"It's difficult to forecast the future, but I see no circumstance where independence would be a serious [economic] disadvantage"
- the timing of the publication of his views, no doubt deliberate, coincides with Tony Blair's scheduled attendance at a Labour Party rally in Aberdeen today, at which he was expected to repeat his and Gordon Brown's earlier warnings that independence would 'force financial institutions and other big firms to flee the country, destroying the Scottish economy'.
I am not instinctively in favour of separating Scotland from the United Kingdom, not because I have ever 'feared' such a development, but because I feel 'British' in the way that Gordon Brown says he does - perhaps the only area where he and I share a common view about anything! However I have also thought, more or less since the terms of the Devolution settlement that Labour put in place soon after it came to power in 1997 became known, that this changed relationship was likely to cause increasing tension between Scotland and the rest of the UK, particularly its major component England. And so, regretfully, it has proved. I also quickly began to believe, although I felt reticent about voicing my developing feelings, that Devolution as we have it now could only ever be a half-way house and that either it would be reversed and the status quo ante reinstated or that full separation (aka. 'independence') would be almost inevitable in due course. It has been very clear almost from the beginning that a return to the pre-1997 siutuation was highly unlikely, even if I continued to try and delude myself into thinking that this would, somehow or other, gain currency as a future course. However this seems increasingly fanciful, specially because of the increasingly strongly expressed views within what seems to be a growing part of the English population that this is no longer even a desirable aspiration. My remaining delusions about this are now therefore nearly gone and I have come to the conclusion that the UK as we have known it for the last 300 years is finished.
Is it therefore better now to embrace the idea of Scottish independence positively, knowing (as I do) that we Scots being the resourceful people we are will make it work? I haven't yet quite taken this final step, but I have to say that I am coming close to it. Because of our geographic proximity and because of the close personal ties that bind a high proportion of both Scots and English (and Welsh and Northern Irish) to each other I think that whatever happens in the political settlement between the two nations these ties of family, friendship and economic interdependence will endure. The SNP is rather too left-of-centre in its politics for my tastes, but perhaps it has come time for a Scottish political party that is right-of-centre to embrace, for the future good of both Scotland and England, the idea that we move forward to a healthier and different relationship. The Scottish Conservatives would be ideally placed to fill a much-needed role in an independent Scotland if they have the vision to embrace it - I am almost at the stage where I see independence as not only inevitable, but desirable. I see the public endorsement of this by Sir George Mathewson as perhaps a, if not the, tipping-point.
See also the follow-on article in today's Evening News. The BBC's reporting of Tony Blair's riposte to what Sir George Mathewson had to say is here - Blair makes himself look even more absurd that he has often seemed in recent times.
We are living in interesting times ...