This is a letter to my son, a student at Edinburgh University, who will vote in the Scottish referendum on 18th September. It also includes a letter from Jacek Rostowski in the FT whose son at Glasgow University can also vote and a joint statement with other members of the OMFIF advisory board

Dear Ben

Below some arguments on the Scottish vote from a joint statement I have endorsed together with other friends in an organisation, OMFIF, I am linked to.

Also a letter from a friend, Jacek Rostowski, from a UK Polish family who grew up in England and was a university professor here before making a career in Polish politics.

His son is at Glasgow University so like you at Edinburgh Uni has a vote.

Jacek like me sees this in the wider terms of Europe and the dark forces for nationalism, separatism and populism that are growing.

Jacek and my generation has seen the coming together of the nations in Europe being able to sink their profound dislikes, rivalries and proud identities into some community of living together much as the Scots and English have done over 300 years.

Thanks to the passions of populist nationalism your grandfather who you never met was forced to fight and be wounded by a German bullet in 1939. He came to Scotland as an officer in the Polish army in 1940 and there he met Granny and here you are back at a great European university in the nation you have these links to.

He died in part from his war wounds in 1958 but in 2002 I sat in the Chair at the European Council representing the United Kingdom (not England) which admitted Poland to the European Union. I have watched how union not separation has helped Poland grow and watched the same process at work in Ireland, where Granny’s family came from, and which today thanks to union with other countries is infinitely richer and fairer than it was when I was your age. The Poland and Ireland they know when your age – of clerical oppression, nationalist hatred and intensely poor – have disappeared. But if Europe and the UK disintegrate into petty hates and rivalries, believe me history does not treat nations kindly when they embrace such stupidity.

All the people who argue for separation – of Scotland from England and Wales, of the UK from the EU – are sincere and have populist passion on their side.

And the chance to give this rotten elitist millionaire cabinet a kicking as well as a Westminster riddled with fiddlers (I am to put it mildly an expert on that point!) and liars about Europe is very tempting.

Don’t forgot Salmond wanted a 2nd question – Devo Max – on the ballot paper but Cameron and the London eiites in the arrogant complacency that the No vote was a No brainer dismissed it. I think because Cameron wanted an easy win on an EU In-Out referendum question instead of admitting that Europe, like the UK, is a complex, multi-factor relationship not reducible to a simple Aye or No.

It is hilarious to read all the London Tories and their puppets in the press telling the Scots they must stay in the union with England while telling the English the union with Europe is a terrible thing.

Hilarious and hypercritical but such is politics.

Anyway to punish Cameron and the Bullingdon Boys is not a reason to indulge in nationalism, separatism and voting to provoke a crisis in our country and I think in Europe that will undo much that is good even if imperfect.

Emilie and I were swimming in the warm seas off Greece again today and send lots of love and we will all be together at the end of the week when we will know if your vote has been the one that mattered.



A split spells stark danger for Europe
Sir, My son, who is studying at Glasgow university, is considering how to vote in the Scottish referendum. My answer has been that dismembering the UK would further destabilise an already extremely dangerous situation in Europe. It would be bad for the UK, bad for Poland, bad for freedom and democracy in Europe, and bad for Scotland.
The diverse forces calling for separation are far from tribal
It’s the debt stupid, not the currency
A curious understanding of common sense
An intoxicating cocktail of blood and soil
Tens of thousands of Poles will have the right to vote in the referendum. I would appeal to them to reject the folly of dismemberment of one of Poland’s closest allies. The same applies to Lithuanians, Latvians and other EU citizens resident in Scotland. They all have the vote in this referendum, and we shall all be less secure if irresponsibility triumphs.
On the question of Scotland’s rights to the Bank of England, Alex Salmond seems not to understand the difference between assets and liabilities: Scotland presumably would have a claim to a share of BoE assets when the Bank (and UK public debt) are divided between the two countries as a result of a Yes vote.
But Scotland has no right to insist that the assets of a new National Bank of Scotland should be funded by liabilities for which the rest of the UK would be jointly responsible together with Scotland. With greater power inevitably comes greater responsibility, however inconvenient that may be. Just as à la cartemembership of the EU is impossible, so is à la carte independence.
Mr Jacek Rostowski, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Poland, Warsaw, Poland

OMFIF is an independent non-aligned organisation working with different institutions and jurisdictions and does not take a political or ideological stance on issues of interest to our members and counterparties. We are however making an exception in the light of this week’s referendum on the future of the UK, which we believe could have profound, widespread and largely damaging consequences.

Scotland matters
The damaging effects of a UK break-up

The possible departure of Scotland from the United Kingdom in a referendum decision on 18 September would make European and international politics and economics less predictable, more volatile and less secure. This small sea-surrounded surface on a small planet has made an important contribution, for better or for worse, to today’s world. The nation-state that faces a conceivable dismantling has straddled, and played a major part in, the periods of the industrial revolution, the rise and retreat of western colonial-imperialism, the onwards (but not necessarily irreversible) march of globalisation, the waning and waxing of Asia, the ascendancy of America, and the rending and reintegration of the traditionally warring principalities of Europe.

