I was in Aberdeen on Monday for the Cabinet meeting. A few times every year we meet somewhere outside London, and it’s useful for us to make visits to enterprises relevant to our individual government portfolios, and for all of us to hear together a presentation about something relevant to the area where we’re meeting.
I visited a small IT and data business that is exporting 80 per cent of its activity, using the new Cloudstore set up by the Cabinet Office to offer its services to the public sector. And Cabinet heard from Sir Ian Wood on his review for the government on how to stimulate more exploration and extraction of oil and gas from the North Sea.
This would have been worth doing at any time, but the referendum on whether Scotland remains part of our United Kingdom made this meeting especially important. Of course it’s a matter for the Scots themselves to decide upon, and there’s no God-given rule that says that Scotland should always be part of our UK. I happen to believe though that it’s very much in Scotland’s own interest for there to be a resounding ‘No’ vote in September.
As has been made crystal clear, there could be no question of an independent Scotland continuing to use the UK pound, and as the President of the European Commission has said, it would be difficult if not impossible for an independent Scotland to join the EU.
There are 85,000 people employed in financial services companies headquartered in Scotland that benefit from access to a large UK market with a single set of rules. Leaving the UK would be to commit to a future fraught with risk and uncertainty.
But in the rest of the UK we can’t be indifferent to the decision Scotland will make in September. We all benefit from being together and I don’t go along with those who think the rest of the UK would be better off without Scotland.
Yes, Scotland benefits from public spending that is ten per cent higher than the UK average.
But we’re all part of one United Kingdom family. Many of us have some Scottish heritage. The time of Britain’s greatest influence and power has flowed from being united together, and Glasgow was after all the second city of the British Empire. We would all be diminished by separation.
So let’s hope that come September voters in Scotland draw back from the leap into dark that a ‘Yes’ vote would mean. It may be down to the people of Scotland, but the rest of us can still say, as David Bowie did the other night: ‘Scotland, stay with us!’