Nationalism no thanks
I was pleased to see Gordon Brown making the case against Scottish Nationalism on Saturday.
I'm not convinced that independence would be an economic disaster for either Scotland or England - after all there are plenty of flourishing small nations (not least Ireland) - but I do think it would be - and I struggle to find the right word - "diminishing" for all the current component parts of the UK.
I don't challenge the concept of Scotland as a "nation" - you only have to go there to appreciate the distinctiveness from England culturally - though the cultural differences between Glasgow and London are probably no more sharp than those between London and rural Kent or even between inner and outer London.
But it's the fact that the UK is a state made up of different nations that is worth clinging on to and fighting politically to sustain. It isn't, like France, Italy or Germany or Sweden, a state based on nationhood and hence ultimately ethnicity - it's a state based on the shared history, political values and institutions of several nations.
That makes it a state that people who are not by ethnicity Scots or English or Welsh can identify with - you can define yourself as "British" wherever you are from, as long as you sign up to the values involved. I worry that that would be lost if we retreat into separation.
There are also a lot of us who are by ancestry a mix from the different bits of the UK - quite apart from the thousands (millions?) of Scots living in England and English living in Scotland who would suddenly become foreigners in their own country. I was born about as far south in England as you can get (with Essex being "up north") but with a family sense of identity that was definitely "British" rather than specifically "English" - thanks to a great-grandfather on my mum' s side being a McKenzie from Dumbarton who moved down to Kent to find work in the 1920s - so I guess I will become a fourth generation immigrant by default if the SNP get their way. There's also some Welsh ancestory somewhere in the mix as another bit of the family were Davies who arrived via Stourbridge in the West Midlands.
That feeling of being British rather than English was reinforced in the 1980s when the general misery of growing up Labour in a Tory heartland under Thatcher was made more bearable by the idea that "our people" in Scotland and Wales were resolutely sticking with Labour.
One of the biggest problems with Scottish independence is the nature of the SNP themselves. It takes a particular kind of person to decide to dedicate their political life to the "national question" as opposed to all the other political causes that are out there - I worry about the kind of politicians who wake up in the morning primarily inspired by their sense of national identity to go campaign for independence, rather than inspired by their sense of social justice to go campaign against poverty.
The whole philosophy of nationalism, even in its most benign Plaid Cymru and SNP variants, is based on playing up differences between people and suggesting that people with those cultural differences are somehow unable to rub along together in the same state. It's a profoundly depressing view of life and the antithesis of the internationalism that inspired socialism - the belief that we all - and particularly ordinary working people - have a lot more in common than we have that divides us and that we ought to be seeking to break down the barriers between nations. Nationalism is about sticking two fingers up to the notion of solidarity - that a trade unionist in say Hackney, should be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with a trade unionist in Glasgow - and instead saying we'll go off and do our own thing and who cares about anyone on the opposite side of the border. The Labour Party was founded by a man - Keir Hardie - who was born in North Lanarkshire in Scotland but was an MP for West Ham in England and Merthyr Tydfil in Wales - he could see that the common political ends sought by the voters in those three places united them far more than the nations they lived in divided them.
I can't help thinking that an independent Scotland and a rump England or England/Wales would both be narrower, less open, more inward-looking societies and be the poorer for it.
I can understand the political arguments for Scottish independence more as they stood in the '80s when Scotland got a Tory government it did not vote for imposing the Poll Tax. But the current political settlement is actually a remarkably positive one for Scotland - generous funding through the Barnet formula, devolved government and the imminent prospect of a Scottish PM of the UK plus a whole bunch of senior UK ministerial positions being held by Scots. The SNP case then seems to be wholly based on emotion and an appeal to "difference" which is a pretty sad moral basis on which to campaign.
A stand-alone England - at least for the centre-left in England - would also be a bleak place politically - destined to be governed almost perpetually by the Tories.
The prospect of a grinning Alex Salmond declaring victory at Holyrood has a natural corollary - a grinning David Cameron as Prime Minister of "England" in Downing Street.