The nature of the vote, and the careless, somewhat arbitrary fashion in which it has come about, have attracted much hyperbole. Yet the over-used epithet ‘historic’ is justified. ‘In or out’, Scotland matters – deeply.

Opinion polls indicate that there is a greater chance of a Yes vote than seemed likely a few weeks ago. The most likely outcome is still maintenance of the status quo. But the influences behind the Scottish vote reflect wider international developments that are likely, too, to persist.

First, the desire of smaller groupings of people, in democratically run and generally well-off states, to pin their futures on self-affirmation and self-government, appears to be growing. Some of the sought-after gains may be illusory. The potency of the hopes behind them is real.

Second, the breaking down of barriers between international flows of capital, labour and trade has spawned many winners but also some losers. Global economic interdependence has mainly flowed, but also ebbed, since the Act of Union in 1707. Globalisation is undergoing a phase (which Europe last witnessed, with unpleasant results, in the 1920s) in which many see it as both creating and concentrating wealth: imperfect, unreasonable, impermanent. Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, the pied piper of Linlithgow, has cleverly fused perceptions of economic injustice and some longstanding anti-English grievances into his own brand of conviction politics.

Third, the influence of superficial populism grows when technology accelerates the dissemination of beguiling thoughts and opinions. There is a disturbing dichotomy between the short-term power of the internet and the TV screen, and the long-term nature of a binding ballot box decision to break a thread that has successfully held the UK intact over three centuries.

Scotland and the other constituent parts of the UK are wired into the mechanisms of the modern world, but no longer form its hub. When OMFIF at the beginning of the year pondered the 10 most important developments in store for 2014, we highlighted tension between Japan and China, unrest in the Middle East and a strong US economy, with the Scottish referendum well down the list. Under point No.9, we said: ‘A probable firm vote for Scotland to remain in the UK … will add to UK bullishness.’

Nine months on, it is time to say that a Yes vote would have 10 major consequences for Europe and the world – nearly all of them uniformly negative. At times in recent months, it has appeared as if the more lucid the arguments deployed against a Yes vote, the greater the Nationalists’ success in turning them to advantage by branding them as worthless or self-serving propaganda.

Scottish self-delusion at times has seemed to be gaining the upper hand. Yet it is not too late to hope, or even expect, that reason will prevail.

1. A Yes would make Europe more divided, more distracted and less able to play a positive role on the world stage. It would increase the likelihood of the remaining UK leaving the EU in a future referendum decision and would heighten the importance of separatist policies elsewhere in Europe. Most European leaders know the break-up of an important EU state would heighten Europe’s problems, and diminish its importance, in the eyes of the world. A Scottish shift would have global consequences, making it harder, for example, for the UK (and probably France too) – in contrast to India, Brazil, Germany and Japan – to maintain a permanent place and veto on the UN Security Council.

2. Monetary arrangements form any state’s heart. A separated Scotland’s would be weak and palpitating. It is idle to believe that the Scots could carry on using the pound as though nothing had happened. Centuries-long experience shows that a successful currency union requires political union, unless one region wishes to be permanently held in check by the more dominant player. It would be supremely illogical for Scotland to vote for independence and then, in its fiscal and monetary relationship with England, take on the subservient part of a Liechtenstein in its link-up with Switzerland. Scotland’s new currency would be conceived in hubris, born of frustration, and grow up in instability.

3. Brains, money and jobs would haemorrhage southwards. Scottish banks and financial service companies would not be the only ones to move bases, business and people, to Manchester, London and Carlisle, Leeds, Birmingham and Newcastle. Older, less flexible, more vulnerable, less active individuals would stay behind. In an act of imaginative folly, the Scots would manufacture a similar reason for the same kind of destabilising population flows (east to west rather than north to south) that unification between East and West Germany in 1990 sought to forestall. ‘If the D-mark doesn’t come to us, we’ll come to get it,’ was the East Germans’ slogan as they forced the West German authorities to bring in Europe’s quintessential hard currency, and then to reunite the country, in 1990 to choke off massive streams of westwards migration. Sterling may not be the D-mark. But that no longer exists. The British currency, in recent years (for a mix of reasons) harder than the euro, has its attractions. The exodus this time would be across not Berlin’s Wall but Hadrian’s.

