Nick Herbert: Scotland goes to the polls in one week’s time

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert

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Nearly two decades ago, as a parliamentary candidate for the northern-most English constituency, I stood on the bridge which spans the river Tweed and joins England with Scotland, and spoke about the threat to the Union.

The Bridge is in need of repair. Six years ago, it was temporarily closed because of a landslide. Now it seems that a political event of similar magnitude could permanently break the very Union which it symbolises.

In a week’s time, on Thursday 18 September, the people of Scotland may vote for their country to become independent. And so, with casual crosses on a ballot paper, could end an extraordinary partnership between two countries that has endured for more than three centuries - three times longer than the oldest person alive today.

Since the Act of Union in 1707, the United Kingdom has defeated enemies at Trafalgar and Waterloo, risen to become the greatest nation in history, won two world wars, and stood as a beacon of freedom across the globe.

If the Scottish people vote to stay, they will have the best of both worlds, with promised further devolution in their country, but all the economic benefits of being in the Union.

In this case there must be overdue devolution in England, too. Lop-sided devolution fomented the nationalism that has taken Scotland to this place. It must be corrected.

If the Scottish people vote to leave, there will be deep shock in the UK and huge consequences. But I believe it is Scotland, not England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which would be more harmed in the long term.

An independent Scotland which continued to live beyond its means would face rising taxes, spending cuts and long-term decline.

Divorce should be amicable, but it could not be on Scotland’s terms. They could not share the pound, because such a currency union would damage both economies.

Nor should MPs for Scottish constituencies be permitted to allow the formation of a UK Government in next year’s general election, since they would cease to be MPs after Scotland legally separated.

I hope it will not come to this. I desperately want Scotland to stay. I think they would be making a serious mistake if they left. It is their democratic right to decide. But I hope that they will, in the end, conclude that we are better together.

If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or e-mail me at nick@nickherbert.com