I feel certain that Britain’s contribution – its solid, thoughtful, civilising presence at the top tables, the example that is set by the country’s very existence – is more necessary than ever in a formless world dominated by the rise of China and the slow, tormented decline of the United States.
And it this Britishness which Alex Salmond wants to end. Giving Scotland independence might sound a reasonable, even an inspiring thing, but the end of our Union would also mark an abdication of responsibility and an embrace of selfishness. The Scottish, who have travelled the globe as adventurers, soldiers, businessmen, artists and statesmen for 300 years, while exporting their most troublesome politicians to England, would be deliberately opting out of a significant role in the front rank of the world’s nations.
Maybe it was the “slow, tormented decline” line that threw me, but this is not very convincing. Most Scots reportedly oppose independence, so it is possible that the arguments over the referendum won’t amount to much at all. However, if they didn’t, does anyone think that this would be the way to persuade them to favor Unionism? Scottish independence would be an abdication of responsibility? Responsibility to whom? To do what? How is it any more “selfish” for Scottish nationalists to choose independence than it is for Unionists to oppose it? It’s the business of the people of Scotland to decide what they want for their country, but this is not much of a reason for them to reject independence.