The union is the most successful multinational state in the world – my article in the Sunday Times

The union between Scotland, England and the rest of the UK is the most successful multinational state in the history of the world. For three hundred years, that union has sustained and deepened a single market based on open and barrier-free trade and mobility which has secured investment and jobs and a deep economic integration between our countries.

And that single market has been made possible only because we have made a success of one the world’s longest lasting and most successful single currencies – underpinned by a fiscal union, banking union and a common income and corporate tax system which shares burdens and pools risks. The Euro single currency struggled to survive after just a decade of existence. Our single currency has worked since 1710.

No wonder, then, that this September’s vote is of such great importance and concern, not just to Scotland but to all of us across Britain. Because a Yes vote is not a vote for continuity but for radical and jarring change.

And so closely bound are the nations of our isles that the break-up of the UK will not just be bad for Scotland, it would be bad for England, Wales and Northern Ireland too.

A Yes vote in September would, of course, mean the end of this multinational state. The UK would continue, but without Scotland as a member.

And Scotland leaving the UK will inevitably, radically and rapidly change our economic relations.

Today, firms in the UK have access to a home market of over 63 million people. That means they can buy and sell goods without any barriers. We share a currency, a regulatory regime and membership of the European Union.

Scotland trades more each year with the rest of the UK than with the rest of the world combined. It’s not just because we are closer geographically, but because there is nothing getting in the way of that trade. The physical border between Scotland and England is utterly irrelevant economically because both nations are part of a bigger unit.

But this deep and integrated single market will not survive a Yes vote. It is inevitable that a move to different corporate tax systems, labour standards and migration policies will increasingly, and rapidly, create barriers to trade and investment that will put these jobs at risk.

The weakening of our single market will also be accelerated by the end of our common currency area. A Yes vote in September will, by definition, bring to an end our fiscal union and banking union. Scotland will set its own tax and budget policy. Taxpayers in the rest of the UK will no longer guarantee Scottish bank deposits. The Bank of England will no longer be the lender of last resort for Scottish banks.

In these circumstances, trying to struggle on with a common currency area is impossible. It would be economically dangerous and politically undeliverable. That is why if Scotland leaves the UK there would be no deal to share the Pound. Because a currency union wouldn’t be in the interests of Scotland or the continuing UK. Currency unions without fiscal or banking unions don’t work. We need only look at the problems in the Eurozone to see that. Common currencies require deepening economic and political integration. A Yes vote takes us in the opposite direction.

The referendum on the future of Scotland is rapidly approaching. With less than 90 days to go, we are now at the business end of the campaign. It’s a time for people to speak out without fear. The stakes are too high for those with a view to remain silent.

And yet when we need an open and honest debate, instead Alex Salmond belittles any expert or employer, no matter how eminent or respected in their field or industry, who dares to criticise his economic plan for breaking up one of the most successful unions the world has ever known.

What we need to hear now from Alex Salmond is not why he alone is right and everybody else is wrong. The First Minister must set out his Plan B for what would replace the Pound in a separate Scotland. Would it be the Euro or a separate unproven currency?

Of course, this decision is for Scots alone to make. I do not have a vote, but like so many people living elsewhere in the UK I do have a voice. I passionately believe that the brightest future for Scotland and the whole of the UK is for our country to continue working together.

This is not merely about three hundred years of history and economic ties. To break up the UK now is to swim against the tide of history.

We live in an increasingly interdependent world, where the best way to tackle the big economic challenges is to break down barriers to trade, not create new ones.

Turning partners into competitors isn’t the solution to tackling the big economic challenges we face. To best take advantage of the opportunities of the future, we must stay together.

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Posted June 22nd, 2014 by Ed