John Major weighs in on Scottish independence debate

Friday, November 29, 2013

John Major in 2007.
Image: Steve Punter.

Yesterday in London, former UK Prime Minister Sir John Major gave a speech at the Institute of Directors outlining his opposition to plans for Scottish independence. This follows the publication earlier in the week of a white paper by the Scottish government outlining plans for what would happen if the country votes to leave the United Kingdom.

Major said that there won't be a currency union between a newly independent Scotland and a post-split United Kingdom: "A currency union, which the SNP [Scottish National Party] assume is negotiable, would require the UK to underwrite Scottish debts. That cannot, will not, happen if Scotland leaves the Union. There can be no halfway house, no quasi-independence underpinned by UK institutions."

Major said the other alternative was to join the Euro, but this would require Scotland to first join the European Union. EU membership may not be easy as "many states would have concerns about the accession of a separatist member. [...] How would Spain feel — with breakaway movements in Catalonia and the Basque Country? Spain uses uncertainty over EU membership to deter Catalonia from even holding a referendum on independence. It is hardly likely she would happily wave in Scotland. Spain will not be alone in being wary of separatist tendencies."

Major also said that Scottish nationalists engaged in anti-English sentiment. "Anti-English sentiment from separatists irritates and enrages, as it is intended to do, but across the UK people know and value Scots as partners, work colleagues, friends and neighbours. It is hard to imagine Scots becoming foreigners."

A spokesperson for Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland and the leader of the Scottish National Party, responded to Major's remarks: "Sir John Major is quite wrong to suggest that the rest of the UK should lay exclusive claim to all the assets of the UK, which the people of Scotland contribute to and of which Sterling is one. But he is also just about the very last person the No campaign should be calling on to make their case. He was the Tory prime minister who presided over his party's complete wipe-out in Scotland and the more he tries to lecture the people of Scotland, the better it will be for the Yes vote."