View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Saturday 8 September

An autumnal day with a few glimpses of sunshine and some outbreaks of drizzle. It wasn't cold, but it did not feel like the 17C that was recorded over at the airport, 4 miles east of here.

In 25 months from now, Scotland will go to the polls to vote for or against independence, 211 years after the union of England and Scotland formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and (Northern) Ireland. The ruling Scottish National Party has pencilled the date in for October 2014, but I have been increasingly aghast at the apparent lack of preparation that the party seems to have for the eventuality of independence. Whenever a new issue arises, it appears that the SNP has not yet formulated an answer to it. The party has been in existence for some 80 years, and in government for the past 5, but I am quite surprised how unprepared they seem to be for independence. You'd expect that a policy would have been formulated by now.

One example. Northwest of Glasgow, at Faslane, sits a base for nuclear submarines, the British nuclear deterrant, called Trident. The SNP is opposed to NATO membership and independence would therefore dictate that the base be closed. However, Faslane provides employment for hundreds of people around the Clyde, in an area afflicted by unemployment. Losing those jobs for the sake of political principle could be seen as political suicide. Could there be a trade-off between the Westminster and Holyrood governments prior to the referendum, over increased revenue shares from North Sea oil? I don't expect so. A truncated United Kingdom might lose the appetite or not have the financial means to replace Trident in just over 10 years from now, so the base might have to be closed at any rate.

I am not in favour of independence for Scotland as I do not feel that the country has the financial and economic muscle for it. I also believe that a divorce from England, under the aegis of the SNP, would be detrimental to Scotland (as well as England) as it is likely to be conducted in an atmosphere of quiet acrimony, with mutual resentment going back to the 18th and 19th centuries being revived. South of the border, the £32bn annual subsidy to Scotland will also be used as an argument for an independence vote.

Irrespective of the outcome of the vote in October 2014, the United Kingdom will change for good.

Friday 7 September

A fairly bright day with good spells of sunshine. Went out to Gearrannan, 26 miles west of Stornoway, by bus at lunchtime. You need to change bus at Carloway, and the last mile and a half is covered by minibus. A bowl of soup and a sandwich was available at the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village. It is possible to walk around the village for free, but access to the museum house and exhibition requires the payment of a small fee. The wind was blowing steadily, making it feel colder than the 15C on the thermometer. The bus on the way back was developing a technical problem and it was sitting so high on its wheels that I had a spot of bother getting on bother. This was the schoolbus, and it went into most of the village along the way back to Stornoway.