Britain’s Labour leader on Monday said England and Scotland shared “one economy” and forecast a “race to the bottom” between the two regions on salaries and working conditions if Scotland seceded.
Speaking in Glasgow, Ed Miliband said he feared regulatory competition between England and Scotland would prompt companies to move “wherever the rules are weakest.” He insisted that the more pressing political task was “creating a more equal, fair and just society” across the United Kingdom.
I say let’s confront the real divide in Britain, not between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, but between the haves and the have nots.
The question of Scottish independence looms as the region could have a referendum on secession from England, Northern Ireland and Wales before 2014.
Labour is wary of the referendum and opposed to Scottish independence. It enjoys considerable electoral support in Central and Mid Scotland, including the area around the city of Glasgow. The Conservatives, by contrast, are virtually nonexistent north of the border but strong across England. If Scotland were to secede, Labour could struggle to ever win a national election again.
There isn’t majority support for independence in Scotland. Most are comfortable with the current arrangement under which the region has its own parliament with the power to legislate education, health and police policy.
Scottish separatists are able to rally opposition to what they perceive as the unjust distribution of North Sea oil and gas revenues. While drilling platforms are situated off Scotland’s North Sea shore, the central government issues licenses and collects taxes. The value of these revenues corresponds roughly to the subsidies Scotland receives from London every year however.
If Scotland achieves independence, the ruling nationalist party plans to continue to use Britain’s sterling currency to enable businesses to operate with ease across the border.
England and Scotland were unified in 1603 when the Scottish king James I assumed the English throne. The two countries’ parliaments were unified about a century later by the Acts of Union in 1707.