UK funding which supports subsidies for renewable energy and other environmental projects across the UK, which would be difficult to replace in a separate Scotland, particularly if we were enduring the massive austerity which would be needed to align with the EU’s fiscal rules. This, incidentally, is one of the many reasons why I find the Scottish Green Party leadership’s enthusiastic embrace of nationalism both baffling and disturbing.

Finally, though, there are reasons for us to stay together which are less tangible, but perhaps even more important. Many of us in Scotland have friends and family across the UK (estimates in 2014 were that 750,000 people born in Scotland live south of the border), and feel a strong sense of solidarity with everyone across the United Kingdom. To use a well-worn phrase, there is more that unites us than divides us. I am as keen to support victims of flooding in Yorkshire or Wales, or to see a reduction in crime in London or Manchester, as I am to see reductions of drug deaths or improvements in education in all parts of Scotland.

Soldiers from the Royal Regiment of Scotland assist with flood defences in Yorkshire, 2019. (Photo source: BBC)

Our shared history, main language and cultural similarities add to that sense of solidarity, and many of us do not want to see these torn apart. The saltire is our flag, and the union flag is our flag, and many of us do not want to be forced to choose between them. We value the ability to move freely across the UK and to visit friends and family, and will continue to resist the nationalists’ attempts to put a new border in the way.

Our #EveryonesFlag campaign in 2018

We need to remember the economic facts, and remind people of them, but let’s also consider and reaffirm to ourselves the many and varied reasons why we want to keep the United Kingdom united. And let’s continue to explain these reasons to other people, so that we can keep Scotland secure within the UK.


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