This article first appeared in The Scotsman newspaper (20/08/2019).
In recent weeks, the question of Scotland’s constitutional future has never been far from the headlines.
People’s confidence that Scotland’s future in the UK is secure has been knocked, just five years after a large majority of us chose the best option for our country.
We were promised it was a once-in-a-generation referendum, if not once-in-a-lifetime. There was a record turnout in a referendum described by the SNP as ‘gold standard’.
But given the toxicity and divisiveness of the two-year-long referendum campaign, millions of people in Scotland have no desire to go through that again any time soon.
Of course, the SNP has never stopped campaigning to divide communities and families once again. That’s what nationalists do.
But they have ramped up their campaign this summer, seizing on the turmoil at Westminster.
Boris Johnson has vowed to stand up for Scotland’s place in the UK, yet there is no doubt he polarises opinion.
Among many Labour and LibDem voters in Scotland, and quite a few Tories, he is deeply unpopular.
The threat of a no-deal Brexit is looming large, and that too is opposed in Scotland where nearly two-thirds of people voted to remain in the EU.
The UK Labour Party is also not helping in the fight to prevent independence and the austerity it would inflict on working people, with Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell both opening the door to a second referendum.
It’s no surprise that the most recent opinion poll put support for independence on 46 per cent, or 52 per cent if ‘don’t knows’ are removed. Amid the unprecedented Westminster chaos, SNP strategists will be distraught that it’s not higher.
But it’s still an important wake-up call for everyone who thinks Scotland’s future as part of the UK is a given – we have to fight for it every single day.
The SNP is spending its summer campaigning for a divisive second referendum, and Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold one before 2021.
Boris Johnson has said he will reject any formal request, but the looming possibility of a General Election cannot be ignored.
And if another contest isn’t held before the 2021 Holyrood election, that then becomes a referendum on a referendum – which means ensuring there is not a pro-independence majority in the next Scottish Parliament is vital.
That’s why all three pro-UK parties need to up their game and stop putting our future in jeopardy.
It has never been more important to speak up and highlight the benefits of being in the United Kingdom, and the pride which we take in our country.
Whatever you think of Boris, and Brexit, independence is not the answer. Another layer of constitutional chaos is the last thing that Scotland needs.
By remaining in the UK, our economy is stronger. Tomorrow, the latest figures from the Scottish Government will be published, known as GERS.
These are official statistics which give an accurate idea of what an independent Scotland would look like.
The figures are expected to include the UK dividend for every family in Scotland, which is worth thousands of pounds each year. Thousands of pounds that the SNP wants to take out of people’s pockets.
Scotland’s deficit is also likely to be much higher than the UK as a whole, but thanks to the pooling and sharing of resources across the country, the impact is cushioned. That wouldn’t be the case following independence, and it poses massive problems for the SNP’s argument that a separate Scotland could easily join the EU.
Nations seeking to join the EU need a deficit below 3 per cent of GDP, considerably less than Scotland’s according to last year’s GERS figure of 7.9 per cent. To achieve this goal, we would require massive tax hikes and even deeper spending cuts, regardless of the economic impact of Brexit.
New member states must also commit to joining the euro, although the SNP first wants to establish a new currency. Scrapping the pound puts wages, pensions and mortgages at risk.
Breaking up the UK would be irresponsible economic vandalism that would hurt the poorest the hardest. It isn’t a choice we have to make.
And standing up for the UK is about even more than protecting people’s livelihoods.
We share centuries of history and culture across the UK, with hundreds of thousands of people from the rest of the country making Scotland their home, and many more moving in the opposite direction.
Our families are entwined, our institutions are entwined, and our daily lives are entwined.
Millions of people in Scotland are proud to call themselves Scottish and British – the two are not mutually exclusive.
The Saltire does not belong to the SNP; it belongs to each and every one of us.
But making that flag the symbol of a separate country is simply not the solution to today’s problems. Flags and borders don’t bring communities together; and they don’t help an economy grow.
Scotland’s future is already in Scotland’s hands, and the best future for the nation we love is as part of the UK.