4. In many other areas, independence would exacerbate, not alleviate, Scotland’s economic problems. Whether in pensions and social provision, research and development, commerce, trade and investment or their shopping bills, the Scots would soon find self-harm lurking behind self-determination. Rather than escaping what some Nationalists see as a centuries-old cycle of impoverishment and neglect, Scotland would be more likely to usher in a new one, of its own making. This could be a bizarre re-run, in reverse, of the English-Scottish monetary union 307 years ago, after well-off Scots bankrupted the country and drove it into the arms of the English following a display of misplaced confidence in a capricious investment scheme to colonise the Isthmus of Panama. The ‘re-energisation’ of Scotland promulgated by the Nationalists might one day happen, but, in view of the large number of anticipated initial problems, the Scots would probably have to wait a long while for the promised benefits.

5. The early political outcome of a Yes vote in the UK would be destabilising. Alex Salmond’s victory fruits would not last long. Despite the charm, pugnacity and skill with which he has deployed his campaigning talents, Salmond could risk ending up, like many revolutionary leaders, a disappointed figure. A better result, for him and for Scotland, would be to lose the referendum but win compensatory powers from Westminster. If the Yes side wins, David Cameron, brimming with blandness yet bereft of foresight, would go down in history as a latter-day Lord North, the 18th century prime minster who lost Britain’s American colonies. A difficult stretch of negotiations with Scotland about implementing the separation, and especially on dividing up the UK’s assets and liabilities on a basis that all sides find equitable, would be conducted in an atmosphere of bitterness and recrimination that could poison relations for many years. Cameron might well be ejected from the premiership. His Conservative party probably would tilt further to the right and further from the EU. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, would hardly profit from his rival’s disarray. His party would lose a northern foothold that was too small to turn the referendum tide yet could be sufficiently large to deprive the party of a majority in any future rump UK election.

6. A separate Scotland would not find immediate solace or support in Europe. The present UK’s successor state would have its seat in London, not Edinburgh. Speedy Scottish accession to the EU is highly unlikely. Other European governments are worried about secession in Catalonia, Flanders and elsewhere. Salmond’s ruse to blackmail the English into accepting currency union, by otherwise refusing to accept Scots’ share of the UK national debt, is highly unlikely to succeed. So Salmond would have two choices. He could fulfil his threat and renege on Scotland’s share of the hitherto all-UK national debt, which would have a significant negative effect on the division of all other assets and liabilities with the remaining parts of the UK. Or he could accept Scotland’s inherited and somewhat exacting debt burden, without fully adequate banking and currency arrangements. Either path would reduce Scotland’s status and its negotiating leeway with the EU.

7. The debt issue would overshadow not just the relationship with Brussels, Frankfurt, Berlin and Paris, but also the entre workings of a separated Scottish government. The greater the questions over the new state’s willingness and ability to honour its debts, the higher the interest costs demanded by investors in the debt of a future independent Scotland. And the greater the difficulty, too, of maintaining Salmond’s welfare, pensions, educational promises – yet more black marks against a separated Scotland’s economic proficiency and political credibility.

8. The frequently over-stated riches of North Sea oil cannot represent Scotland’s salvation. The Nationalists’ claims that the UK has in some sense stolen the oil revenues are as fictional as the view that Scotland has stolen them from say Aberdeen or the Shetland Islands. A separate Scotland can negotiate revenue streams for new concessions. But – short of summary nationalisation that has gone out of fashion even with African and South American revolutionaries – there will be no retroactive rewriting of valid legal agreements, no re-diversion of already-agreed revenues and no sudden windfall to swell Scots’ coffers. Strong-arm methods against globally operating energy companies at a time when the oil price is anyway tending below $100 a barrel are not likely to achieve beneficial results for Scotland and its people.

9. A Yes vote would impair the defence arrangements of the UK and its allies, making Europe and Nato less able to intervene in the world’s trouble-spots. A separated Scotland would dismantle the Trident submarine base at Faslane on the Clyde, confronting the London government (and Nato) with a new dilemma over the future of the strategic nuclear deterrent. The 15,000 Scots in the 100,000-strong UK army mainly live outside Scotland, reflecting UK policy of basing soldiers away from their homes. They have not been given a vote to express their loyalty to the state they help protect, despite efforts by leading military figures to persuade the UK government to give them one. This would be just one of the factors hampering the army’s cohesion after a Yes vote.

10. Whatever happens, the procedures for establishing the referendum and the terms under which it is being held run counter to best practice in mature democracies. Many, now and in the future, may look with incredulity at Cameron’s negligence in deciding to go ahead with the poll and making the result legally binding without any reference to the UK parliament and without the normal democratic prerequisites of constitutional change such as super-majorities and second-vote reconfirmations. Not least for the UK’s European partners, the carousel-like development under which a residual UK shunned by Scotland would probably tilt further away from European integration should give rise to foreboding. Thoughtlessness, expediency and a vein of unscrupulousness have coalesced to make possible a risky experiment of great destructive power. History is littered with cases where such uncontrolled processes have led to disaster. Onlookers with a stake in the outcome, but no direct role in Thursday’s referendum, can do little but hope that this will not be another one.

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