THE BLOG
09/17/2014 05:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

On September 18, the Silent Majority in Scotland Should Say No With Pride

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Image courtesy of Stopherjones

Most of us have to say no quite a lot in our lives. To people who knock at the door selling religion, or nice looking new guttering to improve the look of your roofline. To your children when they want the new Android phone that their friends have, or when your own friend has made one unreasonable demand too many on your good nature.

We find a way to say no in the real world because the consequences of saying yes to salesmen, husbands wanting new golf clubs, or children wanting the latest gadgets would scupper us financially. Too risky, too expensive, don't need it, uncertain benefits, we say to ourselves.

If all of us living here in Scotland applied the same 'can we take on this financial risk as a family?' logic to the independence debate, all but the most blinkered and fervent nationalists would be voting no. Why? Because otherwise we would be taking on a set of risks on behalf of our country that none of us would be careless enough to take on as a family. Those that did would find the debt collection and default notices landing on their door mats pretty soon.

So what gives us as Scottish voters the right to jettison the common sense family budgeting skills we apply to ourselves, when people start waving blue and white flags and using words like 'yes' 'destiny' 'independence' and 'freedom'?

Many supporters of independence complain that their national identity is somehow devalued because Scotland lacks independence or statehood. Their solution, it seems, is to achieve this independence chimera by depriving millions of their fellow Scots of their ability to call Scotland and Britain home without feeling foreign in either.

Little is heard in this debate about the silent majority of proud Scots whose British nationality is also at stake here. For those of us who consider British-ness and Scottish-ness to be important elements of who we are as individuals, there is a horrible sense of foreboding about the current debate and the likely consequences of separation.

Independence will mean horrible choices and will make the many Scots who identify as British and Scottish feel part foreign in their beloved Scotland, and strangely foreign when they visit England. The idea that Scotland gains something by making around half of its population choose between identities after independence is perplexing. Where patriotism successfully unites people in a country - witness the Glasgow Commenwealth Games and the London Olympics - nationalism has literally split the country in two.

Where before my Scottish-ness, my English-ness and British-ness allowed me to feel at home in any part of our island home, after a Yes vote on September 18th I would suddenly feel like a foreigner here. If I eventually get a Scottish passport, my mother, father and sister in England will become foreigners, and I will become a foreigner when I cross the border. If I keep my British passport, I would become a foreigner in a Scotland I have come to love and call home. Would I be able to keep both passports and stay in Scotland? No one knows yet.

What independence means for Scots depends on who you talk to. Some people genuinely believe in their heart of hearts that Scotland has a right to self-determination in the sense Woodrow Wilson meant. Others feel that Scotland could do better going it alone economically. Others feel that the Thatcher years showed that Scotland's destiny needs to be in its own hands.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of these arguments, they are all honest and respectable positions. What is missing is a credible plan - the 'how' do we make the idea of independence a successful reality in a world which is moving in the opposite direction, a world moving towards greater interdependence and integration which has been the European experience since the 1950s. For an independent Scotland to survive and prosper it has to be able to offer real opportunities to its young people - not pipe dreams and flag waving.

There has been a horrible absence of reality in this independence campaign. A Yes vote has for some people become a lottery ticket to oil financed Scandinavian lifestyles, for others a chance to demonstrate their love of country.

What we do know is what independence would mean for Scottish voters. It would mean losing their vote in the UK, and without it, the ability to influence the country that - thanks to Alex Salmond's currency union plan - would be setting interest rates and mortgage rates through the Bank of England. It should hardly need stating that such decisions on interest rates would not be taken in the interests of a foreign country with a population less than 10% of that of the rest of the UK (rUK) that had just voted to break off. The tragic farce of this independence campaign is that in any other field of human activity, anyone suggesting such an absurd scenario would be dismissed as a crackpot, but this is the premise on which YeSNP is basing its plan for the future and livelihoods of 5 million Scots.

It would be a tragic paradox if the price of achieving statehood was the loss of Scotch identity and the gradual dissipation of Scottish culture as Mr Salmond's migrants arrive and the country's youth departs.

The recent lurch to the right in the European elections, and the election of a UKIP MEP in Scotland shows that Scotland would be a rare country indeed if it could deal with years of economic and social instability, the loss of its young people, and increased immigration without either a damaging effect on its social fabric or its politics taking a reactionary turn to the right.

The appeal of a more just society and the notion of a government which is more in touch with the local needs of Scotland are two key reasons advanced by supporters of independence.

There is just one problem with these reasons. The tools for improving social justice already rest with the Scottish Parliament if it chose to use them. And as the Scotsman observed in its editorial backing a No vote, perhaps the best way there is to shape the future is through education, the levers of which lie solely in Scotland's hands.

On September 18th, the silent majority of Scots that Gordon Brown talked of so passionately, the ones who want more opportunities, not fewer, who want expanded and not reduced horizons, must speak up for their country and for future generations. They should say loudly, patriotically and with pride - No Thanks.

David Miles is a Carnegie Scholar at the University of St Andrews researching Anglo-American and German constitutionalism. He is an Associate Fellow at the Centre for Global Constitutionalism.